The following year, Coca-Cola took a shot at sponsoring this show after John Allan at McCann Erickson Advertising sought a holiday show for his client, and it was finally aired. It went on to become a Christmas television institution. A Charlie Brown Christmas originally pre-empted Gilligan's Island in its first-run telecast.
The version of the show broadcast on CBS-TV until 1997 and older video releases have edited out a shot in which the gang throws snowballs at a can on a fence. The show was originally sponsored by Coca Cola. Logos from this sponsor have been removed right after the opening titles, as well as from lyrics from the song at the end. According to the original storyboards, right after the opening title, Linus crashed into a sign advertising Coca-Cola after being tossed by Snoopy. (Look at current versions and you'll notice that we never see where Linus lands!) The closing carol originally included the complete verse (instead of fading out) with a final on-screen "Merry Christmas from your local bottler of Coca-Cola" right after the United Feature Syndicate credit at the end.
While many shows are based in part on comic strips that appeared before the shows were created, Linus's "true meaning of Christmas" speech actually made its first appearance in the comic strip after this special was broadcast, in a Sunday strip dated December 18, 1966. The text is slightly different, since the strip quotes from the Revised Standard Version Bible translation, whereas the show quotes from the King James. Linus's "the true meaning of Christmas" quote is Luke 2:8-14 from the King James translation of The Bible. And the strip ends with Linus saying, "So who needs Santa Claus?" (This strip is not reprinted in any of the standard strip collections, but can be found in the 2002 Ballantine Christmas-strip collection A Peanuts Christmas, as well as Rober Short's book The Parables Of Peanuts and the religious-themed strip collection And The Beagle And The Bunnies Shall Lie Down Together.)
Additional information courtesy of Scott McGuire.
A Charlie Brown Christmas drew a 47 audience share (nearly half of all the sets turned on) in its initial 1965 broadcast. It attracted a 57 share for the first repeat broadcast on December 11, 1966, a 51 in 1967, and 54 in 1969 (drawing 55 million viewers).
This was the first (and, so far, the only) animated cartoon special to win both an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award. The Peabody board described it as "a little gem of a show that faithfully and sensitively introduced to television the Peanuts collection of newsprint characters."
Cast members were genuine children with no professional experience.
CBS executives initially were unhappy with the special. "They thought it was too slow," recalled executive producer Lee Mendelson.
Writer Charles Schulz never doubted that his script was good, Mendelson said, adding that he considered it his favorite of the "Peanuts" TV specials. "I guess you can have an animated scene where you have a kid read from the Bible," Mendelson said of the show.