(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
It's time for one of the great holiday traditions, the Charlie Brown Special! Yaayy!! It really isn't a major holiday unless there's a Peanuts cartoon attached. Now all that's needed are some Dolly Madisons and we're ready to go.
Great Pumpkin, in my humble opinion, is the greatest of all the animated Charlie Brown films. The artwork, color and animation are a step above A Charlie Brown Christmas (my close #2), the story is more filled-out and lively, and any number of episodes will dance in your head for days. There's Snoopy as the World War I flying ace, there's pumpkin carving, there's Charlie Brown's ghost costume, hehe hehe...and Charlie Brown with a bag full of rocks. Hah hah hah!
The heart of Great Pumpkin, of course, is Linus and his unshakable belief among the skeptics. Modern hipsters might see this as a criticism of religion, but we must remember that Charles Shultz was a devout Christian (the love and equality kind, not the neocon warmonger and swindler televangelist kind). He usually treats Charlie Brown as his avatar, but I think he's speaking through Linus in this cartoon. It's an honest, heartfelt portrayal, never hiding from disappointment or unanswered prayers. Sparky Shultz did not fear "God's Silence" and the creeping doubt. He embraced it, accepted it, an humbly understood his place in the world.
I shouldn't have to point out how today's animated films are formulaic or openly pandering. We all have the ticket stubs and empty wallets and the disappointments. But that's to be expected from product created by conglomerates. Got to maximize the bottom line. Got to protect the franchise. And that means taking no risks. It's so very unfortunate, because the Peanuts cartoons demonstrate, time and time again, how you can create a classic with little money. There should be avenues available for similar storytellers today. The audiences are out there.
Of course, when I was a kid, poisoning the Halloween candy was a serious scare, so rocks wouldn't be the worst thing to get. I would have prefered rocks to, say, apples or money. What kind of cheapskate hands out quarters to kids on Halloween? Don't give me money! Use that money to buy me candy!
Halloween is the one great children's holiday. Despite its medieval gothic roots, which have always freaked out the fundamentalist Christians, this night is about one thing only - kids dressing up in costumes and scoring six weeks worth of free candy. It's a moment of pure innocence and wonder. The dark skies and bare trees are not scary at all; they're enchanting, inviting. The ghosts have those Twix candies, and the owls are handing out candy pumpkins. Yaayy!!
It really isn't the same thing when you're an adult, and can just buy candy at the store whenever you want. It's never the same. But I can still watch The Great Pumpkin, and for half an hour, be eight years old once more.