As a kid growing up in the 80’s few things symbolized the approach of a holiday more than sitting in front of the TV on a cold night and instead of seeing the news, which would promptly cause me to exit the room, a neon graphic spiraled in which read a ‘special presentation’ – and that meant only one thing: a cartoon. These cartoons were a metaphorical gateway, a sign that I could officially be excited about the oncoming holiday and in October one of the cartoons was It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, which turns 50 this year.
Admittedly, as an adult, I still love to watch this cartoon. Perhaps it’s the feeling of nostalgia I get, or maybe it hearkens back to a time when cell phones, tablets and social media didn’t run our lives, when carving a pumpkin and dressing up to get candy was a big deal – and what’s amazing is that kids can still relate to it: not much is dated. We all have a time in our lives when we aren’t exposed to all the technology of the modern world, when imagination is still important, and that’s how The Peanuts stay relevant. However, going back to watch The Great Pumpkin, there may be some things you don’t know.
1. Lucy is reading a TV Guide with herself on the cover.
2. “I got a Rock.”
This line from Charlie Brown, which has become a pop culture phrase was said when the gang went to the houses for Trick or Treat. As the kids compared their candy haul, Charlie always found that he, just got a rock. Apparently this upset so many people, kids around the country started sending in their candy to CBS labeled “for Charlie Brown only.”
3. The Great Pumpkin is about religion.
Charles Schulz was a man who was very devout in his faith and after The Great Pumpkin was released as a comic strip, he received a letter calling it sacrilegious. He responded that he agreed, and he was using The Great Pumpkin to show that believing in Santa Claus was just as ridiculous as his pumpkin.
4. The first Adult recorded for the specials was for Snoopy
One of the few things that vary from the Comic strip to the Cartoon is that Snoopy doesn’t have a voice. In the strip Snoopy is able to think and narrate his adventures, but in The Great Pumpkin, that is done by Charlie Brown. Instead Snoopy was only to speak in gibberish and the person to give Snoopy this voice was animator Bill Melendez.
The production hired an actor to play the role and when they weren’t getting what they wanted, the sound engineer suggested that Melendez provide the voice since he knew exactly what they were going for. Melendez played the voice of Snoopy and later his pal Woodstock for 40 years.
5. Sally’s role was almost ruined by a loose tooth
Hiring children to play voices of characters when they can barely read presents some challenges. Also, as kids do, they grow up and Director Lee Mendelson recalled a story about how Kathy Steinberg, the actress cast as Sally, almost had to be replaced when her mother found that she had a loose tooth. The Mom frantically called Mendelson one night explaining that if she lost her tooth she would have a lisp and they wouldn’t match the lines she had already recorded. So the crew rushed and recorded all of her lines and Mendelson says her tooth fell out on her very last line.
So this year, take a break from the madness, turn the phones off for a few minutes and relive the days of our childhood by watching It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and remember the fun that made Halloween special.