Charlie Brown and his Peanuts gang have been a mainstay of not only the newspaper funny pages but also holiday entertainment for generations. The 1965 animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas remains a perennial yuletide favorite to this day. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, a 1966 special from the same creative team, was the second follow-up to A Charlie Brown Christmas, and like its predecessor, remains a well-liked holiday (in this case, Halloween, of course) cartoon to this very day.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has a meandering storyline - which is part of its appeal. The main thrust of the 25 minute cartoon involves Linus, one of Charlie Brown's friends, and his steadfast commitment to his belief in the Great Pumpkin, a figure who is supposed to rise out of a pumpkin patch on Halloween night and give children toys - much like Santa Claus.
While Linus spends the evening in a pumpkin patch awaiting the Great Pumpkin, the rest of the Peanuts gang are enjoying Halloween. There's trick-or-treating followed by a Halloween party. Meanwhile, Snoopy, dressed up as a World War I flying ace, goes through a lengthy wartime fantasy sequence, narrated by Charlie Brown himself.
There's something elementally simple and nostalgic about the feel of this cartoon - and other Charlie Brown specials from this time period. The animation is a bit crude, yes, but it reflects the comic strip origins of these characters very well. Several running gags are effective, including Lucy's witch costume and Charlie Brown's treats (at every home, the gang receives candy and treats except poor Charlie Brown, who receives rocks instead).
However, I've always felt these early Charlie Brown cartoons wouldn't work nearly as well without the wistful and playful jazz scores provided by Vince Guaraldi. This special is no exception. Playful melodies like A Charlie Brown Christmas's "Linus and Lucy" return here and are complimented by new material. Guaraldi again delivers fantastic musical accompaniment.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has been released before by Paramount, but Warner Brothers' current release arrives with a new featurette and a different bonus Charlie Brown special (It's Magic, Charlie Brown), so fans who have the original DVD release may want to consider this version as well. Highly recommended.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is given a full frame presentation preserving the aspect ratio of the special's original television exhibition. Colors look fantastic. There's an odd light shimmering noticeable in some sequences - especially at the end - but otherwise this DVD represents great picture quality for an animated TV product that's more than 40 years old.
This Charlie Brown Halloween special has a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix. It sounds fine, with dialogue and music clear, but it's very unexciting and sounds almost mono at times. Additional dialogue tracks are provided in Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Thai.
The original Paramount DVD release of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown had You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown as its bonus. Warner Brothers' re-release replaces that special with 1981's It's Magic, Charlie Brown. This story involves Snoopy turning Charlie Brown invisible. To pardon the pun, it doesn't have quite the magic of the Halloween special, but it's certainly entertaining in its own right and feels like a good thematic match for the Halloween special.
We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown! (13:57) is a nicely produced short feature on the history of the making of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown with comments from director Bill Melendez and others involved in the special's production, and from the late creator Charles Schulz's wife and son.
When the disc is played, trailers precede the main menu for Jack Frost, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas. There's also a really strange anti-piracy ad incorporating elements of The Wizard of Oz. A Trailers option in the menu system provides additional trailers for Wiggles: You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and Scooby-Doo and the Goblin King.
Finally, a paper insert inside the DVD case contains a code for two free iTunes downloads. They're for Great Pumpkin Waltz and Oh, Good Grief from the Vince Guaraldi Trio's album Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits. The code is supposed to expire on April 30, 2009.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a fun 1966 holiday special starring the gang from the classic comic strip Peanuts. Fans owning the original Paramount DVD release may want to consider Warner Brothers' release for its new featurette and inclusion of the 1981 special It's Magic, Charlie Brown. [It should be noted that this DVD will be included in the Peanuts Holiday Collection due out in September 23, 2008.] Highly recommended.