Television sure knows how to celebrate the holidays! Halloween is no exception and it all started with 'It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown' back in 1966, the first primetime animated Halloween special. Here's the soundtrack to enjoy before a little history...
'It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown' came about because of the phenomenal success of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' airing the year before. This was the third Peanuts special, the second with a holiday theme and first to end its title with the name 'Charlie Brown.'
Like the Christmas show and 'Charlie Brown's All-Stars' before it, 'Great Pumpkin' was a rousing success not only critically but ratings-wise. More importantly the kids loved it, assuring the world that many more Peanuts specials would follow - so many they ran out of holidays to use as a theme.
Here's the original promo for 'It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown' in 1966:
During the 1980s and 1990s, CBS trimmed the "trick-or-treat" sequence - after the gang knock on the first door and say "trick-or-treat" it cuts to them after they finished trick-or-treating and comparing what they got at the last house. That scene was also missing from early DVD releases.
More cuts came with later airings on ABC where the Lucy / Charlie Brown football scene and Snoopy's battle with the Red Baron were excised. The very scenes that were featured so prominently in the original commercial for the special!
Here's the very first opening with original sponsor tags (Coke and Dolly Madison Cakes) from 1966.
This is a very weird film promo that theaters used to advertise whatever monster movie mashup they had planned for Halloween, an opportunity for folks to see classic films from years or even decades earlier.
The Universal monster movies are still the Gold Standard of the 1930s & 1940s era, they began to get play on television in the 1960s. The big studios were against releasing their movies for TV in hopes the medium would die out. Smaller studios like Republic and Hal Roach made a fortune as a result with ancient westerns and short films starring the Little Rascals, Laurel & Hardy, and Bowery Boys. By the mid-sixties more mainstream product flooded the market as everyone wanted into the game.
Here are promos for Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and Son of Frankenstein - four of the most popular of the Universal films.
"The castle lights are growing dim. There's no one left but me--and him. When next we meet in Frankenstone...don't come alone." - Vincent Price
In 1971 a Canadian syndicated series caught on with the hip kids called 'Hilarious House of Frightenstein.' It starred Billy Van ('Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour') with Fishka Rais, Guy Big, Mitch Markowitz, Vincent Price, and Julius Sumner Miller.
One of the most spectacular (and bizarre) TV celebrations of the 1970s was 'The Paul Lynde Halloween Special' with special guests KISS and Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch of the West).
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