"You've heard about fury and a woman scorned, haven't you? Well, that's nothing compared to the fury of
a woman who has been cheated out of tricks or treats." It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown celebrates its 40th anniversary.
These articles are arranged from the most recent down, so you'll always find the newest news about Charlie Brown and his friends toward the top; older articles will be located further down, or on previous pages.
Peanuts pulled into politics
October 31, 2006
The Nevada County Union [California]
The son of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz is questioning whether Republican campaign mailers lampooning a Democratic opponent named Charlie Brown infringe on the cartoon copyrights.
The mailers use iconic images from the cartoon strip Charlie Browns yellow shirt with the black zigzag, Lucys psychiatric booth and the football that Charlie never manages to kick.
They came from the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, D.C., and are directed at the Democrat who is challenging Rep. John Doolittle (R-Roseville). The real Brown is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who is making a run against the eight-term congressman with a strength that is surprising some political pundits.
Argh!, wails one flier, reproducing the scrawled type of Snoopys lament. We just cant afford Charlie Browns tax increase.
After seeing the mailers for the first time on Monday from a reporter from The Union, Monte Schulz dialed his telephone, scanned the mailers and e-mailed them to copyright companies in New York from his Victorian home in Nevada City, which was decorated with Halloween dummies.
Who should we talk to right now?, he asked into the phone as he bounced a crossed leg. Casual in flannel and sweats, Schulz fiddled with his glasses as he spoke. A framed black-and-white Peanuts cartoon hung above his desk. A Charlie Brown bobblehead grinned from atop an antique wooden bookcase.
Theyre nitwits. Doing this shows theyre not that bright, Schulz said. Its clearly using Peanuts stuff. I dont know if its arrogance or ignorance.
At least three mailers were sent out earlier this month to residents of Doolittles district in Northern California.
Charlie Browns plan is going to cost you ... more than five cents, reads the reworked sign above Lucys psychiatric booth in one of mailers.
Good Grief, Charlie Brown ... Thats a dangerous plan for California seniors, the mailer continued.
Richard Robinson, spokesman for the Doolittle campaign, said the Congressional Committee by law does not coordinate with the Doolittle campaign. The first time he saw any of the mailers was when he received one in his own mailbox.
I dont think there is any problem whatsoever with the color scheme of the mailers, Robinson said. I think what should be concerning voters is what the mailers say.
The mailers contain brief statements and bullet points. Sources listed for the information in fine print include newspapers in Doolittles district, including The Union.
All fair in politics?
The Peanuts copyright and trademark is owned by United Media. The Charles M. Schulz Creative Association is responsible for editorial and art control.
Monte Schulz sent copies of the mailers to both companies, which sent them on to lawyers for further investigation.
We take all matters of infringement seriously, said Melissa Menta, vice president of corporate communications of United Media.
United Media is owned by media conglomerate E.W. Scripps. Peanuts is considered one of its top-earning cartoons and still is carried in 2,400 newspapers nationwide. Last week, Forbes.com listed Charles Schulz as the third top-earning deceased celebrity in the United States, behind Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain and rock n roll king Elvis Presley.
Spokespeople for the Congressional Committee, contacted Monday, said they wanted to confer with their lawyers before commenting about the fliers.
Using the Peanuts design without permission in the political spectrum may be allowed because it is considered a form of free speech under the Fair Use Doctrine.
There is more room to borrow in a political setting than a commercial setting, said Stephen Davis, a copyright lawyer with Davis & Leonard in Sacramento.
Still, taking a jab at an opponents name is a low blow, said Charlie Browns campaigners.
These pieces exemplify the pathetic desperation of our opponent, said Todd Stenhouse, spokesman for the Charlie Brown campaign. Name assault just goes to show the sleazy characters were dealing with.
The Great Pumpkin turns 40!
October 27, 2006
By Kevin D. Thompson
The Palm Beach Post [Florida]
Five reasons why Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the charming animated special airing tonight (8 p.m., WPBF-Channel 25), holds up after four decades.
1. Linus unshakable belief in the Great Pumpkin Hes laughed at by his friends. Told hes wasting his time and that hes crazy. Still, every Halloween, theres the blanket-carrying boy, waiting in the frigid fall night for the Great Pumpkin to rise up with his bag of toys for all the good children. He never does, of course. But deep down, you still believe that one year he just might.
2. Vince Guaraldis music Even if you dont like cartoons, you had to love Guaraldis jazzy score. His memorable rendition of Linus and Lucy plays for nearly two minutes during the shows pre-credits teaser.
3. Snoopys Halloween exploits No dog has a more vivid imagination than Charlie Browns pet beagle. Just watch Snoopy pretend to be a World War I Flying Ace who gets shot down crossing wartime France. Charlie Brown may be the heart of Peanuts, but Snoopy is its soul and a very funny one.
4. Lucy pulling the football... again Is this the year that Charlie Brown finally gets to kick that danged football? Lucy has a signed document saying it is. Alas, its not.
5. Four words -- I got a rock. Like Rodney Dangerfield, Charlie Brown never gets any respect. While his fellow trick-or-treaters walked home with gum, candy and popcorn balls, blockhead Charlie wound up with a bag of rocks. But that bit of misfortune only makes us love him even more.
Good grief, Charlie Brown
It's been 40 years and the Peanuts gallery is still waiting for the Great Pumpkin. Fans can revisit the old favorite on TV, DVD and in print.
October 27, 2006
By Michael D. Clark
The Houston Chronicle
As an adult, I say the holiday season begins with the arrival of decorations in the Galleria, the sound of bats cracking in the World Series and -- if all else fails -- the calendar.
But as a kid, I knew the holidays were coming when the Peanuts classic Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown came on TV.
Once ol Chuck got the rock in his trick-or-treat bag and his pal Linus wasted another Halloween night waiting for the ballyhooed Great Pumpkin -- the Santa Claus of Halloween -- to rise from the pumpkin patch and deliver toys to good children, I knew a two-month wave of candy and toys was right around the corner.
Apparently Im not alone.
When Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown makes its annual prime-time appearance on ABC Oct. 27 (7 p.m., Channel 13), it will mark the 40th anniversary -- to the day -- that Charles Schulzs Peanuts gang were brought to animated life for Halloween. Every year since, Charlie Brown has tried to kick Lucys football, cut too many holes in his ghost costume and played second fiddle to Linus belief in the mythical Great Pumpkin.
Lee Mendelson, a producer and original animator of Great Pumpkin and other Peanuts television specials, says comedian Chris Rock described Charlie Browns dilemma best.
Do you want to know what a loser Charlie Brown was? He didnt even star in his own Halloween special. Now, thats a loser, says Mendelson, retelling Rocks joke.
Charlie Brown may have been a bit of a cipher in the Peanuts world, where he was bullied by Lucy Van Pelt and had a worse Halloween costume than his pooch, Word War I flying ace Snoopy. His loneliness, lack of role models and daily palette of emotions were expressions that kids from baby boomers through the present day could all relate to.
Charlie Brown was a depressed little boy. He was the poster boy for Prozac before it was even invented, says Robert Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University. He had very little parental guidance. In fact, all the adults in the Peanuts specials speak in gibberish.
It was the simplicity and universality of the Peanuts gang in motion that helped make A Charlie Brown Christmas an unexpected ratings leader (No. 2 with a 28.8 rating and 46.6 share) in December 1965. It prompted CBS (ABC bought the rights in 2000) to put a rush on Charlie Browns All Stars! and Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Both were also ratings toppers and have held their own in prime time ever since.
Animators Mendelson and Bill Melendez were attentive to the ratings. Their paychecks depended on ratings. But their reverence for Schulzs popular daily newspaper comic strip -- at its peak, Peanuts ran in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and was translated into 40 languages -- brought an even more horrifying thought to mind than a Great Pumpkin no-show on Halloween.
We thought we had just ruined Peanuts, says Mendelson. We had just done A Charlie Brown Christmas and we werent sure about it, and the network executives didnt like it much, either. Half the country tuned in and did like it, though.
Suddenly we got six months to make a Halloween special.
Far from ruining Peanuts, the specials helped the strip run for nearly 50 years. Schulz died Feb. 13, 2000, but many newspapers continue to run Classic Peanuts -- or strips taken from the many that have already run. Another nod to the popularity of the Peanuts gang is Schulzs spot on the Forbes list of top-earning dead celebrities. Each year, Schulz has come in just behind Elvis Presley.
Back in 1965, Schulz, Mendelson and Melendez matched the idea of Linus imaginative invention of the Great Pumpkin with Snoopys fantastical pursuit of the Red Baron aboard his Sopwith Camel fighter plane. Schulz had just started drawing the veterans tribute into the strip, making Great Pumpkin the ideal place to animate it for the first time.
Mendelson says the story came together swiftly, but none of them could ever have dreamed they would still be talking about it 40 years later.
We thought it would run one or two times and that was it, says Mendelson. After a few years we knew we had caught lightning in a bottle.
Thompson says much of its lasting power has to do with the childish lore surrounding Halloween. The fall holiday takes a second only to Christmas on totems and traditions that children identify with.
There is no other case of a television show from the Johnson administration still getting killer numbers in prime time today, Thompson says of the Peanuts Halloween and Christmas specials.
Mendelson, who last weekend spoke about the creation and legacy of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., prefers to think of the special as a work of art more akin to something by John Steinbeck.
These are timeless themes and timeless ideas, says Mendelson. We basically asked ourselves, What would happen if a little kid got his holidays mixed up?
What happened is millions of kids, like me, from the last half century, depended on the Great Pumpkin to rise from the family television each year and officially get things going. The Simpsons annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween special may be more pop-culture relevant now, but come talk to me in 2029 when Matt Groenings demented cartoon family would turn 40.
My guess is that lovable loser Charlie Brown might be the enduring winner after all.
Great Pumpkin still special at 40
October 27, 2006
Denise I. ONeal Favorite Things
The Chicago Sun Times
It was another hit, Charlie Brown, and its magic has endured.
Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which debuted Oct. 27, 1966, on CBS, was the second collaboration of cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, executive producer Lee Mendelson and animator/director Bill Melendez. The trio, riding on the success of their first television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, was approached to make lightning strike twice.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the original broadcast, and Schulzs widow, Jeannie Schulz, and Mendelson share some of their thoughts on Charles M. Schulz and his works.
Jeannie Schulz recalls the day the network approached her husband.
The network came to Sparky [as Charles was known to friends and family] and simply said, Deliver us another hit.
Partnered with the team that worked on his first special, Schulz went to work on Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
We didnt think that there was much we could do to top the Christmas special, said Mendelson. It was serendipity at its best.
Mendelson says Schulzs characters and the teams camaraderie made the task more simple. We basically took the characters off the comics pages and transported them to television.
Jeannie Schulz agrees.
It was keeping Sparkys characters and his vision intact that made it all come together.
Mendelson also believes people relate to the storyline because everyone has a Halloween story to tell from the ill-fitted homemade costume to disappointing trick-or-treating loot.
That commonality has helped to make the story endure, said Mendelson.
The show taps into childhood memories, and its that remembrance that continues to make the show a winner, said Schulz.
Charlie Brown can be likened to Rodney No Respect Dangerfield, playing second fiddle to Linus and Snoopy in his own vehicle.
Charlie Brown is such a loser he couldnt star in his own Halloween show, said Mendelson.
Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown delivered many classic moments, including an optimistic Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch and a disappointed Charlie Brown getting a rock in his trick-or-treat bag. One of the most acclaimed animated scenes was Snoopy as the Red Baron.
Snoopys flying dog house was a great moment in animation, said Schulz.
Although A Charlie Brown Christmas was the first, and in many minds the best, of the Charlie Brown specials, Mendelsons favorite is the Halloween special.
The show had such a rich look because of the use of vivid colors, he said, and who cant identify with the theme?
As part of the celebration, Snoopy.com has created a Great Pumpkin Web page that contains trivia, e-cards and clips of the special.
United Feature Syndicate, Inc., owner of the licensing rights to the endearing characters, has teamed with manufacturers to launch products celebrating the milestone.
Sababa Toys launched the Peanuts Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, board game. The Peanuts Gang characters -- Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally and Snoopy -- travel around the board to collect costumes and candy before racing through the pumpkin patch where Linus awaits the visit of the Great Pumpkin. The first player to meet Linus wins the game ($12.95).
Sababa also has issued a special 40th anniversary dominoes design with collectors tin. The set contains 28 super-sized domino pieces featuring images of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Snoopy and Snoopy as the Red Baron ($14.95).
USAopolys Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 500-piece pumpkin-shape puzzle fits together to form a picture of Linus, Sally and a silhouette of Snoopy as the Red Baron in a pumpkin patch ($12.95).
Unos Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown card-game edition features 112 custom-designed cards of the Peanuts Gang ($12.95).
For the true collector, HarperCollins has issued a commemorative book, Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown the Making of a Television Classic by Mendelson and Melendez ($16.95).
Paramount Home Video has released a special edition DVD of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which features the bonus scene, Youre Not Elected, Charlie Brown, ($16.95).
Never Discuss Politics, Religion or the Great Pumpkin
Though the Great Pumpkin Has Been Around for 40 Years, Its Themes Are Timeless
October 27, 2006
By Yvonne Lai
Exactly 40 years ago, Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown first aired in living rooms across the country. That night Snoopys iconic WW I Flying Ace made his debut and for the first time, viewers could watch an animated Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown.
The Peanuts comic strip, at that time one of the worlds most popular (it still runs in 1,200 newspapers worldwide, though its creator, Charles M. Schulz, died in February 2000), sprang to life in our living rooms and created -- along with the Peanuts Christmas special -- an instant tradition for the children of America. The special made the characters come to life.
You remember he [Charlie Brown] got rocks in his trick-or-treat bag, and all the other kids got candy. Well, we got candy from all over the United States for poor Charlie Brown, and people were really upset with us, recalled Lee Mendelson, producer of the The Great Pumpkin and many other Charlie Brown TV specials. I mean, we got some ... not hate mail but letters that really didnt like the fact that he got rocks in his bag.
Viewers are still writing letters, though this year many were in response to an essay contest held to commemorate the 40th anniversary on the topic Worst Halloween Ever.
The essays run the gamut from dark to hysterical, from neighbors dying to getting cans of sardines instead of candy. Many people relived Halloween memories that resulted from watching Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown for the first time.
This whole idea of the Great Pumpkin, just think about it -- what a crazy, wonderful idea. For this little kid in the pumpkin patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to show up -- what a crazy notion, Mendelson said.
Pumpkin Patch Encounter
The contest winner, Lew Seitz, 52, of Cincinnati, told of his visit to a pumpkin patch on Halloween night, 1967. Just as Charlie Browns little sister, Sally, does in the Halloween special, Seitzs diligent brother went house to house asking for extra candy for his stupid brother who was spending the night in a pumpkin patch.
As fate would have it, his brother used that line at the home of the farmer who owned the pumpkin patch Lew was camping in. The story ends with a shotgun and pumpkin-masked man telling Seitz to hurry home.
Great Pumpkin, like other holiday classics, transcends generations, with parents enjoying it as much as their children. With the exception of a few editing cuts to allow for advertising, the special is essentially the same as when it first aired and has managed to keep viewers coming back year after year.
Well I think its pretty amazing to think that Pumpkin is 40 years old. Ive seen it at least 20 times, and I think its kind of wonderful that it is new every time, said Jeannie Schulz, Charles Schulzs widow.
Eternal Truths From the Mouths of Babes
Though times have changed, some things last forever.
Consider Linus, never without his blanket, as he philosophizes There are three things Ive learned never to discuss with people religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.
During a discussion about the difference between believing in Santa Claus and believing in the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown observes, We are obviously separated by denominational differences.
Other memorable moments Sally, realizing shes missed out on trick-or-treating to support her Sweet Babboo (Linus), ranting that Ive been robbed. ... I want restitution. And Linus, when he poignantly writes to the Great Pumpkin asking that If you really are a fake, dont tell me. I dont really want to know.
I think anything that continues to be truthful and soulful eventually becomes timeless, said Stephan Pastis, creator of the popular comic strip Pearls Before Swine. For me, the honesty and likability of Linus and his faithfulness is a compelling theme delivered very honestly and simply. Therefore it will resonate long after some more current Halloween specials are gone.
Pastis, who also works for the Schulz familys Creative Associates in Santa Rosa, Calif., notes that [The Great Pumpkin] has a lot of deeper meanings, whether intended or unintended by Sparky [Schulzs nickname] and it makes a very compelling notion that someone would wait faithfully for someone great to return, and they dont. I think its just an interesting theme to see in a cartoon.
Its because the comic strips and TV specials still reflect basic truths of everyday life -- standing by your beliefs, supporting your friends and using your daydreams as a creative outlet -- that there are generations of fans who never tire of Peanuts.
Lure of the Great Pumpkin
Hope springs eternal in enduring Charlie Brown tale of defiance and failure
Oct. 25, 2006
The Arizona Republic
I got a rock.
Surely as an exclamation of despair this ranks up there with Oh, the humanity! and Ive fallen and I cant get up.
And yet Charlie Browns running narration of what he gets instead of candy and apples while trick-or-treating in Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is just one of many verbal smack-downs and sighs of disappointment -- and theyre not all courtesy of Charlie Brown, known to all as one of historys most lovable losers.
Linus, in fact, bears the brunt of the biggest disappointment, the failure of the Great Pumpkin to show on Halloween night, humiliating him in front of his friends and a potential love interest (many years down the road). Were talking years-of-therapy stuff here.
And it is fantastic. And actually kind of important.
In a time when every kiddie soccer player expects a trophy, when honest criticism is grounds for a lawsuit and when Were all winners! no matter how much we lose, Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a bracing tonic still, on its 40th anniversary (anyone else feel really, really old?). And one that every kid -- and parent -- ought to watch, again.
You know the story. Linus, convinced for reasons we never learn that the gift-bearing Great Pumpkin visits sincere pumpkin patches all over the world on Halloween night, waits in vain for an appearance for what is evidently not the first time. His enthusiasm convinces Sally, Charlie Browns sister, to wait with him.
And the result is, of course, disaster.
No Great Pumpkin. No nothing, except for Snoopy dressed in his World War I flying ace getup showing up and causing Linus to faint. Nothing but heartbreak and disappointment.
In many ways, Great Pumpkin is the antithesis of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the first and best of Charles Schulzs specials. In that show, it turns out all the sad little Christmas tree needed was love, and love -- as well as a reminder of what the holiday is all about, courtesy of a Scripture reading (try getting that on the air in a new show today) -- conquered all, including Snoopys commercialization of the holiday. Ah, success.
But Great Pumpkin is all about failure -- all about failure, almost, with plenty to go around for everyone. And yet, in the end, maybe a little bit about standing up for what you believe in, no matter how stupid (dont complain to me about insensitivity -- Im quoting Charlie Brown here).
The show begins with Linus and Lucy, the best-known Charlie Brown song, as Linus and Lucy set out in search of the perfect pumpkin to carve. All is well until, with no little effort on Linus part, they get the giant (though not great) pumpkin home, and Lucy sets in with a knife.
Linus screams. You didnt tell me you were going to kill it!
And thus a mood is established.
Then, later, the famous set piece, a shining monument to duplicity Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick. Youre just going to yank it, he says, sporting a rare flash of insight. But no. This time she flashes a signed document. What could possibly go wrong?
Peculiar thing about this document, Lucy says after the inevitable happens and Charlie Brown lies in a heap. It was never notarized.
Ha! What kid got that? What parent didnt? This, folks, isnt why we watch.
Its why we still watch.
Other cruelties abound. Lucy tells Charlie Brown that if he was invited to Violets Halloween party, it was certainly a mistake. Later his famously round head is used as a model for pumpkin carving. Linus ruins a perfectly good sucker by diving into a pile of leaves. Lucy gets kissed by a dog. Snoopy gets shot down. Charlie Browns explanation for his hole-filled ghost costume is so simple and sweet it becomes poignant I had a little trouble with the scissors.
And, of course, the unkindest cut I got a rock.
To grown-up eyes and ears -- particularly eyes and ears used to the politically correct offerings served up by todays TV for kids, in which a happy ending is a requirement and somehow construed as a meaningful learning experience -- Great Pumpkin can seem a bit harsh. Words like stupid and blockhead get tossed around a lot. No one comes along at the end to save the day. Far from it.
After Linus humiliation is complete -- Lucy has to drag him, freezing and alone (Sally long since having deserted him), out of the pumpkin patch and into bed -- hes back at the wall he shares with Charlie Brown for their serious philosophizing. Dont worry, Charlie Brown tells him, Ive done plenty of stupid things, too.
Thats all it takes to set Linus off. Stupid? STUPID?!?!
Just wait till next year, Charlie Brown!
And in this moment, Linus becomes a Chicago Cubs fan, in the best possible way.
It takes a strong constitution to stand firm in the face of constant failure. The temptation is to say Linus is a winner because he doesnt give in.
But hes not. He loses, every time. And yet his defiance is all the more admirable for it.
Granted, ignoring the obvious -- the Great Pumpkin doesnt exist -- isnt always an admirable quality. But youve got to like Linus spunk.
He is so resolute, so willing to suffer the slings and arrows of childhood ridicule and stand by his beliefs, you dont find yourself simply rooting for him, and hoping that maybe, just maybe, next year the Great Pumpkin will grace his sincere little pumpkin patch with a visit.
You find yourself believing it. And coming back for more next year, hoping for the best.
Maybe Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown isnt about failure, after all.
Grand Prize Winner Named in Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest
Lew Seitz of Cincinnati, Ohio Turns out the Worst Halloween Ever Story
40th Anniversary Airing of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on ABC Set for October 27, 2006 at 8 p.m.
October 25, 2006
As ABCs 40th Anniversary airing of the most popular Halloween special draws near, the grand prize winner for the Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest has been named. Lew Seitz of Cincinnati, Ohio, and author of The Night I Met the (Not So) Great Pumpkin has won the top prize and will receive an all-expense-paid trip for two to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California.
Seitzs winning essay recounts a Halloween story from his childhood. An avid Peanuts fan, one year Seitz decided to forgo trick-or-treating and instead, emulate Linus by spending an evening in the most sincere pumpkin patch he could find. As he awaited the coming of the Great Pumpkin, Seitz found himself in a tricky situation with the farmer who owned the land he was on, making his Halloween truly one of the worst. To read Seitzs winning essay, go to www.snoopy.com.
Judges for the Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest finalist and grand prize rounds included members of the Schulz family, the original voice of Charlie Brown, Peter Robbins, the specials Executive Producer, Lee Mendelson, and Director and Producer, Bill Melendez.
Commenting on the winning essay, Lee Mendelson, Executive Producer of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown said, As traumatizing as it was to watch Linus sitting in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin, it became obvious to me as I read Mr. Seitzs winning essay that his Halloween experience might have been worse.
I am extremely thrilled to be the Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest winner, said Lew Seitz. Charlie Brown showed me that if you have faith and never give up, you too will be a winner someday. He was right. I am thankful for this wonderful experience.
Earlier this year, ten finalists were selected in the year long 40th Anniversary contest asking fans to submit their Worst Halloween Ever stories to Snoopy.com. As their prize for writing one of the best Worst Halloween Ever stories, each of the finalists received $100 worth of cool Peanuts merchandise (including a Great Pumpkin DVD and a new book on the making of the special) for making it to the final ten.
For more information on the Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest and the complete contest rules, visit www.snoopy.com. Its not too late. Dont miss out on all the fun the Web site has to offer. Fans can access a daily Halloween-themed Peanuts comic strip, play games, send e-cards, read Halloween stories from favorite celebrity Peanuts fans, and more.
The classic animated Halloween-themed Peanuts special, Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year on ABC. The full-length version of the Charlie Brown favorite will also include a bonus Peanuts cartoon, Youre Not Elected, Charlie Brown, in which Linus runs for class President, airing Friday, October 27 (800-900 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
Good Grief! Linus waits 40 years
Sunday, October 22, 2006
By Jim Beckerman
The Hackensack Record [New Jersey]
Youd think that selling Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to CBS back in 1966 would have been as easy as selling ... well, pumpkins on Halloween. Or Charlie Brown at any time.
Not so, animator Bill Melendez recalls.
We didnt know whether the network would buy it, Melendez says. Id always have to do a sales pitch. And I can really do a pitch. They used to say Come on, Bill, do a dance for The Man.
And this was after A Charlie Brown Christmas had been a huge, Peabody- and Emmy-winning hit in 1965, and after the Peanuts comic strip mania was well under way.
Friday will mark the 40th anniversary of the TV special, which has now become for some as much of a Halloween tradition as candy corn and soaped windows.
It will be shown at 8 p.m. Friday on ABC, in tandem with Youre Not Elected, Charlie Brown, a later Peanuts special with a Great Pumpkin subplot.
We translated the Christmas idea to the pumpkin patch, says Melendez, who had little idea he was creating a small but much-loved new piece of Americana with his yarn of the eternally optimistic Linus, who forgoes trick or treating to spend his night in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arise and bring toys to all the good little children of the world.
Never mind that the other kids laugh at him. Never mind that Linus -- otherwise the egghead of the Peanuts bunch -- would seem to have rather obviously confused Christmas and Halloween.
Commentators -- the kind of people who write books like The Gospel According to Peanuts -- have seen in Linus a symbol of faith, which endures even in the face of doubts and sneers.
Or, alternately, a symbol of religious delusion -- persisting in spite of the efforts of sensible people to talk the sucker out of it.
We threw everything [into] it, Melendez says.
And viewers responded. To this day, every gardener who discovers an oversize gourd in October feels it a civic duty to phone the local newspaper to report that the Great Pumpkin has arrived in his back yard.
Believe it or not, thats Charlie Brown, above, happily perched inside our version of the Great Pumpkin [a 125-pound North-ville-grown giant], reads one newspaper caption below a photograph of a toddler peeping out of a giant jack-o-lantern, reprinted in the book Charlie Brown & Charlie Schulz.
A new set of rules
More recently, and more cynically, an episode of the quirky animated cable TV series Robot Chicken featured a Great Pumpkin summoned by black magic, who kills off all of the Peanuts kids except Charlie Brown, before being destroyed by the Kite-Eating Tree.
This year, in honor of the 40th anniversary, there has been a cornucopia of Great Pumpkin-related merchandise, including an Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown domino set from Sababa Toys, a 500-piece Great Pumpkin jigsaw puzzle from USAopoly and a 40th anniversary coffee table book about the making of Great Pumpkin from HarperCollins.
I didnt know at the time that this was going to be anything vital, says Melendez, 90.
Originally from Sonora, Mexico, south of Arizona, Melendez had already been in the animation business for years -- working for such giants as Disney, Warner Bros. and UPA -- when Charlie Brown and fortune came knocking.
By the early 1960s, he had set up his own fledgling animation studio, where among other things he made several Ford TV spots using animated Peanuts characters.
In 1965, Coca-Cola approached the late Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz and independent movie producer Lee Mendelson about doing a Peanuts Christmas TV special. Mendelson and Schulz got Melendez onboard, and they proceeded to create a 30-minute show that turned all the rules upside-down.
Instead of professional adult actors, they recorded kid voices. Instead of brassy humor, they kept the warm, whimsical tone of the original comic strip. Instead of standard cartoony music, they used jazz.
I was at that time doing a lot of work out of San Francisco, Melendez recalls. Thats where I met Vince Guaraldi. He was a very popular musician in the Bay area. You could go into a bar where he would be playing piano. I said, We gotta use him.
Ready for more
Linus and Lucy and the other tunes Guaraldi wrote for the Peanuts specials have since become classic. But when Melendez and his colleagues first screened A Charlie Brown Christmas for CBS executives, they werent having any of it.
Too slow ... the kids dont sound pro ... the music is all wrong ... the story kind of wanders are some of the comments Mendelson recalled hearing from the CBS brass.
They questioned it for a simple reason They wanted something that would be guaranteed to succeed, Melendez says.
They neednt have worried. A Charlie Brown Christmas was such a hit that the network went ahead with plans for other Charlie Brown specials. Of the six earliest ones, only Christmas and Great Pumpkin are regularly revived -- probably because unlike, say, Hes Your Dog, Charlie Brown, they revolve around holidays.
If it was tied up to Happy Dog Day, that would be something, Melendez says. But that show and the others dont have a strong link-up to anything. We dont have any means or chance to expose them.
By now, Melendez has done 50 Charlie Brown specials, and four Charlie Brown feature-length movies. And hes ready to do more.
Even if he has to dance, once again, for The Man.
Even now, we always go job to job, he says. I have things, stories, and Id sure like to do some more. But it depends. First, I have to get a network to agree with the idea.
3-D Peanuts mark milestone
When Charles M. Schulz first pondered how to bring his Peanuts comic strip to TV, he considered several options -- among them a puppetoons show featuring animated 3-D figures, a la Thunderbirds.
Well, old ideas dont die -- and they dont necessarily fade away, either. Florida sculptor David Kracov has revived the idea with his first collection of three-dimensional Peanuts sculptures, released to mark the 40th anniversary of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
The sculptures, made of pulverized and reconstituted marble, are set into wood shadowboxes. Into and over and under them, to be precise -- since Kracovs characters have a habit of bursting out of their confines. In the sculpture Fall! a shadowbox scene of pumpkins in the moonlight is bordered by a frame -- on top of which is Linus, struggling with an outsize jack-o-lantern.
Schulzs characters have been licensed for toys, games and dolls before, but Kracov is the first legitimate artist to get the official sanction of United Features Syndicate, owners of the Peanuts strip.
The pieces capture the personalities of the characters, and then hes pushing them outside the box, says Heidi Leigh, owner of Manhattans Animazing Gallery, where the sculptures will debut Friday.
The pieces run from $695 for a signed, numbered copy to $1,500 and up for an original. You can see them at Animazing Gallery, 461 Broome St., between Greene and Mercer streets. The artist will be in residence from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Information animazing.com or 212-226-7374.
Peanuts exhibit to come to Scales, Schulz's wife to speak
October 5, 2006
By Mary Bolling Blackiston
The Old Gold & Black, Wake Forest University student newspaper [North Carolina]
Good grief, Charlie Brown!
Artwork from the infamous Charles Schulz is making its way to Winston-Salem.
From Oct. 7 through Nov. 15, more than 46 of Schulzs drawings will be memorialized through an exhibit at the universitys Charlotte and Phillip Hanes Art gallery. Many special events will take place throughout the upcoming month in conjunction with this display. On Oct. 7 at 6 p.m., the opening of the exhibit will take place in the Scales 102. There will be a lecture and discussion by Derrick Bang, the author of three books about Schulz including, 50 Years of Happiness A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz and creator of the Peanuts Collectors Club Web site.
The exhibit will include original drawings by Schulz, such as Peanuts collectibles, a handmade Peanuts quilt and unique Lil Folks comics. Following Bangs lecture, the opening reception will start at 7 p.m., where Judy Sladky will make a guest appearance. Sladky, who is a former champion ice skater, dancer and actress, has impersonated Snoopy all over the world since 1979 in ice skating shows and other similar gymnastic appearances. Sladky has also been the voice for Alice Snuffleupagus in Sesame Street for 17 years.
Additionally, music from Vince Guaraldis The Charlie Brown Suite & Other Favorites will be performed by the Matteson Blues Trio.
The night before, on Oct. 6, Sladky (as Snoopy) and Bang will be doing a book signing with the jazz trio performing at Borders Books on Stratford road. In addition to the events of this weekend, there are other upcoming events related to the exhibit.
On Oct. 18 at 1200 p.m., Tom Everhart will be giving a lecture comparing comic art with fine art in Scales 9. Everhart is the only person authorized to paint Peanuts characters and started working with Schulz around 1980.
Rheta Grimsley is another person who knew Schulz fairly well and wrote a biography on him in 1989; she will come to the festivities to reminisce of her times with the artist.
In addition, on Oct. 28 at 3 p.m., there will be A Conversation with Jeannie Schulz in the Scales 102.
Jeannie is the widow of Charles Schulz and president of the board of directors of the Charles M. Schulz Museum. Jeannie will speak of her husbands life as a comic artist from a personal perspective and talk about her work with the Museum dedicated to her husband.
Once again, the Matteson Blues Trio will be performing Charlie Brown tunes.
Stephen R. Turner, who came up with the idea of this exhibit, is also the curator for the display and is in charge of many of the events.
Much of the exhibit is on loan from Turner, a Winston-Salem resident and Schulz memorabilia collector. Turner was introduced to Mrs. Schulz a couple of years ago.
They have a museum in California and that inspired me to do the exhibit because of what [Jeannie] was doing with her husbands work. Now others can experience Schulzs work on the opposite coast.
Aside from Schulzs museum, Turner claims that there are ... very few of just Schulzs work ... no more than handful outside of Schulz museum. At the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles, however, Schulz was honored as one of the fifteen cartoonists of the 20th century whose work was displayed as part of this exhibit. In response to whether or not this exhibit will be repeated in the future, Turner believes that it is possible to ... take the show somewhere else ...there are no immediate plans to do it, though.
Admissions to the exhibit and all events are free and open to the public. Students are encouraged to attend.
Great Pumpkin producer recalls how holiday classic for all ages was carved out
September 30, 2006
By Megan Kenny
The Port St. Lucie News [Florida]
When Lee Mendelson met legendary cartoonist Charles M. Schulz in 1963, he had no idea their friendship would yield one of the greatest Halloween heroes of all time The Great Pumpkin.
This months airing of the special Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will mark 40 years since Linus first went to a sincere pumpkin patch to wait for the super vegetable.
Earlier this year, the 73-year-old Mendelson wrote Its the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown The Making of a Television Classic, where he reminisces about how the special made it to the air, and what it was like to work with animator Bill Melendez and Schulz.
In four decades of working together, we never had a single argument, Mendelson said during a telephone interview from his home in California.
Schulz used to say drawing a comic was like writing a term paper every day, but the work only had to last a few seconds. Working out the details of a 25-minute show was a challenge, Mendelson said, and one the cartoonist met.
He was very competitive in a good way, he said. He wanted to do the very best he could do in whatever he was doing, whether it was playing golf or drawing a comic.
Mendelson and Melendez have produced 50 Peanuts specials, five of them since Schulzs death in 2000. None would have happened without The Great Pumpkin, which almost didnt get made.
Even though two previous 1965 specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Charlie Browns All Stars! had won their time slots, network executives told Mendelson the next one had to be a blockbuster, or that was it.
Mendelson assured them it would be, then set upon Schulz and Melendez to make it happen. They slowly decided to have popular bits from the comics -- Lucy pulling the football out from beneath Charlie Brown, Snoopy as a World War I flying ace -- feature prominently. When Schulz mentioned the Great Pumpkin, the idea for a Halloween special came together.
It was there to be done all the time, it never occurred to us, Mendelson said.
The show won its time slot on Oct. 27, 1966, with almost half the country watching.
It still wins.
Port St. Lucie woman's worst Halloween ever
September 30, 2006
By Megan Kenny
The Port St. Lucie News [Florida]
On the night of Charlean Soulignes worst Halloween ever, she found a kindly old friend had died and was refused candy by a mean man who lived a few doors down.
Little did she know the experience would do more than just build character and haunt her memory -- it also might win her a trip to California.
Souligne, of Port St. Lucie, is one of 10 finalists in the Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest, selected by the family of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.
The Halloween special, which first aired Oct. 27, 1966, and tells the now-legendary story of The Great Pumpkin, who comes every year to the most sincere pumpkin patch to bring toys to good children.
The Great Pumpkins biggest fan is Linus Van Pelt, who spends Halloween after Halloween in a pumpkin patch, waiting for his benefactor.
Souligne said shes a Snoopy fan and long-time reader of the comic strip, but would not call herself a fanatic.
However, she does describe herself as a storyteller, and often uses personal anecdotes in the speeches she gives for the local Toastmasters public speaking club.
My daughter saw something on the Internet and said, You should enter this contest. You always have a lot of stories and youve got to have a bad Halloween story in there somewhere, Souligne said.
Souligne, who prefers her age to be kept mum, but agreed to go with young at heart, said she got the news while shopping at Publix. She said she made quite a spectacle jumping up and down in her excitement.