It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

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It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
GPCBtitlecard66.jpeg
GenreAnimated television special
Created byCharles M. Schulz
Written byCharles M. Schulz
Directed byBill Melendez
Voices of
Theme music composerVince Guaraldi
Opening theme"Linus and Lucy"
Ending theme"Charlie Brown Theme"
ComposersVince Guaraldi
John Scott Trotter
Lee Mendelson
Country of originU.S.
Original languageEnglish
Production
Executive producerLee Mendelson
ProducersLee Mendelson
Bill Melendez
CinematographyNick Vasu
EditorsRobert T. Gillis
Steven Melendez
Running time25:15
Production companiesLee Mendelson Productions
Bill Melendez Productions
United Feature Syndicate
Release
Original networkCBS
Picture format4:3 35mm film
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseOctober 27, 1966 (1966-10-27)
Chronology
Preceded byCharlie Brown's All Stars! (1966)
Followed byYou're in Love, Charlie Brown (1967)

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.[2] The special features music composed by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, whose contributions include the theme song “Linus and Lucy”. It was also the first Peanuts special whose title used the pattern of a short phrase followed by "Charlie Brown", a pattern which remained the norm for almost all subsequent Peanuts specials.[3]

Its initial broadcast took place on October 27, 1966, on CBS, preempting My Three Sons. The original sponsors were Coca-Cola (which had been the original sponsor of A Charlie Brown Christmas) and the Dolly Madison brand of baked snack food. Dolly Madison continued to co-sponsor the Peanuts specials on CBS for many years. CBS re-aired the special annually through 2000, with ABC picking up the rights beginning in 2001. It aired annually on ABC during the Halloween season[4] until 2019. From 2006 until 2019, ABC usually aired the special twice, once in a truncated format during a half-hour time slot and once in full during an hour-long time slot (filled out with an abridged version of the 1972 special You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown). Beginning in 2020, Apple TV+ became the exclusive home of all Peanuts specials.[5] The special is also aired on Family Channel in Canada since 2018.[6] In 2021, the special returned to broadcast television on PBS and PBS Kids stations as part of a partnership by Apple and PBS. It aired at 7:30 P.M. ET/PT on October 24, 2021.[7]

The program was nominated for a 1966 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.[8] 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, published by the University Press of Mississippi.[9]

Plot summary[edit]

As Halloween approaches, Linus and Lucy Van Pelt go out to the local pumpkin patch to find a pumpkin. Lucy selects the largest they can find, and makes Linus carry it back to the house. He becomes upset when Lucy starts cutting it to make a jack-o-lantern. After the opening titles, Snoopy helps Charlie Brown finish raking a pile of leaves. Linus jumps into the heap with a large lollipop, resulting in leaves sticking to his face and lollipop. Then Lucy entices Charlie Brown to kick her football by showing him a signed agreement, but then pulls it away as usual before pointing out the agreement never got notarized.

Linus is writing his yearly letter to the Great Pumpkin, he insists that it will bring him presents despite the disbelief of the other kids. Only Sally, Charlie Brown's younger sister, smitten with Linus, supports him. Lucy follows Linus as he goes out to mail the letter, refusing to even help him and thus, leaving him to use his blanket to open the mailbox and let the letter float in. Charlie Brown shows up to announce that he was invited to a Halloween party hosted by Violet. Lucy is skeptical about his invitation, assuming it was sent by mistake.

On Halloween night, the group goes trick-or-treating, each with their own costume. Most dress as ghosts in simple white sheet costumes; Charlie Brown has "trouble with the scissors," leaving his costume full of holes. Pig-Pen's trademark dust cloud makes him easy to identify. Lucy dresses as a witch, claiming it represents the opposite of her real personality. On the way, they stop at the pumpkin patch to jeer at Linus for missing the festivities as usual. Undeterred, Linus persuades Sally, due to her infatuation with him, to skip trick-or-treating and join him.

The "tricks or treats" group receives various sweets and some money (except for Charlie Brown, who for some reason is given nothing except rocks). After going back to the pumpkin patch to tease Linus and Sally again, they go to Violet's Halloween party. The girls ask Charlie Brown to serve as their model, initially to his delight, then embarrassment, when they use the back of his head to canvas potential jack-o'-lantern designs. Meanwhile, Snoopy, wearing his World War I flying ace costume, climbs aboard his doghouse and imagines it is a Sopwith Camel fighter plane. After a fierce battle with the unseen Red Baron, Snoopy makes his way across "the countryside" to crash the Halloween party. Sneaking into an apple bobbing tank, he accidentally kisses Lucy when she picks up an apple, disgusting her. He is entertained by Schroeder's playing of World War I tunes on his piano before leaving.

Linus and Sally are still in the pumpkin patch when Linus sees a mysterious shadowy figure, which turns out to be Snoopy, rising from the moonlit patch. He mistakes him for the Great Pumpkin and faints. When Linus wakes, Sally furiously yells at him for making her miss the Halloween festivities while Charlie Brown and the others come to take her home. As they leave, Linus, still adamant that the Great Pumpkin will materialize, promises to put in a good word for them if it comes and then panics after realizing that he said if instead of when.

At 4 a.m., Lucy wakes up to find that Linus is not in bed and goes outside. She finds her brother in the pumpkin patch, covered by his blanket, shivering and half asleep. She brings him home, takes off his shoes, and puts him to bed.

The next morning, Charlie Brown and Linus lean against a brick wall and commiserate about the previous night. Charlie Brown attempts to console Linus by explaining that he has done many stupid things too. Hearing that makes Linus snap, and he vows that the Great Pumpkin will come to the pumpkin patch next year; Charlie Brown dejectedly listens to Linus’ ranting while credits roll.

Voice actors[edit]

Viewer response[edit]

Schulz wanted Charlie Brown to get a rock at one house. Melendez suggested it happen three times. Although executive producer Lee Mendelson disagreed, he was overruled.[10] According to Schulz in the retrospective TV special "Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown", after the program first aired, bags and boxes of candy came in from all over the world "just for Charlie Brown.".[11]

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."[10] 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."[10]

Production[edit]

Sponsors[edit]

Similar to the earlier A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown's All-Stars specials, It's The Great Pumpkin was sponsored by Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison Cakes. These sponsor tags were replaced in later broadcasts and edited out of the VHS/DVD releases.

Music[edit]

The score was performed by the Vince Guaraldi Sextet, featuring Guaraldi on piano, Monty Budwig on double bass, Colin Bailey on drums, John Gray on guitar, Ronald Lang on woodwinds and Emmanuel Klein on trumpet. It was orchestrated by John Scott Trotter, arranged by Guaraldi and Robert G. Hartley. All the music was recorded on October 4, 1966, at Desilu's Gower Street Studio in Hollywood.[12]

The Peanuts franchise signature tune, "Linus and Lucy", is featured prominently three times:

  1. during the cold open sequence when Linus and Lucy prepare a pumpkin to be a jack-o-lantern;
  2. as Linus mails his letter to the Great Pumpkin; and
  3. when Lucy wakes up at 4 AM to take Linus home from the pumpkin patch.

Guaraldi's theme for the special, "Great Pumpkin Waltz", is first heard when Linus is writing the Great Pumpkin at the beginning and plays throughout. The World War I songs played by Schroeder while Snoopy dances are: "It's a Long Way to Tipperary", "There's a Long, Long Trail", "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag", and "Roses of Picardy". Guaraldi historian and author Derrick Bang commented that the music Guaraldi composed for the special "emphatically established the Peanuts 'musical personality'," adding that the version of "Linus and Lucy" featured during the cold open was "arguably the best arrangement…that Guaraldi ever laid down, thanks in great part to Ronald Lang's flute counterpoint." (This version was again utilized in the 1969 feature film A Boy Named Charlie Brown.)[13]

Craft Recordings released the complete soundtrack album from the special on October 12, 2018. Previously, only "Great Pumpkin Waltz" was released on the 1998 posthumous compilation album, Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits, as well as Guaraldi's subsequent cover version released on the Warner Bros. Records release, Oh Good Grief!.[14]

Home media[edit]

The special was released on RCA's SelectaVision CED format in 1982 along with the specials You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown, It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was first released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment in 1985 and Hi-Tops Video in 1988, as part of the "Snoopy's Home Video Library" set. This version included editing of the "trick-or-treat" scene to limit the scene to just the first house, and also removed the entire sequence of Schroeder playing World War I-era songs. Paramount Home Video later released the special in its entirety on VHS on August 17, 1994. It was re-released by the studio on October 1, 1996, and on October 7, 1997. It was released on DVD on September 12, 2000, with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown as a bonus special.

After Warner Home Video had 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. The feature was later released on 4K UHD on October 10, 2017.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pallotta, Frank (October 30, 2014). "'Charlie Brown' Halloween is still hot TV". CNN. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  2. ^ Woolery, George W. (1989). Animated TV Specials: The Complete Directory to the First Twenty-Five Years, 1962-1987. Scarecrow Press. pp. 218–219. ISBN 0-8108-2198-2. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  3. ^ Solomon, Charles (2012). The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation: Celebrating Fifty Years of Television Specials. Chronicle Books. pp. 66–77. ISBN 978-1452110912.
  4. ^ Cohn, Gabe (October 31, 2017). "What's on TV Tuesday: 'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown' and 'Major Crimes'". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  5. ^ Adalian, Josef (October 19, 2020). "Apple TV+ Says: Welcome, Great Pumpkin". Vulture. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  6. ^ @Family_Channel (29 October 2018). "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is on October 30th @ 4:30pm et/pt and 7:30pm et/pt and October 31st @ 4pm et/…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  7. ^ Seiger, Theresa (October 25, 2021). "'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown' returning to TV this year". Cox Media Group. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  8. ^ Bonanno, Luke. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Remastered Deluxe Edition DVD Review". DVDizzy.com. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  9. ^ Lind, Stephen (2015). A Charlie Brown Religion (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi).
  10. ^ 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 December 28, 2017.
  11. ^ "Peanuts Documentary (1985) (5 of 5) - It's Your 20th Television Anniversary, Charlie Brown". YouTube. Archived from the original (Documentary video) on 2014-05-02. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  12. ^ "Vince Guaraldi – It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Music From The Soundtrack (2018, CD) Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  13. ^ Bang, Derrick. "Vince Guaraldi on LP and CD: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Music from the Soundtrack". fivecentsplease.org. Derrick Bang, Scott McGuire. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  14. ^ "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - Music from the Soundtrack". Varèse Sarabande. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  15. ^ "Peanuts: Holiday Collection - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Ultra HD Review | High Def Digest". ultrahd.highdefdigest.com. Retrieved December 28, 2017.

External links[edit]