Halloween specials: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

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Kicking off my blog’s coverage of animated Halloween specials for “Shocktober” (or “Howl-oween,” or “Monstober,” or whatever the month of October’s being called by TV…) is the best special out of the whole bunch, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

Background

The special first aired on CBS in 1966, but airs on he special sees the gang celebrate Halloween in their trademark manner. Meanwhile, Linus waits (with a reluctant Sally) in a pumpkin patch for the (imaginary) “Great Pumpkin.” It’s a Santa Claus-like figure that supposedly hands out gifts to “sincere” children on Halloween.

This special’s as hilarious as the classic Christmas special. Some of my favorite parts:

  • Linus moaning about Lucy jabbing a knife into the pumpkin to carve it.
  • The scene of Linus writing the letter to the Great Pumpkin, and Lucy’s reaction. Even Charlie Brown (who also shows up) seems to think Linus is crazy.
  • The World War I flying ace scenes, and the special’s sudden shift from “Halloween special” to “World War I era France.”
  • Lucy dragging Linus back to bed at 4 AM on November 1.
  • And the best part: the classic “I got a rock” scene. Funny for the “I got a rock” gag, but the scene’s made even funnier with Lucy’s remarks (“can I have an extra piece of candy for my stupid brother?”).

The special’s also interesting in how Halloween was viewed/celebrated in the sixties, before more modern safety fears and other cultural changes set in. The kids get excited about getting things unlikely to be handed out these days (popcorn balls, money, full-size candy bars). They bob for apples at their Halloween party (do they still do that at Halloween parties?). Finally, they mostly wear homemade costumes. Of course, there’s the usual lack of adult supervision that’s a perpetual part of the “Peanuts” world.

On TV/home video

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” airs annually on ABC.

The special’s been released to DVD several times, including various stand-alone DVDs. However, I’d suggest buying it as either part of the “Peanuts Holiday Collection” DVD set or the “1960s Collection” DVD set. The “Holiday Collection” includes the Thanksgiving and Christmas specials, while the “1960s Collection” just includes the Christmas one.

(Updated 10/31/16)

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