Today is the day that many children near and far will be donning costumes from the favourite super heroes and heroines, action figures, monsters, ghouls, goblins and .what have you. For many, this concept of dressing up, shouting “Trick or Treat” has become a ritual celebrated on the 31st of October yearly. However, I would be remiss in my duties as a lover of Film and Television if I didn’t mention one of my favourite Halloween traditions. Yes, as a kid, I dressed up, spent the day in school and then in my neighbourhood chaperoned by my older siblings tricking and treating for a decade. Once the loot of candy coated treats, caramel apples, bubble gum, jelly beans and the odd healthy item was picked over, we all sat down to watch the television classic, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a critically-acclaimed animated television special, based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. In 2013, TV Guide ranked Peanuts the fourth Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was the third Peanuts special (and first Halloween special) to be produced and animated by Bill Melendez. Its initial broadcast took place on October 27, 1966 on the CBS network, before the popular sitcom My Three Sons. CBS re-aired the special annually through 2000, with the American Broadcasting Channel picking up the rights beginning in 2001. The program was nominated for an Emmy award. It has been issued on home video several times, including a Remastered Deluxe Edition of the special released by Paramount Studios on October 23, 2003 (and on September 2, 2008 by Warner Home Video) with the 1981 special It’s Magic, Charlie Brown as a bonus feature.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is based off the syndicated daily and Sunday American comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, which ran from October 2, 1950, to February 14, 2000, continuing in reruns afterward. The comic strip is very popular and considered influential in the history of the comic strip. In the height its fame, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages. The Peanuts have been described as “the most shining example of the American success story in the comic strip field”.
The plot begins as the Peanuts gang prepares for Halloween. Linus van Pelt writes his annual letter to The Great Pumpkin, despite Charlie Brown’s disbelief, Snoopy’s laughter, Patty’s assurance that the Great Pumpkin is a fake, and even his own sister Lucy’s violent threat to make her brother stop. When Linus goes out to mail the letter but cannot reach the mailbox, Lucy refuses to help him; so he uses his blanket to open the box, and throws in the letter.
On Halloween night, the gang (including Charlie Brown’s younger sister Sally) goes trick-or-treating. On the way, they stop at the pumpkin patch to ridicule Linus’ missing the festivities, just as he did last year. Undeterred, Linus is convinced that the Great Pumpkin will come, and even persuades Sally to remain with him to wait.
During trick-or-treating, the kids receive assorted candy, apples, gum, cookies, money, and popcorn balls — except for Charlie Brown, who for some reason is given a rock from every house they visit, possibly due to the ridiculous amount of holes in his ghost costume. After trick-or-treating and another visit to the pumpkin patch, the gang goes to Violet’s Halloween party. Meanwhile, Snoopy, wearing his World War I flying ace costume, climbs aboard his doghouse (imagining it to be a Sopwith Camel fighter plane) to fight with the Red Baron. After a fierce but losing battle, Snoopy makes his way across “the countryside” to briefly crash the Halloween party, where he is entertained by Schroeder’s playing of World War I tunes on his piano, and then goes to the pumpkin patch.
Does Linus finally meet the “Great Pumpkin”? If you are in Norwich, you have to stop by and ask one of the Memorial Library’s brand new American Scholars.