A Charlie Brown Christmas is an iconic American tradition. Many Americans remember the joy of watching this widely regarded piece of animation. Lee Mendelson not only loved the show. He was one of the chief producers behind it. The Emmy winning songwriter passed away at 86. He was instrumental in bringing this beloved children’s story to television back in 1965. In addition to producing it, he also wrote the memorable lyrics to Christmas Time is Here, one of the special’s most well known songs. His passage on Christmas day was indicative of the kind of joy and happiness he brought to the world of animation. He was very much a fan of Charles Shulz, the creator the popular Peanuts comics. As someone working in the field of entertainment, he hit on the idea of making a new animated feature based on the work of Shulz. It was an idea that would ultimately change both of their lives and remake the idea of what Christmas meant in the United States. The question for both men was how take the idea of the comics and bring them to the small screen. It was a collaboration that both men would take great pride in in later years.
A Story Line
Charles Shulz met with Lee Mendelson after learning that he had done a documentary about baseball player Willie Mays. For both men, it was a revelation. Shulz came up with the basic plot about a tiny tree that wasn’t supposed to be a real Christmas tree. After that, the two men sat down and thought about how to turn that idea into a reality for the intended audience. It was Mendelson who came up with some of the special’s most adored songs. It was also his idea to bring in children to speak the lines in the story. Given the work that went into it, it is not surprising it became a hit from the first time it aired. More than fifteen million people watched show on the first night it aired. Since that time, the special has aired on television each year. New generations get to share in the delight of watching it with a child and grandchild. The producer would go on to write several other, equally adored productions centering around the Peanuts characters. His work as an animation producer stands as a monument to American imagination and incredible creativity.