The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

‘Charlie Brown and the Myth of Thanksgiving’ as seen 50 years later

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Meryl Resurreccion

**This review contains spoilers.**

Nov. 20 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the few Thanksgiving classics, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” from the “Peanuts” world of Charles M. Schulz.

In the film, Charlie Brown is met with a dilemma when Peppermint Patty mistakenly invites herself and the rest of the “Peanuts” gang over for Thanksgiving dinner. 

His dog Snoopy comes to the rescue by cooking his own take on a Thanksgiving feast, complete with toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks and jelly beans, of course.

Throughout the special, the audience is immediately met with the familiar tones and settings of the “Peanuts” world. The simple warm-toned colors, the fuzzy 2D animation we’ve unfortunately evolved past and the crackle in the grain from frame to frame.

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Scored by famous jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, the soundtrack often switches between jaunty and serene. The iconic track “Linus and Lucy” plays as Snoopy is in the kitchen cooking up a storm, adding to the quaint tone of the entire film.

We open on a famous bit, Lucy with the football promising Charlie Brown that she wouldn’t try to fool him again. As you can surmise, this does not work out well for gullible Charlie. He trips and goes flying, falling flat to the ground. 

Lucy remarks, “Isn’t it peculiar, Charlie Brown, how some traditions just slowly fade away?”

Despite being the main character, Charlie Brown is difficult to root for. He is characterized as an extremely worried pushover, agreeing to hold a dinner he didn’t intend to host. He is racked with worry, while Linus orders Snoopy to do a lot of the heavy lifting. 

Snoopy jumps to the task, buttering pieces of toast as they shoot out of toasters like he’s conducting an orchestra. He’s the only one who gets anything done, and does so with a magnificent stage presence. 

Linus is another standout character, delivering his lines like he’s an avid listener of NPR. At Thanksgiving dinner, he begins to bore the gang with the tired and problematic story of the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

Linus tells us about the pilgrims, Gov. William Bradford, Myles Standish and Elder William Brewster and how they invited Chief Massasoit and 90 of his unidentified tribe for a feast. This, of course, only feeds into the myth of Thanksgiving.

In reality, the Wampanoag people were already familiar with Europeans by 1621, with at least two members able to speak English. Their leader Ousamequin only allied with the English at Plymouth to protect his tribe from their rivals while the Wampanoag people were recovering from an epidemic. The myth was further pushed as pilgrims marketed themselves as the fathers of America. 

This misinformed Eurocentric view is pervasive. In the cast of characters, there are only three who don’t speak: Snoopy, a dog, and his pal Woodstock, a bird, as well as Franklin, the one person of color. 

Although this is standard for the time, originally released in 1973, it is worth mentioning that Snoopy is the most lively character, given many nonverbal character-building scenes, getting into a tussle with a personified folding chair.

Franklin, however, is equivalent to an extra. The most he interacts with the other characters is when he gives Charlie Brown a fistbump as he greets him.

While outdated in quite a few ways, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” is still a warm hug. We close on Snoopy and Woodstock enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving turkey that they had been hiding the whole time. They play the wishbone game, and as the bone snaps Woodstock goes flying, smiling the whole way through. 

With its distinct and familiar characters, silly nature and visually and musically warm atmosphere, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” although not without its faults, is sure to put you and your loved ones in an autumnal mood.

 

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