It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has become nearly as celebrated as the first in the series, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The film opens with a perfect little vignette where siblings Linus and Lucy go out to select the perfect pumpkin for their jack-o-lantern. Naïve, idealistic little Linus, who we will learn has a unique perspective of what it means to be a kid on Halloween, balks in horror at his older sister as she pulls out a knife and cruelly cuts open and guts what was once a perfectly plump, intact pumpkin. “Awww, you didn’t tell me you were going to kill it!” he sobs.
Though Charlie Brown’s name is in the title, fitfully, he’s really more of a secondary focus in his own film, as the story proper is really more about Linus and his undying faith in the Great Pumpkin, who he claims “rises up out of the pumpkin patch and flies through the air to deliver toys to all the good children everywhere” on Halloween night. The other kids predictably scoff at his unorthodox beliefs, poking fun at his letter-writing and calling him names when he takes a vigilant all-night watch over the “sincerest” pumpkin patch he’s cultivated in lieu of trick-or-treating, all in the hopes of seeing the Great Pumpkin rise up.
What’s so great about the story here is that there’s an obvious but subtle commentary regarding differing belief systems – and it’s a bit appropriate that one of the more religiously contested holidays is used to illustrate this, too. While it’s obvious to the other kids and the audience that Linus’ perspective on Halloween is certainly fringe, at best, our sympathies are obviously meant to be with Linus, who remains admirably unwavering in his beliefs, despite persecution from the other kids. It’s a great lesson that even many adults today should remember when dealing with people who do not share their beliefs, religious or not. “There are three things that I’ve learned never discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin,” Linus reflects.
Disagreement need not call for ad hominem attacks, which rarely, if ever, leads to changing minds. Linus remains devout in his faith in the Great Pumpkin, even despite some encroaching doubts. We see that, even if he and Charlie disagree on things (“You must be crazy. When are you going to stop believing in something that isn’t true?” “When you stop believing in that fellow with a red suit and the white beard who goes, ‘Ho ho ho!’”), they decide to follow the Golden Rule, having discussed it and agreeing to disagree. (“We are obviously separated by denominational differences.”)
I honestly have no fault to find with the film, as I was perfectly entertained by all 25 brisk minutes of its runtime. It’s got the right amount of everything: Charlie Brown’s melancholy existence, Lucy’s brash rationalism, Snoopy’s flights of fancy, Sally’s romanticism, and, best of all, Linus’ unwavering philosophizing. I liked it as a kid and, quite honestly, I like it even more as an adult now that I understand it on a deeper level. It may not be a feature-length film, but if it were released theatrically today, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would be up for the Best Animated Short Oscar.