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It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown(TV) (1966)
Will this Halloween be the one when the Great Pumpkin comes? Longtime believer Linus thinks so - and keeps watch all night in the pumpkin patch to welcome him. Charlie Brown gets into the spooky spirit too, dressing up as a ghost with more eyeholes than needed - but not scaring up the usual kinds of Halloween loot when trick-or-treating. Never fear, World War I fighting ace Snoopy is here to battle the Red Baron - and in doing so, crash Violet's Halloween party and Linus' vigil as well.
For more about It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Blu-ray release, see It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 9, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Peter Robbins (I), Christopher Shea (I), Sally Dryer, Kathy Steinberg, Ann Altieri, Glenn Mendelson
Director: Bill Melendez
» See full cast & crew
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Blu-ray Review
It's another worthwhile Double Feature, Charlie Brown!
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 9, 2010
In 1966, the Peanuts gang had something to prove. No, not Charles M. Schulz's endearing tykes. I'm talking about Schulz, director Bill Melendez, executive producer Lee Mendelson and their animation team. After the phenomenal success of A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965 and Charlie Brown All-Stars earlier that year, CBS offered the rising television filmmakers the keys to the network kingdom... on one condition: that they deliver another hit. Failure would spell the end of Peanuts' broadcast run, or so the CBS executives financing and airing the Peanuts specials threatened. Whether or not the network suits were bluffing is thankfully anyone's guess. Schulz, Melendez, and Mendelson delivered of course, attracting a staggering 49% of the television viewing audience and creating a true animated classic in the process. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown not only earned tremendous affection at the time, it went on to become a holiday staple that, like A Charlie Brown Christmas, continues to warm the hearts of kids of all ages.
Once again, simplicity and class allow It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to stand out from the genre pack, new and old. It turns out Linus (voiced by young Chris Shea), Schulz's ever-level-headed grade school philosopher, briefly succumbs to his imagination every year as Halloween approaches. Obsessed with the fabled Great Pumpkin, a mystical toy-bringer he insists rises from a single anointed pumpkin patch each October, Linus decides to forgo trick-or-treating, camp out in his local pumpkin patch and keep watch. After all, he says, "he'll come here because I have the most sincere pumpkin patch and he respects sincerity." Linus' friends are less enthusiastic, berating the young boy for his heartfelt beliefs and inexplicably working to rob him of his joy. His only convert? Sally (Kathy Steinberg), despite being driven by her love of Linus rather than her faith in a supernatural vegetable. Meanwhile, Lucy (Sally Dryer) leads a team of trick-or-treaters around the neighborhood, among them Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins), Patty (Lisa DeFaria), Frieda (Ann Altieri), Schroeder (Glenn Mendelson), Violet (Altieri) Pigpen (Gail DeFaria) and World War I flying ace, Snoopy (Mendelson himself). After collecting as much candy as they can, the gang heads for Violet's house for a proper Halloween celebration, Sally gives Linus a piece of her mind, Snoopy indulges in a bit of World War imagineering and poor Linus, struggling to stay awake, wonders why-oh-why his beloved Great Pumpkin has ignored his pleas yet again.
Like A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown isn't just a cute kids' cartoon. It has something meaningful to say; a message, if you will, about childlike faith and devotion in the face of persecution. Linus is nearly unshakable, his beliefs utterly harmless. Yet Lucy and her brigade are determined to stomp out anything they consider foolish. Even when Linus points out the absurdity of believing in Santa Claus while viciously mocking faith in the Great Pumpkin, his friends cling to their own time-honored beliefs and scoff at his heresy. Whether Linus or Lucy are both right or wrong is beside the point. Schulz is more interested in society's rush to eviscerate beliefs they deem unworthy; to promote one platform or faith by tearing down another. The late cartoonist seems to suggest it isn't about the debate itself, but rather the manner in which the debate is carried out. Sadly, Schulz's subtle commentary on civil unrest and opposing viewpoints is as relevant today as it was in the '60s, leaving one to wonder if we've learned anything at all. Conservatives despite liberals, liberals despise conservatives. The religious right spits on the face of the religious left and vice versa. Tempers are flaring, anger threatens to dominate every political and religious conversation, heated arguments are fueling intolerance... it's ugly out there, and next November's election only promises to stoke the fires further. America is as polarized in 2010 as it was in 1966, and Linus' words of wisdom ring truer than ever. "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin."
But like A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown also doesn't drown its audience in social commentary. Schulz navigates the multi-generational waters with the effortless ease of a lifelong satirist, whispering in the ear of every adult while giving children all the amusing tricks and treats, thrilling flying ace adventures, honest encounters, infectious silliness and down-to-earth hominess of a classic Peanuts production. Snoopy breaks off from his companions, takes to the skies on his dog house and suddenly finds himself trekking across war-torn Europe. Lucy bobs for apples and Schroeder plays World War I tunes on his toy piano. Charlie Brown laments his costume's extra holes and his inability to get anything but rocks in his trick-or-treat bag. Sally throws a tantrum after Linus, mistaking Snoopy for the Great Pumpkin, passes out. Hijinks ensue and fun is had by all (more or less). Moreover, Schulz, Melendez and Mendelson once again rely on young actors to voice their equally young characters, an oft-overlooked detail which, as any parent will tell you, adds tremendous authenticity to the Peanuts films. Enjoyable and entertaining as it is poignant and resonant, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of those rare animated television shorts that quite literally have something to offer everyone. It's just a shame I have to dig so far into the past to find such a wonderful, perfectly balanced holiday TV special to share with my family. Squeaky voiced sponge and quip-hurling penguins this is not.
Surprise! Warner has included a second 25-minute Halloween holiday special on the Blu-ray edition of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: the aptly titled It's Magic, Charlie Brown. Granted, it isn't a timeless classic like its discmate, but it's a fun and funny Halloween treat nonetheless. This time around, Snoopy (voiced again by Melendez), library card in hand, checks out a book about magic, dubs himself the Great Hound-ini, and puts on a stage show for the neighborhood kids. Things don't go exactly as planned though. Franklin (Christopher Donohue) gets a nasty bruise, Peppermint Patty (Brent Hauer) goes to pieces in Snoopy's magic box, Linus (Rocky Reilly) watches helplessly as his blanket is sliced into strips of cloth, Lucy (Sydney Penny) criticizes and complains as usual, and the Great Hound-ini accidentally turns Charlie Brown (Michael Mandy) invisible... a trick the befuddled pup doesn't know how to undo. But while everyone else is left dissatisfied with Snoopy's magic show, Chuck sees a blessing in his curse and finally manages to kick a football from Lucy's hand. As Snoopy races to fix his mistakes and Lucy loses her upper hand, Charlie Brown sets his mind to kicking the football that has haunted his dreams one more time.
As you might have guessed, It's Magic, Charlie Brown isn't a meaty or meaningful holiday special. It's simply an engaging, briskly paced explosion of inspired gusto aimed at the kiddies. Schulz's lovable tots are still imbued with wise-beyond-their-years sensibilities, but any cohesive message is left by the wayside as Snoopy's rambunctious misadventures are shoved into the spotlight. Does that make it any less enjoyable? Not by my estimation, and certainly not by my son's. While I was merely amused, he was entranced; where I chuckled, he burst out laughing; where I smiled, he could barely contain his excitement. Not every Peanuts special is laced with thought-provoking commentary, nor should it be. Among other things, Schulz knew how to strike a balance between raw entertainment and nuanced meta-messages; how to dabble in one, the other or both. He prioritized his characters first and foremost and understood they couldn't always be the pint-sized grownups he often portrayed. It's Magic is just that: a magic act of animated whimsy that gives the Peanuts gang an opportunity to let loose and have a whole lotta fun. And in that regard, Schulz's 21st prime-time television special works wonders.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Blu-ray, Video Quality
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was produced in 1966. It's Magic, Charlie Brown was produced in 1981. Two things that become readily apparent when watching Warner's otherwise reasonably faithful 1080p/VC-1 encoded presentations unfold. Both specials feature lovely colors, relatively crisp lineart, inky black levels and near-perfect contrast, and both transfers preserve the specials' individual grain fields. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is noisier, peppered with print blemishes (an errant hair, slight scuffs and scratches, dirt and specks among them) and noticeably softer than its discmate, but it's hard to expect anything more from a forty-five-year old animated classic, particularly one whose aging source posed so many challenges. And while It's Magic, Charlie Brown isn't pristine either, it is cleaner, sharper and more aesthetically pleasing. Neither special suffers from any significant artifacting, banding, aliasing or compression issues, and every hand-drawn line, cel shadow and brush trail is intact. Warner has clearly gone to admirable lengths to remaster the specials, and only complete frame-by-frame restorations could have possibly improved matters further. I seriously doubt either transfer will put anyone's jaw on the floor, but Peanuts fans will be happy to see the series' third and twenty-first specials look better than ever.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Both It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and It's Magic, Charlie Brown offer an able-bodied DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. But while each mix is warm and sprightly, the specials themselves are front-heavy affairs and nothing more. The LFE channel is rarely summoned, the rear speakers are restrained throughout (music being one of the only elements that extends across the soundfield) and dynamics are passable at best. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining -- I wouldn't expect anything more from a pair of television specials produced when in-home surround sound was still a pipe dream -- I'm just surprised Warner didn't scrap the 5.1 trivialities and go with a pair of lossless stereo tracks. Honestly, the end result wouldn't be much different. But I digress. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown shows its age (voices are a tad gauzy, faint air hiss is a factor and the original recordings are problematic) more than It's Magic, Charlie Brown (which boasts cleaner, clearer sonics), but both specials sound about as good as I imagine they could.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown includes just one feature: "We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown!" (SD, 13 minutes), a fascinating but all-too-brief account of the drama surrounding the third Peanuts television production, the genesis and development of the Great Pumpkin story, and the ultimatum Schulz, Melendez and Mendelson received from CBS.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"Two films for the price of one!" I know, I know... it doesn't sound as exciting when you're referring to two 25-minute television specials, but It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a time-honored holiday classic that belongs in every collection and It's Magic, Charlie Brown isn't too far behind. In my book, that's enough to cough up a twenty. The Blu-ray edition itself features a pair of faithful video transfers, front-heavy but relatively impressive DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, and a single featurette. It isn't a value-packed must-have, I'll admit. But it is worth owning, if for no other reason than to share each special with the budding, bright-eyed animation enthusiasts growing up in your home.
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It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Tom and Jerry, Charlie Brown Blu-ray Announced - May 22, 2010
Warner Home Video has announced two children's animated titles for Blu-ray. On August 24, the studio will release Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes, and on September 7, it will publish the Halloween favorite It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, on a BD/DVD combo ...
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