When the weather starts to get a little colder and the leaves start to turn, there are a few certainties: The Holiday season is quickly coming into view, every four years people are extremely fatigued from the political climate, and It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown will be airing on televisions across the nation. The Halloween classic celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. There are only a handful of movies that are holiday requirements and The Great Pumpkin has been with us as the perfect Halloween treat.
When It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown made its debut in 1966, the world was a much different place: President Lyndon Johnson had America in the Vietnam War, the price of gasoline was an average of $.32 a gallon, and The Beatles were everywhere. As far as television, CBS wanted another seasonal Charlie Brown special. The previous year, A Charlie Brown Christmas, had half of all American television sets turn in for the show. Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz would team up with Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson to bring a new story together, right in time for Halloween.
What is it about this particular special that year after year brings in large television audiences?
There are many elements that exist within the framework of Peanuts comic strips and TV specials that resonate with viewers. In the case of It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, the spirit and determination of Linus speaks loudest. Linus has developed a belief in an entity known as The Great Pumpkin. The Great Pumpkin will visit children who wait for it, but only if they are completely sincere with their belief. Linus is willing to miss out on Trick or Treating and a Halloween party because of this . He even goes as far as to suggest that “There are three things that I learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
A line like that wouldn’t play all that well to children, but adults can certainly agree. For many younger viewers, there are sequences that play to their sensibilities. Most notably is the first TV appearance of Snoopy’s alter ego, The World War I Flying Ace. The adventures of Snoopy are always good for a laugh and when this was animated, it was considered cutting edge animation. As children grow into adults, the Peanuts evolve with them. Simple gags like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, take on another level when the punch line is actually about a document not being notarized.
Another reason It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown resonates with viewers is that we all remember going out for Trick or Treat. The Peanuts gang, despite their advanced intellect, are elementary school children. The thrill of going house to house, shouting Trick or Treat to adults who would open the door, and wondering just what and how much candy we would receive from that house was exciting. Those moments are captured in their entirety here, along with the incredible disappointment from Charlie Brown. We’ve all gotten candy we weren’t happy with, but I don’t remember getting rocks from anybody.
Note: Giving out rocks to children this year for sure.
Even though it is the same special that has been running for 50 years, there’s always a little bit of hope that things will change. Perhaps Linus will finally meet the Great Pumpkin. Maybe Charlie Brown will finally kick that football. One thing is for sure, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown will continue to live on delighting children and reminding adults of a simpler time for many years to come.