Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown...Lee Mendelson

If I can already review a Christmas mystery, I can certainly review a Halloween book. The actual title is It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: The Making of a Television Classic by Lee Mendelson with Reminiscences by Bill Melendez. Almost five decades after the television special first aired, it's still a family favorite drawing seven million viewers. Now, executive producer Lee Mendelson joins with the original Peanuts animator Bill Melendez to tell stories about cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, and the making of the special.

Did you realize these three men created fifty prime time network specials during 38 years? And, they almost didn't happen. Despite the fact that the first two specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown's All Stars! were number one and number two in the ratings, the network still wasn't convinced. They told Mendelson they wanted a blockbuster third show, or they wouldn't pick up the option for the fourth one. But, Schulz, Mendelson and Melendez collaborated to bring us the story of Snoopy, the Flying Ace, and the Red Baron; Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football; Halloween with Charlie Brown receiving rocks when he goes trick-or-treating; and, of course, Linus and Sally sitting in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin. They are all storylines that we've grown to know and love.

But, the book is so much more. It's the story of the music for all the specials. And, it's fascinating to read about the casting of the kids who played the characters, knowing they would eventually grow out of the roles. It's a book that's filled with over 150 gorgeous illustrations, and memories for all of us who grew up watching the Charlie Brown specials.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was first shown in 1966. Generations of us have now grown up with this special. It's a treat to read the reminiscences by Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, two of the three men who created an American memory. It's a show that has become part of our culture with its message of hope and disappointment. This gorgeous treatment of a beloved television classic would be a treasure for anyone who loves Charlie Brown.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: The Making of a Television Classic by Lee Mendelson with Reminiscences by Bill Melendez. Dey Street. 2014. ISBN 9780062344830 (hardcover), 148p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

No comments: