It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown: A Look Back at a Beloved Classic

James Logie

'It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown' is a Halloween special from 1966 that aired during prime time on CBS.

It’s based on the Peanut’s comic strip and tells the story of Linus’ search for the Great Pumpkin.

Like Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, this is a holiday special that has been adopted by multiple generations. Even though it came out in the 1960s, kids who grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s have adopted it for their own.

This is a look back on one of the most beloved holiday specials of all time: It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

A Quick Plot Recap

The special starts out with Lucy and Linus at the local pumpkin patch trying to find the biggest one they can.

The rest of the Peanut’s gang is also preparing for Halloween while we get the classic Lucy/Charlie Brown trying to kick a football gag.

This was actually the first time we would ever saw this gag in an animated special.

Linus is a believer in the Great Pumpkin which acts like a Santa Claus delivering presents on Halloween night. He is mocked by everyone for his belief but doesn’t give up and continues to write letters to it.

Little Sally is the only one who believes him and agrees to skip trick-or-treating to wait all night in a pumpkin patch with him.

We see the other characters going out for candy except for Charlie Brown who only has a bag full of rocks.

There’s a party at Violet's and we see Snoopy in his World War 1 Flying Ace costume flying atop his doghouse battling the Red Baron.

He then heads to the party and ends up kissing Lucy while bobbing for apples.

Linus is still in the pumpkin patch and thinks he sees the Great Pumpkin. It turns out to be Snoopy. He passes out and when he comes to, he refuses to give up and stays there until 4 am.

Lucy has had enough and takes her brother home. Linus and Charlie Brown commiserate about the events of the evening with Linus vowing that the Great Pumpkin will definitely come next year.

Production of 'It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown'

This special came about when some TV sponsors saw a documentary about Charles Shultz. They wondered if this comic strip could be animated as this may lend itself to some good advertising possibilities.

This is what led to a Charlie Brown Christmas which was a monster hit. On the night it first aired--December 9, 1965--half of all television viewers watched it.

The idea for 'It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown' was based on the idea of Santa. It was also adopted from a few specific comic strips.

A lot of hope and disappointment have always surrounded Santa Claus and they wanted to reflect this with the Great Pumpkin. It was also a subtle dig at the absurdity of how families and kids still use the tradition of Santa.

This special first aired on October 27th, 1966. It was actually the third Peanut’s special after A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown’s All-Stars.

There have been many Charlie Brown specials, but none made the impact of the Christmas and Halloween specials as they continue to be shown every year.

CBS ran it every year until the year 2000 when ABC picked up the rights. They have continued to show in annually since 2001. In 2019, they started airing it twice.

The Success of the Special to This Day

Charlie Brown specials provide a feeling of comfort for most people. This is because it appeals to those who watched it when it first aired in 1966 or whenever it was watched for the first time.

'It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown' is still a ratings success and in 2018 managed to pull in 6.28 million viewers despite airing in early October.

When it aired for the first time in 2019, it was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.

This special is unique as it brings in a wide demographic of people. It’s not just baby boomers that look back on it with nostalgia, but over 2 million of the viewers are in the prized demographic of 18-49.

This is because a large majority of them grew up watching it in the 70s and 80s and want to relive it every year.

Six million viewers may not sound like a lot, but in this day in age: it is. It still regularly beats other top competitors in its time slot even though people have seen this special dozens and dozens of times.

Fun Facts

  • Kathy Steinberg--who did the voice of Sally--had to be rushed to get her lines done as she was about to lose a tooth and the lisp would have affected her readings
  • The fact that Charlie Brown received rocks actually angered viewers and fellow kids would send candy to Shultz’s office for years. The candy would be addressed to “Charlie Brown”
  • The girl who recorded the voice of Lucy would get so nervous to do her lines that she would throw up after every take
  • The network needed another special they could run every year, and if it hadn't have been a hit, we probably wouldn't have had any more Peanuts specials ever again

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Personal trainer, podcaster, Amazon best-selling author. Writing about some health, a little marketing, and a whole lot of 1980s.


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