Friday, November 1, 2013

You're Almost 50 Years Old, Charlie Brown

A longstanding tradition in the Colleran household is the annual watching of Charlie Brown Holiday specials. While I enjoy the slightly mediocre (but still heartwarming) Thanksgiving episode and love the anti-consumerism, holiday-spirit fueled Christmas episode, the Halloween special may be my all time favorite Peanuts cartoon. In the spirit of Halloween (and the 47th anniversary of its release in 1966) I decided to keep the family tradition alive and watch the special yet again.

Upon first glance, there's really not a whole lot to "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." The animation is extremely crude and doesn't hold up at all to what we're accustomed to today. The voice acting is weird and awkward. And the story is kind of all over the place, splitting the 25 minute episode into Linus desperately waiting for the Great Pumpkin to visit his pumpkin patch, Charlie Brown trick or treating with the rest of the gang, and Snoopy...taking off on his dog house and fighting the Red Baron.

However, the Great Pumpkin is so much more to me than that. The animation is beautifully simplistic, with solid colors hilariously being used as backgrounds 50% of the time and Linus' hair shooting straight out from his head whenever he's excited or scared. The voice acting is weird and awkward, but it's also authentic, because all of the voices were recorded by real kids. And the story. In part, it's the story of a naive child who gets his expectations up over something that's not real, only to have them coming crashing down around him later on. For the most part, though, it's simply the story of kids celebrating Halloween and being as mean as possible to Charlie Brown.

Poor, poor Charlie Brown. The guy just can't catch a break. Whether he's being forced to use the back of his head to model for a pumpkin carving or getting a rock at every house he trick or treats at (the line "I got a rock" gets me every. Single. Time. The delivery is just so deadpan and perfect), Charlie Brown ends up having just as bad of a Halloween as Linus does. This in and of itself says a lot about the time period; Charlie Brown is just mercilessly bullied the entire special without any consequence. At least in the Christmas special he gets his tiny, pathetic tree decorated by everyone, but there's just no redemption for him this time around.

Anyway, there's so much more that could be picked apart and analyzed about this particular holiday special (Snoopy's weird, PTSD-esque fantasy/dream being a big part of that) but I'd much rather just take the Great Pumpkin at face value. It's fun, it's mindless, and to me at least, it encapsulates everything that the Fall season should be. In the words of Linus: "I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far at the eye can see."

No comments: