Oct. 27 marks the 48th anniversary of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the third Peanuts special. And people are still sitting in their pumpkin patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to deem them the most sincere: In 2013, seven million viewers tuned in to watch Lucy, Linus, Charlie Brown and of course, Snoopy.
This year, Peanuts devotees can watch it along with a beautiful new hardcover edition of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: The Making of a Television Classic, out now from HarperCollins.
The book is filled with anecdotes and details about the cartoon’s production, the full shooting script from the show, and a collection of beautiful art from the special, six pieces of which we’re showing you here, with some pertinent details from the book’s text.
Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was so impressed with Bill Melendez’s work – he animated the Peanuts characters in a set of Ford commercials – he decreed Melendez should be the only animator to ever do it again, a promise that held for 40 years.
Dean Spille is the artist responsible for the beautiful watercolor backgrounds in It’s the Great Pumpkin.
Though Vince Guaraldi scored It’s the Great Pumpkin, as he did for 16 Peanuts specials, he was wise about knowing when to leave music out. Guaraldi firmly believed that Snoopy’s Flying Ace battle should feature no music. The segment is stark, with jarring sound effects, and weirdly haunting in the context of the rest of the special.
Though the kids were voiced by a succession of voice actors, Melendez provided the voices for Snoopy and Woodstock by speaking gibberish and speeding up the recording.
Producer Lee Mendelson first met Schulz in 1963 while filming a documentary about the cartoonist, and he offers the following Schulz quote about Charlie Brown’s enduring appeal:
“When I was in grammar school, I skipped ahead a few grades. Suddenly I was the shortest, skinniest and youngest kid in my class. So I was picked on all the time. That’s why I have always been against bullying of any kind at any level. So I guess part of the whole thing with the comic strip is Charlie Brown being picked on all the time and yet he survives he keeps on trying. I assume a lot of people can identify with that.”