|It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown|
|Genre||Animated television special|
|Created by||Charles M. Schulz|
|Written by||Charles M. Schulz|
|Directed by||Bill Melendez|
|Theme music composer||Vince Guaraldi|
|Opening theme||"Linus and Lucy"|
|Ending theme||"Charlie Brown Theme"|
John Scott Trotter
|Country of origin||United States|
|Executive producer||Lee Mendelson|
|Editors||Robert T. Gillis|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production companies||Lee Mendelson Productions|
Bill Melendez Productions
United Feature Syndicate
|Release||October 27, 1966|
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a 1966 American animated Halloween television special based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. The third Peanuts special, and the second holiday-themed special, to be created, it was written by Schulz along with director/animator Bill Melendez and producer Lee Mendelson. The cast included Peter Robbins as Charlie Brown, Christopher Shea as Linus Van Pelt, Sally Dryer as Lucy Van Pelt, and Melendez as Snoopy. The special features music composed by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, whose contributions include the theme song "Linus and Lucy". It aired on broadcast television every year from its debut in 1966 until 2020 when it became an Apple TV+ exclusive.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown follows the children of the Peanuts comics as they celebrate Halloween, while Linus forgoes celebrations to wait in a pumpkin patch for the mythical Great Pumpkin. The sequence following Snoopy as a World War I flying ace and its depiction of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown have both become widely recognized in pop culture. The program was highly successful, watched by 49% of American television viewers in its debut broadcast. It received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for its artistic style and music score, and it is often regarded as the best of the Peanuts television specials. The success of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown led to the development of the Halloween special as a television genre.
Sometime before Halloween, Linus works on a letter to the Great Pumpkin to the derision of other characters, but Sally Brown takes interest in the idea. Charlie Brown then shows up to announce that he was invited to a Halloween party hosted by Violet. On Halloween night, the children prepare their costumes for trick-or-treating. On the way, they stop at the pumpkin patch to jeer at Linus for missing the festivities. Linus persuades Sally, due to her infatuation with him, to join him. The other children go trick-or-treating, but Charlie Brown is disappointed when he only gets rocks, and they then head to Violet’s Halloween party.
Snoopy, dressed as a flying ace from World War I, climbs aboard his doghouse and imagines that it is a Sopwith Camel fighter plane and that he is engaging in a dogfight with the unseen Red Baron. Snoopy is then shown crashing and navigating the countryside behind enemy lines. His voyage ends at Violet's party. He sneaks into the apple bobbing tank while Lucy is bobbing for apples and then is entertained listening to Schroeder playing on the piano, the songs are happy and exciting at first, but the songs become sad, and Snoopy leaves the party, much to his dismay. In the pumpkin patch, Linus sees a figure and he faints, believing it to be the Great Pumpkin. The figure is Snoopy, and Sally yells at Linus for embarrassing her.
At 4 a.m., Lucy retrieves the sleeping Linus from the pumpkin patch, leads him into the house, and puts him to bed. Charlie Brown and Linus commiserate about Halloween the next day. Charlie Brown attempts to console Linus by explaining that he has done many stupid things in his life. Linus is offended by Charlie Brown's remark and loudly proclaims that the Great Pumpkin will surely come to the pumpkin patch next year as the credits roll.
The program's cast includes:
- Peter Robbins as Charlie Brown
- Christopher Shea as Linus Van Pelt
- Cathy Steinberg as Sally Brown
- Bill Melendez as Snoopy
- Sally Dryer as Lucy Van Pelt
- Gai DeFaria as "Pig-Pen"
- Glenn Mendelson as Schroeder and Shermy
- Ann Altieri as Violet and Frieda
- Lisa DeFaria as Patty
The Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz first printed in 1950, and it became popular within its first years of publication.: 18–19 Schulz first introduced the Great Pumpkin in 1959 by having Linus confuse the traditions of Halloween and Christmas.: 55 The Great Pumpkin was introduced through a series of comics published over eight days, which became a major event for the comic strip. A similar story appeared again in 1960, encompassing sixteen comics.: 88 Schulz continued to write Great Pumpkin stories in Peanuts each October.: 89
The television special A Charlie Brown Christmas had been written by Schulz and broadcast on CBS in December 1965. The special was highly successful, prompting the network to hire Schulz for two additional television specials. His second special, Charlie Brown's All Stars!, broadcast in the summer of 1966. While it was successful, it was not as renowned as A Charlie Brown Christmas.: 82–83
The network requested another holiday special after the success of A Charlie Brown Christmas.: 15 Its plot was formulated by a team of three: Schulz, director Bill Melendez, and producer Lee Mendelson. The network executive communicating with Mendelson specified that it had to be a "blockbuster", which brought considerable stress to the writers.: 7–8 They also gave the writers more creative freedom while they wrote the third special.: 83
The writers began with disparate scenes from the comic strip to adapt, including Snoopy as a World War I flying ace and Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.: 10–12 Schulz's co-writers immediately took to the idea when he suggested writing a Halloween special around the Great Pumpkin.: 83 The writing process went quickly, allowing more time for other aspects of production, such as animation. The decision to adapt Snoopy's flying ace persona from the comic strip came together with the Halloween theme after Schulz realized it resembled a Halloween costume.: 15 Schulz suggested the idea of Charlie Brown receiving a rock while trick-or-treating, but Mendelson felt that this was "too cruel". Schulz and Melendez responded by suggesting Charlie Brown should receive three rocks. Mendelson later agreed that it was the right decision after seeing the scene's popularity.
The program was given a production budget of $76,000.: 16 The children in the program were voiced by child actors, including both trained child actors and children that lived in Mendelson's neighborhood. Malendez insisted on having child actors in all of the Peanuts specials, and he voiced Snoopy by recording himself saying nonsense words and then speeding it up. Steinberg's lines as Sally Brown were rushed when she developed a loose tooth, fearing that it would cause a lisp. She was taken to the studio to record all of her lines the same night and developed a severe lisp after losing her tooth the following day. Steinberg struggled with the word "restitution" while she was recording, so Mendelson had her pronounce it one syllable at a time and spliced it together afterward.
The animations were drawn by a team of artists led by Melendez. Bill Littlejohn also worked on the program's animation. Unlike previous Peanuts specials, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown incorporates frequent movement of the camera. Artist Dean Spille painted the backgrounds of the French countryside during Snoopy's flying ace sequence. He drew from memory as he had previously visited similar areas in Europe, and he was given full creative freedom by Schulz and Melendez.: 15–16 The backgrounds in this sequence used linear perspective rather than a simple flat design.: 31 Mendelson later told The Washington Post that the sequence with Snoopy flying his doghouse was "one of the most memorable animated scenes ever." He also described It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown as Bill Melendez's "animation masterpiece". The program's final runtime was 25 minutes.
The soundtrack was performed by the Vince Guaraldi Sextet, featuring Guaraldi on piano, Monty Budwig on 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. Recording took place on October 4, 1966, at Desilu's Gower Street Studio in Hollywood. Guaraldi had been in charge of music in both of the previous Peanuts specials, as well as the unaired 1963 documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown.
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 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. Craft Recordings released the complete soundtrack album from the special on October 5, 2018. Craft Recordings reissued the soundtrack on August 26, 2022 using newly discovered original master tapes, without sound effects from the television special.
The initial broadcast of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown took place on October 27, 1966 on CBS, preempting My Three Sons, and tied Bonanza as the No. 1 broadcast in that week's Nielsen TV ratings. The show aired against Star Trek on NBC and The Dating Game on ABC, earning 49% of the total market share with 17.3 million viewers.: 86 After its success, CBS rebroadcast the program each year. It moved to ABC in 2001, where it continued to broadcast annually. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was made available as a home release in 1985. The program was released on DVD by Paramount Pictures on September 12, 2000.
Apple Inc. purchased the broadcast rights to all Peanuts specials in 2018, and they became Apple TV+ exclusives in 2020. This was the first year that It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was not broadcast on television since its debut in 1966. A licensing agreement allowed the special to air on PBS in 2021. The agreement was not renewed in 2022, so Apple made the special free to watch from October 28 to 31 that year.
Religion and faith feature prominently in the special. Linus's belief in the Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown's belief in Santa Claus, and their opposition to one another's beliefs, are described as "denominational differences".: 84 This theme is lifted directly from the Peanuts comic strip, with the "denominational differences" line appearing in 1963.: 55 Though Schulz was religious, he rejected evangelicalism and revealed religion,: 353 and he had long opposed the idea of denominational differences splitting religion, believing that no one denomination could be sure of the truth.: 99 Throughout the program, Linus maintains faith in the Great Pumpkin while he is criticized by the other children, and he chooses to maintain a vigil in the pumpkin patch at the cost of missing the festivities.: 85
The special plays off of many traditional aspects of Halloween and celebrations associated with the holiday, including pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, and wearing costumes.: 84 Despite this, it does not incorporate elements of horror fiction outside of the title sequence. Comparisons to Christmas are also included, particularly the letter to the Great Pumpkin as opposed to Santa Claus, alluding to the success of the franchise's Christmas special the prior year.: 87–88 Schulz modeled Linus's devotion in part on that of children whose families were too poor to purchase vast amounts of Christmas presents, and the hope that things would be better next year if they maintained faith.
The special was well received by viewers. The response was so positive that the Schulz and the studio began receiving packages of candy in response to Charlie Brown's failure to get any during the program.: 86 Critic Lawrence Laurent praised the special in his review for The Washington Post, emphasizing the musical score.: 86–87 Clay Gowran of the Chicago Tribune responded to the program by expressing support for the creation of additional Peanuts specials.: 87 Cynthia Lowry of the Associated Press commented on the special's optimism and lauded it for its "charm, adult wit and wisdom". Mary Wood of The Cincinnati Post similarly praised the program as "utterly enchanting". At the 19th Primetime Emmy Awards, the special was nominated for Outstanding Children's Program and for Special Classifications of Individual Achievements. The special has been celebrated for its artistic style, particularly its use of color. The sequence of Snoopy crossing the French countryside has received extensive praise, including from other animators and artists such as Jeff Pidgeon and Paul Felix.: 15 It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is often described as the best of the Peanuts specials.: 14
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown defined a new genre, as it was the first major Halloween special to broadcast on television.: 87 The special's enduring popularity helped to define Halloween for the baby boomers generation and contributed to the spread of Halloween as a widely celebrated holiday.: 386 Its viewing has since been established as a common Halloween tradition,: 94  and its 2003 rebroadcast was the most successful holiday special of the 2000s with 13.2 million viewers.: 47
Two scenes adapting common elements of the comic strip—Snoopy as a WWI flying ace and Charlie Brown attempting to kick the football—were popularized by this special and became commonly recognized imagery.: 87 The sequence of Snoopy as a flying ace, which featured no other characters and took up approximately one quarter of the program's runtime, popularized Snoopy as a character independently of the others. Schulz replicated It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown when he portrayed Linus's devotion to the Easter Beagle in the 1974 special It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. In this case, Schulz was careful to avoid religious overtones, having Snoopy be the Easter Beagle.: 147 The Great Pumpkin has also been referenced in later Peanuts specials, including You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown.: 108
- "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)". Behind the Voice Actors.
- Lind, Stephen J. (2015). A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz. Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-4968-0469-3.
- Ball, Blake Scott (2021). Charlie Brown's America: The Popular Politics of Peanuts. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-009046-3.
- Solomon, Charles (2012). The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation: Celebrating Fifty Years of Television Specials. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-1-4521-1091-2.
- Cavna, Michael (October 27, 2011). "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: 7 Things You Don't Know About Tonight's 'Peanuts' Special". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
- Schulz, Charles M.; Mendelson, Lee (2006). It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: The Making of a Television Classic. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-089721-5.
- 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.
- We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown! The Making of The Great Pumpkin (Video). 2008.
- Kurp, Joshua (October 28, 2011). "Checking In…with the Voice Cast of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". Vulture. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
- Marchese, Joe (June 15, 2022). "It's a New Release, Charlie Brown! "Great Pumpkin" Arrives on CD, LP From Original Session Masters". The Second Disc. Retrieved June 16, 2022.
- 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.
- Bang, Derrick. "Vince Guaraldi on LP and CD". Five Cents Please. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
- Lowry, Cynthia (November 22, 1966). "Television: Como Show Lacks Old Style, Pace". AP via The Free Lance-Star. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
- "New for children". The Philadelphia Inquirer. August 18, 1988. p. 75.
- "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)". The Numbers. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
- Adams, Matt (October 18, 2022). "'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown' won't be on TV this year. Here's how to watch". NPR.
- Michaelis, David (2008). Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-093799-7.
- Sokol, Tony (October 27, 2022). "What Makes It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown So Magical". Den of Geek. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
- Pereira, Alyssa (October 17, 2016). "'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown': 50 years of friendship, hope, and Halloween". SFGATE. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
- Lowry, Cynthia (October 28, 1966). "TV Cartoon's Charlie Brown Has First Halloween Party". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. p. 8B.
- Wood, Mary (October 28, 1966). "Linus' Sincere Pumpkin Patch Didn't Deliver". The Cincinnati Post. p. 18.
- "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". Television Academy. Retrieved September 8, 2023.
- Abate, Michelle Ann (2023). Blockheads, Beagles, and Sweet Babboos: New Perspectives on Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-4968-4419-4.
- Boxer, Sarah (2019). "The Exemplary Narcissism of Snoopy". In Blauner, Andrew (ed.). The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life. Library of America. ISBN 978-1-59853-617-1.