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A Charlie Brown Christmas is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, and the beloved animated holiday classic shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, this year’s early airing of the popular holiday classic actually drew 7.33 million total viewers and a 2.0 rating. However, Canadian jazz musician Jerry Granelli, who worked on the special when it was being made on a shoestring budget back in the 1960s, says almost no one saw the success of A Charlie Brown Christmas coming. In fact, only one lone animator saw the merit of the simple but effective story. Here’s what happened during the production of the animated special:
Everybody was there saying, 'Well this will be shown once and never be seen again.' And this one animator said, 'Are you kidding? We'll be watching this for the next 50 years.' And he was the only one who was right. Everybody else thought it was a one-shot thing.
It’s easy to see why some of the people working on the production were dissuaded from thinking it would be anything special. CBS was hesitant to even get the production off of the ground due to its religion-oriented theme—even though Coca Cola was backing the project. And it was made very, very cheaply. In fact, Granelli told CBC News he was originally only paid $160 dollars for all of the work that he accomplished on the soundtrack. At the time of its release in 1965, he wasn’t even credited on the soundtrack for the work he had done.
However, even though Granelli wasn't on #teamcharliebrownchristmas when the special was first being produced, it's good to know that at least one person had faith in the Peanuts special. I can just imagine the one contrarian in the room who everyone was probably rolling their eyes at. Only, that animator ended up having the correct idea about the special in the long run.
Now, on its 50th Anniversary, all of the hopes that lone animator had for A Charlie Brown Christmas are coming true. In fact, ABC even produced a secondary special to air this year that featured Kristin Chenoweth, Sarah McLachlan, Boyz II Men, Pentatonix and more all performing during the special. It's called It's Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown. That new special and Charlie Brown's famed Christmas special are bound to live on in the years to come.
For now, Granelli is the only musician still alive who worked on that session to produce the A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. He says, though, that the series has impacted him a lot more than he ever hoped in his wildest dreams. He is currently touring Canada with other musicians to perform the show Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas.