The Great Pumpkin
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (August 2012)|
The Great Pumpkin is a holiday figure (comparable to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny) that seems to only be mentioned by Linus van Pelt. Every year, Linus sits in a pumpkin patch on Halloween night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Invariably, the Great Pumpkin fails to turn up, and a humiliated but undefeated Linus vows to wait for him again the following Halloween.
The Great Pumpkin was first mentioned by Linus in Peanuts in 1959, but the premise was reworked by Schulz many times throughout the run of the strip, and also inspired the 1966 animated television special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The best-known quote regarding Linus and the Great Pumpkin, originally from the comic strip but made famous by the TV special, is: "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin."
Religious metaphors 
Linus's seemingly unshakable belief in the Great Pumpkin, and his desire to foster the same belief in others, has been interpreted as a parody of Christian evangelism by some observers. Others have seen Linus's belief in the Great Pumpkin as symbolic of the struggles faced by anyone with beliefs or practices that are not shared by the majority. Still others view Linus's lonely vigils, in the service of a being that may or may not exist and which never makes its presence known in any case, as a metaphor for mankind's basic existential dilemmas. Charles Schulz himself, however, claimed no motivation beyond the humor of having one of his young characters confuse Halloween with Christmas. (In the 1959 sequence of strips in which the Great Pumpkin is first mentioned, Schulz also has Linus suggest that he and the other kids "go out and sing pumpkin carols", something he asks the trick-or-treating kids in the special itself.)
Other Great Pumpkins 
Braniff Airways 
In the late 1970s, Braniff Airways painted their fleet in bright primary colors, in order to give their fleet visual appeal and marketability. The airline's first 747-200 airliners were delivered painted in a striking shade of orange, causing several ATC's across the USA to welcome the new Braniff acquisitions with the phrase "Welcome, Great Pumpkin". The 1973 Petersen Publications annual, Air Progress : World's Greatest Aircraft, had its chapter devoted to the 747 headed "The Great Pumpkin Lives!".
BNSF Railway 
In 1996, Burlington Northern SD60M #9297 (renumbered 8197 in 2008) was jokingly dubbed the "Great Pumpkin" by employees because of its bold orange paint scheme, one of many prototype paint designs created by the then newly-formed Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), a merger of Burlington Northern and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe). This scheme eventually became the basis for BNSF's "Heritage I" paint design, while the "Great Pumpkin" nickname has stuck among railfans for this particular locomotive.
The Simpsons 
The final segment of "Treehouse of Horror XIX" (the fourth episode of the twentieth season of The Simpsons), called "It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse", is a parody of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and contains numerous references to the Peanuts series. Milhouse wears the same clothes and plays the same role as Linus van Pelt. Lisa is modelled after Sally Brown and Bart looks like Charlie Brown, he even says "good grief", echoing Charlie Brown's catchphrase. A redesigned version of Santa's Little Helper can be seen sleeping on top of his dog house and Homer is seen sleeping on top of his house in a manner similar to Snoopy. When Marge first speaks, she uses a muted trombone. This is a parody of the "wah wah wah" voice that is used for adults in the various Peanuts specials. The dance scene during the Halloween party is a parody of the dance scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas right down to Kang and Kodos in a nonspeaking cameo as the twins 3 and 4." Parts of the segment had music by Vince Guaraldi (best known for composing music for animated adaptations of the Peanuts comic strip), which they had obtained the rights to use. In the episode segment, Milhouse waits in a pumpkin patch on Halloween for the Grand Pumpkin (which Bart made up) with Lisa. After Lisa sees everyone at school having a Halloween party, she grows tired of waiting and leaves in frustration. Milhouse starts to cry and his tears and childlike belief bring the Grand Pumpkin to life. However, the Pumpkin is appalled to find that his kindred pumpkins are being carved up on Halloween and made into pumpkin bread, originally thinking it was bread especially made for pumpkins until Milhouse revealed it is made from them, and vows revenge. He devours Homer as he carves a pumpkin, then marches to the school and eats Nelson who threatens to stab a yellow pumpkin. It becomes apparent at this point that the Grand Pumpkin is racist towards this type of pumpkin and then eats Groundskeeper Willie after being offered roasted pumpkin seeds. Realizing that Milhouse can bring things to life by believing in them, Lisa tells him about "Tom Turkey," a symbol of Thanksgiving. Milhouse starts to believe in Tom Turkey, who comes to life and kills the Grand Pumpkin, freeing everyone he ate. However, when Tom Turkey learns that people eat turkeys on Thanksgiving from Bart, he vows revenge and starts angrily chasing children around the school, devouring some of them whole as Marge wishes the viewers happy holidays.
Robot Chicken 
A sketch in the stop-motion parody show Robot Chicken featured a Peanuts parody involving Linus Van Pelt getting tired of never actually seeing the great pumpkin and so he raises a version in a satanic-esque ritual involving a pentagram. True to the source of the being, the creature is evil and murders him. This leads to a succession of further characters to be murdered. Charlie Brown is only saved by the kite eating tree consuming the demonic pumpkin, with him commenting that his friends can now rest. The scene then shows the murdered characters dancing and playing piano ala the Peanuts specials in Hell with a demon.
Italy and the Great Watermelon 
When Peanuts' strip was first introduced in Italy, Halloween was almost unknown there as a festivity. The earlier translations turned the pumpkin in a watermelon ("Il Grande Cocomero") because it was felt as a more Mediterranean and understandable fruit-figure, and the mistranslation did somehow stick in the Italian pop culture.
Dan Johnson 
The Major League Baseball player Dan Johnson is nicknamed The Great Pumpkin due to his orange-red beard and his notable late-season/autumn performance. Johnson, a marginal big-league player, he was called to the majors late in three separate seasons (2008, 2010, 2011), and subsequently hit clutch home runs that propelled his team into the playoffs.
Licensed use on Poptropica 
In October, 2010, forty-five years after the 1966 Bill Melendez TV special, the Great Pumpkin is the topic of a licensed use by the children's internet site Poptropica. The site's 15th quest (island) is "Great Pumpkin Island", and features several of the Peanuts characters interacting with the avatars of Poptropica players. True to previous Peanuts versions, the Great Pumpkin never actually appears.
See also 
- Schulz, Charles (1961). Peanuts comic strip dated October 25, 1961.
- Koresky, Michael. "The Book of Linus." Reverse Shot, Spring 2004.
- Vejvoda, Jim (2008-07-26). "SDCC 08: Simpsons Footage Screened". IGN. Retrieved 2008-11-17.
- Ponywether, Ariel (2008-11-03). "Review -- The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror XIX"". Firefox. Retrieved 2008-11-17.
- Bentley, Rick (2008-10-31). "A mixed bag of parody on "Simpsons Treehouse of Terror XIX"". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
- Topel, Fred (2008-09-10). "Simpsons Parodies Transformers". Sci Fi Wire. Retrieved 2008-09-10.[dead link]