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|Peanuts animated specials|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of specials||45|
Peanuts was adapted into 45 animated specials from 1965 to 2011, most of them released on television. This article describes the history of these programs, including notable sponsors, directors, and voice actors.
Video rights to all the films and TV specials were licensed by Media Home Entertainment and Kartes Video Communications in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, the rights were acquired by Paramount Pictures and the company released all of the TV specials under their Paramount Home Video label. The distribution rights to the TV specials are now with Warner Bros. Television and Warner Home Video (currently as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment), who purchased the rights from Paramount in 2007 and managed by its classic animation division and also its family film and children's entertainment label.
In addition to the strip and numerous books, the Peanuts characters have appeared in animated form on television numerous times. This started when the Ford Motor Company licensed the characters in early 1959 for a series of color television commercials for its automobiles and intros for The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show which they sponsored. While the show ended in 1961, the deal lasted another three years. The ads were animated by Bill Meléndez for Playhouse Pictures, a cartoon studio that had Ford as a client. Schulz and Meléndez became friends, and when producer Lee Mendelson decided to make a two-minute animated sequence for a TV documentary called A Boy Named Charlie Brown in 1963, he brought on Meléndez for the project.
1965–1971: Early television specials
Before the documentary was completed, the three of them (with help from their sponsor, the Coca-Cola Company) produced their first half-hour animated special, the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was first aired on the CBS network on December 9, 1965. This episode is undoubtedly the most widely recognized of all Peanuts TV specials. This came after Coca-Cola asked Mendelson if he had a Christmas special. He said "yes." The next day he called Schulz up and said they were making A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The animated version of Peanuts differs in some aspects from the strip. In the strip, adult voices are heard, though conversations are usually only depicted from the children's end. To translate this aspect to the animated medium, the sound of a trombone with a solotone mute (created by Vince Guaraldi played by Dean Hubbard) was used to simulate adult "voices." A more significant deviation from the strip was the treatment of Snoopy. In the strip, the dog's thoughts are verbalized in thought balloons; in animation, he is typically mute, his thoughts communicated through growls or laughs (voiced by Bill Meléndez), and pantomime, or by having human characters verbalizing his thoughts for him. These treatments have both been abandoned temporarily in the past. For example, they experimented with teacher dialogue in She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown. The elimination of Snoopy's "voice" is probably the most controversial aspect of the adaptations, but Schulz apparently approved of the treatment.
The success of A Charlie Brown Christmas was the impetus for CBS to air many more prime-time Peanuts specials over the years, beginning with Charlie Brown's All-Stars and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in 1966. In total, more than thirty animated specials were produced. Until his death in 1976, jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi composed musical scores for the specials, in particular, the piece "Linus and Lucy" which has become popularly known as the signature theme song of the Peanuts franchise.
1971–1976: Final golden years
The 1971 TV special Play It Again, Charlie Brown was the first time that someone other than Peter Robbins voiced Charlie Brown which in this case was Chris Inglis. The characters voices were slightly deeper than usual. It would be like that for the rest of the TV specials. Starting with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Phil Roman would direct the specials. It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown was the last special produced during Vince Guaraldi's lifetime as he died two months before this special aired. It was dedicated to him.
1977–1981: Post-Guaraldi era
Ed Bogas composed the musical scores of Peanuts television specials 1977 until 1989. Judy Munsen composed the musical scores alongside Ed Bogas from 1977 until 1992. Desirée Goyette briefly composed the musical scores on and off during the 1980s. Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown was the first project done after Guaraldi's death. It used the same voice cast as You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown. It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown and What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! featured Linus & Lucy arrangement's Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen.
1982–1990: Vignettes and musicals
Starting with A Charlie Brown Celebration, Bill Melendez would direct the specials again. A Charlie Brown Celebration, It's an Adventure, Charlie Brown, and The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show all had vignettes while It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Snoopy!!! The Musical were musicals though there were two songs in Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!. It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown was the only special during this period in which Ed Bogas, Judy Munsen, or Desiree Goyette were not involved in music production with Paul Rodriquez as the composer. The former and latter would stop scoring the specials in 1990.
1990–2000: Charles M. Schulz's final years
David Benoit redid Vince Guaraldi's musical scores from 1992 until 2006. Since then, various composers have composed the musical scores in more recent productions. By the mid-1990s, the specials' popularity had begun to wane, and CBS showed disinterest in new specials, even rejecting It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown completely. An eight-episode TV miniseries called This is America, Charlie Brown, for instance, was released during a writer's strike. Also, NBC aired You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown in 1994 (the first special not to air on CBS) ten days before Super Bowl XXVIII. Eventually, the last Peanuts specials made during Schulz' lifetime were released direct-to-video, and no new ones were created until after the year 2000 when ABC obtained the rights to the three fall holiday specials. The Nickelodeon cable network re-aired a package of most of the specials produced before 1992, as well as The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show and This Is America, Charlie Brown, under the umbrella title You're on Nickelodeon, Charlie Brown between 1998 and 2000.
2000–present: new specials
Eight Peanuts-based specials have been made posthumously. Of these, three are tributes to Peanuts or other Peanuts specials, and five are completely new specials based on dialogue from the strips and ideas given to ABC by Schulz before his death. He's a Bully, Charlie Brown, was telecast on ABC on November 20, 2006, following a repeat broadcast of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Airing 43 years after the first special, the premiere of He's a Bully, Charlie Brown was watched by nearly 10 million viewers, winning its time slot and beating a Madonna concert special. In the 2010 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, it was announced that a new Peanuts animated special, Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown, would debut in 2011. The special was released on DVD first, on March 29, 2011, and later premiered on Fox, on November 24, 2011.
Many of the specials and feature films have also been released on various home video formats over the years. To date, 20 of the specials, the two films A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Come Home, and the miniseries This Is America, Charlie Brown have all been released to DVD.
In October 2007, Warner Bros. acquired the Peanuts catalog from Paramount for an undisclosed amount of money. As aforementioned, they now hold the worldwide distribution rights for all Peanuts properties including over 50 television specials—these are originally managed by Warner Bros. Television and Warner Bros. Television Animation. Warner has made plans to develop new specials for television as well as the direct to video market, as well as short subjects for digital distribution, and some of these have in fact already been released via the now-defunct Warner Premiere. Paramount, however, still retains the rights to the first four theatrical releases, with CBS (a sibling of Paramount under ViacomCBS) holding the rights on the first two films (as they were produced though a short lived division known as Cinema Center Films).
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