Monday, October 25, 2010

Back Injury Theater: Things to Notice in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!"

First off, boo Target. Boo.

Second of all, when I recently reviewed John McLaughlin's Archosauria, which had some... unusual ideas about dinosaur anatomy, and Model a Monster, which had some... unusual ideas about dinosaur extinction, I had no idea there was a connection between the two. Well, according to the Jurassic Albatross blog, there is a connection. And, by the way, the crazy stuff in Model a Monster about how there were humanlike dinosaurs who killed everything with nuclear weapons at the end of the Cretaceous is an actual theory that has actually been proposed.

(I think the "mammals suddenly up and ate all the dinosaur eggs en mass" extinction theory is still more unreal.)

Speaking of unreal, you must read this recent "Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs" post. Because it contains an image that must go mimetic immediately. You will know it when you see it. (If not, my comment there will point it out.)

OK. On to the thing in the title.

Possibly the most beloved of all Halloween specials, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" premiered in 1966. The second special based off the Peanuts comic strips, after "A Charlie Brown Christmas", this is the only older Halloween special that is still shown on television with any reliability (more on that Friday).

That means that you've probably seen it a few times already, and I don't have to tell you how awesome it still is after decades and decades. (If you are a younger viewer, and you've never seen it, hopefully you aren't too jaded to enjoy it.) Instead, this is a list of things you might not have noticed at first:

* - If the "Peanuts" holiday specials weren't so cute and funny, they'd be the most depressing pieces of animation ever shown on television in America. This is a Halloween special that ends with three kids who have no Halloween candy at all, which is tantamount to tragedy in a child's mind.

* - And on top of that, Charlie Brown has a bag of rocks. Now, I know there were real aluminum Christmas trees, so was there ever really a time when adults could punish children with lousy costumes by giving them rocks instead of candy?

* - And on top of that, Linus forgoes trick-or-treating and waits for the Great Pumpkin all night to no avail. Taken another way, the Great Pumpkin has one believer. And the Great Pumpkin is ignoring his one believer.
Essays have been written about this. Long ones.

* - It says a lot about the town in which "Peanuts" takes place that the adults agree to give Lucy extra candy for Linus, after she tells them he is sitting in a pumpkin patch waiting for a "Great Pumpkin".

* - Then again, this is a world where Linus is allowed to sleep outside in a pumpkin patch on a late-autumn night...

* - There is no way that wonderfully strange Red Baron scene would fly today. It's very long, it has nothing to do at all with the rest of the story (save for the payoff in the end), and is an exercise in color and mood.

* - I can't put this feeling into words, so I'll lift this quote from the great X-Entertainment: "Now, there's a big difference between watching the specials on officially released DVDs and videos as opposed to their annual taking over of an all-important prime time slot. There was something extra nice about watching the shows at the same time as millions of others; we all collectively felt the waves of spooky spirit both through Charlie Brown's poorly conceived sheet ghost costume and the many Halloween Happy Meal commercials dispersed between scenes. For those thirty minutes, everything bad in the world took a vacation."

* - And of course, there's Vince Guaraldi's instantly-iconic score running throughout the special. It's hard to imagine how Vince sold the producers on that jazz score for a kid's cartoon, but it's hard to imagine the Peanuts specials working so well with any other composer.


Totally unrelated, but how's this for scary?

Discovered via SlashFilm. Highlights include Simba-Beast's stripey Tim Burton horns, teleporting Gaston, and their incredibly unsettling take on Lumiere.

I gotta tell you, as someone who lived through the heyday of Disney's Bronze Age, I find this trailer oddly comforting. In the early 90's, many many low-budget animation houses made (or more likely scrounged up) the most incredibly cheap knockoffs of every Disney film of the era and released them on video around the same time the Disney films had been in theaters for a while. And I'm not talking about just the Disney movies based upon public domain fairy tales either, they managed to do rips off "Pocahontas", "Hunchback" and so forth as well. Every company came up with a wildly different "Lion King" cash-in. They were taking advantage of the sad fact that some parents didn't realize the difference.

And it should be noted that the animation in these films is almost across-the-board terrible. What always puzzled me is the fact that these studios can get away with this at all. Shouldn't the Disney lawyers smite the pants off them? These are, after all, the same lawyers that started this little public relations nightmare...

Update: And, not surprisingly, GMToons has deleted all their trailers from YouTube. Too bad; I wanted to show you their equally unbelievable "Land Before Time" ripoff too.


Sketch of the day!

10.2.10 Sketchbook Page

I've got plans for this...

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