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Stories From the Making of “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”

Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

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The television special “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” has been a special part of celebrating Halloween since it first debuted in 1966. It tells the story of a special belief held by a member of the Peanuts gang named Linus. He waits for The Great Pumpkin to rise out of the pumpkin patch on Halloween night. According to Linus, the Great Pumpkin will only rise out of the pumpkin patch that is considered the most sincere.

Huge Hit

When it first aired in 1966, “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” was an extremely popular television special. The television program has been aired during every Halloween season since then. Many believe this show helped secure the Peanuts gang as a legend in television history.

Charles Schultz drawing comic strip

Charles Schultz drawing comic strip

Comic Strip

The first time the Great Pumpkin was mentioned happened in a 1959 Peanuts comic strip. He was described by Linus. During this time, there were also comic strips with Linus suggesting he and his friends join together and walk around singing pumpkin carols. Two of the comic strips in October and November of 1961 referenced the Great Pumpkin being spotted in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Texas. Charles Schultz stated his main motivation for creating the Great Pumpkin was the humor associated with having one of his Peanuts characters get mixed up with seeing similarities between Christmas and Halloween.

Sacrilegious

After the comic strips featuring the Great Pumpkin were published, Charles Schultz received complaint letters from fans. Some of them complained the Great Pumpkin was sacrilegious as well as ridiculous. They suggested he stop mentioning him in the Peanuts comic strips. Schultz responded that he felt that believing in Santa Claus was sacrilegious as well as ridiculous. This was also one of his inspirations when it came to creating the Great Pumpkin.

Peanuts gang trick or treating

Peanuts gang trick or treating

Candy

After “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” aired for the first time in 1966, it touched children all over the United States. Linus and Sally not going trick-or-treating with their friends and missing their opportunity to get candy upset many children. The Charlie Brown character only being given rocks when trick-or-treating also made them want to do something about it. A few days after the show was on television, children from around the country started mailing gifts and candy to CBS. They were all addressed to Charlie Brown, Linus, and Sally. The boy who provided the voice of Charlie Brown was 10 years old. When he went trick-or-treating that year, pranksters decided to give him rocks. It appears he also got some candy as well.

Snoopy painting and Apollo 10 astronauts

Snoopy painting and Apollo 10 astronauts

Snoopy the Flying Ace

Charles Schultz was inspired by his son Monte to have his Snoopy character be a World War I flying ace. Monte enjoyed building model airplanes. His favorite was World War I aircraft. One day Monte went into his father's studio. He suggested his father make Snoopy be an imaginary fighter pilot in constant pursuit of the feared pilot the Red Baron. Initially, Schultz wasn't really open to the idea. Over time, he tried it and then liked it. Charles Schultz eventually worked Snoopy into being an imaginary World War I flying ace in his Peanuts comic strip. The idea became very popular. In the show “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown,” Snoopy flies his doghouse against the Red Baron and is shot down behind enemy lines. The flying ace alter ego of Snoopy even became popular with NASA astronauts. The Apollo 10 crew took a painting of Snoopy as the flying ace into space with them. They nicknamed their lunar module for the mission Snoopy. They called their command module Charlie Brown.

Sally and a Loose Tooth

The children hired to provide voices for the characters in “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown,” did well, but having children do voices came with some special challenges. One of the youngest actresses provided the voice for Sally. During the taping, she almost had to be replaced. When the production was coming near the end, and finishing the recording sessions was about to happen, the girl’s mother contacted the producers. She explained her daughter has a very loose tooth. If she lost it, there could be a gap in her teeth that might result in her daughter speaking with a lisp. It could also cause her to sound different from how she sounded with the dialogue that had already been recorded. A decision was made to bring the girl to the studio immediately and have her finish recording her lines. When this was done, the girl's tooth came out as she was speaking her last line for the production.

Linus in pumpkin patch

Linus in pumpkin patch

Changing Cast

The cast for “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown,” was almost identical to the cast for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Since the Christmas special was such a success, they wanted to try and keep the cast together as long as possible. The show's producers realized they would have to get new cast members every two years. This is when a child's voice changes as they grow. The actress who did the voice of Lucy in the Christmas special had to be replaced shortly before work on “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” started. Her voice had simply changed too much.

It Had to be A Blockbuster

The producers of the show were told by network executive that if it wasn't a blockbuster, it was likely no other Peanuts specials would be funded in the future. Luckily, “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” was just as successful as “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Approximately half of those viewing television on the October night in 1966 when it debuted were watching the Peanuts Halloween special. This level of success resulted in the show's producers being given the green light to do more Peanuts specials.

Snoopy as World War I flying ace

Snoopy as World War I flying ace

Snoopy's Voice

When the television shows based on the characters from the Peanuts comic strip were created, the goal was to not have any noticeable changes from what was portrayed in the comic strip. In the animated television specials, Snoopy didn't have a voice except for a high-pitched groaning sound. They tried to hire an actor to do the voice, but couldn't find one that seemed to fit. The voice was ultimately provided by one of the show's producers, Bill Melendez. He also was the voice for Snoopy's friend Woodstock in other television specials.

Sally yelling at Linus in pumpkin patch

Sally yelling at Linus in pumpkin patch

The first broadcast of “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” occurred on October 27, 1966. CBS then ran the show annually until 2000. ABC picked it up and has run it annually ever since then. It was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1966. On September 2, 2008, the program was released on home video by Warner studios. In 2006, a book was published titled It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: The Making of a Television Classic. The book includes the entire script, interviews with the children who provided the voices and more. Most agree “It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” is a Halloween classic that will entertain children for many generations into the future.

Linus Explains the Great Pumpkin

Comments

Readmikenow (author) on May 27, 2019:

Nathan, thanks. I agree. It is a classic that only seems to get better with time.

Nathan M from Tucson on May 26, 2019:

Enjoyed the look behind the scenes look the "Great Pumpkin" special. Must have seen this one 20 times over the years.

Readmikenow (author) on January 13, 2019:

Yves...thank you so much!

Yves on January 12, 2019:

I adore Linus. He was indeed always one of the most sincere characters of the Peanut's gang. Charles Schultz was a genius, a fact known to all but which bears repeating nevertheless. I didn't realize there was a Great Pumpkin book. Think I'll look it up and decide whether I should buy it.

Another great article Readmikenow. You never fail to entertain and inspire!

Readmikenow (author) on November 15, 2018:

John, thanks for reading it. I agree. It is a timeless class that will entertain many future generations.

John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona USA on November 15, 2018:

I was one of those watching the 1966 Peanuts special. It's so much fun watching the specials with the grandchildren. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Love reading of the details. Thanks.

Readmikenow (author) on November 15, 2018:

Nell Rose, thanks. It is a Christmas classic here.

Nell Rose from England on November 15, 2018:

We never really got the series over here, of course it was in the newspaper but never really shown. Still, interesting to read the 'behind the scenes' story.

Readmikenow (author) on November 01, 2018:

Marlene, that is a great story. Thanks for sharing. I confess to having some Peanuts items, and I am far from a teenager.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on November 01, 2018:

This was fascinating! I enjoyed reading about the background of this show that I remember watching every year. Snoopy was my favorite character. I remember on my 16th birthday, my parents gave me a stuffed Snoopy doll. Teenagers aren't supposed to be interested in dolls, but I loved it!

Readmikenow (author) on October 21, 2018:

FlourishAnyway thanks. I like that story and the one about Snoopy.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 21, 2018:

Back before VCRs I remember that my siblings and I would eagerly anticipate this special on tv. I liked the background stories’you present here, especially the one about the girl’s loose tooth.

Readmikenow (author) on October 21, 2018:

Peggy, thanks. I thought the stories behind it were pretty interesting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 21, 2018:

It is fun learning some of the behind the scenes inspirations for the Peanuts gang as well as Snoopy. Great timing for the writing of this post!

Readmikenow (author) on October 17, 2018:

Mary, I agree. It is a wonderful story.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 17, 2018:

I love Peanuts and I think the book I'ts the Great Pumpkin is one kids would definitely enjoy.

Readmikenow (author) on October 17, 2018:

Ralph, thanks. I'm a big fan of Peanuts. Charles Schultz was a brilliant man.

Ralph Schwartz from Idaho Falls, Idaho on October 17, 2018:

Great read and great timing Mike - you gotta love Peanuts and their staying power.

Readmikenow (author) on October 17, 2018:

Liz, thanks.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 17, 2018:

Thanks for explaining this. I hadn't come across this one in the UK.