It was the third Peanuts special (and first Halloween special) to be produced and animated by Bill Melendez. Its initial broadcast took place on October 27, 1966 on the CBS network, before the popular sitcom My Three Sons. CBS re-aired the special annually through 2000, with ABC picking up the rights beginning in 2001.
The program was nominated for two Emmy Awards- Outstanding Children's Program (as was Charlie Brown's All-Stars) and Special Classification of Individual Achievement.
It has been issued on home video several times, including a Remastered Deluxe Edition of the special released by Paramount on October 23, 2003 (and on September 2, 2008 by Warner Home Video) with the 1981 special It's Magic, Charlie Brown as a bonus feature.
To celebrate its 40th Anniversary, a retrospective book was published in 2006 entitled, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; The Making of a Television Classic, with the entire script, never-before-seen photographs, storyboard excerpts, and interviews with the original child actors who provided the voices of the Peanuts gang.
The story opens with Linus and Lucy going out into a nearby pumpkin patch to find a pumpkin to use as a jack-o'-lantern. After rejecting a couple of smaller choices by Linus, Lucy points to the biggest pumpkin in the patch, which Linus clumsily rolls back home. When they get home, Lucy takes a big knife and slices into the pumpkin to gut it, at which point a horrified Linus says, "Ohhhh, you didn't tell me you were going to kill it!", and starts crying.
This is followed by an opening sequence, in which trick-or-treaters (dressed as Mr. Hyde, a witch, and three ghosts; most likely the children in the special) get pursued by sinister-looking phantoms representing Halloween. The trick-or-treaters are forced to hide in a nearby pumpkin patch until the coast is clear, at which point the title is shown on screen along with Charles M. Schulz's creator credit, followed by an owl hooting as it flies off a tree branch and towards the audience.
With autumn already in full swing, Charlie Brown is busy raking leaves with Snoopy's help. Linus sees the pile and jumps right in the middle of it, forgetting he had a wet lollipop (called a sucker in this special) in his possession. Moments later Lucy comes with a football for Charlie Brown to kick. He initially refuses but Lucy shows him a contract, which she says promises she will not pull the ball away, but when Charlie Brown is about to kick the ball, she does pull it away, which sends him landing flat on his back, like always.
Later, Linus writes a letter to The Great Pumpkin, to Charlie Brown's disbelief, Snoopy's laughter, Patty's assurance that the Great Pumpkin is a fake, and even to Lucy's violent threat to make Linus stop ("You better cut it out right now or I'll pound you!"). Linus laments in the letter that "more people believe in Santa Claus than in you (The Great Pumpkin), but let's face it; Santa Claus has had more publicity. But being number two, perhaps you try harder" (a tongue-in-cheek jab at Avis Rent-A-Car's popular slogan of the day). Only Sally, Charlie Brown's younger sister, who is in love with Linus, supports him before Charlie Brown takes her away.
After Linus mails his letter to the Great Pumpkin (using his blanket to open the mailbox after Lucy refuses to help), Charlie Brown dances when he receives an invitation to go to Violet's Halloween party. His bubble is quickly burst by Lucy who mentions there were two lists, people to invite and people not to invite; Lucy is certain Charlie Brown's name was on the wrong list.
On Halloween night, the gang gets their costumes ready. Lucy dresses as a witch, while the other kids dress up as ghosts. "Pig-Pen" is easily recognized by his trademark cloud of dust, while Charlie Brown has eyeholes cut out all over his sheet, matter-of-factly stating he had a little trouble with the scissors. Sally asks if she can join the gang trick-or-treating. Lucy explains how to trick-or-treat and Sally asks if it is legal.
Before going trick-or-treating, the gang stops off at the pumpkin patch to make fun of Linus's missing out on all the fun as last year (especially when he asks if they came to sing "pumpkin carols"). Linus remains convinced that the Great Pumpkin will indeed come because he thinks the patch he is in is sincere enough and even convinces Sally to stick around and wait with him. The rest of the gang go off leaving Sally and Linus behind.
During trick-or-treating, everyone else gets assorted candy, gum, apples, cookies, popcorn balls, and even money. However, at every house, Charlie Brown gets the same thing — a rock. After tricks-or-treats, and another quick stop at the pumpkin patch to rib Linus and Sally again, the gang all go off to Violet's Halloween party.Meanwhile, Snoopy, wearing his World War I Flying Ace gear, climbs aboard his Sopwith Camel (in reality, his doghouse) to do battle with the Red Baron. After being shot down, Snoopy makes his way across the countryside, before briefly crashing the Halloween party. He then makes his way to the pumpkin patch where Linus and Sally are still waiting for the Great Pumpkin to show up. Linus hears Snoopy's rustling, and believes it is the Great Pumpkin. When Snoopy (still hidden in the shadows) rises above the pumpkins, Linus promptly faints. When Sally sees it is only Snoopy, she becomes outraged over missing tricks-or-treats and the Halloween party, and threatens to "sue" Linus. She storms out of the pumpkin patch with the other children, leaving Linus by himself, still convinced the Great Pumpkin will come. When promising to put in a good word for them, he accidentally says "If the Great Pumpkin comes", instead of When. After he realizes his mistake, he declares that he is doomed and that "one little slip like that can cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by." The camera then zooms out to reveal the entire pumpkin patch as he calls out, "OH GREAT PUMPKIN, WHERE ARE YOU?!"
When 4:00 a.m. rolls around on November 1, Lucy gets up to check on Linus. Seeing his bed empty, she goes out to the pumpkin patch to find him lying on the ground shivering, covered in his security blanket. She grudgingly walks him home and to his room, taking off his shoes and socks. He passes out in his own bed as she puts the covers on him before angrily walking out of his room.
Later on that day, Linus and Charlie Brown are at the wall talking about the previous night's events. When Charlie Brown tries to console Linus saying "I've done a lot of stupid things in my life, too", Linus blows a fuse and angrily vows to Charlie Brown that the Great Pumpkin will come next year, his ranting continuing as the end credits roll.
- Peter Robbins – Charlie Brown
- Christopher Shea- Linus van Pelt
- Sally Dryer – Lucy van Pelt
- Kathy Steinberg – Sally Brown
- Ann Altieri – Frieda/Violet
- Glenn Mendelson – Schroeder/Shermy
- Gail DeFaria – "Pig-Pen"
- Lisa DeFaria – Patty
- Bill Melendez – Snoopy
5 appears but has no lines
For some unknown reason, many people believe that the first time this special aired on TV, and only the first time, there was an added scene included, in which the Great Pumpkin was actually revealed. However, as the rumor goes, the scene was deleted.
References in other media
- In the Penguins of Madagascar episode "Friend-in-a-box", Skipper and Private look through a ViewMasters as binoculars and Skipper say, "I see a bald kid and his dog sitting in a pumpkin patch, what a block-head." This is most likely Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
- There is an island on Poptropica  called "Great Pumpkin Island", that is based on this TV special. Players have to help Linus wait for the Great Pumpkin, help Charlie Brown play party games, and help Snoopy fight the Red Baron.
- In the South Park episode "Jewpacabra," Cartman is tied to a chain while dressed as a bunny. Kyle wakes up and the following scene is a parody of when Lucy wakes up and drags Linus out of the pumpkin patch.
- In The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror XIX", the third segment, "It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse", is a parody of this special.
- The songs that Schroeder plays on his piano with Snoopy dancing and weeping to the tunes are:
- "It's a Long Way to Tipperary"
- "There's a Long, Long Trail A-winding"
- "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag"
- "Roses of Picardy"
- In the book adaptation, Lucy asks for an extra apple for Linus, but in the special itself, she asks for an extra piece of candy. Either way, she gets the extra treat.
- After this special originally aired, children all over the United States sent candy to Charlie Brown out of sympathy.
- The special was first released on DVD together with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown, the special from Election Day 1972. It was later re-released with the 1981 special It's Magic, Charlie Brown.
- Kathy Steinberg had almost finished recording all her lines of dialog as Sally when the producers received a phone call from her mother informing them that one of Kathy's teeth was loose. Fearing that a sudden lisp would ruin the continuity dialogue, the producers rushed the young actress into the studio to finish recording her lines. Just as Kathy was speaking her last line, the tooth came flying out of her mouth.
- When Snoopy pretends to cross wartime France as a downed pilot, he passes signs pointing to two real locations in the Champagne country northeast of Paris: Chalons sur Marne and Pont a Mousson.
- When Linus walks into the living room after writing a letter to the Great Pumpkin, Lucy is sitting in front of the TV reading a TV Guide. The picture on the cover of the magazine is a picture of Lucy.
- The special was originally jointly sponsored by Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison cakes.
- It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown at the Internet Movie Database.
- It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on the Big Cartoon Database.
- It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on AllMovie.
- It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on Rotten Tomatoes.
- It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV Tropes.
- Quotations from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on Wikiquote.
- There is an article about It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on the Halloween Wiki.