Ah, here we are friends. October 31, All Hallow’s Eve, the festival of Samhain, the night when the spirits of the dead and damned roam the world to exact their terrible vengeance upon the living. How better to spend the night, then, than with a blanked-toting kid sitting in a pumpkin patch?
To close our Halloween Party here at Evertime Realms, I’m going to give you a review of the new Deluxe Edition DVD of that perennial favorite, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I’ve talked about this special in previous Halloween parties, of course, but this new DVD demands new scrutiny. Great Pumpkin is, of course, my favorite Halloween special of all time, and it is second only to A Charlie Brown Christmas in the hierarchy of great Peanuts specials. On Halloween night, while the rest of the gang is preparing for an evening of trick-or-treating (followed by a big bash at Violet’s house), Linus is instead preparing to spend an evening sitting in a pumpkin patch, awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. This mythical creature arises from the most sincere pumpkin patch each year, flying through the air with his bag full of toys for all the good boys and girls.
This bizarre predilection of Linus’s has always confounded me, albeit in a good way. How does a kid who, otherwise, is the town genius, conjure up this fundamental misunderstanding of Halloween? Did some truly sadistic adult tell him about it as a prank? Come to think of it, it’s the sort of thing I would attribute to big sister Lucy, if it weren’t for the fact that she gets so mad at him every time he starts talking about the gargantuan gourd. Did he just imagine it himself – possible – and somehow convince himself that it was a long-standing tradition? And how exactly does one cultivate a belief in something no one else believes in? Other legends are taught and passed down. Is it some sort of dementia? We’re getting into some deep psychological territory here, friends, and frankly, it’s making me uncomfortable, so let’s move on and talk about the beagle that flies the doghouse.
Aside from the story of Linus and the Great Pumpkin, the other interesting thing about this special is that it begins the animated version of Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace, one of the little elements from the comic strip that made it legendary. The animation here is truly amazing, and the way Snoopy’s story flows into Linus’s at the end is wonderfully entertaining.
Although I’m no expert on things like DVD picture and sound quality, I was pretty impressed by how this cartoon looked. The picture was clean, and I could hear every syllable of dialogue and every pristine note in Vince Guaraldi’s classic musical score. We’ve all seen the special a trillion times, you don’t need me to tell you how good it is, but you can take my word that the DVD (on my meager setup, at least) is as good as it could possibly be.
Like all Peanuts DVDs, this one comes with a bonus cartoon. The backup from the previous DVD release, You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown, has been spun off onto its own DVD (which, now that I think about it, would be fun to review on Tuesday), so this edition includes a new-to-DVD cartoon, the 1981 short It’s Magic, Charlie Brown. In this cartoon, Snoopy’s attempt at a magic show goes away when he makes Charlie Brown invisible and can’t change him back. Ol’ Chuck, although initially dismayed, soon sees this as an opportunity to dish out some karmic justice.
While not every Peanuts special has achieved the brilliance of Great Pumpkin or the first Christmas cartoon, almost all of them have some redeeming quality, something to enjoy. This may be the first Peanuts cartoon I have wholly disliked. There are two main reasons here. First, the idea of Snoopy actually performing “real” magic bothers me. It disrupts the basic reality of the Peanuts world. And yes, I am aware that I’m discussing the realism of a cartoon featuring a dog who thinks he’s a World War I Flying Ace, but at least he only defies physics in his mind. This was a jarring cartoon, and I couldn’t really accept it.
The second reason may seem geeky even by my standards, but I’m sticking to it. Spoiler warning – if you’re really concerned about not knowing how this cartoon ends, skip ahead to where I discuss the new documentary on this disc.
Are they gone? Good. The other thing that bugs me about this cartoon is that, while invisible, Charlie Brown actually kicks Lucy’s football. This is practically sacrilege to me. Charles Schulz was always firm that Charlie Brown never kick the football, not even in the very last comic strip. It takes something away from who Charlie Brown is. So when he kicks the ball not just once, but repeatedly, something in my gut churned to a stop and I said, “Whoa. That ain’t right.”
The last feature on the disc is a new short documentary, We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown. This feature goes behind-the-scenes of the creation of the Great Pumpkin special. After the fantastic success of the first two cartoons, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown’s All-Stars, the network wanted another blockbuster hit. This documentary, through interviews with Schulz’s family and the late producer Bill Melendez, traces the creation of the cartoon from its early stages to its status as a holiday classic. It’s a really interesting look back at this beloved film, and for the hard-core Peanuts fan (like myself) it’s more than enough to justify purchasing the DVD even if you have the original DVD release.
Well, gang, that’s just about it. I should be back tomorrow with a photo roundup from Halloween night, but we’re done with this year’s Halloween Party. I really hope everyone enjoyed it (although I’d reeeeeally like it if you guys were more vocal about it). Anyway, just in case you missed anything, here’s a checklist of everything we covered in the party this year:
The Restless Dead of Siegel City:
- The Best Halloween Ever (Seasonal sequel to a Christmas classic)
- Brutal Massacre: A Comedy (Fun mockumentary)
- DC Universe Halloween Special 2008 (New comic book)
- Dead and Breakfast (Underwhelming horror/comedy)
- Diary of the Dead (George Romero’s latest zombie flick)
- Disney’s Halloween Treat (Classic TV special)
- Ghostbusters: The Other Side #1 (New comic book series)
- Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (Great documentary for horror fans)
- Lost Boys: The Tribe/Reign of Frogs (New movie and comic book following the cult favorite film)
- Marvel Zombies 3 #1 (Third volume of the hit series)
- Mickey’s House of Villains (Fun animated movie)
- Return of the Living Dead Part II (Second film in a B-movie hit series)
- The Showcase Crew Versus Michael Myers (Reviews of all nine Halloween movies)
- The Takeover (Zombie Podcast Drama)
- The Vampire Survival Guide (Cool monster book)
- Yokai Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide (New book that peers into some old monsters)
- Done-In-Ones For October 4, 2008: In which I review House of Mystery #6; Jonah Hex #36; PS238 #34; PVP #40; Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #14 & Wolverine: Origins #28
- Done-In-Ones For October 11, 2008: In which I review Betty #176; Ender’s Game: Battle School #1; Futurama Comics #39; Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #19; The Lone Ranger #14; Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #44; My Name is Bruce #1; The Stand: Captain Trips #2; Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #695; Wild Cards: The Hard Call #4; X-Men: Original Sin #1 & Zorro #7
- Done-In-Ones For October 18, 2008: In which I review Air #3; Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #3; Doctor Who: The Forgotten #1; Dynamo 5 #17; Halloween: The First Death of Laurie Strode #1; Madman Atomic Comics #11; The Phantom #25; PVP #41; Skrulls vs. Power Pack #4; Superfriends #8 & Zorro #8
- Done-In-Ones For October 25, 2008: In which I review The Family Dynamic #3, Noble Causes #37 & Tangent: Superman’s Reign #8
Everything But Imaginary Columns:
2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts: