When my son was younger, he loved Charlie Brown and the woebegone world he inhabits. He liked jazz (courtesy of Vince Guaraldi) and he liked the fact the characters play baseball. The only cultural connective tissue I can draw between jazz and baseball is Ken Burns and his documentaries, Jazz and Baseball. If the Peanuts characters became Civil War reenactors, the kid would probably grow to believe Ken Burns and Charles Schultz were his real parents. That’s fine—they can pay for his college.
There there’s the A Charlie Brown Christmas app. It’s a quaint repurposing the source material that features some modest interactivity while flawlessly capturing the signature melancholic vibe. My kid loved the iOS version until Charlie and Linus’ arms came off. It was a glitch but imagine trying to explain that to a horrified child. Good grief, indeed.
Later, we pored through a “Look and Find” book entitled Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown that takes scenes from A Charlie Brown Christmas with random objects thrown in (a stuffed camel, a maraca, a pipe—basically the decor of the average freshman dorm), intended for young readers to find. Seeing the kaleidoscopic holiday landscapes of the Peanuts characters’ otherwise humdrum world in static, printed form makes apparent just how psychedelic they were.
In fact, the expressions of Linus and Charlie Brown look like the precise moment they realized, “Maybe we shouldn’t have dropped that acid, Charlie Brown.” This also accounts for how Charlie ended up with such a famously crap tree. He was trippin’ balls. In fact, LSD explains a lot of the Peanuts world—from hallucinatory flashbacks of World War II (featuring trippy rotoscoped footage of D-Day reminiscent of Yellow Submarine) to kite-eating trees and Linus’ Syd Barrett-style burnout fixation on a mythical pumpkin.
Rumor is if you turn down the sound on A Charlie Brown Christmas and play the second side of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon simultaneously, the Brain Damage track comes on just when Charlie Brown takes his totally f’d-up Christmas tree out into the winter night.
“The lunatic is on the grass” syncs wonderfully with the image of a dazed-and-confused Chuck carrying around his ailing green plant. Naturally, his eyes are big, black pupils when he stops to watch the surreal light display on Snoopy’s doghouse, then bails, disconsolate over his comparatively shabby tree. That’s when his hippy-ass pals show up, wave their arms around (“You rearrange me ’til I’m sane”) and suddenly the twig Charlie Brown ditched becomes a proper Christmas tree. Evidently, everyone is high. The kids start caroling in time with the backing vocals on the chorus. All true. Ken Burns is doing a documentary on it. It’s a holiday treat one can cherish every year (for about 8 hours at 500 micrograms).