It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz, first aired on CBS in 1966. The third of the Peanuts animated specials, this was the second holiday-themed one following the sensation that was A Charlie Brown Christmas, and it's become nearly as beloved and iconic as its Yuletide predecessor, having likewise maintained an annual presence on American network television for more than half a century.
As night falls on Halloween, Linus is headed for the local pumpkin patch and, he hopes, the arrival of the Great Pumpkin — a Halloween analogue to Santa Claus which only he believes in. While he and Charlie Brown's sister Sally (who has a crush on him) sit and wait for the Great Pumpkin to show up, the rest of the kids go trick-or-treating and attend a house party. Meanwhile, Snoopy is off on his own pretending to be a World War I flying ace.
Followed by You're in Love, Charlie Brown in 1967, although seasonally, it was followed (somewhat) by You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown, a 1972 special focusing on Linus's election campaign for class president in which he disastrously brings up the Great Pumpkin at a key moment. From 2006 to 2019 ABC followed its annual re-broadcast of It's the Great Pumpkin... with an edited version of You're Not Elected... to fill out an hour-long block; this also worked nicely as a tie-in to fall elections in the United States, which come about a week after Halloween. (The two specials are also paired for at least one DVD release.) The 2004 picture book The Great Pumpkin Strikes Again! revisits the theme, this time with Peppermint Patty being talked into waiting in the pumpkin patch with Linus.
This and other Peanuts specials moved to Apple TV+ streaming in 2020, resulting in Great Pumpkin being left off of linear TV that year for the first time since it was made. The following year, it returned to TV through a deal with PBS and PBS Kids. It did not air on PBS in 2022, however.
This special was adapted into an island on Poptropica, with the same general plot.
It's the Great Tropes, Charlie Brown:
- Arbitrary Skepticism: Linus believes in the Great Pumpkin but not Santa Claus, while Charlie Brown takes the opposite position.Charlie Brown: We're obviously separated by denominational differences.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: After Lucy warns Linus to knock it off with his letter to the Great Pumpkin:Linus: There's three things I've learned never to discuss with people: politics, religion, and the Great Pumpkin.
- Author Appeal: Once again, World War II veteran Charles Schulz reminiscing about his time in France with his Author Avatar Snoopy.
- Bedsheet Ghost: Several kids go as one, including Charlie Brown, who had trouble with the scissors and cut out too many eyeholes.
- Bookends: The show starts with Linus and Lucy going out to the pumpkin patch in the daylight to get a pumpkin, and ends with Lucy going out to the patch in the middle of the night to retrieve Linus.
- Bootstrapped Theme: This was the special where "Linus and Lucy" became the "Peanuts theme". Vince Guaraldi had written it for the unaired A Boy Named Charlie Brown documentary in 1963, used it in a couple of scenes in A Charlie Brown Christmas, but then ignored it for Charlie Brown's All-Stars!, but when it came time to do the score for this special, he decided that it deserved to be highlighted, and the producers obliged by creating a memorable Cold Open that featured it prominently.
- Bowdlerize: Recent ABC airings inexplicably mute Linus uttering the word "sucker". Presumably because of what it rhymes with, even though Linus is using it to describe a lollipop and isn't using it as an insult.
- Over the course of the special, Charlie Brown cuts too many holes in his Bedsheet Ghost costume by accident, gets nothing but rocks while trick-or-treating, has a football pulled away from him at the last second because the document he signed with Lucy for her to not do that "was never notarized", and acts as a model for a jack-o-lantern via having the back of his head drawn on.
- Linus (and by extension Sally) spends Halloween night waiting in a pumpkin patch, only for nothing to happen (unless you count Snoopy's appearance).
- Cheap Costume: The kids all wear costumes of either witches or Bedsheet Ghosts.
- The Chew Toy: Charlie Brown, who goes running to kick the football (only for Lucy to come up with a tricky loophole excuse to break her promise), gets invited to the Halloween party with his head ending up as a jack-o'-lantern model, and goes trick-or-treating with a bagful of rocks instead of candy.
- Civilized Animal: Played with. When Snoopy cries during Schroeder's rendition of "Roses of Picardy," he starts howling, then quickly stops himself and looks embarrassed for allowing himself to behave like a dog.
- Comedic Sociopathy: As noted elsewhere, in order for Charlie Brown to get a bagful of rocks while trick-or-treating, there has to be an entire neighborhood full of adults who would give a kid (and the same specific kid) a rock.
- Comically Missing the Point: After one of the kids instantly recognizes Pig-Pen, he lifts up his ghost costume and asks "How did you know it was me?"
- Conscience Makes You Go Back: Sally is initially against waiting for the Great Pumpkin with Linus, but thanks to her crush on her sweet baboo, she decides to skip trick-or-treating and join him for his sake.
- Creative Closing Credits: The credits are interspersed during Linus' rant at the end. Doubles as an Overly-Long Gag.
- Crisis of Faith: "O Great Pumpkin, where are you?!"
- A Day in the Limelight: Despite the title, it's Linus who's the biggest focus of this one.
- Disney Acid Sequence: The opening credits, consisting of the characters in their costumes running in fright from various typical Halloween monsters before ending up in a pumpkin patch. Also, Snoopy's World War I flying ace Imagine Spot.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Linus' B-plot is basically one for blind faith akin to Millerism and The Great Disappointment.
- Downer Ending:
- Charlie Brown gets nothing but rocks. Sally misses out on trick-or-treating, which is largely her own fault. Linus spends the night in the pumpkin patch, waiting in vain, but learns nothing, and stubbornly vows that the Great Pumpkin will come next year.
- The last scene turns it into a Bittersweet Ending, as Lucy brings Linus back home after he falls asleep in the pumpkin patch, showing him that she cares about her brother despite everything.
- Dub Species Change: The Italian translation changes the Great Pumpkin to the Great Watermelon (Il Grande Cocomero). This is because Halloween in general was an obscure concept in Italy back when the special was originally aired, so the translators went for a recognizable local crop rather than having to explain the significance of pumpkins to Halloween (and it helps that the Great Pumpkin is never actually seen, so Informed Species doesn't apply). The term became an iconic phrase for both the Peanuts franchise and Italian pop culture in general, so it's been kept instead of the more literal translation even as Halloween has become more well-known in Italy.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In this special, Charlie Brown is actually supportive of Snoopy's World War I flying ace fantasies. In later comics and specials, they mostly exasperate him.
- Eat the Camera: The hooting owl in the opening sequence, though in recent years that part is often faded out of network broadcasts.
- Expressive Mask:
- Face Doodling: Sort of. Violet draws a face on the back of Charlie Brown's head as a model for Lucy's Jack-o'-Lantern.
- Faint in Shock: Linus faints when he thinks he sees the Great Pumpkin coming (it's actually Snoopy).
- Fantasy Sequence: "Here's the World War I Flying Ace climbing into the cockpit of his Sopwith Camel..." Then, after he's shot down: "Here's the World War I Flying Ace imagining he's down behind enemy lines, making his way across the French countryside."
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Viewers can actually see rocks dropping into Charlie Brown's bag as the gang goes trick-or-treating.
- Full Moon Silhouette: Snoopy rises out of the pumpkin patch in front of the full moon. Linus notices Snoopy when he thought he was the Great Pumpkin.
- Furry Reminder: Snoopy's Howl of Sorrow at Schroeder's piano rendition of "Roses of Picardy". He promptly covers his mouth in embarrassment, since he's supposed to be acting like a WWI flying ace, not a dog.
- Gigantic Moon: Seen in the background during the famous scene in the Pumpkin Patch when Snoopy rises up, Linus faints, and then Sally rants her The Reason You Suck speech.
- Halloween Costume Characterization:
- Lucy says that the key to a good Halloween costume is to pick something that is the opposite of your personality. She chooses a witch, the joke being that it's actually in line with her crabby personality.
- Charlie Brown wears a botched Bedsheet Ghost costume with at least a dozen scattered eye holes, reflecting his Butt-Monkey status.
- Pig-Pen also dresses as a ghost, in a sheet that's visibly dirty.
- Halloween Special: That being the holiday the gang is celebrating.
- Happy Dance: The little jig Charlie Brown does after getting the invitation to Violet's Halloween party.
- Here We Go Again!: The ending of the special almost accidentally adds a variation of this, due to it's popularity. Linus is angrily ranting at Charlie Brown for thinking Linus wasted his time, vowing "You just wait until next year! I'll find a pumpkin patch that's real sincere!". But of course, when next year rolls around, and the special is back on the air, Linus will again waste his time in a pumpkin patch where the Great Pumpkin never shows up.
- Howl of Sorrow: Snoopy almost blows his cover when he howls during the Halloween party.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Lucy and her witch costume...Lucy: A person should always choose a costume which is in direct contrast to her own personality. (puts witch hat and mask on)
- Which then drives the point home with Lucy saying this after Sally asks if Linus will be with them...Lucy: (wearing witch hat and mask) That stupid blockhead of a brother of mine is out in the pumpkin patch making his yearly fool of himself!
- Which then drives the point home with Lucy saying this after Sally asks if Linus will be with them...
- Linus fervently believes in the Great Pumpkin, yet berates Charlie Brown for still believing in Santa Claus. Conversely, Charlie Brown still believes in Santa, while rolling his eyes at Linus' earnest belief in the Great Pumpkin:Charlie Brown: Who are you writing to, Linus?
Linus: This is the time of year to write to the Great Pumpkin. On Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises out of his pumpkin patch and flies through the air with his bag of toys for all the children!
Charlie Brown: You must be crazy. When are you going to stop believing in something that isn't true?
Linus: When you stop believing in that fellow with a red suit and the white beard who goes, "Ho, ho, ho!"
Charlie Brown: We're obviously separated by denominational differences.
- In the final scene, after Charlie Brown mentions having done stupid things, Linus's rant about next year's Halloween is far from emotionally stable.Charlie Brown: Don't take it too hard, Linus. I've done a lot of stupid things in my life, too.
Linus: Stupid?! What do you mean "stupid"?! Just wait till next year, Charlie Brown. You'll see! Next year at this same time, I'll find a pumpkin patch that is real sincere and I'll sit in that pumpkin patch until the Great Pumpkin appears. He'll rise out of that pumpkin patch and he'll fly through the air with his bag of toys. The Great Pumpkin will appear and I'll be waiting for him! I'll be there! I'll be sitting there in that pumpkin patch... and I'll see the Great Pumpkin. Just wait and see, Charlie Brown. I'll see that Great Pumpkin. I'll see the Great Pumpkin! Just you wait, Charlie Brown. The Great Pumpkin will appear, and I'll be waiting for him...
- Lucy and her witch costume...
- I Got a Rock: The Trope Namer. While all the other kids get candy, cookies, and even money when they go trick-or-treating, Charlie Brown only gets rocks.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lucy is her usual crabby self here, mocking Linus for believing in the Great Pumpkin. However, she does ask for candy for him, too, when she goes trick-or-treating (albeit begrudgingly), and when he does not return home from the pumpkin patch by 4 a.m., she gets out of bed, walks out to the pumpkin patch, leads her brother home and puts him to bed. More than that — it wasn't that he just wasn't home, she set her alarm specifically to get up and check on him.
- Jerkass: Every single neighbor who gave poor Charlie Brown a rock.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Lucy and most of the other kids may be jerks about it, but they are completely correct that Linus' belief in the Great Pumpkin is ridiculous and waiting for it in the pumpkin patch instead of trick-or-treating is a waste of his time.
- Jerkass to One: The neighbors were nice to all the kids except Charlie Brown.
- Kick the Dog: Again, the neighbors that give all the kids candy but keep giving Charlie Brown rocks.
- Loophole Abuse: Lucy gets Charlie Brown to kick the football by showing him a signed document promising she won't pull it away when he kicks. Turns out the document wasn't notarized.
- Loser Protagonist:
- Linus spends the night waiting in the pumpkin patch, hoping that the Great Pumpkin will arrive.
- Charlie Brown gets a bagful of rocks, and his head is used as a jack-o'-lantern model when invited to the Halloween party.
- Love Makes You Dumb: Sally loves Linus so much that she's willing to spend the night sitting in a pumpkin patch with him waiting for the Great Pumpkin. In the end, after realizing she's missed out on all the fun and candy for nothing, she is not pleased with her "sweet baboo".
- Mood Whiplash: Schroeder's playlist alternates between happy and sad songs ("It's a Long Way to Tipperary", "There's a Long, Long Trail A-Winding", "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag", and "Roses of Picardy"). Snoopy reacts with happy dancing or mournful crying as appropriate, eventually becoming so distraught that he leaves the party.
- Never My Fault: Sally blames Linus for missing out on trick-or-treating and the Halloween party due to waiting up for the Great Pumpkin with him. In reality, he didn't force her to stay and the other kids had told her that the whole tradition was stupid. However, she does also blame herself for trusting Linus, saying "what a fool I was."
- New Sound Album: The scores for the first two Peanuts specials were basically Vince Guaraldi on piano with his bassist and drummer, playing full-length Jazz songs, which were overlaid onto the shows and edited or faded as necessary. For this special, John Scott Trotter – a veteran arranger who'd worked with Bing Crosby, among others – was brought in to organize things more. For one thing, Guaraldi could now use more musicians (he added guitar, trumpet and flute for this special). And Trotter had a list of the exact durations needed for each piece, so Guaraldi could now create several variations of differing lengths of the main themes. Trotter stuck around after that, and this more organized and polished approach would be how Guaraldi would do the remainder of his Peanuts work.note
- Notary Nonsense: Lucy invites Charlie Brown to kick a football, which he refuses because she always pulls it away and he falls on his back. Lucy then presents to Charlie Brown a document stating that she won't pull it away, so Charlie Brown runs over to kick the ball. When she pulls it away anyway, she notes that the document wasn't notarized.
- Not on the List: Lucy believes Charlie Brown got invited to the Halloween party by mistake, being put on the list of people to invite rather than the one of people not to invite.
- Oh, Crap!: Linus felt this way when he finds he accidentally said "If the Great Pumpkin comes" instead of "when", worrying he won't be coming (which of course, will never happen).
- Oh, No... Not Again!: Lucy's reaction to finding Linus writing a letter to the Great Pumpkin.Lucy: Not again! Writing a letter to a stupid pumpkin?! You make me the laughingstock of the neighborhood!
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: As soon as Charlie Brown accidentally calls Linus stupid for waiting out in the pumpkin patch, he feels even more foolish when Linus launches into a tirade for next year's Halloween.
- Overly-Long Gag: Linus launching into a tirade in the ending sequence, due to Charlie Brown accidentally calling him stupid for waiting for the Great Pumpkin, which continues throughout the entire end credits.
- Parental Bonus: Arguably, the music Schroeder plays to which Snoopy has various intense reactions. How many of the kids watching are familiar with songs from World War I? Nowadays, it's more like Grandparental Bonus (or Great-Grandparental), but still. "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" is still fairly well-known as a Standard Snippet, but the others are quite obscure now.
- Pet the Dog: While trick-or-treating, Lucy asks one of the houses they visit to give her an extra piece of candy for Linus for the sake of him not coming along in favor of waiting for the Great Pumpkin. Further later in the special she goes out at four in the morning to retrieve him from the pumpkin patch.
- Product Displacement: The opening credits sequence originally ended with two references to the special's original sponsors: the kids running past a scarecrow holding a sign with the Coca-Cola logo, and Snoopy dancing next to a scarecrow with a Dolly Madison sign on its post. Modern broadcasts and home video releases remove these references by ending the main title right when the owl flies towards the camera.
- Pseudo-Santa: Linus believes that on October 31st, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the nicest pumpkin patch, and delivers toys to all the faithful children that believe in him. Linus actually camps out in the town's best pumpkin patch, and Charlie Brown's sister Sally keeps him company. Not because she believes the mythos as much as she's fixated on Linus himself.
- Pumpkin Person: The episode features Charlie Brown being asked to model for a Halloween party. By this, we mean Violet draws a Jack-o'-Lantern face on the back of his head for reference.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Sally gives one to Linus when only Snoopy shows up and sat in a pumpkin patch all night for nothing, and missed trick-or-treating because of it.Sally: I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin when I could've been out for tricks or treats! Halloween is over and I missed it! You blockhead! You kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, and all that came was a BEAGLE! I didn't get a chance to go out for tricks or treats, and it was all your fault! I'll sue! What a fool I was! I could've had candy apples and gum, and cookies and money and all sorts of things! But no! I had to listen to you. You blockhead! What a fool I was. Trick or treats come only once a year! And I missed it by sitting in the pumpkin patch with a blockhead! (grabs Linus by his shirt collar and shakes him angrily)YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!!
- Recursive Canon: At one point Lucy is shown reading an issue of TV Guide with her own picture on the cover.
- Selective Obliviousness: Even after spending all night in the pumpkin patch with nothing to show for it, Linus refuses to accept the Great Pumpkin isn't real. Lampshaded by the page quote.
- Snoopy's imagination sequence about being shot down and trekking to the Halloween party references Wings.
- Writing to the Great Pumpkin, Linus notes that not as many people believe in him as Santa Claus, then adds, "But being number two, perhaps you try harder." This is a reference to an advertising slogan used by Avis Rent-a-Car in the '60s.
- Slasher Smile: Lucy sports a devilish smile while carving up a pumpkin.Linus: You didn't tell me you were gonna kill it!
- Sour Supporter: Sally, who waits with Linus in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin; she still maintains a cynical, disbelieving attitude when she could have gone trick-or-treating and to the Halloween party afterward.
- The Speechless: Snoopy may be a dog who can't talk, but he seems to be treated as good as human by the rest of the cast.
- Stealth Insult: Schroeder makes a subtly snarky diss at Lucy, which she catches onto.Lucy: Alright, alright, let's bob for apples! This is the way to do it!
Schroeder: Yeah, Lucy, you should be good at this! You have the perfect mouth for it! (Lucy angrily stares back)
- Stealth Pun: Snoopy pretends to be a World War I Flying Ace, with his doghouse as his airplane. What is a common term for the kind of aerial combat he was pretending to engage in? Dogfights.
- Sunk Cost Fallacy: By the end, Linus decides that he will wait another year for the Great Pumpkin, even though waiting before has cost him at least two Halloweens and the respect of the entire neighborhood.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Charlie Brown gets invited to Violet's Halloween party after repeatedly being snubbed.
- Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Snoopy in his Flying Ace fantasy.
- Uninvited to the Party: Charlie Brown is invited to a Halloween party, much to his surprise. Lucy then tells him that the little girl who organized the party had actually meant to put him on her "Do Not Invite" list.
- The Unseen: The Red Baron, as well as all adults. And, of course, the Great Pumpkin himself.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: How many watching this special realize that when Snoopy smiles, smiles, smiles as Schroeder is playing "Pack Up Your Troubles", he is doing so in response to the lyrics of the song? Well, perhaps the parents did at the time. (Or grandparents, at least – with the mid-'60s being fifty years after World War I, there was a fair amount of WWI nostalgia going on.)
- Windmill Crusader: Linus' insistence that the Great Pumpkin is real likely makes him this.
- Woman Scorned: Parodied when Sally flips out at Linus for convincing her that the Great Pumpkin exists and having her waste the whole Halloween waiting for it to appear:Linus: You've heard about fury and a woman scorned, haven't you?
Charlie Brown: Yes, I guess I have.
Linus: Well, that's nothing compared to the fury of a woman who has been cheated out of tricks-or-treats.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: It's Sally who suffers the worst luck in this special, thanks to waiting in the pumpkin patch for a figure who obviously doesn't exist. While Charlie Brown does get invited and has a good time at Violet's party despite getting a bag of rocks and being an embarrassing pumpkin model, and Lucy gets some extra candy for Linus, Sally doesn't get anything, because her love for her sweet baboo caused her to miss both trick-or-treating and the Halloween party from believing Linus, and boy, was she upset about it.