Charlie Brown -- that soft-spoken, perpetually trod-upon, and mysteriously bald child at the heart of the beloved Peanuts comic strips and cartoons -- does not conjure thoughts of bitter lawsuits. (The mischievous and urbane Snoopy is another matter.) Particularly not during the Christmas season, when children and adults across the U.S. are busy tuning in to reruns of the beloved special, A Charlie Brown Christmas.
But Charlie, and his Christmas cartoon, are now at the center of an unusual legal dispute. The heirs of Vince Guaraldi, the late San Francisco jazz musician who composed the score to A Charlie Brown Christmas, are suing the Bay Area-based recording company that produced the soundtrack to the special, alleging they were underpaid royalties.
According to the lawsuit, Fantasy Records, a Berkeley jazz label that was acquired in 2004 by Concord Music Group, deliberately under-reported and withheld royalties in excess of $2 million from David and Dia Guaraldi, Vince's children. The siblings are now trying to retrieve that amount through a complaint filed Dec. 23 -- How's that for timing! -- in Alameda County.
There's no telling where the suit will go. But in the meantime, the controversy surrounding Charlie's Christmas show is as good a reason as any for Peanuts fans to focus their attention on our personal holiday favorite, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
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