If you were in elementary school in the mid to late 1960s, then 49 years ago this week, you most likely had one topic of conversation: It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown debuted on CBS on October 27th, 1966.
This shift in focus from Charlie Brown himself in made even more evident in the opening minutes of the special, in which Linus, with sister Lucy pick out the perfect pumpkin, and try to return home with it unscathed.
The third Peanuts television special, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, featured the Peanuts gang as they celebrated All Hallow’s Eve, each in their own manner. Charlie Brown himself, almost takes a back seat in this special, the story focusing more on his best friend, Linus’ belief in the spirit of Halloween, the Great Pumpkin.
Of course, Linus and Lucy figure into the importance of this special in another way. Peanuts fan’s will be quick to point out that the familiar “Charlie Brown Theme” is Called Linus and Lucy, and was written for A Charlie Brown Christmas the previous year by Vince Guaraldi. However, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is where it was first used as the opening theme to a Peanuts special.
(Courtesy Mario Ajero of mariocast)
The lasting appeal of the special lays in the simplicity of the hopes and desires of the Peanuts gang. While Linus eschews going trick or treating to instead wait for The Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch, the rest of the kids go from house to house, with Charlie Brown, as usual, getting the short end of the stick.
According to Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, after the program first aired, bags and boxes of candy came in from all over the world “just for Charlie Brown.”
Of course, no classic goes unchanged over the years, and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is no exception. While the rumored appearance of the Great Pumpkin in the original broadcast is just a myth, there have been a couple of edits over the years. The trick-or-treat scene (shown in its entirety above) has been edited to allow for the longer commercial breaks of modern times, but the biggest edit doesn’t actually happen during the special, rather during the opening and closing credits, as both Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison, original sponsors of the special, have been removed completely.
Now entering its 50th year, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, has proved its staying power. From the troubles of being the only kid who believes in something, to the fear of a disappointing night of trick-or treating, to the camaraderie of just being with friends and loved ones on this fall holiday, this special has a place in our hearts and the hearts of generations to come.