When it comes to Halloween classics, no show or movie is quite as iconic as the Peanuts It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown special. Based on the comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, the Halloween edition first premiered back in 1966, and it will turn 57 on October 27th. Over half a century later, the animated special is still a must-watch for many people during the Halloween season, including myself.
The special centers on the Peanuts gang as they get ready for Halloween. Charlie Brown is excited to be invited to Violet’s Halloween Party, and he doesn’t pay too much mind to Lucy, who claims it must have been a mistake. While he’s busy trick or treating with the gang and attending the party, Linus and Sally find themselves spending the night in the town’s pumpkin patch, hoping the Great Pumpkin arrives.
Though it’s a bit harder to view It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown since it no longer airs on TV as it did for 53 years, it's still accessible for anyone who has an Apple TV+ subscription. Or, if you’re like me and you’re totally obsessed with the special, you probably own it on DVD. You might have to jump through a few hoops to be able to watch this year, but I promise it's totally worth it. In fact, it’s the perfect special to watch to really get yourself into the Halloween spirit, and here’s why:
It’s Great For All Ages Because It’s Not Scary
Over the year, it seems Halloween has become less about dressing up as characters from the biggest movie releases and getting candy and more about scary movies and Universal Studios Horror Nights. While there’s nothing wrong with this shift, it does leave many young kids and people who don’t want to be terrified all day out of the holiday festivities. Thankfully, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of those specials that is perfect for those of us who aren’t fond of being scared.
In fact, there are only two “scary” elements in the 25-minute cartoon. Lucy’s witch mask is one of them, and the other is Sally’s pure rage when she finds out she missed out on “tricks or treats” because of Linus. The rest of the cartoon is brimming with Halloween spirit from pumpkin patches, Halloween parties, and the ever-important “tricks or treats,” making it the perfect family-friendly Halloween show.
The Story Is Still Hilarious
In my opinion, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is the best Peanuts holiday special. While it does go off the rails a bit with Snoopy’s World War I sequence, the rest of the cartoon keeps things light and festive.
While today’s standards might consider Lucy and the other’s treatment of Charlie Brown bullying to some degree, I still can’t help but chuckle every time they use the back of his head to sketch out the Jack-o-Lantern carving. The part that always brings me to tears is his poor ghost costume and subsequent failure at trick or treating. Poor Charlie Brown deserved at least one piece of candy, but all he got was rocks.
I also can’t help but find humor in Linus’s blind faith in the Santa-inspired myth of the Great Pumpkin. After all, it is known for rising “from his pumpkin patch” on Halloween night before flying “through the air with his bag of toys to all the children.” If you ask me, Linus might have his holidays mixed up.
His dedication is hilarious and amicable, as he doesn’t ever give in to peer pressure when everyone starts to question him. What's even funnier though is watching Sally break out into a fit of rage when Snoopy appears instead of the Great Pumpkin. Comedy all around!
Plus, it wouldn’t be a Peanuts special without Lucy’s football gag that Charlie Brown continues to fall for. In fact, it’s the first time the gag appeared in one of the animated specials. Yet another reason to add the cartoon to your list of must-watch Halloween movies and shows.
There’s Some Great Quotes That Leave A Lasting Impression
Like all Peanuts specials, this one has some great character quotes that have stuck with me year after year. Every time I pick a Halloween costume, I find myself repeating Lucy’s wise wisdom:
A person should always choose a costume which is in direct contrast to her own personality.
Though the cartoon was created in 1966, Sally embodies a modern, dry sense of humor that still makes me giggle. Her line of questioning about the nature of trick-or-treating always leaves me clutching my stomach, especially when she says, “I wouldn’t want to be accused of taking part in a rumble.” Her most iconic line, though, is said to Linus after he’s in disbelief that a little girl like herself would question what she’s being told. In response, she says, “Welcome to the 20th Century!” You tell him, Sally!
And, of course, Linus has some memorable quotes over the course of the special, too. His speech about the Great Pumpkin is one that always plays in my head during the Halloween season, but it’s his reactionary lines that are even more memorable. Only he would think to write to the Great Pumpkin telling him not to reply if he was fake because he didn’t want to ruin the myth.
Though Linus is a bit more whimsical in this special than the other holiday ones, he does have one moment of clarity where he gives solid advice to the Peanuts gang and viewers. The moment comes when he says: “There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” It’s a quote we should definitely all keep in mind.
Even though the animation special is turning 57 years old, it still holds up today. It just doesn’t feel like Halloween without the Peanuts shenanigans. While fans continue to petition to get the special back on TV, for now, it looks like we’ll have to keep streaming it on Apple TV+. When you’re done watching the special, check out six more Halloween TV episodes that will definitely put you in the holiday spirits.