The Grand Rapids Public Museum got its holiday celebrations started a little early with the end of October opening of its latest exhibit “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!”
The traveling exhibit, which will be at the Museum through Jan. 29, celebrates the holiday season through 50 “Peanuts” daily and Sunday comic strips that adorn the walls of the exhibit along with more than 50 vintage “Peanuts”-themed seasonal novelties and a video featuring Charlie Brown creator Charles Schulz, producer Lee Menelson and animator/director Bill Melendez that details the sometimes magical and often madcap making of the ground breaking animated feature “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
“This was an exhibit we were really interested in because it resonates with a lot of people,” said Kate Moore, the museum’s vice president of marketing and public relations. “‘A Charlie Brown Christmas!’ has been out since 1965 with a lot of people who have seen it and who have share it with their families.”
For many growing up from the late 1960s to the 1990s, gathering in front of the television to watch Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang remind everyone the meaning of Christmas was a time-honored family tradition.
And like many classics, those involved in its creation, and even the television executives who reviewed it, were certain they had created a flop. But with less than a week for its national broadcast premiere, the show went on with “A Charlie Brown Christmas” airing on Dec. 9, 1965 and receiving critical acclaim from “The Hollywood Reporter,” “Weekly Variety,” “The Washington Post,” and the “New York Post.” It went on to win a 1966 Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program with Charlie Brown’s creator, Charles Schulz joking “Charlie Brown is not used to winning, so we thank you.”
Along with opening the door to other similar half-hour animated specials such as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as a television tradition, it was the first to feature religious text, which those involve discuss in the “Making of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’ which was aired in 2001 and was hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. Those who visit the exhibit will have the opportunity to view the documentary on a retro TV in overstuffed beanbags.
Also in the exhibit, which is located on the second floor of the museum marked by a large Snoopy doghouse, visitors can write letters to Santa, try their hand at animation and even test their musical skills on a Schroeder-style piano.
“We will have other activities themed around this exhibit and our recently opened ‘Whales: Giants of the Deep’,” Moore said, adding that the museum’s annual Snowflake Break will incorporate both the “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown” and “Whales” exhibits with the Museum also having the elf scavenger hunt, display of historic Santas, and Night at the Museum on Dec. 28. As to the theme of this year’s Christmas tree, Moore said “well, people will just have to come by and see.”
Also StageGR will be presenting “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown” at the museum’s Meijer Theatre.
“Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown,” which is organized and toured by the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, is part of the regular admission to the museum, which is $8/adults and $3/students and children 3- 17. “Whales: Giants of the Deep” is $13/adults and $8 students with ID and children 3 – 17 and includes the general admission. For more information, visit www.grpm.org. The Grand Rapids Public Museum is located at 272 Pearl St. NW.