Warner Bros. // 1966 // 25 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // September 7th, 2010
Peanuts, Pumpkins and Pleasure for the whole family!
While It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown may not have reached the iconic status of A Charlie Brown Christmas or the emotional depth of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, the special remains one of the franchise's most popular and well-known. As these specials go, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is fairly lightweight and not particularly plot-driven, simply collecting a series of brief sketches and stories (only a couple of which are actually Halloween-related) and compiling them into a pleasant 25-minute special. What sets the special apart is the fact that it represents the Peanuts franchise at the top of its game; the gags are funny, the characterization is strong, and the level of charm is considerable.
The special's central character is Linus, who has unwavering faith in The Great Pumpkin. According to Linus, The Great Pumpkin comes every Halloween to give toys and presents to well-behaved boys and girls everywhere. He supposedly always appears in the pumpkin patch filled with the most sincerity and belief, and Linus is determined to witness the event this time around. Most of his friends are skeptical, but the adoring Sally believes everything Linus says and agrees to spend the night in the pumpkin patch keeping watch. Meanwhile, Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the gang are making plans to spend the evening trick-or-treating. As you might expect, Charlie Brown has considerably less luck than the others over the course of the night ("I got a rock," he declares repeatedly).
The central storyline involving Linus' faith in The Great Pumpkin is the most compelling and memorable, particularly given that the special isn't going to grant our hopeful believer a last-minute validation. How beautiful and heartbreaking to see poor Linus standing in the middle of the pumpkin patch, hopefully stating, "There's nothing but sincerity all around." Other than that, it's just a lot of fun, familiar asides: Snoopy on another adventure as The Red Baron, Lucy attempting to talk Charlie Brown into kicking the football, Snoopy having an emotional reaction to Schroeder's piano-playing and so on. It's all good fun, which is no surprise given that is was written by Mr. Charles Schultz himself.
Also included on the disc is It's Magic, Charlie Brown, which is pleasant enough but not as memorable as the feature special. Snoopy decides to become an amateur magician and accidentally turns Charlie Brown invisible while practicing his skills. The special is essentially a series of goofy, magic-themed gags, veering away from any of the real-life concerns and problems of children that Peanuts has always handled so well. It's trivial, but far from the worst of the specials.
The hi-def transfer is quite strong, with only a couple of minor flaws. First, it should be noted that there are still occasional scratches and flecks that appear during both specials (I was surprised to note that both look about even in terms of video quality). Second, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has several moments where the image gets slightly soft and blurry. Otherwise, these specials have been rather beautifully restored, with superb detail and gorgeous bright colors that just pop off the screen. For the most part, the audio is strong, with the familiar sound effects and Vince Guaraldi score coming through with clarity and warmth (there's very minor distortion at times, but nothing too bad). The only supplement of note is the 14-minute featurette "We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown," which is pleasant and informative. You also get a DVD copy containing the exact same contents.
While I do think that the list price of $24.99 is too high for a disc containing 50 minutes of content (c'mon, haven't we moved past the era of less-than-feature-length home video releases geared at kids?), It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown looks great and remains fun after all these years.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 25 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episode
* IMDb: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
* IMDb: It's Magic, Charlie Brown