Written by Charles M. Schulz
Directed by Bill Menendez
When I think of my memories of the Halloweens in my childhood, one thing that comes to mind is watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This is classic Peanuts at its finest, topped only by A Charlie Brown Christmas in my book.
As with many of the specials, it starts with a short vignette that stands on its own without impacting the main story. It begins with Lucy & Linus going out to look for a pumpkin in the pumpkin patch. Lucy being how she is picks out the biggest one there and leaves Linus to cart it to their home in a funny sequence.
The tone for autumn is set with other scenes involving leaves and football, where Lucy and Charlie Brown have their usual exchange. It’s nice to see this recurring piece from the daily comic strips in our daily newspaper, that I always looked forward to reading, come to life.
Linus believes in a mythical creature called The Great Pumpkin, who is similar to Santa Claus. He believes The Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch and bring presents to all the good little girls and boys. He spends most of the days leading up to Halloween trying to convince his friends of the Great Pumpkin’s existence.
However, even Snoopy laughs at this.
Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally has something of a crush on Linus, so when he invites her to wait with him in the pumpkin patch for The Great Pumpkin, she is quite eager. Of course, the two of them end up spending their trick-or-treating time out in the pumpkin patch to no avail while their friends are all getting candy.
What’s really nice in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is that it brings characters to life in a way that can’t be done in a few panels every day in the comic strip. The colors of the animation are rich and vibrant. I found the overall look, primitive in today’s world of CGI animation, brings out feelings of warmth and sentimentality. Indeed, this special, and these children, are from a different world.
In keeping with the Peanuts tradition, there are no adults to be seen. They are heard only as indistinguishable voices. This may surprise those of us who are parents in today’s world, where we would never think of letting our children go door-to-door without adult supervision, especially to homes of those we might not know.
The characters aren’t pigeonholed either, as we get to see a bit of a different side to Lucy. While she’s out trick-or-treating, she asks for an extra piece of candy for her brother. She seems to know what will happen that night from past experience and wants only to try to lessen the disappointment she knows her brother will feel. Later on, in a sequence that rounds out the vignette which began the special, it is she who goes out into the freezing pumpkin patch and brings the sleeping boy back inside and puts him to bed.
I absolutely love the sequence where Snoopy is the WWI flying ace and goes out on his doghouse in pursuit of the Red Baron as if it’s an airplane. Those strips were some of my favorites as a child, and whenever I get to see Snoopy animated and portraying this character, I thoroughly enjoy it.
The music is great, as always. The jazz soundtrack was crafted by Vince Guaraldi, who has been involved with most of the Peanuts specials. It’s nice that they are all similar and yet the nuances are a bit different. Where I found A Charlie Brown Christmas to be heavy on a melancholy sound for the season, the music here seems lighter. It does a terrific job setting the tone and backdrop for all that is happening on the screen.
I find many of the Peanuts specials terrific not just for the main story, but for the many side stories which involve recurring characters. These do a terrific job rounding out the script, which is excellent.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is something the whole family can watch together and enjoy. I try to keep the videos geared for the season in our house, and this is one we all look forward to when I pull it out and slip it into the DVD player on a blustery autumn day.