Monday, March 4, 2019

An Original Print of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Has Surfaced!

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" first aired in December of 1965 on CBS and has gone on to become the definition of a holiday classic. Many of us know the history of this special almost as well as the contents of the cartoon itself but others might be surprised to learn that while "A Charlie Brown Christmas" touts a very anti-commercialism message, the special was originally commissioned by The Coca-Cola Company! That's right, the same Coke that often gets incorrectly credited with the creation of the modern day image of Santa Claus, played a large role in helping bring "A Charlie Brown Christmas" to life!

When the special originally aired on network television it contained two promotional spots thanking the cartoons sponsor, Coke; an opening gag involving Linus crashing into a large Coca Cola sign during the beginning ice skating sequence and an extra slide during the end credits wishing everyone at home a Merry Christmas from the people who bottle Coca-Cola.

Deleted Scene from the opening of "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
The connection between "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and the Coca-Cola Company has always been an interesting footnote in the specials history and for devoted fans these extra clips have long been viewed as the holy grail of deleted scenes. Due to changes in FCC laws pertaining to sponsorship plugs in children's programming, all references to Coca-Cola have been removed from future versions of the holiday special. So unless you caught "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on television during the late 1960's you've probably never seen the unedited version of the cartoon.

Deleted Scene from the ending of "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
While these scenes have never quite been entirely lost o the sands of time, the publicly available versions have been low quality. Fans have had to settle for poor quality black and white stills, left to imagine what the real scenes must have been like.

Strangely, a few collectors have always claimed to have a higher quality version of the unedited cut to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" but for whatever reason have chosen to keep it private. Recently a 16mm print of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has surfaced and as luck would have it, it's the original unedited version complete with Coca-Cola bumpers!

The folks over at The Internet Animation Database have done an excellent job dissecting this version of the cartoon and it turns out "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has gone through a number of changes over the years!

The video I've linked to above is an 18-minute side-by-side comparison posted by the user "Max Goes Fourth" which shows not only the deleted scenes mentioned above but a number of other alterations that have been made to "A Charlie Brown Christmas". These range from changes to the musical score, edits to the sound, different framing of characters in shots, and more! They even added a few extra gags here and there. Remember when Linus kicks the aluminum tree when he and Charlie Brown are out shopping for a tree to decorate? That's not in this version of the cartoon!

I think this is a pretty significant find in terms of preserving the full history of "A Charlie Brown Christmas". You'll run into two schools of thought with the Coca-Cola clips, many despise them because of how they seemingly run contrary to the overall message of the cartoon... on the other hand if it wasn't for Coke, this cartoon wouldn't exist in the first place.  I tend to fall a little into both camps. It is odd seeing Coca-Cola thanked during the end credits however for historical purposes I'm glad they have somehow managed to survive all these years.

If anyone is looking to watch the unedited version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" you can do so using this download link. It took about three hours to download so I'd suggest leaving it open while you are at work or otherwise away from the computer. As with anything online, I can make no guarantees how long it will stay online. So if you are wanting a copy I'd download it as soon as possible. That's also why I chose to write about it now instead of saving it for the 2019 Christmas Coutndown, even though this would have been excellent content for early December. Who knows if it will still be around by then.

If you do check it out be sure to let me know what you think of the special in the comments below. How many of the changes did you notice from the remastered version? And would you like to see the original opening and ending of the cartoon remastered as well?

Stay Strange Everyone!

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