Not only is tonight Halloween, but it’s also the night that Charlie Brown and the gang go trick-or-treating! “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” is on ABC 15 tonight at 7!
Thanks to the Washington Post, here are 7 things you didn’t know about tonight’s show…
1. The director took Snoopy’s virgin flight as a personal challenge — turning the beagle into a silent star.
“ ‘Great Pumpkin’ was the first time Snoopy flew on the doghouse,” Mendelson tells Comic Riffs. “Sparky said: ‘I wish we could have him fly.’ Bill [Melendez] stood back and said [with mock umbrage]: ‘I can make him fly — I’m an animator! That’s what I do!’ ”
The result was the famed five-minute scene as Snoopy’s strafed flying ace chases the Red Baron. According to Mendelson: “This proved that Snoopy could be a ‘star’ without ever talking.”
2. Schulz filled Charlie Brown’s Halloween bag with rocks to “spite” his colleagues.
“Sparky said that maybe we ought to have Charlie Brown get a rock,” Mendelson recounts to Comic Riffs. “I said, ‘Oh, come on, that’s a little too harsh and cruel.’ But the more I protested, the more he wanted it. And after I protested more, Sparky said: ‘Okay, he’ll get three rocks!’ “
3. For years, sympathetic viewers kept sending candy to Schulz’s studio.
Many viewers might know that in 1966, after “Great Pumpkin” first aired, fans felt sorry for Charlie Brown and his bag of Halloween rocks — so sorry that they sent sweet treats to Schulz’s Northern California studio, in care of the beloved character. What they may not know, according to Mendelson, is that this viewer reaction continued for many years.
4. “Charlie Brown” says he knows which child actor deserves the most praise: Christopher Shea — the voice of Linus Van Pelt.
“If not for Chris Shea, those two specials don’t work,” Peter Robbins says of “Christmas” and “Pumpkin.” “I give him all the credit in the world. I’m like the pitcher who sets him up for each line.” And Shea kept knocking the line-readings out of the park.
5. “Sally Brown” nearly had to be replaced at the last minute.
By the time of “Pumpkin,” Mendelson was voicing the “Peanuts” gang with a mix of “Hollywood” children and kids from his Bay Area neighborhood. One Northern California girl, Kathy Steinberg, was voicing Charlie Brown’s sister Sally. Suddenly, though, Mendelson got a call.
“We had recorded half of [Steinberg’s] lines when I got a call that the girl was about to lose her front tooth. I said: ‘Thank you for telling me.’ And her mom said: ‘You don’t understand — she’ll have a terrible lisp.’
“So we rushed her to our San Francisco studios that night.”
Just in time.
“She lost the tooth the next day,” Mendelson recalls, “and you couldn’t understand her at all.”
6. Some of the kid actors’ lines had to be recorded syllabically — then spliced together.
“My favorite moment,” Mendelson says, “is when [Sally] is yelling at Linus in the pumpkin patch: ‘I demand restitution!’ “
But such words, of course, can be tough for a young grade-schooler.
“I couldn’t get [Kathy Steinberg] to say, ‘restitution,’ “ the producer recalls.
“So it went: ‘Res-ti-tu-tion.”
7. The spark to create the special came from … the network.
Won over by the ratings and interest, it was the suits who made the call. Literally.
“CBS called and said: ‘We need another holiday blockbuster,’ ” Mendelson says. “It was prompting by the network because they wanted another holiday hit.”
“So we sat down and … Sparky said: ‘We’ve got to go with the most obvious holiday — and it’s not Thanksgiving. Why don’t we do the Great Pumpkin?’ “
On Oct. 27, 1966, the 25-minute animated special found its way to roughly half the nation’s TV screens. The next year, the show would garner its three Emmy nods.
And the phrase “I got a rock” entered the national parlance.