I grew up in one of those families that didn’t celebrate Halloween. For the most part I didn’t even know what that day of the year fully was until I started kindergarten and even then much of my exposure came from two sources. We were still a few years away from Tim Burton’s a Nightmare Before Christmas, and at that time, my only real exposure to the day came in the form of two sources. One was the trick-or-treating scene in the movie ET. The second was from one particular holiday special: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. All things considering, in a world with an endless glut of bad slasher movies, perhaps that is one of the better sources for a young child to experience.
We may complain nowadays about the Hollywood franchise machine cranking out sequels and spin-offs and remakes, but there was always a sense that if something was successful enough it just might warrant a follow-up. 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas was no exception, as it’s critical and commercial acclaim lead to them developing more specials. Great Pumpkin was not the second Charlie Brown special, that distinction goes to Charlie Brown’s All-Stars, a baseball themed short that aired the summer of ’66.
However, despite being the third special, it is safe to say that the Great Pumpkin is perhaps the second most well known Charlie Brown special, after A Charlie Brown Christmas. With a bigger budget and more time, Great Pumpkin is much tighter then it’s Yuletide predecessor, and ahs neater details, but it still ahs the same genuine heart. Between Linus’s persistent beliefs in the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown cutting too many holes in his ghost costume, Snoopy’s battle with the Red Baron, and of course, Charlie’s exasperated lament while trick or treating of “I got a rock”, there is no shortage of now iconic moments in this short.