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A Charlie Brown Christmas Interview with Producer Lee Mendelson

Lee Mendelson, producer of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, talks about his classic Peanuts holiday special, in a special Christmas edition of the Internet radio show TV Time Machine, hosted by TV historian Jim Benson. (Via

In this one-hour interview, Mendelson reveals the fascinating story behind this beloved 1965 animated holiday special including the genesis of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS; casting the children to supply the Peanuts gang voices, and working with legendary creator Charles Schultz. Mendelson also discusses the yearly ritual of families watching the Charlie Brown Peanuts TV specials, a holiday tradition which has been passed from generation to generation.

"The Charlie Brown shows continue on and on," Mendelson said. "It's amazing to me how long and enduring this has been. We were lucky that we were producing TV specials in the 60's and 70's, where we got a huge audience. Those audiences are now parents and grandparents and they've stuck with us throughout the years. It's been a wonderful and joyful ride for all of us."

Along with his late partner, director and animator Bill Melendez, Mendelson and company have produced scores of Charlie Brown TV specials since 1965, including IT'S A GREAT PUMPKIN CHARLIE BROWN, A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING, CHARLIE BROWN'S ALL STARS, IT'S THE EASTER BEAGLE CHARLIE BROWN, BE MY VALENTINE CHARLIE BROWN, YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN, and IT'S FLASHBEAGLE CHARLIE BROWN, among many others.

On TV Time Machine, Lee Mendelson also talks about hiring noted jazz musician Vince Guaraldi to compose the now-classic score for A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS that also includes the legendary musical piece "Linus and Lucy," which has become the signature tune for all of the Peanuts TV specials.

"Vince's jazz music was the type of music I was looking for," Mendelson said. "It had both an adult and children's quality to it. After I hired him, Vince called me one day and said he wanted to play a song for me to see if he was on the right track. When he played 'Linus and Lucy' for me for the first time, I got goose pimples all over. Not only was it perfect, but I had the feeling that it was going to have a long-range impact. It was a very exciting moment."

In addition to producing and occasionally directing and writing the Charlie Brown TV specials, Lee Mendelson has also produced The STORY OF BABAR THE LITTLE ELEPHANT, EIGHT IS ENOUGH, HERE COMES GARFIELD, THE ROMANCE OF BETTY BOOP, WRINKLES: IN NEED OF CUDDLES, CATHY, and feature films A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN and SNOOPY COME HOME. Mendelson's production company, Lee Mendelson Film Productions, Inc. has produced more than 100 prime time specials since 1963, and has been the recipient of several Emmy and Peabody Awards over the past 45 years.

TV Time Machine is a unique Internet radio show that explores classic TV and its influence over the past five decades. Far beyond nostalgia, TV Time Machine spotlights TV's impact on our culture and society, and explores how present-day television and its movers and shakers have been -- and are still -- influenced by the stories, programs, and characters of television's past.