Those old Christmas specials from the ’60s and ’70s are a huge part of the American holiday season. You might be surprised by these little-known facts about famous Yuletide specials like The Little Drummer Boy, Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
A Big Hit
A Charlie Brown Christmas is the longest-running Christmas special on any United States network. The special is now broadcast on ABC, even though it was originally aired on CBS when it premiered on December 9, 1965. The show has been honored with an Emmy award and a Peabody award.
Based On The Christmas Song
The entire movie Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town is based on the Christmas song of the same name. The original song was sung and introduced by Eddie Cantor in 1934. Both of these renditions are interpretations of the German folklore story of Saint Nicholas.
Real Children Were Used In Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town
In this Christmas special, many of the scenes with children were voiced by real children and not voice actors. The children weren’t played by adults, which is what happened in a lot of these old movies. The movie also doesn’t use a laugh track or giggle track.
A Charlie Brown Christmas Wasn’t Supposed to Reference The Bible
Biblical references are a huge part of the Christmas television special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Linus, Charlie Brown’s best friend, delivers one of the most iconic speeches in the film which details the Nativity story and he finally states, “that’s what Christmas is really about, Charlie Brown.”
As expected, the network thought the special was way too religious for viewers. The producers of the show wanted to cut out Linus’ famous speech and instead change it into a song. Creator Charles M. Schulz replied, “If we don’t do it, who will?” The speech was left in.
Producers Thought Charlie Brown Would Flop
Even though Charlie Brown is now a cult classic Christmas film, producers thought the television special was going to flop. Producers, Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson were very happy after the initial show’s ratings skyrocketed.
Fred Astaire Is A Star
Fred Astaire is one of the most well-known dancers and singers from the Golden Age of Hollywood during the ’50’s and ’60s. Fred Astaire is the narrator and the postman character from Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. His character even dances like the real Fred Astaire does!
It Was Made In Japan
Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town was actually made in Japan by Japanese animators. The style of animation is called “stop and go” and was created by animators Hiroshi Tabata and Takeo Nakamura. Both of these animators were uncredited in the film.
Paul Frees Is A Vocal Celebrity
Paul Frees is a vocal celebrity and artist from the ’60s and ’70s. Paul Frees is featured in Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town and plays many different characters. He voices Burgermeister, Kringle Brothers, Grimsley, CEO businessman, and other voices.
Mickey Rooney Is A Great Santa
Mickey Rooney is an actor whose career literally spanned a generation. Rooney plays Kris Kringle in the Christmas special Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. He was also a Broadway veteran and is considered one of the best actors of all times.
He Was A Child Actor
Mickey Rooney first made his name in Hollywood as a child actor, playing across from Judy Garland. He grew into a leading man and a Broadway actor before playing Santa Claus in this Christmas special. He later became a cameo actor and was famous just for being himself.
Sally Couldn’t Read Yet
Lucy is Charlie Brown’s little sister and she’s voiced by Kathy Steinberg, who at the time of filming couldn’t read. All of her lines were said to her, oftentimes in syllables so she would get the pronunciation correct. This also explains her choppy delivery of the line, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.”
Lucy Dropped The Brown
Lucy’s character is known for being sarcastic and particularly for hating on Charlie Brown. During the special, she calls Charlie Brown by his first name only just one time. This is the only time her character ever calls him just Charlie in any movie, television show, or comic.
No One Received Credit For Their Voice Talents
In A Charlie Brown Christmas, many of the supporting characters are voiced by small children and not by voice actors. Even though they were credited later, the children who gave their voices to the movie weren’t named on the original television special.
Jefferson Airplane Were Huge Fans
Jefferson Airplane are psychedelic rockers from the ’70s. They also were huge fans of the television event A Charlie Brown Christmas and the entire story. They allegedly tried to get all of the autographs of the children whose voices were used as extras.
The Movie Was Also A Rockstar
The movie was also honored by being voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007, and it was also added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. The Library of Congress stated that the film was “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” in 2012.
The Laugh Track Was Added Later
A Charlie Brown Christmas was released without a laugh track because the creator wanted it to be taken seriously as a true Christmas story. A later version was released with a laugh track for television, but has been discarded from any future showings.
They Cut It Super Close With Charlie Brown
The original Charlie Brown television special really cut it close before its scheduled air date. The television special was wrapped up and production ended only ten days before its air date. It was released with all of the footage that was created, and didn’t have any scenes cut.
Scenes Are Cut Out Now
Up until 1997, NBC was broadcasting the original and unedited version of A Charlie Brown Christmas. After 1997, the film was edited and a scene was cut out. The scene which was cut features all of the school children throwing snowballs at a tin can on a fence.
Whatever Happened To Tante Kringle?
Tante Kringle is the mother and matriarch figure in Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. She is featured in the first half of the film during Kris Kringle’s origin story, but is later not seen at all. Her character virtually disappears from the story and is not explained or referenced.
Mrs. Claus Gains A Ton Of Weight
There was some significant feedback and confusion over how both Santa and Mrs. Claus gained so much weight. At the beginning of the movie, both Kris Kringle and Jessica are small and skinny. It is only reveled at the end of the movie that they gain weight to look like the cliche Santa and Mrs. Claus.
There Were Some Traumatizing Scenes
Some channels believed Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town had traumatizing scenes which could inadvertently harm children. Channels like ABC Family, which is now re-branded as Freeform, cuts out scenes where Kris Kringle is climbing, so that children don’t try to do their own stunts at home.
It Has Some Weird Scenes Too
The song “My World Is Beginning Today,” which is sung by the character Jessica, is vastly different from all of the other songs. The scene was also created to reflect ’70s hippie culture, but angered viewers by being too psychedelic and for looking too much like a drug scene.
This One Is Crazy Religious
The Little Drummer Boy is based off of the Catholic hymn of the same name. The television special aired on television in 1968 and was produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. It was also followed by a sequel from the same producers in 1976.
The Movie Is Basically Church
The Little Drummer Boy is about a boy whose parents are killed and the only thing he has left of his family is his magical drum. His drum leads him to finding Jesus in the manger, where he forgives mankind for “killing” his parents. Aaron, or the little drummer boy, realizes that “hate will always be wrong, all hate will always be wrong.”
Destiny’s Child Paid Homage
Destiny’s Child are one of the best R&B groups. The trio did a song version of “The Little Drummer Boy” which went platinum in 2001. The song was also performed by the Von Trapp family, Whitney Houston, Boyz 2 Men, and Jessica Simpson.
The Little Drummer Boy Story Is A French Opera
The original story of The Little Drummer Boy was depicted in a French opera called “Le Jougler de Notre Dame,” which translates to “Our Lady’s Juggler.” The opera was released and staged in 1902 to critical acclaim. The Virgin Mary is said to have thrown a rose at the juggler during the performance.
The style of claymation that was used in many popular Christmas television specials is called Animagic, which was created in Japan. Animagic is a style which uses wood and plastic to create a stop-motion like effect for the characters. This type of animation was an early predecessor to CGI.
Mickey Rooney Reprised His Role
Mickey Rooney plays Kris Kringle in the television special Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. He reprises his role in other Rankin-Bass specials including: The Year Without A Santa Claus, Rudolf and Frosty’s Christmas in July, and A Miser Brother’s Christmas.
There’s A Novelization Of Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town
The movie’s script was turned into a novel, complete with watercolor illustrations, in 2008. There are some additional details in the book, although it isn’t known where the inspiration for the new material came from. The book is an oversized children’s hardcover volume with large print.
The Peanuts Movie
The Peanuts Movie is the newest installment of the Peanuts series by Charles M. Schulz. The movie focuses on the entire gang including Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown. The movie was released to varying reviews, some good and bad, in 2015.
It Was Sponsored By Coca Cola
The original sponsor of A Charlie Brown Christmas was Coca Cola, and the company was very proud of product placement. In many of the original scenes, the Coca Cola logo and bottle are pictured front and center. These have been edited out of new broadcasts and the video release.
The Songs Were Changed Too
Not only were there scenes which featured the Coca Cola logo, but the brand was also featured in many of the song’s verses. The last song included the entire verse, “Merry Christmas from your local bottler of Coca Cola,” after the syndicated credit at the end.
It’s Inspired By His Own Childhood
Charles M. Schulz tried to create A Charlie Brown Christmas to resemble his own childhood. Many of the scenes are said to be taken from and inspired by Schulz’s own life. Specifically, the scenes of ice skating and hockey were put into the movie to represent Schulz’s childhood.
It Is Also Representative of Materialism
Materialism is a huge concept in A Charlie Brown’s Christmas, due to Charlie Brown’s quest to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Whenever the ornament on Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree falls over, it’s supposed to represent commercialism taking over Christmas. When the tree is finally able to hold up decorations, it means Charlie Brown understands the meaning of Christmas.
It’s All Hip Jazz Music
A Charlie Brown Christmas‘ soundtrack is filled with both traditional Christmas music and new age jazz. The jazz music is now the iconic Peanut’s piano theme song. The song “Christmas Time Is Here,” is also performed by writer Lee Menderlson’s son’s classmates.
Children Make Up Very Crucial Scenes In Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
The final scene in Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is the title song and is when the children make their biggest appearance. The children’s performance is also designed to aide the narration of the story, even though they are not main characters at all.
There’s A Charlie Brown Stage Adaptation
A stage adaptation was created in 2013 by the Tams-Witmark Music Library, and was specifically approved by the Schulz family and Lee Mendelson. The stage version is the same version as the television special and features a sing-along Christmas section at the end.
A Punjabi Version Of The Little Drummer Boy
A Punjabi version of “The Little Drummer” boy song was created in 2014 by Canadian Youtube celebrity Jus Reign for his “Geeta Brothers Presents-Punjabi Christmas Album.” The song is recorded under the name of “Drummer Boy-Kich Ke.”
There’s A French Version As Well
The song is a very popular Spanish song, which is recorded under the name, “El nino del tambour,” and was performed by the Spanish star Raphael. There is also a French version of the song called, “L’enfant au tambour,” by the French musician Nana Mouskouri.