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Color design in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Just in time for Halloween, artist Justin Hilden examines the color choices in Bill Melendez’s It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Read his illustrated essay here.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Cool! Thanks!

  • Very interesting post! This is my absolute favorite animated TV special. The colors and background study are interesting to note….I always felt like the atmosphere they created really captured the feeling in the air this time of year. You can almost feel the crisp night air and the smell of leaves when you watch it.

  • Jason

    I like “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, “Charlie Brown’s All-Stars”, and “It’s The Great Pumpkin etc.” But I hate all the other Peanuts specials. The reason being that Melendez started drifting away from Charles Schulz’s character designs toward a sloppier, loopier interpretation, and the characters looked hideous. Much of the tone and humor of the strips were lost too. And Snoopy became insufferable. Of course he became insufferable in the strip too, but the cartoons accelerated that process.

  • Tony W.

    I always had a strong feeling of mood whenever I watched it. Mr. Hilden really helped me understand how they went about instilling those nearly unconscious emotions into the audience. Good stuff!

  • This is my favorite special from the Peanuts. What a great article about the moods in color of the show. Thanks for the post…

  • JP

    A brilliant post!

  • Great article! Although I almost stopped reading when he said that “The Great Pumpkin is not high art”, madness!

  • dan

    I’ve seen the Great Pumpkin maybe a million times. I absolutely love it. And this essay was brilliant! Awesome to see the different shots broken down like that. They really did capture the mood of Halloween night perfectly!

  • I’d rather watch the Charlie Brown holiday specials (Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving) than any feature animation offered by today’s major studios. There’s an emotional warmth and depth present on these works, almost like analog records.

    There’s always a jarring shock every December when A Charlie Brown Christmas, the beloved classic, is followed by a later, more “modern” Peanuts Christmas cartoon. It’s enough to leave me in awe that Bill Melendez and Charles Shultz ever pulled it off way back when.

  • Anybody know if this is related the “Graphic Blandishment” they always mentioned in Peanuts credits? Every time I watch an old Peanuts special I always wonder what the heck that means.

  • This is one of our favorites!

  • christy

    i got the chills reading that essay. i remember being SO EXCITED to watch that every year (before vcr’s and internet!!!!) and we’d watch it with our mom who also loved it…they were so wholesome and great and special. same goes for the christmas special. they really captured something powerful and special!

  • Great Pumpkin is one of my all-time favorite cartoons & Bill Melendez is one of my all-time favorite animation directors (can’t get a better combination than that).

  • John A

    In my opinion, all the early TV specials were excellent, even the infrequently aired “He’s Your Dog Charlie Brown” and “You’re in Love, Charlie Brown”. They really captured life in the mid-1960s.

    Although one has nothing to do with the other, I think the quality of the Charlie Brown specials went into decline after they replaced Peter Robbins as the voice of Charlie Brown (his last appearance was in the feature “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”.)

  • Aaorn L, I had the same question. A wiseguy whose first real name sounds like a Schoolhouse Rock character- and he answered that it was “ink and paint”.

  • Those colors are 1970s dayglo tie-dye hideous. What the heck is he talking about?

  • PEZ

    Justin, thank you for taking the time to write this essay and share your discoveries with all of us.