Charlie Brown, Christmas, LSD. One of these things is not like the other.
My young son is enamored of Charlie Brown and the woebegone world he inhabits. He likes jazz (courtesy of Vince Guaraldi) and he likes the fact the characters play baseball. The only cultural connective tissue I can draw between jazz and baseball is Ken Burns and his documentaries, Jazz and Baseball. If the Peanuts characters became Civil War re-enactors, the kid would probably grow to believe Ken Burns and Charles Schultz were his real parents. That’s fine – they can pay for his college. I’ve already dropped enough dough on Amazon Instant Video streams of the various Charlie Brown holiday specials (Schultz and Hallmark must be in cahoots making up new holidays out of which to squeeze money – “It’s Secretary’s Day, Charlie Brown!”).
The streaming specials were only the beginning of a retro-digital-transmedia-redeployment of the “round-headed kid” and his cohort. There’s an app. In fact, the young actor who originated the animated Charlie’s voice does the narration on a repurposing of A Charlie Brown Christmas, that features some modest interactivity while flawlessly capturing the melancholic vibe of the source material. My kid loved the iOS version until this happened:
Notice how Charlie and Linus’ arms have come off. Imagine trying to explain that to a horrified child. Good grief, indeed. Later, my wife turned up with a “Look and Find” book entitled Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown that takes scenes from A Charlie Brown Christmas with with random objects thrown in (a stuffed camel, a maraca, a pipe – basically the decor of the average freshman dorm), which young readers are meant to find. Seeing the kaleidoscopic holiday landscapes of the Peanuts’ otherwise humdrum world in static printed form makes apparent just how psychedelic they were. Like this one:
Charlie Brown Christmas LSD Gets Real
The above scene could be captioned: “Maybe we shouldn’t have dropped that acid, Charlie Brown.” Look at their expressions. This is the precise moment before a bad trip starts. This also accounts for how Charlie ended up with such a famously crap tree. He was trippin’ balls. In fact, LSD explains a lot of the Peanuts world – from hallucinatory flashbacks of World War Two (featuring trippy rotoscoped footage of D-Day reminiscent of Yellow Submarine) to kite-eating trees and Linus’ Syd Barrett-style burnout fixation on a mythical pumpkin.
Rumor is if you turn down the sound on A Charlie Brown Christmas and play the second side of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon simultaneously, Brain Damage track comes on just when Charlie Brown takes his totally f’d up Christmas tree out into the winter night.
“The lunatic is on the grass” syncs wonderfully with the image of a dazed and confused Chuck carrying around his ailing green plant. Naturally, his eyes are big black pupils when he stops to watch the surreal light display on Snoopy’s doghouse, then bails, disconsolate over his comparatively shabby tree. That’s when his hippy-ass pals show up, wave their arms around (“You rearrange me ’til I’m sane”) and suddenly the twig Charlie Brown ditched becomes a proper Christmas tree. Evidently everyone is high. The kids start caroling in time with the backing vocals on the chorus. All true. Ken Burns is doing a documentary on it.
It’s a holiday treat one will cherish (for about 8 hours at 500 micrograms).