After the comic strip’s debut in 1950, Peanuts had become a phenomenon worldwide by the mid-1960s. The special was commissioned and sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company, and was written over a period of several weeks, and produced on a shoestring budget in only six months. In casting the characters, the producers took an unconventional route, hiring child actors. The program’s soundtrack was similarly unorthodox, featuring a jazz score by pianist Vince Guaraldi. Its lack of a laugh track (a staple in US television animation in this period), in addition to its tone, pacing, music, and animation, led both the producers and the network to predict the project would be a disaster. But contrary to their collective apprehension, A Charlie Brown Christmas received high ratings and acclaim from critics. It has since been honored with both an Emmy and a Peabody Award, and became an annual presentation in the United States, airing during the Christmas season every year since its debut. Its success paved the way for a series of Peanuts television specials and films. Its jazz soundtrack also achieved commercial success, selling four million copies in the US. Live theatrical versions of A Charlie Brown Christmas have been staged. ABC currently holds the rights to the special and broadcasts it at least twice during the weeks leading up to Christmas.