Charlie Brown

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown turns 50

img_0119

The classic American television program It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown first aired on October 27, 1966. And old pal, these last 50 years have been great for the holiday classic.

It speaks volumes when a piece of work remains entirely undated, even five decades after it’s release. The Peanuts shows and films never spoke down to children, but directly to them, and it has made for a fine body of work that is still charming, even to adults. From the music to the various plots and subplots to the excellent jokes (“I got a rock.”), It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is certain to be around for many more years to come.

I have an extreme personal attachment to this show that started really late in my life, actually. While I loved it as a child, it wasn’t until the first autumn I lived away from home that I really grew my love for it. During those first few years, I had a series of unfortunate personal tragedies in my life. Like a warm blanket, I always turned to the Great Pumpkin to help me through things.

Heck, I own two copies of the thing on DVD. One to watch in the US and one for UK viewings. My poor husband has suffered through so many viewings, bless him. But despite being slow to understand the Peanuts gang charms, he has made the solid effort of actually suggesting we watch it.

I love that Charlie and Snoopy will always be there. I love that Vince Guaraldi’s score still sounds like perfection. When we think about autumn and everything that goes with the season: the pumpkins, the hot drinks and cold nights – none of it would ever be complete without watching this classic one more time.

What to watch for Halloween with children (if they like things a little bit spooky)

halloweenkids

An American in America age 6 with some ghoul.

My parents were probably the worst at keeping me in check when I was young. They certainly didn’t care about what sort of mind-ruining things I’d see on television. Like when I was barely seven and I watched the opening of Scream 2 while on a trip up north. I still feel a bit terrified in movie theatre bathrooms. And until about a year ago I couldn’t sleep in any position that left my back exposed in case the Ghostface killer came into my bedroom and decided to stab me in the back.

When I was even younger I was subjected to Leprechaun 3 and watched a man get sawed in half by a wicked-looking mythical creature. I still can’t sleep on my back. And don’t even get me started on Mars Attacks! I was constantly terrorised by my two older sisters and my father with their masks and plastic creatures. But in a way, I’m a bit thankful for all those nightmares. For one, I was always queen of Halloween.

I suppose that’s where my little affection for everything spooky came from. Though I really don’t recommend showing your children I Know What You Did Last Summer (whether they be 6 or, well, ever because that movie is crap). But there is thankfully plenty of age-appropriate things for children to watch for Halloween. Or, you know, for those with a weaker constitution who want a scare but only like the volume at 4.

Horror really isn’t for everyone. But I do think it’s good to scare children and give them some gentle nightmares. If even just a little. So I’ve compiled my favourite picks for some gentle Halloween scares:

1. Halloween is Grinch Night (1977)

I still get the creeps watching this. Perhaps it’s that peculiar Seuss rhyme, or the surrealist animation, but really it’s that song. I revisited Halloween is Grinch Night last year, and the words to that haunting song came back to me instantly, “Euchariah! Euchariah! Grinch is gonna get ‘cha! Grinch is gonna get ‘cha!” It’s perfectly spooky. There isn’t much to the plot: Euchariah goes to face the Grinch on Grinch Night, the night where the Grinch likes to terrorise the Whos in Whoville. It’s simple, but certainly effective.

2. Coraline (2009)

Besides being one of the most beautifully animated films of the last decade, Coraline is a tale of warning and love. Young Coraline and her family move to a new town where she isn’t allowed to do anything while her parents are busy trying to get their work done. She wishes for a better place to live where her parents pay her more attention and the local neighbours a little more tolerable. But when she thinks she gets what she asks for, things certainly aren’t what they seem.

Coraline packs plenty of magic into the story while still making it terrifying. I think this is a better alternative to watching The Nightmare Before Christmas (both of which were directed by Henry Selick).

3. It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

I’m so biased with this one, but I absolutely adore this TV special to the point where I watch it nearly every other month or so. It’s a classic. Charlie Brown gets rocks for trick or treats. Linus spends all night in the pumpkin patch. Vince Guaraldi’s score here is on par with the classic Christmas special. Perhaps I’ll stop writing and watch it now…

4. Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost (1999)

It’s like the Blair Witch Project but for kids! Okay, not really, but the late 90’s were some excellent times for witch stories. Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost is one of the more mature and thus more tolerable of the Scooby Doo movies. It’s not as scary as the previous year’s Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, but I personally prefer the style of this one. And it’s a great place to start kids off on a classic cartoon character.

Scooby Doo and the Mystery Gang travel to New England after being invited by a popular horror writers. The town has a local ghost, who is rumoured to be a witch from the 16oo’s. The movie is just filled with great imagery that is perfect for October.

“Baaaaad dreams, sisters.”

scoobywitch

5. The Groovie Ghoolies (1970-1971)

This is hardly scary, but it has monsters AND Sabrina. This spin-off of Sabrina (also known as Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies) is rather looked-over as far as Archie franchises. But a few episodes of this show are worth a little laugh. Many of the episodes are available to watch for free on YouTube.  The show follows a group of stylised Universal monster characters that live in a house together and sing pop songs. That’s about it. But it’s pretty cute and gentle.

But there’s plenty of monster-themed goodness from the 60’s and 70’s that are family friendly, including The Munsters which is possibly one of the more better-aged shows from the era.

6. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985)

This show is terrifying based on Binky the Clown’s appearance alone. But Garfield is so lovely (and so is Lorenzo Music’s voice). Garfield and Odie go trick-or-treating together on Halloween night. They hop into a boat, which leads them to an old house. An old man is sitting in a chair by the fire, who tells the two pets to stay while he tells them a story about a group of pirates who vow to return for their treasure on Halloween night, 100 years after they buried it.

Garfield’s Halloween Adventure is a bit darker than Garfield usually is, but that’s all you can hope for in a Halloween special. The old man builds up the story just great, and it balances well with the typical silliness of Garfield and friends.

garfield

Vinyl Friday #25: The Original Cast Album of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”

P1010196 My thoughts for Vinyl Friday for the month of October was to choose some more “Halloween”-type albums. Turns out, I don’t really own any, but this one is orange and it certainly scares the crap out of me. So kids, here is the original cast recording of the Off-Broadway production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time now, you’ll know that I am a massive Vince Guaraldi fan. None of his Charlie Brown music is featured in this 1967 musical. The music was actually composed by Clark Gesner, who has written some rather nice songs for the production. But I hate musicals, and this isn’t an exception to the rule. I know it’s a popular production, but adults acting like small children really unsettles me instead of entertaining me. It’s a shame because I actually really like the music. I just can’t ever un-see that back cover. The music doesn’t hold a candle to anything Guaraldi did, but I suppose that’s just comparing apples and oranges.

But I think the most horrifying part of this album is the sound quality. Incidentally, the first release of this album was recorded during a live performance. The cast hated the quality so badly, they went into a studio to record it. Somehow it still ended up not being great. As I mentioned before, the songs are nice but they don’t make a great soundtrack of just stand-alone songs. There isn’t any dialogue included, so it jumps from song to song and includes all the really long, strange instrumentals.

FYI – it does NOT sound great in stereo. Thanks for that bullshit, cover.

So why do I have this album in my collection? Well, it’s one of the few things I ever inherited. My grandmother’s cousin died when I was in high school. I never met the man, but we had many similar interests. We both enjoyed the same types of classical music, enjoyed writing and of course, liked Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. He’s the man I inherited my 1990 Ford Probe from (RIP Big Red). So even though I would rather listen to the sound of nails on a chalkboard, I do feel a real sense of fondness for this particular album. I hope one day it grows on me and I’ll find more of an interest in it, but for now it just remains one part of my collection that I want to hide from.

P1010197

The Heartburn Waltz

Be-my-valentine-charlie-brown

Now that Valentine’s Day is over, I’m a bit sorry I was cynical. I am not single or alone. Many of us have lives filled with people who love us.

Today, my mom and I watched both Charlie Brown Valentine’s Day shows that were on ABC on Friday. They are just sweet enough to get a tooth ache, but through it all the best part is (of course) Vince Guaraldi’s music, especially the frilly “Heartburn Waltz” that dances in and out of the original 1975 Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.

In the show, Charlie Brown doesn’t receive any cards for Valentine’s Day until some girls feel rather guilty for forgetting. According to the Peanuts documentary, children all over America felt so sorry for the poor cartoon boy that they sent him cards. It’s that sweetness that’s worth remember on a day that can be so cynical.

On a side note, the Valentine’s special was at a five-year ratings high. Loving that the shows are still getting, well, loving all these decades past.

Wicked Wednesday – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Are there people out there who still deeply care about Halloween even 12 days after?

I’m not sure if I want to know the answer, but it’s certainly a yes for me.

If there is one thing I do every year, it’s watch the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Every year it’s the same 20-minute special filled with rocks, sheet ghost costumes and of course: a giant pumpkin patch. Even though the holiday has since passed, the DVD (the only one I have from back home) is still played regularly and even at odd moments over the course of the year. June included.

But there is something so sweet and special about this television special. Anything Charles Schultz or Bill Melendez waved their hands over, really, seems to have a bit of extra magic. Even from the first scene of the picking of the perfect pumpkin or the scene of Snoopy helping Charlie make the piles of leaves, and he little side story about the World War 1 flying ace is still hilarious (because who doesn’t want to see a beagle fight the Red Baron and get emotion to the tunes on Schroeder’s piano?). It might not be for everyone, but we all have something that is familiar and warm. I feel most comfortable (and comforted) watching the cartoon, and I suppose that’s why it will alway feel special.

People give up on Halloween too easily. When can costume parties and pumpkins be an all-year treat? Well, even if Halloween isn’t for you (or even if the idea of a year-round fancy dress seems a bit excessive), it is very difficult to deny that Vince Guaraldi’s “Great Pumpkin Waltz” is one of the most beautiful tunes to listen to all autumn.