It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

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It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Great pumpkin charlie brown title card.jpg
Title card from 1966 TV special
Genre Animated TV Special
Created by Charles M. Schulz
Written by Charles M. Schulz
Directed by Bill Melendez
Voices of Peter Robbins
Sally Dryer
Kathy Steinberg
Christopher Shea
Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter
Lisa DeFaria
Ann Altieri
Glenn Mendelson
Bill Melendez
Theme music composer Vince Guaraldi
Composer(s) Vince Guaraldi
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Production
Executive producer(s) Lee Mendelson
Producer(s) Lee Mendelson
Bill Melendez
Cinematography Nick Vasu
Editor(s) Robert T. Gillis
Steven Melendez
Running time 25 minutes
Release
Original network CBS
Picture format 4:3 SDTV
First shown in October 27, 1966 (1966-10-27)
Chronology
Preceded by Charlie Brown's All-Stars
Followed by You're in Love, Charlie Brown

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a 1966 American prime time animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.[1]

A Halloween special, it was the third Peanuts special (and second holiday-themed special, following A Charlie Brown Christmas) to be produced and animated by Bill Melendez. It was also the first Peanuts special to use the titular pattern of a short phrase, followed by "Charlie Brown", a pattern which would remain the norm for almost all subsequent Peanuts specials.

Its initial broadcast took place on October 27, 1966, on CBS, preempting My Three Sons. (The original sponsors - as seen during the original opening sequence, almost never seen afterward in its entirety - were Coca-Cola, the original sponsor of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the Dolly Madison brand of baked snack foods, which would go on to be a longtime co-sponsor of the Peanuts specials on CBS.)

CBS re-aired the special annually through 2000, with ABC picking up the rights beginning in 2001, where it now airs annually during the Halloween season.

The program was nominated for an Emmy Award. It has been issued on home video several times, including a Remastered Deluxe Edition of the special released by Warner Home Video on September 2, 2008, with the bonus feature It's Magic, Charlie Brown which was released in 1981.[2] To celebrate its 40th anniversary, a retrospective book was published in 2006. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: The Making of a Television Classic includes the entire script, never-before-seen photographs, storyboard excerpts, and interviews with the original child actors who provided the voices of the Peanuts gang.

A history of the program and the various religious interpretations of Linus' sincere belief in the Great Pumpkin are explained in the 2015 book, A Charlie Brown Religion.[3]

Plot[edit]

With autumn in full swing, the Peanuts gang prepares for Halloween. The show begins with Linus and Lucy going out to the local pumpkin patch to find a pumpkin. Lucy selects the largest one they could find and poor Linus has to be the one getting it back to the house, only to be very distraught when it turns out Lucy is going to gut it to become a jack-o-lantern. After the opening credits, Snoopy ends up helping Charlie Brown a bit while he's out raking up a pile of leaves, only to have Linus jump into it with a large lollipop. Then Lucy entices Charlie to try to kick the football...with the usual results.

Meanwhile, Linus writes his annual letter to The Great Pumpkin, despite Charlie Brown's disbelief, Snoopy's laughter, Patty's assurance that the Great Pumpkin is a fake, and even his own sister Lucy (who is watching TV and reading a TV Guide with her picture on it) making a violent threat to make her brother stop. Only Sally, Charlie Brown's younger sister, who is smitten with Linus, supports him. When Linus goes out to mail the letter but cannot reach the mailbox, Lucy refuses to help him; so he uses his blanket to open the box, and throws in the letter.

On Halloween night, the gang (including Sally) goes trick-or-treating, each with their own costume. Most dress as ghosts in simple white-sheet costumes; Charlie Brown botches his costume with errant scissor work, and Pig-Pen's trademark dust cloud makes him easy to identify, while Lucy opts to dress as a witch, as she perceives it as being the opposite of her real personality. On the way, they stop at the pumpkin patch to ridicule Linus for missing the festivities, just as he did last year. Undeterred, Linus is convinced that the Great Pumpkin will come, and tries to convince Sally to join him; Sally, against her better judgment but acting almost entirely on her infatuation with Linus, agrees to skip trick-or-treating to be with her sweet babboo.

During trick-or-treating, the kids receive various goodies (except for Charlie Brown, who gets nothing but rocks). After going back to the pumpkin patch to tease Linus and Sally, the gang goes to Violet's Halloween party. (Neither Lucy nor Charlie Brown can believe that the latter even got invited to a party hosted by the notoriously snobby Violet; Charlie Brown breaks out into a "happy dance" upon receiving the invitation as Lucy assumes it was a mistake.) Meanwhile, Snoopy, wearing his World War I flying ace costume, climbs aboard his doghouse (imagining it to be a Sopwith Camel fighter plane) to fight with the Red Baron. After a fierce but losing battle, Snoopy makes his way across "the countryside" to briefly crash the Halloween party, where he is entertained by Schroeder's playing of World War I tunes on his piano, and then goes to the pumpkin patch. When Linus sees a shadowy figure rising from the moonlit patch, he assumes the Great Pumpkin has arrived, and faints. When Sally sees that it is only Snoopy, she furiously yells at Linus for making her miss out on the Halloween festivities as Charlie Brown and the others come to get her. As they leave, Linus, still convinced that the Great Pumpkin will materialize, promises to put in a good word for them if he comes—an off-the-cuff remark that he fears, because of the uncertainty, will scare the Great Pumpkin away.

At four o'clock the next morning, Lucy realizes that Linus is not in his bed. She finds her brother asleep in the pumpkin patch, shivering. She brings him home, takes off his shoes, and puts him to bed. Later, Charlie Brown and Linus are leaning against a wall, commiserating about the previous night's disappointments. Charlie Brown attempts to console his friend, admitting that he himself has done stupid things in his life also; this only infuriates Linus, who sets off on an angry rant vowing that the Great Pumpkin will come to the pumpkin patch next year, as Charlie Brown listens with an annoyed look on his face and the credits roll.

Voice actors[edit]

Viewer response[edit]

Charles Schulz wanted Charlie Brown to get a rock at one house. Melendez suggested it happen three times, and while executive producer Lee Mendelson said no, he was overruled.[4] Charlie Brown's repeated line of "I got a rock" caused some stir among many viewers of the show, according to Charles Schulz in the book and retrospective TV special Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown. Schulz said that after the program first aired, bags and boxes of candy came in from all over the world "just for Charlie Brown."[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Executive producer Lee Mendelson told The Washington Post that the sequence with Snoopy flying his doghouse was "one of the most memorable animated scenes ever."[4] He also said that of all the Peanuts TV specials, "I believe 'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown' is Bill Melendez’s animation masterpiece.”[4]

Production[edit]

Sponsors[edit]

As mentioned above, and as was done for A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown's All-Stars, this special was sponsored by Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison Cakes, which was edited out from later broadcasts and video/DVD releases.

CBS telecast edits[edit]

During the 1980s and 1990s, when the special aired on CBS, the network trimmed the "trick-or-treat" sequence, such that after the Peanuts gang knock on the first door and say "trick-or-treat," it cuts to the gang after they finished trick-or-treating comparing what they got at the last house.

ABC telecast edits[edit]

To make room for the longer commercial breaks during modern airings, ABC cut three scenes, which were later restored when aired in conjunction with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown. The scenes were cut in 2014, 2015 and 2016's first airing to make room for all of Toy Story of Terror!, but did show in the second airing.

  • Charlie Brown shaking his fist at Linus after he jumps into the pile of leaves with a wet sucker (lollipop).
  • Lucy pleading with Charlie Brown to kick the football, and subsequently pulling it away as he tries to do so, a staple in the comic strips since 1952.
  • Snoopy (as the World War I flying ace) prompting Schroeder to play World War I era songs.

Music[edit]

The music was performed by the Vince Guaraldi Sextet. The lively instrumental, "Linus and Lucy", associated originally with A Charlie Brown Christmas, is used at the beginning of this cartoon as Linus and Lucy prepare a pumpkin to be a jack-o-lantern, as Linus mails his letter to the Great Pumpkin, and when Lucy wakes up at 4 AM to take Linus home from the pumpkin patch (the latter features the usual arrangement, whereas a slower arrangement plays as she wakes up and checks his bedroom only to find it empty). Guaraldi's theme for the special, "The Great Pumpkin Waltz," plays throughout, as when Linus is writing the Great Pumpkin towards the beginning. There are also a few new Guaraldi compositions that have been sought after by fans of the show and musicians, including "Breathless", "Graveyard Theme", "Trick Or Treat", "The Red Baron", & "Fanfare".

The World War I songs played by Schroeder on his toy piano while Snoopy dances are:

The "Happy" Songs:
"It's a Long Way to Tipperary"
"Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag"
The "Sad" Songs:
"There's a Long, Long Trail"
"Roses of Picardy"

Home video releases[edit]

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was first released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and Hi-Tops Video as part of its Snoopy's Home Video Library. This version included the CBS edit of the "trick-or-treat" scene and removed the entire sequence of Schroeder playing World War I-era songs. Paramount Home Video later released the special on VHS in the '90s. It was later released on DVD on September 12, 2000 with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown as a bonus special.

After Warner Home Video obtained the off-air rights to the Charlie Brown library of TV specials, they released a new DVD release under the new "Remastered Deluxe Edition" line on September 2, 2008. On this DVD, the bonus special was It's Magic, Charlie Brown (You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown was released on its own DVD later that year), and it included a new featurette, "We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown". A Blu-ray/DVD combo pack was released on September 7, 2011 with the same features as the Warner DVD.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pallotta, Frank (October 30, 2014). "'Charlie Brown' Halloween is still hot TV". CNN. 
  2. ^ Bonanno, Luke. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Remastered Deluxe Edition DVD Review". DVDizzy.com. Retrieved 29 October 2010. 
  3. ^ Lind, Stephen (2015). A Charlie Brown Religion (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi).
  4. ^ a b c Cavna, Michael (October 19, 2016). "Why 'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown' is the greatest 'Peanuts' visual achievement". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 20, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Peanuts Documentary (1985) (5 of 5) - It's Your 20th Television Anniversary, Charlie Brown" (Documentary video). 

External links[edit]