Tag: Bill Melendez

A Charlie Brown Christmas, cartoon history, and Peanuts animation art

As sometimes happens, there’s been a surprise release by the folks at the studio that produces all the Charlie Brown cartoon specials. Even though it precedes Halloween, it’s a celebration of the fan favorite and ultimate mood stabilizer, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Called “Let it Whip, Snoopy”, it captures the opening sequence of the wonderful winter skating scene, and comes with a great storyboard giclee created and signed by Charlie Brown animated specials director and animator Larry Leichliter. Here is the limited edition set:

It is $2400, with a huge amount of work on it and in a teeny edition of 65 and many of the numbers are already spoken for, so it will sell out very quickly. You can find even more info on it and buy it HERE

Here is the trailer for the cartoon, which shows a tiny snippet of the sequence used for the limited edition… (although, let’s be honest, we ALL remember the scene, right?) 

In honor of the release of “Crack the Whip, Snoopy!” release, let’s talk a bit about A Charlie Brown Christmas. 

First off, of course there would be no Peanuts animated specials at all without Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez. Lee Mendelson was the executive producer of many Peanuts specials, but he started out his association with all things Peanuts by approaching Charles Schulz about making a documentary about him and his Peanuts comic strip. He had just done a doc on Willie Mays called A Man Named Mays:  

Charles Schulz, or ‘Sparky’, as his friends called him, had watched and enjoyed it, so they collaborated on the documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown in 1963. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola approached Mendelson about producing an animated Christmas special for tv, and he immediately called Sparky about creating something featuring the Peanuts characters. Schulz suggested using Bill Melendez, who had worked with Sparky creating some Peanuts Ford Motor Company commercials. Networks weren’t interested in the special.

Then, in April of 1965, the Peanuts characters graced the cover of Time magazine, which increased interest in an animated special, and the clock started ticking. Mendelson and Schulz created an outline for a special in less than a day.

April 9th, 1965 Time Cover

They created the first and most classic cartoon in only 6 months, with the script having been whipped together in only a few weeks.  and it aired on December 9th, 1965.  Schulz built the idea around ‘the meaning of Christmas’, interspersed with scenes of skating, something he did as a child. He also included a substantive scene in which a bible verse is quoted, and though there were a few specials that specifically mentioned Christianity, this was the first animated cartoon to incorporate religion in its plot and structure.

It won both an Emmy and Peabody Award. It got both high ratings and critical acclaim. Lee Mendelson actually wrote the lyrics to the Christmas classic ‘Christmastime is Here’ in only minutes. 

It is so fitting that Mendelson wrote such an enduring Christmas classic, as, in a bittersweet endnote, Lee just died on Christmas Day of 2019. I interviewed him about his work a few years ago, and you can watch him talk about all this himself (and watch me all excited talking to him!):

The cartoon was anything but ordinary. They did a lot of ‘outside the box’ decisions as part of it, like hiring voice actors that were children, having no laugh track (Schulz’s idea), and using jazz as the soundtrack. It seems to all make sense now, since we’ve seen it so many times (it has played every year at Christmas since 1965) but at the time everyone thought it would fail miserably. 

I talked to Bill Melendez’s son Steve about working on the Christmas special, and he relates how he came up with the scene with Linus sharing the message of Christmas onstage. 

Since Larry Leichliter is responsible for the design of the new limited edition as well as the storyboard that accompanies it, I asked him about his love of the Christmas special, and about creating the storyboard. 

What makes “A Charlie Brown Christmas” special to you?

Larry: “First of all It’s a Christmas cartoon. Not that I love every Christmas cartoon, but it’s Peanuts, and I’ve always loved Peanuts. What makes it special and have such longevity is not the nostalgia of remembering being a kid and watching this show for the first time, although that’s a wonderful memory. I think for all of us, It’s a story that forever rings true. 

I love watching Charlie Brown wrestle with his problem, with the help of his friend Linus. His encounters with the realities of the world and its insensitivity to his plight are tragic and funny and he makes me root for him every time. Then there is Linus, who sticks by him like a true friend. He ultimately always shows him the way to his answer and a release from his problem.” 

Who is your favorite character in Peanuts? 

“Linus has always been my favorite Peanuts character. The combination of his vulnerability (he is a thumb-sucking, blanket-hugging child, after all) and his knowledge and philosophical beyond-his-years personality is irresistible. He is Charlie Brown’s truest friend. Even Snoopy isn’t as loyal.”

How did you compose the storyboard, and what do you love about creating them? it really captures a moment fans love from the cartoon.

“Thanks! I love showing some of the “behind the scenes” elements of making cartoons. In this case, I couldn’t decide right away just what moment of the skating scene would be ideal for our project, so it was suggested that I might pose out the “crack the whip” sequence in a story board. Then it was just a matter of showing the characters adding onto the chain until they all inevitably fly off. I think it captures not only the nostalgia, but also what is funny and charming about the special as a whole.” 

If you want to get a sense of Larry and his great career, you can watch my discussion with him and Sandy Thome, head of art development for all things relating to Charlie Brown animated cartoons. Beyond being incredibly talented, he’s quite shy, and a lovely guy. 

We have other Peanuts animation art, and of course, we can always find cels based on what you’re looking for (though, not from the Christmas special, not anymore!) check out what we have right now HERE, and contact us for special requests.

Exclusive Holiday Charlie Brown Christmas Art Show

Visit ArtInsights for our special Gallery Opening on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday!

There’s such a storied history for Bill Melendez and his 1965 classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. Not only have we seen it generation after generation, it remains one of the most watched specials every holiday season. Yes, it is Christian at its core, but cartoon fans of all faiths (including Atheism) love it and can’t wait to tune in, even as they have it on dvd, downloaded, or whatever newest version is available.

In 2015, I had the great pleasure of going out to LA and meeting a number of animators who had worked on the original special, and we all gathered together to toast the 50th anniversary of a great holiday tradition.

During and around that A Charlie Brown Christmas Anniversary event, I was able to interview several key artists involved, including Lee Mendelson, which you can see HERE. I also got to see some rare Charlie Brown Christmas art from their archives. As a fan myself, I was thrilled. It has been a show my family watches together since as early as I can remember.

This year, as always, I had requests throughout the year for various images from my Peanuts art and Bill Melendez art fans. In my research for great images, I discovered something. (I’m always learning something new..) Somehow I had never learned that Woodstock was named after the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival! That led to a great release from the people that run the animation art program at Bill Melendez Studios that was in honor of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. We got big Woodstocks, little ones, recognizable art from Snoopy Come Home and less identifiable but charming Woodstock art from commercials and other TV specials. We sold a bunch of them. They also stumbled onto a very few images from the original Halloween special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. We sold them in minutes, then begged for more, but they were all gone, of course!

Cut to now… In asking for some images from Charlie Brown Christmas specials or commercials, the Bill Melendez folks found some great, very rare art, and offered me a special show. We’d had such a wonderful year full of collectors embracing these beloved characters, they wanted to show their appreciation. Of course we said yes!

The result is a collection of art spanning from originals by Bill Melendez himself, to A Charlie Brown Christmas art from the book and record, to cels and drawings from I Want a Dog for Christmas as well as Christmas themed commercials to limited editions that had sold out so long ago, I didn’t even have them at our own store or had just opened, so that would date to being released around 1995-2005. a LONG TIME AGO!

The Charlie Brown Christmas art from the record and book is so exciting because all the images were actually used to make the official one and only read-along book for the Peanuts Christmas special.

Someone made my life really easy by posting it in its entirety on YouTube:

Check out this video of the official A Charlie Brown Christmas read-along record!

I was floored when I saw these for the first time. I mean, we all recognize exactly what’s happening during each image and they’re from 1977!

We also got the official limited editions that had been released decades ago, including this one:

The thing about getting this collection, is we are requested to sell the art for only 10% more or less than their suggested retail. The above piece is $8000, which is exactly what they have as retail, and I haven’t seen any at all online, but even if I did, that piece would have been at a home and being resold. This is coming directly from the studio. It just doesn’t get any more classic than this!

other sold out A Charlie Brown Christmas limited editions include the below images, Tree Lot, Dog Gone Commercial and Snoopy’s Audition, all sold out but we have one of each!

We also have I Want a Dog for Christmas art. That special is a new classic played during the holiday season, and features Rerun, Linus’s brother. By the time they made this cartoon, cels were not being used, so the studio created model cels that are completely done by hand to accompany the original drawings or layouts or color model drawings from the special. My favorite is a great cel and drawings from a scene with Schroeder, Lucy, Snoopy and Woodstock:

There are also a number of other images available from that cartoon, all of which you can find by clicking to see the whole special Charlie Brown Christmas Specials collection.

The most surprising part of the collection is the original marker and graphite originals by Bill Melendez himself they sent. These have to be released by the Bill Melendez estate. We’ve only had a few in our entire span as dealers of Peanuts art. I truly wish I could keep one myself. They come directly from the source, so fans and collectors who buy them feel like part of the Peanuts family! (and, I’ll say it again and reiterate what everyone I’ve ever interviewed has said. Bill Melendez was the nicest man ever to work in animation.)

There was a show called The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show that ran between 1983 and 1985. We got Snoopy, Lucy, Charlie Brown, Linus, and Sally art from Sally’s Sweet Babboo, the one episode that featured a Christmas play and Lucy and Snoopy skating!

The Charlie Brown animation art oeuvre would not be complete without mentioning the commercials these characters appeared in, and we have charming images as part of this Charlie Brown Christmas animation show!

Have you been to our gallery in Reston Town Center since it’s been renovated? We have a new floor, new windows, a new door, and a new lobby! and of course it’s gorgeous in Reston Town Center at the holidays. Stop by and ask to see our Charlie Brown Christmas specials animation art collection.

CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL THE CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS SPECIALS ART

Our Charlie Brown Christmas art show will be having an opening weekend on Black Friday, November 29th, Small Business Support Saturday, November 30th, and Christmas Special Sunday, December 1st, with refreshments, art exclusively available that weekend, and special surprises! Call or email us with any questions.

(703-478-0778 – artinsights at gmail)

Thanks and happy holidays!

The ArtInsights Gang

Peanuts Art! The 50th Anniversary Celebration for A Charlie Brown Christmas means a once-in-a-lifetime art release!

CHARLIE BROWN, SNOOPY, & PEANUTS EXTRAVANGANZA!

invitation to Peanuts celebration of 50th anniversary of Charlie Brown Christmas special

My invitation to the big event!

PEANUTS ART!

I’m so incredibly excited that the 50th anniversary of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, which is being celebrated next week in LA, means that I get to go to LA and interview animators AND get first access to special art being pulled specially for the event.

That’s right.  I am the FIRST gallery that gets to go in and choose art for my clients from what they’ve pulled from the archives for this event.  How did that happen?  I guess the Snoopy Puppy angels smiled on me.  In any case, any of you folks– pals and clients of mine –who love Peanuts and remember the wonderful specials fondly interested in getting something rare and unusual, please contact me in the next few days!

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A few great images from the cartoons…

I’ll be sending images and selecting art for all my clients on Tuesday June 23nd starting at 12:00 pm E.S.T, and can add you to the list of collectors to connect with that day.

What will be available?  The rarest art is the key set-ups, which means the original art and backgrounds that belong together, from the specials many will recognize.  There won’t be Christmas special pieces, but yes, there will be art from the late 1960s and some from one of my favorites, “Snoopy Come Home”.  There will also be some spectacular layout and finished drawings.  All I know is they’ve never done this before, so without a doubt they will be bringing out “the special stuff”.  Generally the prices for these originals are between $500 and $5000 depending on what it is, how old it is, and how many characters are in it.

Also, the second of the limited editions being released based on A Charlie Brown Christmas is being released on Thursday at the celebration.  None of us know what it looks like, but at only 65 in the edition, and the desire to represent the best scenes from the special, i’m sure it will be wonderful!   There also may be some very sold out limited editions made available—who knows?!

Snoopys Audition Cel

One of the three pieces released as part of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special 50th Anniversary

I’m going to be doing some interviewing the studio insiders and animators about the historical scoop and personal  experience behind these great animated favorites, and i’ll post on YouTube when i’m back.

Of course with the new Peanuts movie coming out, this is a perfect time to pick up some art, before a ton of new fans are made around the world, and a few old ones get reminded of how great these characters really are!  (many of you know my story of the one piece of art I regret not getting was a Linus cel i’ve never seen anything like again..let’s not go through that again!)

I’m in a unique position here to actually get all the very best images available for people I am representing, so HAIL TO ALL PEANUTS FANS! Let’s get some awesome art!!

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(Just a few of my favorite Charlie Brown specials!)