Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: peanuts (page 1 of 2)

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

22charlie-brown-thanksgiving22-standard-printYear after year, during the week of Thanksgiving, families gather around the television to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Since it first aired on November 20, 1973, it has become as much of the holiday tradition as the turkey, the Macy’s Parade, and backyard football.

It is a welcome site when our television screens begin projecting this classic cartoon. We find comfort that Charlie Brown still doesn’t kick that football, and that Snoopy is given more responsibility than the average beagle. Comforting especially when department stores quickly replace Halloween decorations with Christmas ones; when politicians debate who should and should not be welcomed; and when saying, “Thank you,” seems to be nothing more than the reminders of a nagging parent.

In the special, Sally tells Charlie Brown that she went to the store to get a turkey tree and there was all this “Christmas stuff.” Later she laments, “I haven’t even finished eating all my Halloween candy!” (even though she was in the pumpkin patch with Linus on Halloween). We feel Sally’s pain. Before we even get to Thanksgiving, we are bombarded with Christmas music, Christmas sales, and Christmas decorations.

Has the materialism of Christmas caused a forgetting of the tradition of Thanksgiving?

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It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Discussion Questions

I wrote this for our middle schoolers a few weeks ago to use in their Sunday morning small group. It’s a discussion that focuses on doubt and faith, and that we can trust in God.



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Charlie Brown Valentine: Discussion Questions

I wrote this last year to use with my youth group after watching A Charlie Brown Valentine. It was a great discussion about God’s love in our lives.

charlie brown valentine

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A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002)

CB Valentine A Charlie Brown Valentine is the first Peanuts cartoon special that was made after the death of creator Charles Schultz. It is also the third time that such a special was made with digital ink and paint, rather than the traditional cel-hand-drawn animation (thank you, Wikipedia.) The change in animation style also refers to the way the characters are presented on screen. They are drawn in a style that is similar to way they appeared in the newspaper comic strip. For example, you may notice the annoying white line around Lucy’s head. That is to make her appear more like she does in the comic strip. But, Schultz didn’t see a need to do it in the original specials, why do it here. It is mostly a distraction, and it was never done again.

The fact that Charles Schultz was not involved in this special is evident. The animation is not nearly as good as older Peanuts specials, and the story-line leaves much to be desired. Even so, it is a Peanuts special, and it attracted over 5 million viewers when it has been aired.

The story focuses on Charlie Brown and his secret love for the little red-haired girl. They are in the same class and despite all the effort on Charlie Brown’s part, he cannot quite find the courage to talk to her. He makes a Valentine for her and hides behind a tree, hoping that she’ll walk by and take it. In the meantime, Peppermint Patty and Marcie are both are trying to get Charlie Brown’s attention, as they are both interested. But Charlie Brown is getting his sleeve caught in the pencil sharper, trying to get the little red-haired girl’s attention.

Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, puts all her Valentine attention on Linus. Linus, as usual, rejects that attention and love.

Sally with hands held open: I’ll just stand here until you give me a Valentine.

Linus: Or, you can stand can like for the rest of your life and never get anything.

Linus, as usual, may be on to something. Sally has it wrong, it is not about what we get, it is about what we give. Sally makes a big deal out of the Valentine box in her classroom. I couldn’t help but wonder what would we put in Jesus’ Valentine box? I would hope that we would put ourselves in there. We are the best gift we can give Jesus. The Valentine we can give to Jesus is to show love to others.

At their wall, Linus convinces Charlie Brown that he should invite the little red-haired girl to the Valentine dance. But it doesn’t quite happen, and when Charlie Brown gets enough courage to ask her to dance, she is already dancing with Snoopy.

Charlie Brown is overly love-struck in this special. He makes reference to it himself. He gets so distracted that he cannot focus on his school work or anything else. His mind is solely on the little red-haired girl.

It is a pretty standard 25-minute special. Peanuts watchers will notice that the little red-haired girl in this special looks different than she does in It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown. Here, she looks a little bit like little orphan Annie.

This Peanuts special is the 34th prime-time TV special. It first aired on February 14, 2002 on ABC, the first produced by ABC and was directed by Bill Melendez.

It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown

Peanuts First KissIt’s Homecoming at Charlie Brown’s school. He and Linus are on the same Homecoming float, when Charlie Brown notices the little red-headed girl. The little red-headed girl is the Homecoming Queen. Charlie Brown and Linus are two of the guys who have been selected to escort the Queen and her court onto the dance floor.

Linus explains what is expected of Charlie Brown. Tradition states that when Charlie Brown escorts the Homecoming Queen to the dance floor, he then must give her a kiss. At this, Charlie Brown can’t believe it. In fact, he is filled with so much disbelief that he falls off the Homecoming float.

During the Homecoming football game, where Charlie Brown is the team’s kicker, he is totally distracted by the little red-headed girl in the stands. And distracted by the fact that he will  have to kiss her. Each time Charlie Brown goes up to kick, Lucy pulls the ball. Even when he has the chance to be the hero and win the game, Lucy pulls the ball away from Charlie Brown. Everyone is disappointed that Charlie Brown lost the game.

But, everyone’s attention now turns to the Homecoming Dance. Charlie Brown is so nervous, he is shaking and turning red. The other boys escort the court to the dance floor, and then it is Charlie Brown’s turn. He slowly walks down the red carpet, takes the little red-headed girl’s arm, and walks her out to the dance floor. Then, he leans in and gives her a kiss.


The next morning, Charlie Brown joins Linus at their wall. Linus recalls how they lost the football game the day before. And even though Charlie Brown didn’t win the game for the team, he was the hero of the dance! Poor Charlie Brown doesn’t remember any of it!

Somehow he found the courage to kiss the little red-headed girl, who in this special we learn is named Heather. Charlie Brown cannot believe that he actually did it! “What good is it to do anything, Linus, if you can’t remember what you did?” Charlie Brown inquires.

Linus just reminds him that it was still a good day because it was his first kiss. The special ends with Charlie Brown smiling in satisfaction. What a great way to end or start a day. Smiling in satisfaction. No matter what we have done, or how much of it we remember, it’s a great way to be. It’s counter to how we usually experience Charlie Brown. He can’t seem to kick that football, but he can drum up the courage to kiss the little red-headed girl.

This Peanuts cartoon is the sixteenth prime-time TV special. It first aired on October 24, 1977 on CBS and was directed by Phil Roman.

Sermon: Love as Charlie Brown Loved

This is a recording of my sermon from Sunday, December 29, 2013 at Peakland United Methodist Church. The text was 1 John 4:7-21. This was during the Horizons Praise service.

Repost: The Greatest Gift of All

Linus recites Luke 2:

Linus recites Luke 2:

This post was first posted on December 24, 2012. 


Sometimes, we can feel like Charlie Brown. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas and wonder, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, much like the angels on that first Christmas, remind us what Christmas is all about.

“Peace and goodwill toward men.”

Peace and goodwill is hard to come by these days, as it was that first Christmas.  Charles Campbell reminds us, “The political powers, in both Jesus’ day and our own, play on fear to get their way – whether it be the fear of the emperor, the fear of terrorists, the fear of the ‘other’ (the immigrant), or the fear of death.”

Government mandated oppression.

Discrimination against those were different than them.

The poor were kept poor.

People suffered from hunger.

Violence was evident on the streets daily.

But, that was in “those days.”

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7, NRSV).

The arrival of Jesus brought with it a “new day.” There is no longer need for fear, only joy. There is no longer need for corruption, only freedom. There is no longer need for hunger, only feasting. There is no longer need for occupation, only liberation. There is no longer need for war, only peace.

And yet, we struggle to see this “new day.”

Political parties inspire fear of the other party.

Hatred and bullying of someone, anyone, who is different from us is rampant.

The great divide between the have’s and the have-not’s gets wider and wider.

People suffer from hunger.

Violence is evident on our streets and in our schools.

And there is something deep inside of us that wants to cry out like Charlie Brown, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is about?” Sure, we get all these warm fuzzies at this time of year that make us feel so good. It’s great giving and receiving gifts. It’s great going to parties. It’s great having family and friends around.

But, at least for me, there is something hard to swallow about Christmas. That is with all the joy, there is grieving and hopelessness. And I don’t mean to put a damper on things. From Central America and back, I have seen suffering at the hands of poverty, addictions, and violence. And while we try to not think about these things at Christmas, we have to remember this is why the baby boy was born. This poverty, these addictions, and this violence is the reason God became man. This suffering is the reason that Jesus was born.

Jesus is not just the reason for the season. Jesus is the greatest gift of all. In that lowly manger sits hands of grace that bring healing and hope into our hopelessness.

John’s gospel talks about Jesus’ birth as a great Light that penetrates  the darkness of the world. Matthew quotes Jesus telling the disciples that “You are the Light of the World.” This is just one of the many commissioning sayings of Jesus. God sent Jesus as the Light, we are the light-bearers. It is now our responsibility to carry that Light into the dark crevices of the world. Because we claim Jesus Christ, we now become a gift to the word.

Taking the Light to the oppressed.

Taking the Light to the poor and the hungry.

Taking the Light to the bullied and the bullies.

Taking the Light into the violent streets.

It is us who must act. It is us who must bring peace and goodwill to all. It is our gift to give.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Whalen-A-Charlie-Brown-ChristmasOn December 9, 1965 an animated Christmas special aired on CBS. Some network executives had already made the commitment to air it, but they only planned to air it that one time. Little did they know that the simple story of Charlie Brown searching for the meaning of Christmas would be the second most watched show that week (second only to the western Bonanza), much less a Christmas tradition.

They only planned to have it air once, but they didn’t think it was very good. It is a miracle that the special ever made it to the air anyway. Producer Lee Mendelson got a phone call explaining that Coco-Cola wanted to sponsor a Christmas special and accepted the offer, even though he didn’t have one. He called Charles Schultz and asked if he could have a story in a week. They pitched the Christmas special and it was accepted. They had six months to make the special, which is usually not enough time. But the team of Schultz, Mendelson, and Bill Melendez made it happen.

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It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown (1992)

Charlie Brown and the team are back on the baseball field in this twenty-four minute short. But, the team is having problems. A toddler named Leland decides that t-ball is no longer his style, and joins Charlie Brown’s “big kids” team. Meanwhile, Lucy has pointed out that they are the only team without uniforms. Charlie Brown goes to the local hardware store to ask the owner if they will sponsor the team. The owner says he will, if they win the first game of the season. With the uniforms as a motivator, the team works hard during their practices.

The team they play looks like a rough bunch of kids. They are serious about the game and plan to win. They ask about the National Anthem, and Charlie Brown and the team lead them in arousing version of “Hokey Pokey”.  Franklin jumps in with his boombox and channels Fresh Prince of Bel Air as he raps, “That’s what’s it all about.” Which is slightly awkward, because it seems so out of place in the story about baseball.

Here is some of it:

And the practice pays off, the team wins 27 to 26! And, Leland, the toddler, gets the winning run!

As promised, the hardware store gives the team their uniforms. Filled with excitement, the team heads to their next game. But, poor Leland’s uniform is too big, and he decides to head back to t-ball, where the uniforms fit. The game doesn’t go as well as the previous game. Disappointed that they lost the game, Linus says, “Gosh, Charlie Brown, I thought when we got new uniforms, it would change everything.” To which, Charlie Brown replies, “It’s not how you look, it’s how you play the game.”

When God sends Samuel to Jesse’s home to anoint the king of Israel, God tells him:

Have no regard for his appearance or stature . . . .God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart. (1 Samuel 16:5, Common English Bible)

Samuel was passing judgement based on the appearance of Jesse’s sons, including David. What is on the outside is not nearly as important as what’s on the inside. It’s the old “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Charlie Brown gets that its not the uniforms that make the team great, it is the way they play the game. How quickly we forget that in the Church. We put so much time, effort, and resources into the “uniforms,” but neglect the way we play – how we proclaim the good news. What’s up with that?

Even though this Peanuts special provides us with a solid message at the end, it is not the best of the Peanuts. This may be why the special was made in 1992 to air in prime time, but was cancelled and reached on DVD in 1996, and released in 2012.

Team Snoopy

Team Snoopy is a moderate collection of Peanuts cartoons that focus on sports, mainly baseball. The DVD features the 2003 TV short “Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown,” where Charlie Brown painstaking has to decide what to do with Lucy, his committed yet dreadful right-fielder. The DVD also includes an episode from the shortly-lived Saturday morning cartoon show The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show from the mid-1980s. The episode includes Charlie Brown getting stuck as the mascot for Peppermint Patty’s baseball team… as a pelican. While Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin, the rest of the gang visit a bowling alley where Charlie Brown learns a new sport, and finally a cat from the neighborhood meets his match when Spike, Snoopy’s older brother, comes into town.

If ever there was a character from pop culture that embodies the struggles of humanity, it is Charlie Brown. We have all had moments where we felt like Charlie Brown. We can never quite seem to kick that football. We are walking in the shadow of someone else’s charisma. When we feel like a win is coming, the game gets rained out.

In the beginning of the Book of Habakkuk in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament), the prophet cries out to God about all the bad things that are happening. His cries are with a certain level of expectation. As in Habakkuk expects God to do something about it. In essence what he is saying is, “If you are God, you should be able to handle this.” With each crying out from Habakkuk, God responses that Habakkuk needs to wait. “I am doing something,” God says, “it might not be in your time, but it’ll be in my time.” Habakkuk was having a Charlie Brown moment.

In this DVD collection we learn from Charlie Brown the importance of staying in the game. Poor Charlie Brown never seems to get a win. In “Lucy Must be Traded, Charlie Brown,” he does his best to form a winning team, even going so far as to trade Snoopy! But at the end he realizes that winning isn’t that important. We see a Charlie Brown who recognizes that playing the game is more important than winning the game. Charlie Brown seems to adopt the attitude that Habakkuk does at the end of his Book.

Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. (3:17-18)

The lesson of Charlie Brown is that no matter what happens, even though it rains on your ball game; even though you wear an awful pelican costume; even though you… fill in the blank…; even though all of that stuff happens, we can still rejoice and exult and praise God. Why? Because no matter what we’re going through God is still there working in the midst of our struggles in God’s time.

If you’re having a rough day, remember Habakkuk, remember Charlie Brown. Hang in there, stay in the game, rejoice in God’s glory.

For more movie and DVD reviews, visit my blog on hollywoodjesus.com.

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