A Charlie Brown Christmas premiered on CBS on Dec. 9, 1965. Fifty-one years later, Nickelodeon will debut an animated Christmas special that tells the holiday story from the perspective of the tree.
Albert stars Saturday Night Live’s Bobby Moynihan as Albert, a tiny Douglas fir tree with dreams of becoming Empire City’s most famous Christmas tree. He embarks on a road trip with his best friends, Maisie and Gene (voiced by SNL’s Sasheer Zamata and Judah Friedlander), to fulfill his destiny and learn valuable lessons along the way.
The three comedians sat down with me in Nickelodeon’s Times Square offices recently to discuss the film, Christmas specials, voiceover work, and how it might tie into the grand tradition of animated stories going back to Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang.
“It is a very Charlie Brown kind of tree, come to think of it,” Moynihan replied.
“That tree was a great character in Charlie Brown,” Friedlander said.
“I think Nickelodeon is secretly trying to set up some sort of Marvel universe…” Moynihan joked.
“Crossover?” Zamata offered.
“Soon all of the Charlie Brown characters will be fighting all of the Albert characters,” Moynihan mused.
“Like (Captain America:) Civil War.” Zamata added.
When talking about Christmas specials that stuck with them as children, we all learned that Zamata had never seen The Star Wars Holiday Special.
“Maybe the strangest movie ever made,” Moynihan said.
“I had seen part of that when I was a kid, then sort of forgot about it. Then, I don’t know, maybe 10-15 years ago, I rediscovered it, got a bootleg VHS of it, and it is” Friedlander said.
Moynihan said: “It’s a piece of work.”
Friedlander: “It’s staggering how awful and bizarre it is, but great.”
Listen to Moynihan and Friedlander recap the plot of The Star Wars Holiday Party to a befuddled Zamata by contributing to my Patreon. My exclusive audio also includes tips Moynihan, Zamata and Friedlander have for performing voiceover work solo in a booth.
Do these comedians feel any pressure to make something lasting of their own with Albert?
“Yeah,” Friedlander said. “You hope it’s going to be good and people dig it and keep wanting to watch it every year.”
“It’d be nice if people make this a tradition, too,” Zamata said.
What is the secret to Christmas specials that stick with us through the years?
“There’s always a lot of intense drama in them. Even this one, there’s a lot at stake. In all these ones, the Frosty, the Grinch…the Grinch, Christmas might not happen!” Friedlander said.
What lesson does Albert learn?
“What he wants is to be noticed and be this big beautiful Christmas tree,” Moynihan said. “What he learns along the way is that everyone is beautiful, and his friends help him get there, and I’m not giving anything away. Even a cactus or a weed could be the Empire City Christmas tree, if you have good friends, and you do good.”
This not-for-TV clip shows Moynihan jokingly offer up commentary about the footage: