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STUDIO: Warner Brothers
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 25 minutes
Animated classic about the dangers of large gourds.
Ann Altieri, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer, Bill Melendez and Karen Mendelson
Charles Schulz utilitzed cheap Mexican animation to produce piece of Americana. Future generations grow up wondering why the dog is such an asshole. Children with cancer idolize a young man that lives forever in a state mirroring their lives. Linus deals with life’s foilables, while having to live under his sister’s brutal regime. All this and more awaits you!
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of those cultural touchstones. A work of great fictional importance that greets at a young age and doesn’t depreciate through the years. Over the years, I’ve grown and learned to view the special in a different light. This special like several of the classic Peanuts offerings offers up rather interesting takes on the matter of faith. Spiritual anchor Linus is always the first to split from the pack and head off where his heart guides him. It’s usually another younger or more sensitive Peanut that follows Linus on his quest. Meanwhile, the other kids blindly follow in a pack through the “B” plot.
The “B” plot in this special being Charlie Brown and the gang’s quest to get candy and have fun. Linus and Sally make up the “A” plot, as the duo waits in a pumpkin patch for their Veggie Lord and Savior. Then, there’s Snoopy and his Red Baron filler. I used to hate Snoopy, but I’ve grown to appreciate what the little beagle does for the show. He’s the eye candy that keeps the specials on the air, while Schulz worked out his personal issues in the other plots. Snoopy doesn’t do anything major here, but it’s still fun to watch some of his early Red Baron adventures.
The special makes it truly hard to fault Linus or Sally. Linus seems to be the only kid in the area with a working brain, while Sally is obsessed with the juvenile spiritual leader. Schulz explores this leader/follower dynamic by giving us a detail mythology for a similar vegetable. A mythology that seems to only exist in Linus’s mind, as his sister seems to have no idea where he dreamed up this crap. Linus’s clear conviction in his message wins over Sally, but eventually it fails due to lack of substantial evidence. Sally denies the Great Pumpkin and casts Linus out as a charlatan.
There’s a lot of stuff going on there and it makes getting a rock in your Halloween bag look like nothing. The faithful can win over the masses, but they can never 100% convert them to their cause. What’s even more screwed up is Schulz’s damning approach to those that won’t even take part in the dynamic. Those kids that don’t investigate the Great Pumpkin are left to huddle in the darkness as one uninformed collective. They make up dozens of costumed entities with no real identity outside of their dress.
Does that make Charlie Brown a bad person for not taking part? Does that mean that Linus has the potential to grow up and become David Koresh? Why am I asking so many questions? Hell, sometimes I don’t even know. The heart of the matter is that Schulz wants us to think about cognitive acceptance. Using children as creative samples helps to sell it to the impressionable crowd, but what Schulz is doing has been done before. Given the nostalgia riddled heritage, it becomes easier to project extra material upon it, but what is the real truth?
Does The Great Pumpkin matter? No, but neither did the monsters under your bed. The amount of imaginative claptrap that populates the head of juveniles is the kind of stuff that keeps the world going. The hope and fear of discovering something beyond your control allows for magic to entertain the lives of elementary pedestrians. That sense of magic has helped to keep the Peanuts going after Schulz’s death, even though the later specials have sucked harder ABC after Lost ended.
At the end of the day, the way that we approach classic shows of our youth changes upon distance. One can only hope that we don’t become so far removed from the programming, that we can’t remember their aesthetic value. Think back to the Halloween special’s classic ending and remember that Schulz didn’t flinch away like his modern disciples. Showing Linus alone and shivering is a great visual cue and one that sticks with me after each viewing. Linus’s faith remains unshaken, but he’s had to come to terms with reality. That reality is framed in a kid’s mind as a delayed meeting with his Pumpkin savior. A cigar might just be a cigar, but sometimes a Great Pumpkin is a dead carpenter.
The Blu-Ray comes with a bonus episode entitled It’s Magic, Charlie Brown. Suffering from the half-assery of later specials, It’s Magic continues a long streak of missing the point with Post-Peak era Schulz. The production featurette included in the mix is a little better, but it’s still more talking head presskit tomfoolery. Everyone knows this is a great special and everyone loved working on it! Why can’t we get a retrospective documentary? Why can’t we get a scholarly commentary? Hell, I’d love to see pencil tests. Oh well, I guess that’s got to wait for the 50th Anniversary Disc.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars