Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without good ol’ Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. For over half a century, the extremely round headed kid and his pet Beagle Snoopy, have become a staple of trick or treat themed festivities across the world, with their animated special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
First airing on CBS four days before Halloween 1966, the show centers around one particular Halloween night, in which persistent blanket hugger Linus forgoes a night of partying with best buddy Charlie Brown, to wait in the town’s pumpkin patch in anticipation of the arrival of the fabled Great Pumpkin. With only his smitten Sally, Charlie Brown’s little sister, is willing to wait with him, and together they try to prove that there really is a Great Pumpkin, isn’t there?
The show celebrated it’s 50th anniversary last year, and as such you’ve probably watched seen it a hundred times. But we’re pretty sure there’s a few things you don’t know about Charles M. Schulz’s timeless special. So read on and found out everything you didn’t know about It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
10. It’s Awards Season, Charlie Brown
Although it is widely regarded as the best, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was actually the third Peanuts feature special, and the second of many holiday themed adventures. It would go on to be nominated for three awards at the 1967 Emmy Awards, including one for ‘Outstanding Children’s Program’.
9. It’s Shameless Product Placement, Charlie Brown
The special was originally sponsored by Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison cakes. The logos were prominent on the opening/closing credits during the original run, but have subsequently been dropped. Way to sell out to the man, Charlie Brown!
8. It’s A Rumour, Charlie Brown
According to myth and legend, in the original cut of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the Great Pumpkin actually appears on screen. As the story goes, the filmmakers then decided to cut the scene from the movie, and thus the only appearance of the character was lost to the annals of time.
This was, of course, complete rubbish. The character was never, has never, and will never, appear because that’s the way Schultz wanted it.
7. It’s A Success, Charlie Brown
Following the massive success of the Charlie Brown Christmas special, CBS ordered another ‘blockbuster’ from animator/director Bill Melendez. At the time, Melendez and his team had no idea what they were going to do, and had no new ideas to bring to the table.
With the pressure on, they eventually came up with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in the hopes that it would be the blockbuster they had promised. Nothing could have prepared the team for the success of the Halloween special, which had more than a 50 percent share of the viewing audience in that time slot. Imagine that in today’s market!
The success of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown would lead to over 50 more animated Peanuts specials and movies in the years that followed.
6. It’s The ‘Tooth’, Charlie Brown
When making the Peanuts specials, the filmmakers wanted to maintain that authentic childhood feel by hiring young actors to voice the characters. During the filming of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, a young actress by the name of Kathy Steinberg was hired into the role of Charlie Brown’s younger sister Sally. Despite not being able to read, the youngster managed to deliver every line, until one day when disaster struck.
Steinberg’s mother had called the studio frantically, telling them Kathy’s tooth was loose and about to drop out, and it had altered her voice so much that she would need to be recast. With no money or time to do this, the studio instead opted to rush her into the recording booth to speak her remaining lines before the tooth had left her head.
According to the Blu-ray commentary for the film, executive producer Lee Mendelson, Kathy’s tooth literally jumped out of her mouth at the exact moment she recorded her very last line. How lucky was that?
And that dear readers, is why you should never work with children or animals!
5. It’s a Dog’s Life, Charlie Brown
Ever wondered who provided the ‘voice’ for Charlie Brown’s beloved Beagle, Snoopy? Before the animated specials the mischievous mutt was pretty much mute. But to add extra depth to his character it was decided that he needed to be able to speak – at least in the high pitched, unintelligible way that we’re now accustomed to.
In another first for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, director Bill Melendez would step in at the last minute, after the original actor wasn’t up to scratch, and would continue to do so for another 40 years.
4. It’s a First, Charlie Brown
It’s perhaps the most iconic scene in the whole Peanuts universe, but did you know, that the sequence in which Lucy gets Charlie Brown to kick the football, only for her to move it at the last second, appeared for the very first time in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown? We’ve lost count trying to recall how many times the sequence has been repeated since.
3. It’s An American Icon, Charlie Brown
Snoopy’s alter-ego ‘The Flying Ace’, who appeared for the first time on screen in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has become something of an American icon too. After winning the hearts of millions of people across the globe, the fearless Beagle pilot became the official good luck charm for NASA – even making into orbit with the crew of Apollo 10. You can even visit with Snoopy at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
2. It’s a Treat, Charlie Brown
During one of the most famous sequences in the film, the gang gather round to see what goodies they’ve been given on their quest for mountains of candy. But in true Charlie Brown fashion, god ol’ Chuck hasn’t been given any – instead finding rocks in his bag.
If it wasn’t for bad luck, Charlie Brown wouldn’t have any luck at all. But that all changed when the studio started to receive packages from kids all over America, containing candy and treats for the beloved character.
Which brings us to our next fun fact …
1. It’s Life Imitating Art, Charlie Brown
Unfortunately for voice actor Peter Robbins, the great American public weren’t so kind to him, as they had been with his character. In fact, for years after the release of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the young actor would be given rocks instead of candy, when he went trick or treating with friends. In the words of Charlie Brown, Good grief!
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will air on Thursday, October 19th at 8pm EDT, only on The ABC TV Network.