From the DVD case: This Halloween is very special for good ol’ Charlie Brown. He’s finally been invited to a party! Snoopy gets to join the fun, so look out, Red Baron! Linus will find out once and for all if the Great Pumpkin will rise up out of his pumpkin patch “with his bag of toys for all the good children.” (1966, color)
Special Note: The following isn’t so much a review as unabashed gushing praise for a Halloween favorite from my childhood. True fans of horror/science fiction may choose to skip this particular entry and wait for my next review. However, if you share my love of this cartoon, be sure to click on the words in bold to view images that would not fit within the confines of these meager paragraphs.
Mark says: I know what you’re thinking. What is a Peanuts cartoon doing on a site devoted to reviewing vintage sci-fi/horror films? Well just take a gander at the screen capture above and note how viciously (and gleefully!) Lucy chops into that pumpkin. This was years before slasher flicks like Halloween and Friday the 13th became popular. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that those movies weren’t directly inspired by Lucy’s sadistic assault on that pumpkin. Not to mention that opening sequence where the Peanuts gang is chased by skeletons, ghosts, floating pumpkins, a black cat, and witches. If that isn’t the true essence of horror, I don’t know what is.
Ok, I’ll admit it, I just love this cartoon, and since this is my blog I’ll review what I please. I’ll readily state up front and without reservation: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is the greatest of all Halloween specials. Period. I often dance a little jig (similar to Charlie Brown in the image on the left) immediately before watching this program. I don’t care what kind of dirty looks Lucy gives me. Or you, for that matter.
Wikipedia gives us a brief history:
It was the third Peanuts special to be produced and animated by Bill Melendez. Its initial broadcast took place on October 27, 1966, on the CBS network; CBS re-aired the special annually through 2000, with ABC picking up the rights beginning in 2001. The program was nominated for an Emmy award. It has been issued on home video several times.
As a kid I looked forward to It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown with an excitement I can only compare to the annual viewing of The Wizard of Oz. These were the days before VCRs and DVDs, and if you missed the Peanuts Halloween Special there was no opportunity to see it again until the next year. Perhaps this is why my generation cherishes such cartoon classics so strongly. There really was a sense of anticipation that seems to be lost in our current world of pay-per-view television and microwave popcorn. (If I have any extra time, I’ll relate my stories of how many miles I had to trudge to school each day.)
Charles Schulz had an uncanny way of tapping into that inner child and reminding us of the simple joys (and woes) of childhood. If I ever identified with a cartoon character as a boy, it was Charlie Brown. It is reported on the IMDb trivia page that after the original airing of this program, “children all over the country sent candy to Charlie Brown out of sympathy.” I must not have been alone in my empathy for the strange round-headed kid who so desperately wanted to belong but never seemed to quite fit.
I’m amazed at how well (and how simply) this cartoon captures the feel of Autumn and Halloween. Just watching Linus kick through some leaves fills me with a joy that I can rarely rekindle in the natural world. This is the magic of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It gives us the chance to relive our childhood without the drawback of being senile. Take special note of the Fall colors in the backgrounds. I find the night scenes to be particularly atmospheric.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is loaded with great gags. Lucy’s old trick of pulling the football away from Charlie Brown at the last second is made more laughable when she produces a “signed document” to lure Charlie into her snare. Of course, we ultimately discover that the document has not been “notarized” and, as usual, Charlie Brown ends up flat on his back. Like all classic cartoons, the humor appeals to adults as well as children (even though I’ve managed to make it sound somewhat lame).
Charlie’s Brown’s repeated deadpan line, “I got a rock,” is now immortal and still funny. Additionally, after all these years, I continue to chuckle when Charlie Brown initially throws on his ghost costume to reveal that it is covered with eye holes. “I had a little problem with the scissors,” he laments. Shear Schulz poetry.
Snoopy’s adventure as the WWI flying ace was largely lost on me as a child. I remember being anxious to get back to the stories of Charlie Brown and Linus. However, with age I came to appreciate Snoopy’s battles with the Red Baron. Snoopy’s trek across the “French countryside” especially captures my attention as an adult. Even the horrors of trench warfare are alluded to in these scenes. I love all of Snoopy’s various silhouettes throughout the cartoon. And who can forget Lucy’s repulsion of being kissed by “poison dog lips?”
What else can I say? Writing about this classic isn’t nearly as fun as watching it, and I’m certainly not doing it justice. The original music by Vince Guaraldi is wonderful, and the character voices are done by actual children (with the exception of Snoopy, who was characterized by Director Bill Melendez himself).
If for some sad reason you’ve never watched this timeless holiday special, I recommend you rent a copy before trick or treating. It puts that Garfield crap to shame, and perhaps you’ll regain some of the childhood innocence you thought was lost forever.
Directed by Bill Melendez.
Scene to watch for: Lucy states, “A person should always choose a costume that is in direct contrast to her own personality,” and then puts on the mask of a witch.
Line to listen for: “I wouldn’t want to be accused of taking part in a rumble.”
Trivia: When Lucy is sitting in front of the television, she is reading a TV Guide with a picture of her on the cover.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! ! out of 5.