Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. This is a little something special, a little something extra for you. Hope you're enjoying Spooky season. We thought we would just revisit, the Great Pumpkin episode. It's been remastered by our fantastic producer, Liz Sumner. We know that our audio wasn't always the best at the very beginning of this thing, but, you know, hey, we tried our best. So we thought we would give you another chance here at Halloween to go along with us through all the strips that were adapted into the Great Pumpkin Halloween special. Joshua Stauffer, our super listener from Lancaster, PA, put together a little PDF document that you can download from our website that you can follow along with, which is his comments on those strips. Yeah, it's fun. I have always loved the Great Pumpkin. I like Halloween. I enjoy this time of year. Guys, you got anything to add to this before we go back to the classic?
Harold: So if you want to see It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown this year, it's behind a paywall. It's on, the, Apple plus. Is that what it's called?
Harold: and they have all sorts of new Peanuts material as well, the Snoopy Show and a bunch of other things. So it is available. And Apple Plus is investing a lot in new Peanuts material, so check them out.
Jimmy: Hey, Michael, is there any chance that, you're going to tell us about, what horrible thing happened to you at Halloween that you promised you would never tell us?
Michael: I've already erased it from my memory banks. It's gone.
Jimmy: All right, so I guess not. So sit back and enjoy a remastering of The Great Pumpkin, and happy Halloween.
Jimmy: Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. We have a very special episode for you today. We're talking about the Great Pumpkin, because that time of year, it's Spooky season. The pumpkin lattes are flowing, the leaves are on the ground, and we're all in our very sincere pumpkin patches waiting for the Great Pumpkin. Hope you're doing well. Hope no ghouls and goblins got you.
I'm Jimmy Gownley. I'm your host for today. And I'm also the cartoonist behind Amelia Rules, Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up book, and The Dumbest Idea Ever. Joining me, as always, are my pals co hosts and fellow cartoonists. He's a playwright and composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He co created the first comic book, Price Guide, and was the original editor for Amelia Rules. He is also the cartoonist behind Strange Attractors, Tangled River and A Gathering of spells. Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey, there.
Jimmy: And he's the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics and the current creator of the Instagram comic strip. Sweetest beasts. Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: Well guys, I'm so happy to be here with you today. Talking about a really iconic part of the Peanuts comic strip and the whole Peanuts brand identity, the Great Pumpkin. I personally was a big Halloween fan growing up. I don't know about you guys. How was Halloween for you guys?
Michael: Severely traumatized as a kid and tried to ignore it ever since.
Jimmy: And you are not prepared to share your traumatizing story?
Michael: No. I'll tell you, if we have 1000 people writing in asking for my story. I will reveal it.
Harold: Wow. On the website we'll start what are, those petition websites? We can get one of those going.
Jimmy: Yeah, right. So I can come up with 500 fake names. Harold, can you?
Harold: Yeah, I think Joseph Stromboli is a good start.
Jimmy: All right, so you're traumatized by it. So no enjoyment even later. Didn't, just ignore Halloween always?
Michael: Yes. Hated it.
Jimmy: How about you, Harold?
Harold: I love the candy. I must admit we didn't have a whole lot of it in the household except around Halloween time. So it was important to go do the rounds, for Halloween. I think the last year I did it, I was eleven years old and you're on the cusp, you're like, should I go? Should I not go? And I was a paper boy at the time, so I went as a paper boy. I was pretty lame.
Jimmy: So you went as yourself?
Harold: Yeah. Well, they didn't know that I'm going around at six in the morning. They're not up to see me. So they didn't know if I borrowed the bag.
Jimmy: Wow. So you were first off, a paper boy. That is the most grueling, unrewarding-- why on earth would you be a paper boy?
Harold: I wanted to earn some money. It was to have some independence. I split it with my sister and boy, it was rough because we were in one of those sprawling suburban, hilly neighborhoods. and boy, we made the mistake of putting, the newspaper inside the screen door the first week for everybody. And it's like now it's expected. Then you had to do it. Yeah. So it took a long time, I think. Yeah. We earned like it was some crazy small amount. It was like, in the under a dollar range, probably per person. And we were out there for an hour or so. But I did enjoy it. I did it for a year. It was a great experience. My dad had been a paper boy, so it was in the family. He'd always told these crazy stories. So I thought, I got to be a paper boy. So I was kind of proud to be the paper boy in Halloween. But yeah, I was also extremely lazy.
Jimmy: Well, I loved Halloween. I still really like Halloween. I love it. It's a lot less pressure than the other holidays, right? You don't have to worry about anything. If you want to celebrate, you can. If you don't want to, there's really no penalty. I'm a big Halloween fan, and I really like the Great Pumpkin special. I think it's one of the handful of really good, animated specials. I know Michael has never seen it, but Harold, do you like Great Pumpkin? Are you a fan?
Harold: It wasn't my favorite special, but it really was well done. there's no question about it. I got a really nice atmosphere to it, and it does have some classic strips that I absolutely love. But, this is the first time we ever talked about animation, really, on the show. Do you want a little kind of background for the audience to understand how we got to that?
Jimmy: I would love nothing more. Absolutely.
Harold: Okay. So, there's an amazing book out there, and a lot of what I'm going to share here is from Charles Solomon's the Art and Making of Peanuts Animation celebrating 50 Years of Television Specials. I think it came out around ten years ago. I don't know if it's still in print, but it's really good. And just to give a little bit of background and what I find fascinating about thinking of, people who have the memories of the specials and have seen them because so many people have mostly experienced Peanuts through these things, is that this gives us some insight into Charles Schulz as a you know, he's known so much for being the amazing artist who would not let anybody touch his strip. Everything was done by Charles Schulz but in animation, you can't do that. And I have a background as an animator. I did an award-winning special myself, and I know what 2D animation is like. I taught it at the college level. So when I hear some of the stories of trying to translate Charles Schulz's unique style to animation, I can totally relate. And I've animated Jimmy's stuff as well, and his style is very similar to Peanuts. And it was not easy, doing some of the animation poses because of similar things to what the animators were up against with Schulz's work. Because Schulz draws the characters, he sees them, he finds an iconic pose, and that's it. And as we know, they don't always match, you know, one pose to another. It works. Everything is so beautiful, but it's not exactly the same thing as the thing that was in the other pose. Certainly Snoopy's like that.
But here's some background on just how we got to that at some point. I think it was, the Ford Falcon. This is so funny. So this is the marketer's dream. Ford is looking for a show to sponsor on television, and who's available but Tennessee Ernie Ford? So come on. Sure, you got to do actually, I don't know if you guys have ever seen these things at all. I guess, Michael, you haven't but they used to have some openings for the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show that were Peanuts. In fact, I think the very first thing that aired was this. I didn't realize this, but it tied into what ultimately became the commercials that would run outside the show for the Ford Falcon and other Ford brands. And those animations are really interesting to look at because they're the first crack at trying to translate Peanuts to television or to animation. And what's really interesting is them trying to make those moves between Schulz's poses. They're actually more fully animated in terms of, like, in between drawings than the specials.
Jimmy: Oh, wow.
Harold: But you can check those out on YouTube if anybody wants to kind of take a look at the early, early proto Peanuts animation.
But here's what Schulz said about animation. He told Lee Mendelsohn that, you know, the great thing about being a cartoonist is you have 100% control of the comic strip. You are the writer, the producer, the director and stage manager all at once. So it's scary to turn your characters over to other people in a completely different medium. But the very first person he was paired with was Bill Melendez for these Ford commercials. And so in 1963, about four years later, Mendelson's tried to do this documentary on Schulz, and, he says, hey, what if we added a few minutes of animation into this documentary? And Schulz says, well, the guy I trust is Bill Melendez, if you want to even do it. And so he got in touch with Melendez, and over the course of trying to sell this documentary, they all became kind of friends. And so when I think it was yeah, it was Mendelson was at some discussion with an executive trying to sell his documentary, and they said, well, how about a Christmas special? And that was the very first thing they did, of course, was A Charlie Brown Christmas. And then they followed that up with Charlie Brown's All Stars. And then It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and they're working off of crazy low budgets. Bill Melendez said, I can't remember if was it Hanna or Barbera he called. He'd never done a half hour show. And Melendez himself had started at Disney, but then he moved on to UPA after the great strike at Disney around World War II. And so Melendez knew how to translate, like, Thurber and these other cartoonists who have these really unique cartoon styles that are very simple into animation because of his work at UPA. So he was really kind of perfect for Schulz, but he had never done-- like he'd done commercials and maybe a short or something, but he didn't know what to charge for a TV special. And he calls up Hanna Barbera and just says, hey, what should charge? And I can't remember it was Hanna or Barbera. He said, I'm sorry that's proprietary information.
Jimmy: Of course. Right.
Harold: And so Melendez just has to guess, and he says, okay, $76,000. And so he goes and makes this thing. He spends $15,000 or so more than what he had budget. He loses his shirt on the thing, on the Christmas special. And then he got the call back from Hanna Barbera. The guy said, yeah, you lost your shirt on that, didn't you? Guys rubbing it in after not helping him at all.
Jimmy: I think it probably worked out okay in the long run.
Harold: Yeah, they said between the three of the Mendelson and Schulz and Melendez, that they probably made about $5 million off of that Christmas special.
Jimmy: Yeah, there you go.
Harold: I guess there was a little bit of back end for them, but, in any case, the Great Pumpkin is the third of these shows, and unfortunately, still on the $76,000 budget, because I guess they had a deal for one special and up to five more, all in the same. So it's one of those things where Melendez got himself stuck in something, but he wasn't going to give up. So he's having to find ways to really economically animate Peanuts, which worked incredibly well, because Schulz kind of liked the idea of translating the strip, I think, in a really pure form, and I think they were very good at doing that. And so they had to be super creative. They had to be very limited in what they did, but in doing so, I think they're really true to the Peanuts strips.
And the way the guys would work, just so people have an idea of how Schulz was involved in this, the three of them, Mendelson, Melendez and Schulz would get together every so often, and Schulz would create what they said was like 15 to 17 minutes of script or elements, as they would say, because he probably would pull a bunch of old strips from, his cache of things like, well, you could use this, this and this. And then he's kind of stringing it together, but he would give Bill Melendez space to add animated elements. So there's some famous scenes know, there's really no dialogue. It's not something that he would have done in comics. And this was something that, you know, I think the secret of any of these things is to know that you're medium and to stay with it. There are things you can do in a comic strip, which you can't do in any other medium. In animation, we can do things that the comic strip can't do. And this is what kept Schulz interested in the process. He really was a collaborator in that. And the cool thing was everybody trusted everybody else, and they didn't really get into each other's business too much. Although Schulz would come down to the studio sometimes, which apparently Melendez had, like, three homes side by side in Los Angeles. It was this kind of homey atmosphere where everyone was working for a number of years and Schulz would come, he might look over the shoulder of an animator and Schulz could be very opinionated, right? He's not going to hold back sometimes. And so he's literally standing behind this animator going, no, that's wrong, that's off, that's not on model. He would have his input. Jeanne Schulz his second wife, know, Schulz would just call, okay, Schulz would know everybody who animated his, okay, that's, that's this person, that's this person, that's this person, he could tell. And he would sometimes call Bill and say, look, I don't want them on the show anymore because he just didn't like so he's involved, right? And that's what's really fascinating to me is it's such a collaborative process. And I think given that he wasn't in the studio every day, his presence is so felt and I think he was so respected that people were trying to be true to what he was going for. And so Schulz they said he was a generous collaborator.
But I do have to share this little story. And before we head on into great, Pumpkin land, there was a story that Lee Mendelson said, he said, he was sitting there for the very first special they were going to work on, the Christmas special. And he said up until then, many, if not all animated shows for TV had laugh tracks. And as we were discussing how we would handle the special, I said very casually, I assume we'll have a laugh track. It was a statement, not a question is what Charles Solomon says. And Sparky just gets up and quietly walks out of the room, and then so Melendez and Mendelson look at each other and Bill says, well, I guess we won't have a laugh track. And then Sparky comes back in the room and says, we went on with the meeting as if the subject never came up.
Jimmy: That's a good thing.
Harold: So that's kind of the dynamic. Schulz is involved, but he's obviously incredibly reliant on other people to do that. He did come to really trust Bill Melendez over time. Well, I mean, just, I guess from the very beginning, from the Ford Falcon things and even for this Christmas special, Halloween special, Schulz insisted, he says, I keep telling people I don't write for children. I wouldn't know how to, write for children. Writing for children is the hardest thing in the world. I wouldn't even attempt it. So Schulz is approaching this as this is, at the very least for everybody, right? Or maybe, I mean, were for adults and really not kids if he's saying he wouldn't attempt to write for children. So that's the context of not only the strip, but these specials which everybody instantly pegged as children's material because it's animated and it's got kids in that's, that's the background of kind of how those who have experienced the Great Pumpkin how Schulz was in animation and was involved with the animation. And I'm sure we'll go into more of it once we get around to the Christmas special, but hopefully that gives a little bit of context that, it's not like Schulz is just licensing this out and he doesn't want to see it, doesn't want to touch it. He's very involved, but in his own unique way.
Jimmy: I have a question I don't know if you know the answer to. What the hell is a Graphic Blandisher?
Harold: They did talk about that. So this is really interesting, if you guys don't know.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's at the end of the credits for Charlie Brown Christmas and this one, and probably a lot of the early ones, instead of saying animators, they call them graphic blandishers. It's graphic blandishment by….
Harold: That was a Schulz thing and nobody used that. Graphic blandishment. And I remember as a kid thinking, boy, that sounds really bland.
Jimmy: Yeah. Right.
Harold: People are doing it just sounds really what a boring job. But when I think of Schulz and I think of Schulz trying to present himself as I am, the creator of Peanuts, what he was doing was saying, the important stuff is mine. And then the translation of it, the graphic blandishment, is done by a team of people that who are all given credit, but we don't break down what they do. And at some point, I think it was Phil Roman who directed some of the stuff after the fact. He said to Bill Melendez, I don't think this is fair to the artist.
Jimmy: Yeah, ridiculous, actually.
Harold: And so Bill went back to Schulz and kind of explained that these people need a little more specific credit for what they're doing, and Schulz got it. And from then on, they gave the full credit to everybody and broke down. Like, this person did the backgrounds and this person did the animation and the in betweens and all that, like you traditionally would do. But I think Schulz was probably very protective of the idea that this was his and the people who were interpreting it were not on his rung. Now, I think it also may have been that he was trying to give it some dignity, you know, which animators maybe didn't have dignity, and that was his way of doing it. But I kind of think he was trying to really put a tier apart--creator and everybody else.
Jimmy: You know what my thought is, and this is based on nothing, but I bet if you've talked to some people, you would get like a 25 minutes discussion, on why it's graphic blandishment. And then at the very end, they might say something about union rules that they're trying to get around something somehow. It seems so shady to me. They're not animators, they're blandishers. Look at the title.
Harold: Well, having worked on a union TV show, I can say that stuff definitely comes up, but I think this was before there were those protections within the, animation union, which was going strong at that time. And Bill Melendez, like I said, he was part of the strike at Disney in the 40s. So, if there was a guy who was really for giving everybody their due, I think that was Bill. But he did go along with Schulz on it initially. and I think the way they would put working with Schulz is he's a great collaborator. He'll talk with you. Melendez was the one guy he really would listen to, as the kind of the director, really good animator, overseer, really good high spirits, guy who could really get a lot of out of the cast and the voices and the animators. But Melendez knew if Schulz dug in on something, you're just not going to go any further. That's it. Let's move on to something else.
Jimmy: Well, they managed to put together a bunch of great little television episodes. I mean, the, Christmas one, rather, is my favorite TV show of all time, really? Probably my favorite half hour episode. And I like this one a lot, too.
Harold: Yeah, the book says that somebody says that the general consensus that is, even though people love the Christmas special, that this is the best one, and I could say maybe technically, I could see what they're talking about. Certainly Charlie Brown Christmas stands out head and shoulders over the rest. Not just not, to put down the rest of the Peanuts stuff, but I think it stands out head and shoulders over the rest of television. I'm not putting down Peanuts. There's just no way to overcome that.
Jimmy: It's one of those magic things.
Harold: Serendipity yeah,
Jimmy: it's one of these magic things. And all this is that somehow the little limitations and flaws that they were stuck with ended up just becoming a part of the whole that we all love.
Harold: Yeah. And there's amazing creativity in anybody who's experienced that Halloween special. You have to give it.
Jimmy: I have a surprise for our audience, coming up. and also, I guess for you guys, too, we talked about a little bit, but before I get to that so, Michael, having hated, Halloween, what is your feeling about the Great Pumpkin strips in general? Does that also go into the general Halloween phobia?
Michael: I don't particularly like-- Not that I don't like them. I like everything Schulz did in this period. it's just the annual things that came about. I can't think of any that I look forward to. I, mean, I definitely like the spring training, getting ready for the baseball stuff.
Jimmy: Oh, no, it's not true. How about the leaves? You like the leaves?
Michael: I like the leaves. That's seasonal. That's not a holiday.
Jimmy: Well, but it's annual.
Michael: Yeah, it's annual. But the Valentine's Day, the Christmas stuff. No, it's not special for me. There are some great Halloween bits, and we're going to be talking about one of them.
Jimmy: It is a weird part of, I guess, the baggage of super success is that eventually he is, compelled to do these annual things because people do expect them. And I don't know that it's the most hardcore fans that expect those things. It reminds me a lot, we talk about the Beatles a lot because it's one of my two or three interests. But you go see Paul McCartney, right? And yeah, you want to hear Temporary Secretary? Or you want to hear I'll Follow the sun or whatever, it know, some, obscure cut. But he's not going to cut. Hey, Jude. Or live and let die. He has to do those because for someone else, it's just their one time to see him. And I guess that's a great problem to have as a creator, to have too much stuff that people want. But yeah, I sort of feel it like maybe, because I want it to feel more personal to me. I do tend to look in more the nooks and crannies and corners of Peanuts for the stuff. That's my absolute favorite.
Jimmy: How about you, Harold?
Harold: Yeah, well, this made me think of something else again. Can't recommend this Charles Solomon book enough. so many great things in there. But one of the things that they said was, they had already thought of the Charlie Brown’s All Stars. They started working on it before they even knew they were going to get to do another special. So that was kind of a given. That was the next one. But then CBS this sounds so much like an executive, right, from a network. So CBS asked for still it for $76,000. A holiday blockbuster. That's what they wanted next.
Jimmy: No problem.
Harold: Isn't that creative? They just had a Hollywood holiday blockbuster with the Christmas special. And so that's what the guy wants to order next, is a holiday blockbuster.
Jimmy: Blockbuster, please. One to order.
Harold: But the interesting thing is that they quoted it as Sparky said, without hesitation, hey, the Great Pumpkin, we've got one. So that's kind of how he looked at, the Great Pumpkin, is that he had created something that really could be fantastic, as an animation. And that of all the things that he had done up until the mid 60s, that he felt that really was an idea that could be expanded on and grown. I never knew what to do with, I guess, the Great Pumpkin. It's really a genuinely complex subject that Schulz he's somewhat enigmatic about in terms of how he treats the characters. In fact, I think we read a few strips from a year past where it got a little odd where Linus looks like he's getting kind of mercenary about the Great Pumpkin. And that didn't seem like Linus because he's all about sincerity. But then maybe that's because, you know, the most complex character in, I was I think I was always interested and kind of fascinated by the strips. But I think I ultimately I mean, it's about being let down, right. And, you know, it's just like it's like kicking the football.
Jimmy: That's what I was going to say is everybody has this in Peanuts. Everybody has their Great Pumpkin, whether it's kicking the football, whether it's waiting for Schroeder to notice you, whether it's the little Red haired girl. Everybody is waiting for this magic thing to happen that will make everything great. And it never--
Harold: And it is kind of epic. I mean, it feels epic. Like this could happen. Right. Every year, Linus is going to give it another go, and there is something epic about it. But there was also a sense of disappointment at the know that you don't get out of the Christmas special, but this is how you have to end it with a Great Pumpkin. And, I enjoyed watching them, but, I never really felt satisfied at the end of, say, the special or reading the strips. I mean, you just move on. And it was a disappointment. And you knew this was going to lead to disappointment. And sometimes you get surprised in a four panel strip that someone's led to disappointment. But to have three weeks or two weeks that's leading to disappointment is a little bit different because or a Sunday with the kicking the football. But this was one where he would build a storyline around it and there would always be disappointment at the end.
Jimmy: And that goes back to his influence and things with Krazy Kat.
Jimmy: Which the art is it's the same every time. How do you make it different within the parameters of that? He has to find the pumpkin patch. It has to be sincere. The Great Pumpkin can't show up.
Jimmy: Ideally, he could drag somebody else into it. That would be fun.
Harold: Yeah. I think as a little kid reading them, I was thinking, well, maybe something will happen
Jimmy: Well, yeah. And that's brilliant, too, if he could make you think that for a second. I always think Andy Kaufman made people wonder whether he was serious about professional wrestling. He made grown adults who would never if you can do that, that's pretty amazing. And there are times in these strips that I do get caught up into it. The other thing I think is amazing about it is Halloween is something that's part of in America, at least just the general national consciousness and more and more even than it was then. And to be able to take something of yours and add it to this huge national tapestry that basically everybody knows that's astounding I don't know how you do yeah. Part while you do it repetition.
Harold: I'll tell you, the things that I really did enjoy for the Halloween is the trick or treating segments. That was always something that I for. Some reason, had a lot of fun with them going around and them dressing up with the terrible costume. Where Linus is afraid he's going to get knifed by someone and he's going to their door. You don't do that 364 days out of the year. You're threatening a trick on somebody if they don't give you something to Linus. You can kind of see that that just doesn't add up. And I can relate to that as a little kid, if someone knifes me because I'd never gone to that door before, you're not supposed to knock on the doors of strangers. Your parents weren't going with you. Did your parents go with you, or did you...
Jimmy: Just when I was little, my parents went with me. when I was older, we went by myself.
Harold: Yeah. But at some point yeah, you're on your own doing things you never would do any other time of year, which was kind of this cool, forbidden nature.
Jimmy: Well, and it's funny you think about it. It probably would have been eight years old. You're just wandering around the streets at night.
Jimmy: Very fun. I love Halloween. I'm a big fan of it. So I'm excited to talk about this, but I have a surprise for you guys. Well, for all our listeners, we have started a hotline, a Peanuts hotline. We'll need to have a name for the Peanuts hotline. I don't have one yet where people are able I just did this on Twitter. So it was just a little preview. We didn't do a wide launch yet, but I put out there. Do you have any questions about Peanuts or the Great Pumpkin for this episode? Give us a call and we'll try to answer them. And we got a couple, so I thought maybe I'd play some of these calls and then we can answer them. How's that sound?
Jimmy: All right. Now, the first one, though, is not about Great Pumpkin. however, it is our first call, so I wanted to make sure that we played it, and it is Peanuts related. And, here we go. Let's go to the phones.
Caller: Hi there. This is Troy Wilson of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Longtime listener, first time caller. And my question is, if Peanuts was not called Peanuts, what would you call it? What would you rename it if someone came to you and said, you are the one that has to rename it, and you can't say little folks. thanks, and thanks for the podcast. Love it.
Michael: Yes, that was my answer.
Jimmy: that's a good question. What do you think?
Michael: I’m pretty sure Schulz would have gone with Good Old Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's a great title,
Michael: even though he's not in every strip. But that doesn't seem to matter.
Jimmy: What about you, Harold?
Harold: That Gang O' Mine.
Jimmy: That gang o mine.
Harold: Or to really cheat L’il Folks.
Jimmy: well, what about Just Kids? Because it's just kids. There's no adults.
Michael: Not bad.
Jimmy: And a dog. It really is tough to come up with a title for something because we know how wide ranging it becomes.
Harold: Well, that's why the generic name seems to work so well. Right?
Jimmy: Yeah, it really does. And just becomes the thing that, it is. Even though you make no association with why it's called that or why is it named after a legume? I mean, it's strange, but, I guess they knew kind of what oh, actually, you know what? I have a thought about this. Do you think it is possible that Larry Rutman or whoever at the syndicate was sitting around going, we're going to need to sell a Space Saver strip. I want something that is in four panels that you can move. However, it's going to be smaller than all the other things. And we'll call it Peanuts because of the Peanuts Gallery or because it's small. And they were going to do that and then just hire someone to fill that void. Schulz comes in with these strips that fit it perfectly. But it was a fait accompli-- it was always going to be called Peanuts.
Michael: That's a good thought.
Harold: I mean, there's no way of knowing.
Jimmy: I guess, at this point. But that's the theory.
Harold: I think, why don't you Google it, you blockhead? But I was just wondering, did Howdy Doody come along before or after Peanuts?
Jimmy: That's a great question.
Harold: December 27, 1947. So, I mean, if you're a guy at a syndicate and you're trying to sell things yeah, totally. If he had kids himself, how do you do that? Just seems to be where that came from.
Jimmy: And I believe, David Michaelis makes a reference to that in his book. I'm not sure if he I don't have it in front of me, around me, but I'm not sure if he had insight into that or if he was just speculating as well.
Michael: That was in the part of the language at that point.
Michael: Where now people will call their little kids pumpkin.
Michael: And you see in these old movies, they call little kid hey, peanut.
Harold: But that's a really good question because it's a huge challenge to think about renaming this thing. I mean, it just sounds like you step back and go, whoa.
Harold: I even think that I would be given that responsibility. What? I couldn't do it justice. It means so much.
Michael: Something with the word neighborhood might make sense because it was focused on neighborhood.
Harold: Right. Yeah. The neighborhood is not a bad one.
Jimmy: Kids in the neighborhood. I'm, going to go with just kids, even though I don't think it's a very good one. But I can't come up with anything better.
Harold: Just kids. That's a good one. Yeah.
Jimmy: All right.
Harold: All right.
Jimmy: Well, thank you so much, Troy. That was our first call, and I was so excited to get it. Here's another one.
Caller: Hey, Unpacking Peanuts I want to talk about Charlie Brown getting a rock. As a kid, I thought getting rocks in his goodie bag was the funniest thing in the world. Now I'm trying to figure out what Charles Schulz was trying to say about adults that they'd give this kid rocks. The whole thing makes me, scratch my thanks. Bye.
Jimmy: That is a mysterious caller from, California, did not leave a name. What do you think about that? I don't think it's flattering for adults.
Michael: For sure, because his head looks like a rock.
Jimmy: Well, he's dressed in his ghost costume, and he has extra holes in the ghost costume. I think the parents are judging him and are like, that kid gets a rock. I also, though, wonder, do they have them ready or do they have to quick go get a rock to throw it's so bad?
Harold: Well, this comes back to the idea that you said Charles Schulz is a character in the strip. It's almost like we're never going to meet this person that dropped the rock. So is it Schulz giving him the rock?
Jimmy: Well, that's what I was going to say, but I decided not to because I thought Michael might strangle me from Italy. But, yeah, I do sort of feel.
Harold: He can't find me. I'm Virginia right.
Michael: No, we can find you anywhere.
Harold: We're connected. But I think of all of the Halloween strips that I got to rock is, I think, my favorite part. And, yeah, I just feel for Charlie Brown, and it's such a was he's always been juxtaposing kind of the Christmas Santa Claus thing with Halloween with The Great Pumpkin. You can clearly see that even from the very first strips. And the idea know, you get a lump of coal in your stocking if you're bad, and you get a rock in your trick or treat bag if someone doesn't like you. And Charlie Brown's always saying nobody likes you. Now, maybe that he was given a geode, but he was just misinterpreting the generosity.
Jimmy: Do you want to know why I'm not a political cartoonist?
Harold: What's that?
Jimmy: Because for years m in the early years of Amelia during the Iraq War, I was convinced I could find some version where the kids would go as presidents for Halloween and be like, I got a booming economy. I got the fall of the Berlin Wall. And then it'd be George W. Bush. I got Iraq. I could never really make it work.
Harold: Well, I'm glad you got some mileage out of it right here. Yeah.
Jimmy: That's true. I got to use it here 20 years later. Okay, so, that's our second call. We have a third call. well, I'll play it, and then we'll talk a little bit about him on the other side.
Harold: Here we go.
Jimmy: Hi, there. This is Joshua Stauffer. I hear you guys were recording a special episode for The Great Pumpkin this week, so I've whipped up something very special for you. In your email right now is a list of all the Peanuts comic strips that were adapted in the Halloween special. I've also included some fun facts about that special and both my own thoughts and opinions about it. I hope you enjoyed this email that I've sent you, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you this Halloween. As always, be of good cheer.
Harold: Yes, be of good cheer. Yeah.
Jimmy: So that was Josh Stauffer, longtime listener of the podcast. And he really did come through. He sent us a PDF, and it has, every single strip that was adapted into the Great Pumpkin.
Harold: Into the special. That's amazing.
Jimmy: Yeah, into the special. I'm hoping, that he'll let us put the PDF out, for you guys. Ah, you listeners out there, and you can find out which ones were turned into animated, sequences. So what I'd like to do now is just take a quick break and then we'll come back, we'll go through some of the strips that were adapted into animated sequences, and, we'll see you on the other side.
VO: Hi, everyone. I just want to take a moment to remind you that all three hosts are cartoonists themselves and their work is available for sale. You can find links to purchase books by Jimmy, Harold, and Michael on our website. You can also support the show on patreon or buy us a mud pie. Check out the store link on UnpackingPeanuts.com.
Jimmy: We're back. Did you miss us? We are now going to go through those strips and pulled by Josh, who we really appreciate. Thank you, for doing all that extra work. So I'm going to read them like always, and then we'll talk about them. So here we go.
October 31, 1956. Two kids are dressed up as ghosts. It's clearly Halloween night. One of the ghosts says to the other, “is that you, Lucy?” The second ghost answers, “Uh huh. Linus will be along in a minute.” The two ghosts look off into the distance at Linus approaching. Although we don't see him, he's still off panel. Lucy says “he was having a little trouble with his costume.” In the last panel, we see now three ghosts. Linus has walked up and he has his sheet thrown over him just like the other two, except his has many holes for the eyes, not just two. And Lucy says “he's not very good yet with a scissors.”
Michael: A Scissors. That's weird.
Jimmy: Is that for a pair?
Harold: Is that for comic effect, or is that what you said back then?
Jimmy: No, I think that's for comic effect. Like the, like putting an unnecessary the in front of something. An indefinite article is also extra funny.
Michael: That's weird. This is another example of Linus being the most complex character in Western literature, because he could build, like, anything, these cardhouses as big as a castle, and dragons out of a pile of sand. So him not being good enough to cut a hole or two holes with scissors.
Harold: maybe he was too close to a blanket and he was getting nervous.
Jimmy: Well, now, when this is adapted in the animated special, the gag is repeated, but it's given to Charlie Brown. He's the one who can't use the scissors correctly. So I don't know if it's something that he just if he would have had more time this is a daily strip, 1956. If he had more time, he would have given it thought about it and given it to Charlie Brown, or if he was really just like, linus is the youngest at this point, so that's why he gets this gag. But then by 1966, it wouldn't make any sense for Linus at all to not be good at it.
Michael: Should have been Shermy.
Jimmy: Well, maybe Shermy is. the other one, he could be the ghost talking to Lucy.
Michael: He's never identified. How do we know that's Lucy-- she's just a little shorter.
Jimmy: She agrees because he says, Is that you, Lucy?
Michael: And then she yeah, I know, but, do we know it's really Lucy?
Jimmy: Look at she's wearing her saddle shoes.
Michael: I guess so.
Jimmy: All Right, moving on.
November 15, 1957, Charlie Brown is standing by a big pile of leaves in the second panel. Linus comes flying off from panel left and lands directly in them. A big smile on his face. In the third panel, he looks down in the leaves, and he looks slightly upset. He says to Charlie brown, well, I just learned something. Charlie Brown Then he holds up what was a lollipop, and it is covered in leaves. And he says to Charlie Brown, “never jump into a pile of leaves holding a wet sucker.”
Michael: You know, this could have been something that actually happened. I mean, there's nothing fantastic about this. He could have seen his kids doing this. And this is exactly what happens.
Jimmy: Oh, absolutely. A little kid comes up crying as 15 leaves stuck to their lollipop.
Harold: You can see probably they come in from outdoors, and the parents look down. Oh, what a lovely craft you made at school today.
Jimmy: Now, do you think he should have shown the lollipop before panel four?
Harold: That's the genius of it.
Jimmy: What do you think, Michael?
Michael: Yeah, no.
Jimmy: I'm going to agree to disagree.
Harold: Oh really? Wait. No, you can't just leave it like that. So you would rather see Linus with the sucker? Like, how would you have done the strip differently?
Jimmy: Yeah, I would have just had him leaping into, you know, I would have done it differently, but it would have been worse. As I'm describing it now, it would have been worse. So there's no point in me even finishing.
Michael: But if you show it in the first panel, then, you know, it has to get full of leaves introduced.
Harold: The gun in the first act.
Jimmy: Right. Chekhov's Lollipop,
October 25, 1961. Violet now, we have done this one. we've done a couple of these, but not all of them. But I thought we would re-approach them, just knowing now that they're slightly elevated in the Peanuts oeuvre because they've been adapted. So this is, Violet, and she's yelling at Linus. She says “you're crazy. You're just plain stupid crazy. You talk like someone who's just fallen out of a tree. You're stark raving stupid.” She's gone. And Linus looks upset, and he says, “I should have known better.” Then he walks away saying, “there are three things I have learned never to discuss with people religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
Jimmy: This is-- Michael. You loved this line.
Michael: Stark raving stupid. No, that's what I'd call the strip.
Jimmy: Stark raving stupid. That's the whole strip.
Harold: There you go.
Michael: That is my favorite line in Peanuts. But I'm going to open up the discussion here. I think the Great Pumpkin is religion.
Jimmy: I think , you know, there is no way you can look at Schulz who is so immersed in his own faith, and someone who's always looking for something funny, even in things which are not funny. There is something kind of funny, I think about we're waiting for the savior. We're waiting for the savior. He came. Oh, what are you doing now? Oh, we're waiting for him to come back. Why? What is wrong with you? And I do think there is some part of him that would have to find that kind of funny.
Michael: Yeah, I mean, it's about the Great Pumpkin is about I mean, it is a bit of a take on Santa Claus. It's almost a parody of the Santa Claus thing, but it's like a deity.
Harold: Yeah, there's no question.
Jimmy: Oh, Linus takes this beyond seriously. This means a lot. What I also would wonder, though, is where do you think it comes from? Within I mean, all right, we get that within the, you know, external to the strip, it's a parody of Santa Claus. We talked about that before. He just changed one thing, made it Halloween, and it opens up all this other stuff. But within the strip, within the world of the strip, where do you imagine Alinas concocted this or heard about this?
Michael: I'm sure Harold has some interesting theories on this, but there's one thing that does bug me. Is there a Great Pumpkin in this Peanuts universe? Because one of the early strips, he reads that it appeared in somebody's in New Jersey. Now, granted, there's all kinds of magical things happening in Peanuts. He doesn't ever clarify whether the Great Pumpkin actually is real, and it just never shows up for Linus.
Harold: I was wondering if Linus he's trying to be a fanatic, so I was wondering if he was creating his own world of the Great Pumpkin, which included the New Jersey story.
Jimmy: Well, Charlie Brown comes over and brings the paper and says, oh, hey, we've just read in the paper.
Harold: Oh, really? Oh, I forgot that.
Jimmy: Now maybe Charlie Brown's putting him on.
Jimmy: Because I also thought I was reading some Calvin and Hobbes recently, and there's a really funny Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin's dad is telling him science facts, and he's telling them basically like Lucy, but unlike Lucy, Calvin's dad is just pulling his leg. And that's the bit of the joke. I wonder if that's something that could have happened with Linus. Like, someone started this as, like, a little bit with him. “Yeah, no, the Great Pumpkin…”
Harold: Oh, yeah.
Jimmy: But I guess that doesn't make sense if he does appear in New Jersey
Michael: Yeah, the only thing that makes sense is that if he had previously read, like, the year before, that the Great Pumpkin appeared somewhere, read it in a newspaper, and then started believing in it because it comes in pretty fully formed. Yeah, it does. It's not like it develops.
Jimmy: These are the mysteries of the universe.
Harold: It is so complex and it's so rich and given yeah that Schulz was as religious as he know, you think about at this time he’s teaching or at least leading, a Bible study. And you can tell that Schulz is the kind of guy who's always questioning things. He's always turning them over in his mind. And you see that so much through Peanuts here. And he's not the kind of guy who's necessarily going to just swallow something lock, stock and barrel, but he also has the you see the fanatic in him that he was the guy that collected every comic book. He was the library. So he's all of these things and all of these characters, which is what's so incredible. And, yeah, I don't think Schulz if you ask Schulz what the Great Pumpkin strips were about, I think he did talk about it a little bit. but I think it was along the lines know, the fanaticism that can come out of stuff that is so reliant on belief. Right. You can believe anything. It might be true, it might not be true. And here Linus has this incredibly elaborate thing that he you know, we have reason to believe. Maybe it's not true. But yeah, it is weird. That newspaper that really does throw a whole new light on the subject. If there are at least other people who think they've seen the Great Pumpkin, it doesn't mean that he still exists. Right. Or it is part of, like, some Santa Clausy thing. Yes, Virginia, there's a Santa Claus where the adults have in the Peanuts world, the same thing that they do for Santa Claus, they do for the Great Pumpkin. It could be so many different things.
Michael: Jimmy, you would know this. Are there people who actually believe in Punxsutawney Phil?
Jimmy: Do we believe in Punxsutawney Phil?
Michael: You people in Pennsylvania, I believe.
Jimmy: Okay. Yeah. You're kind you people who worship the groundhog first off, that's like four and a half hours away from me. I've never been to Punxsutawney in my life. Yeah. Secondly, well, what do you mean by-- I mean, there is a real groundhog they keep doped up in a cage. Do I believe he can predict spring? I don't think anyone really believes that.
Michael: No, but this thing started somehow.
Michael: And did it start full formed?
Jimmy: I don't know. I'm not an expert on groundhogs.
Harold: I get this strange suspicion it was somebody who owned a department store. I don't know why.
Jimmy: What, Punxsutawney Phil?
Harold: Yeah, some guy owning a department store is like, you know what we need to do? Get the people to come out on a cold winter’s day.
Jimmy: See, the janitor is like, I finally caught that Groundhog. Should I let him go? No, no. I have an idea.
Harold: Wait, I'm just about to be brilliant.
Michael: Is there any chance it comes out of Walt Kelly?
Jimmy: The Groundhog? No, it doesn't come out of Walt Kelly.
Michael: I mean, he always used names like Punxsutawney
Jimmy: Yeah, but no, I'm sure no, that predates Pogo. I believe the ancient Aztecs started Punxsutawney Phil.
Michael: we're getting off topic.
Harold: So you want a little canon? I can give you a little canon because I was a blockhead.
Jimmy: Oh, tell me, m what is it?
Michael: A little bit?
Harold: Google it. So it says this is according to the Oracle at Wikipedia, it is claimed that this one groundhog has lived to make weather prognostication since 1886. According to lore, there's only one Phil. So supposedly dating back to 1886, there's some really weird stuff that they have built around. It says, according to the Groundhog Club, Jim, being from Pennsylvania, are you a member?
Jimmy: I would never belong to any club that would have someone like me as a oh, I just came up with that.
Harold: All right Groucho. It says Phil, after the prediction speaks to the club president in the language of Groundhogese, which supposedly only the current president can understand, and then his prediction is translated and revealed to all. Well, we've heard that stuff.
Michael: But it doesn't Have the shadow bit in there.
Harold: Wow. It says it's rooted in a Celtic and Germanic tradition. So this does go back away. That actually may have had a religious significance. So there you go.
Jimmy: All right. Been around. Well, this has been another episode of Gabbing about Groundhogs. Thanks for tuning in.
October 30, 1961. Linus is sitting out in the pumpkin patch, and he's saying to himself, “each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere.” Linus continues, “he's got to pick this one. He's got to. I don't see how pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one.” He continues to look around and he says, “you can look all around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy.” Then with arms, stretched out wide, he says “nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”
Harold: It's pretty sincere to me.
Jimmy: And this is where he's going all in on the story as a story because it's just generally amusing, the four panels. But it's not a joke really, in the sense that there's no punchline.
Michael: Schulz's best jokes are not jokes.
Jimmy: But this isn't even a non joke joke.
Jimmy: This is kind know, him just setting up against the sincerity thing.
Michael: The thought that you can actually see Sincerity.
Harold: This strip is so much a part of my life and growing up as a kid, I can't go back and reread this with fresh eyes to know if that was a punchline at some point to somebody.
Jimmy: What is it about this that resonated with you in your life?
Harold: I just think nobody in my life or in literature was like Linus that, you know, I I loved that he was he was looking for sincerity. I mean, that is an idea that I think as a reader, as a kid, and even as an adult, I'm like, wow, that's what this person is seeking is sincerity. Often in comics or in literature, someone's seeking power or money or sex and then you got line of seeking sincerity. And as misled as he may be, there is in this aspect to him that's like, oh, wow, there's even the concept that Schulz would think this up. There's somebody who that's what they're seeking for. I think that was planted in my little young brain at the early part of my life that that was a possibility. That that's something that you might seek after. And I think there's maybe some fruit to that.
Jimmy: Speaking of fruit, I love the way he draws the pumpkin patch. Although I know it's technically wait, is a pumpkin a fruit? It's on a vine. Yeah, that's a fruit. You can google the vine. Sure, google it. Well, whatever this gourd is, he draws it nice. Really looking good.
Michael: I don't think it's a fruit.
November 1, 1962. Sally and Linus are out in the pumpkin patch and it's morning. Sally is very upset. She yells, “Halloween is over. I've missed it.” Now she's yelling at Linus, “you blockhead. You've kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin and he never came. I didn't get a chance to go out for tricks or treats. It was all your fault.” Then Sally raises her fists and shouts to the heavens, “I'll sue.”
Jimmy: I love this strip. This is my favorite. This is pure Sally. Yeah, I love Sally.
Michael: I think this really defines her, this sequence.
Harold: So how would you describe Sally based on this strip?
Michael: Well, from what we know about her up to this point and she's only been in the strip for a year is she's in love with Linus? So of course she's going to believe him. And this is her first encounter of her faith in him being violated.
Jimmy: Right. And it also-- Sally has this weird thing where she has the innocent, sweet, trusting little girl aspect, but she also like, I'll sue. She also is very canny and understanding about the mechanisms of power in the adult world. And you'll see that going forward, when know, taking on teachers or whatever, it she she's a future lawyer for sure. I can see that.
Harold: Yeah. There is that strip where she's asking basically for a deferment from school and having Charlie Brown write that letter to the yeah. She's dictating, please, please excuse Sally from school. She is needed at home. And Charlie Brown's like, what if everyone shirked their responsibility and know, do what they were supposed to? Where would society be? And then Sally just looks at him blankly and says, I don't know what you're talking about. I'm too sweet and innocent.
Jimmy: Or when she, gets a C on her coat hanger sculpture and does her big, should not my teacher also share in my--
Harold: That's a great oh, my gosh, that's a classic.
Jimmy: She's a wonderful character and yeah, we are really seeing her in her full Sally mode. And it's going to continue here on
November 2, 1961. Sally and Linus are now out of the pumpkin patch, but Sally's no less upset. She's yelling. “I was robbed.” Now Charlie Brown comes up and Sally starts griping to him as Linus is very upset listening to this. And she says, “I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin when I could have been out for tricks or treats.” Then in the next panel, Charlie Brown talks to Linus and Linus says, “you've heard about fury and a woman scorned, haven't you?” Charlie Brown says “yes, I guess I have.” Linus says to Charlie Brown, “well, that's nothing compared to the fury of a woman who has been cheated out of tricks or treats.” We see Sally in the foreground, scowling.
Harold: There's no better word than scowling.
Michael: I think it's funny. He calls her a woman and she's like two years old.
Jimmy: Also fantastic use of unnecessary quotation marks. I'm a big fan of unnecessary quotation marks. I always have to argue with editors about this. They're like, this doesn't need quotes. I'm like, exactly, this does not need quotes. That's what makes it awesome. Great Pumpkin in quotes. And of course, tricks or treats. And we've discussed this before, but right, it's trick or treat. So I think that's another example. I don't think I've ever heard anyone call it tricks or treats. I think that's an example of Peanuts language that just makes….
Michael: do you know anyone from Minnesota?
Jimmy: Maybe. You know what we could do we could google it you blockhead.
Harold: Or we could just ask our Minnesota listeners if they've ever heard--
Jimmy: We do have a few Minnesota listeners. Tricks or treats.. Once, both versions of the phrase were in use, according to the Wall Street Journal. Wow, interesting. All right. Or maybe not interesting, but that's the reality of it. Oh, by the way, I haven't mentioned this, but if you want to follow these strips, you could go to GoComics.com and type these dates in. Also, if you're having trouble with GoComics.com, which some of our listeners have had trouble navigating, it Liz, has put together a little tutorial video. And where is that, Liz? Where can they find that?
Liz: On the website, on the News menu item.
Jimmy: There you go. On the website, under the News menu item, you can find a little tutorial Liz made for how to navigate GoComics.com. Thanks, Liz. And, that's probably yeah, and that's probably the best way to do this since we're skipping around a bit. Hey, by the way, I just wanted to say that Wall Street Journal article that I just quoted for Tricks or Treats was inspired by the writer's nine year old son and asking about it in the context of Peanuts.
Harold: Wow. See, that stuff's important to readers of Peanuts.
Jimmy: Ben Zimmer, his nine year old son, wanted, to know why it was they said Tricks or Treats.
November 3, 1961. Now we're back with Sally and just Linus. Linus is raising his eyes to the heaven because he's still being harangued. Sally continues yelling at him, “what a fool I was. I could have had candy and apples and gum and cookies and money and all sorts of things. But no, I had to listen to you. What a fool I was. Tricks or Treats comes only once a year and I miss it by sitting in a pumpkin patch with a blockhead.” Then she delivers her coup de gras. “You owe me restitution.”
Jimmy: I think he does.
Michael: Of course, when I read this, I kind of went, what's that mean?
Jimmy: You mean when you read that now?
Michael: No, I must have been what year was this? 62, 60?
Michael: I was 12 in 62. I don't think I knew the word.
Harold: Yeah, I'm really interested to, that first panel. This doesn't happen a lot in comics. When someone is saying something with bold lettering, they're speaking loudly. But Schulz chooses to draw, Sally with a large closed mouth. Why do you think he chooses to do that?
Jimmy: Because it's the right expression. This is something I will argue with people about to my dying day. The standard is if a person's talking, you should have their mouth open. Some people go as far as to say, have them making one of the vowel sounds in the sentences that you're doing. That's pointless. I don't think there's any sense to that.
Harold: Well, it's interesting even you could even argue for the vowel sound here because there's no closed syllable here for a mouth. And I think you're absolutely right. I think it's what you need to see at the beginning of this. It's like what she was thinking. Well, yeah, that is the thing. If you closed mouth syllable, then I've argued this to myself. Sometimes I wish I could have a closed mouth because it's the right thing to do. And I usually give in and open the mouth up or do something because people tend to say, well, yeah, that's not right. If they're talking, their mouth should be open. But it is true. If you have a B or an M, whatever, your mouth is going to be closed part of the time you're talking.
Michael: Well, not only that, one panel is not necessarily like a snapshot. Right. One panel could be a second. It could be a minute. There's no rules for that. The animation is different. I mean, she'd have to be moving her mouth.
Harold: but in animation,
Jimmy: This could be the emotion she's feeling the second before she exactly.
Harold: Yeah, I think that's what's going on. And I think that's, it is the right thing to do. When I look at the strip, I think, yes, he made the right choice.
Jimmy: It's so strange because the whole comic strip form and comic book form, whatever it is, is made up of these tiny, seemingly insignificant choices. But they all have to be right to keep Peanuts at this ultra high level.
Jimmy: If you change the expression in a lesser comic strip and the meaning and stuff was conveyed with the words and the face matched the words, it would be fine. But there's something just a little bit extra because it's a better drawing. It's not merely a functional drawing, it's the emotion. And like Michael was saying, he is able to manipulate time in one panel, which is a brilliant thing to be able to do.
Harold: Really. I would love to have seen Charles Schulz take like a whole day's worth of strips from his local newspaper and draw them his way and see how he did it differently with, like, Beetle Bailey or with Mary Worth or just just to see his choices and how they differ from the typical artist.
Jimmy: Pete Bagge, who's the creator of the comic book Hate, was years ago saying that that would be a great exercise for people to do would be to cover comics by their favorite cartoonists, just like a band would cover and just do it. Not trying to mimic their style, but this is what it is. You're going to cover it. You have to bring your own thing to it. It would be interesting. Unfortunately, like, everything with cartooning, cartooning takes forever. So no one's going to do much.
Michael: I think Mad Magazine could have done something like that. Or maybe they did. Like, what if Wally Wood drew Peanuts?
Harold: yeah, we did get to see the parody versions where they did do Peanuts. And it is fascinating to see different cartoonists attempts at recreating a Peanuts strip.
I do have another piece of trivia that came out of that, book, by Charles Solomon about Peanuts animation. I thought this was incredibly interesting. Phil Roman became a director. He did over ten of the 50 animated specials, and I think he directed two of the features. I, think he was the guy that kind of took over after Bill Melendez kind of stepped away from that really super hands on aspect of the animation. So Phil Roman was like the second director who just did a ton of the, Peanuts animations. Phil Roman took the art instruction school's course, and Charles Schulz was his instructor.
Jimmy: Oh, that's amazing.
Harold: Isn't that cool?
Jimmy: That's very cool.
Harold: He had already been learning lettering under Charles Schulz
Jimmy: That's amazing.
October 28, 1963. Linus is sitting out in the pumpkin patch. Charlie Brown approaches him and says, “don't tell me you're sitting here waiting for the Great Pumpkin again.” Charlie Brown continues, “how can you believe in something that just isn't true? He's never going to show up. He doesn't exist.” Linus stands up and confronts Charlie Brown, wagging a finger in his face and saying, “when you stop believing in that fellow with the red suit and white beard who goes, ho ho, I'll stop believing in the Great Pumpkin.” Then they go back to sitting in the pumpkin patch. Linus super annoyed, Charlie Brown looking upset, saying, “we are obviously separated by denominational differences.”
Jimmy: Although Linus likes-- Linus goes in for Santa Claus too.
Jimmy: So it's not like Linus is a Great Pumpkin absolutist. He dabbles.
Michael: Okay, well, you need evidence of that.
Harold: This is true as of 1963. Yeah.
Jimmy: So guess what? That's why the Great Pumpkin doesn't show up. Because what's that? Hypocrisy.
Michael: But it’s sincere hypocrisy.
Jimmy: Well he blew it.
Harold: Yeah. my wife, Diane Cook, she has always been like, why are we doing the Santa thing? The Santa thing is messing with kids minds. There's this interesting trust level that kids have with their parents, and for religious reasons, let's say, hey, we believe in God, and we also there's Santa. And if you say they're both on the same level with a kid, except one gets you actual presents right, on the 24th or 25th of Christmas, and then at some point, and everyone has a different experience. I don't know if you guys ever believed in Santa Claus that was ever a thing, or if you have the memory of when that shifted.
Jimmy: For anyone who's out there listening now, I still believe in Santa Claus.
Harold: Yes. For ten years. Don't worry about really? It's such an interesting concept that, as a child, there's so much make believe that you have in your life. But this is like the time when the adults come down as a group and there's this collective idea to say, hey, there is this being who does these things that has it's like the Tooth fairy. This is actually happening. And then at some point, you find out that it's not real. And for some people, it's like, oh, I get it. That was fun. You did it for fun. And there are other people that are absolutely destroyed by it depending on how they find out about it. Right. And, it's an interesting concept because kids take this stuff really seriously. And there are debates on the on when you get to that certain age, there are these debates that kids have on the playground. right. And some of them have gotten the word that there is no Santa Claus at some age. And then you have another group of--
Jimmy: I feel uncomfortable about all of this because I completely don't want any kid to hear this.
Harold: Well, I'm not saying once I'm not saying what's true one way or the other. Right. I'm just saying that there comes this point where the kids are, some have the sense that I've been enlightened that this isn't the true. And you have other kids who are saying, of course it's true. Mom and dad told me. And it has all these repercussions in their lives. And there's these issues of trust and issues of faith and issues of being. You're standing up for your family's honor in a way, if this is what you've been taught and there are all these forces that are going against it. So I think it's a really complex concept, and it's one that has a lot of repercussions for a lot of people.
Jimmy: Anyway, I'm pro Santa Claus. Go, Santa.
Harold: He's a good guy. He's a right jolly old elf.
October 4, 1964. Charlie Brown and Lucy are standing outside, and Lucy says, “I'll hold the ball and you kick it.” Charlie Brown says, “oh, brother.” He then continues, “I don't mind your dishonesty half as much as I mind your opinion of me. You must think I'm really stupid.” Lucy says to Charlie Brown as she's setting up the football, “I know you don't trust me, Charlie Brown. You think that I'm going to pull this football away when you come running up to kick it.” Then she says, “well, here's a signed document testifying that I promise not to do it.” She holds out the signed document. Charlie Brown takes it and says, “it is signed. It's a signed document. I guess if you have a signed document in your possession, you can't go wrong. This year I'm really going to kick that football.” And of course, Charlie Brown is sent flying. When Lucy does pull the football away. “Augh.” He lands on his back, whomp, then in the last panel with Charlie Brown lying on his back and Lucy having caught the paper which has now fluttered into her hand, she says to him, “peculiar thing about this document. It was never notarized.”
Jimmy: well, speaking of things people believe that are utterly false that a contract has meaning and the person who wrote up the contract and hands it to you has all the power, and they will take it away from you if they want. So that's the lesson in that.
Michael: These football things. I tend to just read the last panel. Like, I don't have patience for the set up.
Harold: Well, this was the first time I'd heard of notarized. That was a new word to me when I first read it..
Michael: I still don't know what it means.
Harold: I got the gist of it, I think.
November 18, 1964. One of Michael's favorites, Snoopy, is standing outside as a leaf gently floats to the ground. In panel two, Snoopy, puffs on the leaf, sending it, flying into the air a little higher. In panel three, he continues poof, poof, poof to blow on the leave, sending it skittering along in the air until it finally lands in a small pile of leaves, causing Snoopy, to be very pleased with himself.
Michael: Yeah, these aren't my favorite. I did make a big deal out of the leaf things just because there were so many of them. And how could he do so many variations on basically this simple theme? I mean, they're nice and they're kind of sweet, but they're definitely not the best Peanuts stuff.
Harold: I was looking at this strip just visually, and, this may just be me, and you probably say it is, but when I look at the first panel, I look at, like, that's kind of classic looking Snoopy. And then the next three panels look like somebody else tried to draw Snoopy. And he almost
Michael: He just never had a dog blowing before.
Harold: I guess, so it's a pretty weird thing to draw.
Jimmy: I didn't notice that, but I would say, now that you call my attention to it, panel three looks a little odd.
Harold: Yeah. Especially compared to panel two, which is very similar.
Michael: Yeah. The little cheek lines. Those are cheeks. They don't look like cheeks, though.
Jimmy: Yeah. Maybe they should be facing the other way. You know what I mean? It's hard to indicating, like, a bulge.
Michael: Closer to the eyes.
Harold: You never see a dog. Well, we had a Boston terrier who would kind of somehow puff her little mush mouth up when she was not too pleased about something. but yeah, to have a dog with cheeks, I guess there's not a precedent for it. How do you draw it? People are going to say, yeah, it's fine, like you said--
Michael: Well there’s the big bad wolf. Big bad wolf is as close as we could get.
Harold: Yeah. There you go.
Jimmy: This is about as minimal a comic strip as there could be.
Jimmy: This is going back to, like, rain, rain, rain in year. Very, very simple, very small.
Harold: Yeah. But even, like, the little smile on the fourth panel, I mean, I buy it that Schulz drew it, but it doesn't seem quite like I don't know.
Jimmy: Just feels do you know what it's mean? I did not notice any of this, having read it. But now that you pointed out to me, does it look like he drew Snoopy with no smile? Normally, he would draw the smile as part almost, of the snout. It was thought of in that moment.
Jimmy: And then in this one, he didn't, and it's like, oh, now it just doesn't look right. And he added that smile in, but it's not quite at the right place. As a matter of fact, if you zoom in really close, it actually extends a little bit right where it connects with the neck.
Harold: And I think if he had drawn it originally, I mean, that's an interesting theory. I think the nose would be higher, given where that smile is, because it looks like it's pointed downward, but the smile kind of doesn't line up. But anyway, it's still great.
Jimmy: It's still Charles Schulz
Harold: But that just struck me when I was reading this for the first.
Jimmy: Very, very cute. In general, though, no matter what, I am a huge fan, of watching Charles Schulz just develop these strange themes that no one in the world had thought of, and just draw them beautifully, especially the pumpkin patches. I love the way he draws pumpkin patches. So the reason, we read these last two strips, is, of course, because they were also adapted into the, into the Great Pumpkin animated special. And as Josh Stauffer pointed out in the document he sent us, this is the first time in history that, one of the football gags was actually animated. So that October 4, 1964 gag that we just did was the first football gag that ever got animated. And I think quite a few have, over the years now. And, that's the same for the November 18, 1964 strip, that was also adapted into the animated special.
One thing that Melendez and Mendelson do great in the animated specials, I think, is little sequences with Snoopy being animated. The Great Pumpkin one has a huge sequence of the World War I flying ace, most of which are adapted from the comics. I didn't include any of those here, because we haven't gotten to the, World War One flying ace at all yet. So I thought we would, save that for later.
Harold: But one thing worth mentioning is that in the strips, we hear Snoopy's ongoing dialogue about what's happening. And Schulz did not want that to exist in animation. He didn't want to give Snoopy a voice, speaking, so they had to be very visual with that. And Bill Littlejohn is the animator, who most of these famous sequences that people remember of Snoopy moving, that's Bill Littlejohn animating just an incredible dynamic, and he said he was a dream of all the, Peanuts characters are a real challenge. But Snoopy was a dream to animate, he said, and I can see know he can stretch and squash, and he has arms and legs that aren't stuck to the tiny little body. So there's a lot you can do with Snoopy.
Jimmy: Well, he has blandished the heck out of it, for sure. He graphically blandished that like no one's business. He nailed it.
So, guys, that's the Great Pumpkin. Do we have anything else, to say about, our favorite gourd?
Michael: I guess not. It's complex stuff.
Harold: What does it represent? Schulz is a complex guy.
Michael: What does the gourd represent?
Jimmy: The gourd represents all our hopes and dreams. And my hopes and dream is that you will come back next week and, you will listen to us again, because it's my favorite day of the whole week. I get to spend with my favorite people talking Peanuts. And then I know you guys are out there listening, and that makes it so exciting and so special for me and for the rest of us.
As always, we would love to hear from you. You can, do that by checking us out on social media at UnpackPeanuts and Unpacking Peanuts on Facebook. Or you could just send us an email unpackingPeanuts@gmail.com. We would love to hear from remember, you know, if I don't hear from you, I worry. Until then, for Michael and Harold. This is Jimmy. Be of good cheer.
Harold and Michael: Yes, Be of good cheer.
VO: Unpacking Peanuts is copyright jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz. Produced and edited by Liz Sumner. Music by Michael Cohen. Additional Voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show, follow Unpack Peanuts on Instagram and Twitter. Unpacking Peanuts on Facebook and YouTube. For more about Jimmy, Michael, and Harold, visit unpackingPeanuts.com. Have a wonderful day, and thanks for listening.
Jimmy: Hope you find a sincere pumpkin patch.