Monday, 31 October 2011

Toons of Terror (Part 1: Pumpkin Messiahs)

I adore Halloween. I adore cartoons. So hey! Tis the season! I think it’s time to hunt down and talk about some of my personal favorite spooky toons. So with each day leading up to Hallow’s Eve this week, I’m gonna highlight some classic Halloween toons, as well as some not so classics that need some lovin’ too. This isn’t a ranking of favorite Halloween specials in any way, but just a random list of Halloween goodies. And what a better goodie to start with than good ol’ Charlie Brown’s Halloween special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Almost as cherished as the Christmas special that came before it, this Peanuts gang holiday special mainly follows the exploits of Linus as he awaits the arrival of a supernatural gift-giver known as “The Great Pumpkin.” So what’s so special about this special? What’s so great about this Great Pumpkin?
Well like I mentioned, this special mainly follows Linus, who I’ve always been able to relate to more then the self-pitied Charlie Brown. The only thing ol’ blockhead contributes to this piece is receiving rocks instead of candy on Halloween, which only confirms my beliefs that not only are the children jerks to Charlie Brown, but the adults aren’t much better.
No, here we have the blissfully sincere Linus: the only existential philosopher who carries around a blanket (that I know of.) I find it interesting that while his unrelenting believes and faith proved to be the resolution to Charlie Brown’s woes at Christmas time, here at Halloween Linus’ uncompromising beliefs and spirituality is the entire conflict! His belief in The Great Pumpkin is indeed a cleaver metaphor for religious fanaticism and the bigger questions and dilemmas that comes with spirituality. To a kid, Halloween is a night that you want to get the most out of in every way possible. To Linus, these blind promises of a pumpkin Messiah is what he believes is the best use of his time, and even talks Sally into joining his quasi-cult as they wait all night in the cold pumpkin patch while the others enjoy their well earned candy and their Halloween party. 
A crisis of faith isn’t exactly the first thing you’d think of when writing a Halloween special, but that’s what really makes this special stand out. And that’s why I love these Peanut specials in general. It combines some pretty deep questions about humanity with the charm and fun of kids at play. It’s a melancholy special, for sure. But hey! That’s Peanuts for you. 
If you haven’t seen this special since you were a kid, I highly recommend you rewatch it now. You may pick up on a lot of subtle humour that may have passed right by you as a kid, and the charm of these timeless characters are always a joy watch. At the very least you can laugh at Charlie Brown missing that football again… I know that always makes me feel better about myself! 
- Moo