Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"

Premiered October 27, 1966

"This is the time of year to write to the Great Pumpkin. On Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises out of his pumpkin patch and flies through the air with his bag of toys for all the children!"
-Linus Van Pelt

It's Halloween!  All the kids are making costumes, organizing Halloween parties and making plans to go trick or treating.  But Linus Van Pelt (voiced by Christopher Shea) is busy writing a letter to the Great Pumpkin. Linus believes that every Halloween, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch and delivers toys to children. His sister Lucy (Sally Dryer) thinks this is insane and is embarrassed by Linus' belief. Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) doesn't have much use for "The Great Pumpkin".  He tells Linus they are separated by "denominational differences".  Chuck's sister Sally (Kathy Steinberg) has a crush on Linus but she doesn't believe his story either.

 "Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker."

Snoopy (Bill Melendez) dresses up as a World War I flying ace and imagines he's behind enemy lines.

"Curse you, Red Baron!"

When the other kids go trick or treating, Linus goes to a pumpkin patch (the "most sincere" pumpkin patch he could find) to await the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.  It looks like he will spend Halloween alone, but he finally convinces Sally to join him.

They wait all night in the pumpkin patch and miss trick or treating,Violet throws a Halloween party, Charlie Brown screws up making a ghost costume, he gets a bag of rocks, etc.

"I got a rock."

J.A. Morris says:
There's really no point in summarizing this special, if you were born in the last 50-60 years, you've probably seen it multiple times. It's easily the "Gold Standard" for Halloween specials.  In addition to Linus & Sally's night in the pumpkin patch, there are plenty of subplots to keep the interest of those who don't believe in the Great Pumpkin.

I've read some criticism that suggests Snoopy's "Flying Ace" subplot is superfluous.  Maybe, but it's important to remember this special was produced shortly after the heyday of the "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" battles in the Peanuts comic strip. I imagine Charles Schulz, Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez felt obligated to feature it in this special in some way.  Plus, it make sense that Snoopy would dress up as a Flying Ace for Halloween.

The Peanuts gang at Violet's Halloween party -- the WWI flying ace is doing some recon

One thing I didn't notice until recent viewings:
Early in the special, there's a scene where Charlie Brown and Snoopy are raking up leaves.  Linus decides to jump into a freshly raked pile, sending leaves flying everywhere.  Chuck responds by waving his fist at Linus! That's not the sort of reaction we'd see from "Good Ol' Charlie Brown" in later animated offerings.  Linus kind of deserved it, but it still surprised me.

"The Great Pumpkin" arrives!

It's The Great Pumpkin has been released several times on DVD and is also available on Blu-Ray and Instant Video (Amazon, iTunes, etc), and still airs annually on ABC.

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of the high points of the Golden Age of TV Specials and it's mandatory viewing in our house every October.

My rating:
4 jack o'lanterns

RigbyMel says:

This special is a classic, no doubt.  It can be enjoyed on multiple levels no matter what age you are and really manages to sum up some of the best things about Halloween from a child's viewpoint.  When I watched this as a child,  I really really wanted Charlie Brown to get to kick the football or to NOT get ROCKS in his trick or treat bag and wanted Linus to meet the Great Pumpkin.  I also can credit this special with building my youthful vocabulary - it led to a discussion with my parents about what the word "sincere" meant, especially in relation to a pumpkin patch!  Watching now as an adult has given me an appreciation for what Charles Schulz was saying about life's disappointments. There is definitely some gentle truth-telling going on here, but I think the point is that life's experiences are important whether they are disappointing or not.   This is required annual Halloween viewing!

My rating:
4 jack o'lanterns (!)

As an added bonus feature for this entry about a well-known (and well-loved) special,  we now present a 1966 tv commercial for "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown".  (1966 is, of course, the year the special first aired.)  Note that it includes animation of Snoopy dancing on a pumpkin, which doesn't appear in the special as far as we know:


Joanna said...

It makes me cry every year when I watch this special and Charlie Brown only finds rocks in his trick-or-treat bag. WHO is handing out candy in his neighborhood?

RigbyMel said...

I didn't cry per se in response to Charlie Brown getting the rocks, but I was certainly always outraged/indignant on his behalf, Joanna! :-)