Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween "Classic" Recap: "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"

“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people. Religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”

I pretty much grew up on Peanuts television specials. I had them all taped off the TV on VHS, in all their glory, complete with 1980’s television commercials. VHS tapes were expensive in the mid-1980’s, but my parents bought me “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown” and “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown” because I requested to rent them so often from the corner video store that buying them was actually more cost effective. “Great Pumpkin,” although not one of my very favorites, is a classic. The focus is mostly on Linus’ steadfast, innocent belief in the Great Pumpkin, a sort-of Santa Claus for Halloween that exists just in the Peanuts world. Well, it just exists in Linus’ world, really. Not even the rest of the Peanuts characters believe in it. There’s also plenty of what you would expect in a Peanuts special, like Lucy pulling the football away and Snoopy doing his World War I Flying Ace thing. It’s a feel-good half hour for sure. Until you think about it too much.

I always say that Peanuts is feel-good until you think about it too much because Charlie Brown always gets tough breaks, and he really doesn’t deserve it. In this special alone, he gets the football pulled away by Lucy in classic fashion, is told that if he got an invitation to Violet’s Halloween party it must have been a mistake, and gets nothing but rocks when Trick or Treating. It was the Trick or Treating bit that took it over the top for me. Does anybody actually give out rocks on Halloween? I mean, I know there are people who do things like give out Bible tracts or notes telling parents of fat kids to not feed them so much candy (how horrible is that), but rocks? It just seems unnecessarily cruel for a kid whose biggest crime is being a bit socially awkward and not having developed enough scissor skills to make himself a proper ghost costume. Maybe that’s why I identified with Peanuts so much as a socially awkward, poor fine motor skills little kid myself.

The special doesn’t exactly treat Linus very kindly, either. I was always a big Linus fan as a kid, I think because he was so smart. Linus may have carried a blanket and believed in something as silly as the Great Pumpkin, but he could give a rousing, wise beyond his years speech like nobody’s business. Linus spends most of this special, however, taking shit for believing in the Great Pumpkin. The Great Pumpkin was a very long-running Peanuts joke. Linus believed in him like most kids believe in Santa. He believed that every Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin would rise out of the most sincere pumpkin patch and deliver toys to kids. Everybody else thinks Linus is crazy, and Lucy is just embarrassed that he’s her brother.

The only person on Linus’ side when it comes to the Great Pumpkin is Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally. Sally has a massive crush on Linus, so it doesn’t take much convincing to get her to forgo Trick or Treating and Violet’s Halloween party in favor of spending the night in the pumpkin patch with Linus, waiting for the Great Pumpkin. She really is the only person at all willing to believe him. This makes me a bit sad for Linus, but it’s not as completely unjustified as the way Charlie Brown is treated. Unsurprisingly, Sally’s night is wasted. They see something rise from the pumpkin patch, alright, but it’s just Snoopy in his World War I Flying Ace costume.

Speaking of the World War I Flying Ace, this special used several classic Peanuts bits in a way that mostly felt like filler. Like I’ve mentioned, Lucy, as always, pulls the football away from Charlie Brown as he tries to kick it. Her story in this instance and that she has signed a document promising not to pull the ball away. Then, of course, Lucy pulls the ball away anyway, admonishing Charlie Brown for not checking to see if the document was notarized. Then there was the whole World War I Flying Ace, who gets shot down by the Red Barron, as always. He then sneaks across the “French countryside” and finds his way to Violet’s Halloween party, just in time to scare Lucy as she’s using her big mouth to bob for apples. Then there’s the classic bit where Snoopy dances during happy music and starts crying uncontrollably during sad music (this was a pivotal point in “Bon Voyage”). This time, it’s Schroder’s piano music evoking Snoopy’s emotion.

There are quite a few parts of the episode that feel kind of like several comic strips run together. The beginning and the end of the special, especially. The episode beings with Linus and Lucy (gotta love that Vince Guarldi soundtrack picking out a pumpkin. Linus has a bit of trouble carrying it home. He can’t get the pumpkin through a gap in the fence, much like Charlie Brown couldn’t get his baguette through the doorway in “Bon Voyage.” The end takes place in an iconic setting for a Peanuts special or comic strip. The generic town wall. Linus and Charlie brown discus what occurred on Halloween, and Linus vows to wait again for the Great Pumpkin next year, in an even more sincere pumpkin patch.

From all this, you might think that I hated rewatching this classic special. I really didn’t. I just can’t help looking at things with a critical eye, and when that thing is a childhood favorite, the critical eye can be a little disappointing. The episode does end on a rather sweet sentiment, though. Sally has gotten fed up with missing out on Halloween, leaving Linus alone in the pumpkin patch. Still hoping to see the Great Pumpkin, Linus falls asleep. Later, that’s where Lucy finds him. She guides him back inside and puts him to bed. Lucy might talk a big game, and sometimes she might be downright nasty, but when it matters, she’s a good sister.

No comments:

Post a Comment