Last year, the country was taken aback by the loss of one of many folks’ favorite Halloween traditions: watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV. The Peanuts Halloween Special based on the comic strip by Charles M. Schulz has been airing each year on Halloween since it premiered in 1966.
The original Halloween special aired on CBS, then moved to ABC from 2001 up until last year, when Apple TV+ acquired the famous broadcast. The Apple TV+ acquisition sparked outrage across the country, as fans who did not have a subscription could not partake in one of their favorite annual traditions.
The backlash was so strong in 2020 that Apple TV+ ended up allowing PBS to air the Peanuts Thanksgiving and Christmas specials. The heads of Apple TV+ learned their lesson about messing with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and this year, they’re making sure they don’t make the same mistake.
In the famous special, Linus writes a letter to the Great Pumpkin, something he does every year. Linus is convinced that the Great Pumpkin delivers gifts to children on Halloween, but nobody believes him except Sally, of course.
Instead of trick or treating with the rest of the gang, Linus and Sally spend Halloween night at the pumpkin patch to wait for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.
Critic Michael Canva of the Washington Post praised animator Bill Melendez’s achievements in bringing Charles M. Schulz’s comic book characters to the screen. Melendez had previously worked on classic Disney films and Looney Tunes shorts before taking his talents to Peanuts.
Lee Mendelson, an Emmy-winning executive producer of the special, told the Washington Post that he, Melendez, and Schulz decided upon the plot very quickly. They knew exactly what they wanted to do story-wise, so it was up to Melendez to set the tone of the special through its visual appeal.
“It is by far the most colorful of the shows,” Mendelson said. “Bill and his team captured the vibrancy of the fall season.”
The way the camera zooms in on the characters was also new. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, the camera remains quite static. The close-up shots in the pumpkin patch were a novel experiment for the Peanuts team.
“Because of this, I think we as viewers are right there in the pumpkin patch with Linus and Sally as she berates him for failing to produce the Great Pumpkin,” Mendelson said.
“Of the 50 prime-time specials we created with Charles Schulz, I believe ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ is Bill Melendez’s animation masterpiece.”
We are happy to report that It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will return to public television this year. You do not need an Apple TV+ subscription in order to join in on the fun!
Watch the special when it airs on PBS and PBS Kids at 7:30 p.m. ET on October 24. Apple TV+ has also made a deal with PBS to allow the public broadcast network to air the Peanuts Thanksgiving and Christmas specials, as well.
Whether this special is one of your family’s favorite Halloween traditions or you’ve never experienced the joy of it before, tune in this year to celebrate as this timeless story returns to the public.