Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing. We’ve covered the best artificial Christmas trees, Christmas tree toppers, Christmas lights, and wreaths, and now we’re zeroing in on the best Christmas tree stands on Amazon. (Note that reviews have been edited for length and clarity.)
Each year, 33 to 36 million Christmas trees are produced in America, and 50 to 60 million are produced in Europe. In 1998, there were about 15,000 growers in America (a third of them "choose and cut" farms). In that same year, it was estimated that Americans spent $1.5 billion on Christmas trees. By 2016 that had climbed to $2.04 billion for natural trees and a further $1.86 billion for artificial trees. In Europe, 75 million trees worth €2.4 billion ($3.2 billion) are harvested annually.
When it comes to Christmas trees the fakes are just as fabulous as real trees. Ingenuity coupled with modern technology has made most faux trees fantastic. Flocked, frosted, fiber-optics, solar power ? these are just a few of the technological advances coupled with quality craftsmanship and features like realistic needles which have made it difficult to impossible to distinguish the fakes from the real thing.
“This product does what it says it will do. The screw-in braces are very easy to use, and held an eight-foot tree without any problems whatsoever. I’m sure it would be fine with a ten-footer. I got another one for my parents-in-law, after I used their ancient tree stand, which took me an HOUR to get set up right! This stand should take no more than ten minutes to get your tree up and stabilized. Merry Christmas!”
Cost and realism go hand in hand. Using molds often taken from actual branches, artificial-tree manufacturers shape polyethylene, or PE, to produce highly realistic branch tips. More tips generally make the tree look fuller, with fewer gaps, and more tips cost more money. Similarly, a higher percentage of polyethylene in a tree’s construction generally equates to greater realism—and a higher price. Our pick, for reference, has 1,867 tips and is 37 percent polyethylene, and is convincingly lifelike even up close. You can get trees with far more eye-popping stats, though. This particularly lovely Balsam Fir from Balsam Hill’s most-realistic line of trees, for example, has almost 6,000 tips and is 70 percent polyethylene—and comes at a price to match that extravagance. As with real trees, overall bigger sizes come with bigger costs: House of Holiday, for example, carries more than two dozen trees measuring 12 feet or taller with price tags north of $1,000.
Animation for A Charlie Brown Christmas was created by Bill Melendez Productions. Mendelson had no idea whether or not completing a half-hour's worth of animation would be possible given the production's six-month schedule, but Melendez confirmed its feasibility. In actuality, animation was only completed in the final four months of production. CBS initially wanted an hour's worth of animation, but Melendez talked them down to a half-hour special, believing an hour of television animation was too much. Having never worked on a half-hour special before, Melendez phoned Bill Hanna of Hanna-Barbera for advice, but Hanna declined to give any. CBS gave a budget of $76,000 to produce the show and it went $20,000 over budget. The first step in creating the animation was to make a pencil drawing, afterwards inking and painting the drawing onto a cel. The cel was then placed onto a painted background. There are 13,000 drawings in the special, with 12 frames per second to create the illusion of movement.
Charlie Brown quietly picks up the tree and walks out of the auditorium toward home, now determined not to let commercialism ruin the holiday. He stops at Snoopy's decorated doghouse, which now sports a blue ribbon for winning the display contest. He takes a large ornament from the doghouse and hangs it at the top of his tree, but the branch, seemingly unable to hold the ornament's weight, promptly droops to the ground. Believing he has killed the tree and that he has ruined everything as usual, Charlie Brown walks off in despair.
Despite the popularity of the strip and acclaim from advertisers, networks were not interested in the special. By April 1965, Time featured the Peanuts gang on its magazine cover, perhaps prompting a call from John Allen of the New York-based McCann Erickson Agency. Mendelson imagined he would sell his documentary, and blindly agreed to Allen's proposal: an animated half-hour Peanuts Christmas special. The Coca-Cola Company was looking for a special for advertising during the holiday season. "The bad news is that today is Wednesday and they'll need an outline in Atlanta by Monday," Allen remarked to Mendelson. He quickly contacted Schulz, and the duo got to work with plans for a Peanuts Christmas special. The duo prepared an outline for the Coca-Cola executives in less than one day, and Mendelson would later recall that the bulk of ideas came from Schulz, whose "ideas flowed nonstop." According to Mendelson, their pitch to Coca-Cola consisted of "winter scenes, a school play, a scene to be read from the Bible, and a sound track combining jazz and traditional music." The outline did not change over the course of its production.
It comes in a triangular-shaped box, and it is folded up. The tree is folded, I mean. It is sort of like paper-mache around wire. The "pine needles" are plastic, and can fall off. The ornament is wrapped up in the blanket. It was difficult to shape the tree into what it is supposed to look like, but I guess I didn't do too bad. I think the original tree doesn't have as many branches actually. The stand is horrible. The tree has a screw on the end you're supposed to screw into the base. It stuck through one piece of wood, and the other piece is too large, so it slips right out and since it is top heavy, can fall right over. So, I actually have a ruler sitting underneath the side of the base to keep it standing.
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