The Great Pumpkin and The Grinch Turn 50!

Mike Lawson • Milestones • October 6, 2016

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Charles M. Schulz and Dr. Seuss continue to entertain generations of readers and viewing audiences. Schulz’s It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, mark their fiftieth anniversaries in October 2016 and December 2016, respectively. Both specials can be used by music educators to enhance learning. The world famous animated characters can motivate students to learn about music as well as Halloween and Christmas history and traditions.

A number of lessons or units based on themes could easily tie in to the two animated holiday specials. Themes include Halloween, Christmas, holidays, comic strips and animated cartoons, children’s literature, the life of a cartoonist/animator, Hollywood and the television industry, and music within United States culture. You’ll find activities in this article that can celebrate the two holiday specials and foster learning in music, performing arts, and interdisciplinary activities.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown first aired on the CBS network on October 27, 1966. Schulz created the Great Pumpkin as a satire of Santa Claus. Because of the nonexistence of Santa and the way many children do not get what they ask for from Santa, the Great Pumpkin is a being that ends up disappointing Linus when he does not show up. The main scenes in the special include autumn, Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy’s football, trick or treating, Linus and Sally waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin, Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace, Violet’s Halloween party, and Linus shivering in the pumpkin patch.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Interesting Facts

• The Coca-Cola Corporation, sponsors of the Peanuts specials, wanted a blockbuster or the possibility of future specials would be clearly in jeopardy. The idea for the Great Pumpkin fit the bill as the special has been played every year since 1966.

• When It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown first premiered on October 27, 1966, it was number one in the ratings with a 49 percent share of audience (31.6 rating), tied with the popular show Bonanza.

• The Great Pumpkin TV special was the third of more than 50 TV specials featuring the internationally famous Peanuts gang.

• The first time the Peanuts characters were animated was for Ford motor company car commercials in the early 1960s.

• Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace also was first seen in animation in the Great Pumpkin. Note that no music was used for these scenes, only sound effects.

• Charlie Brown would always receive a rock when trick or treating in the special. Charles Schulz would receive loads of candy every year through the mail to give to poor Charlie Brown!

• Unlike the first two Peanuts specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown All-Stars, the Great Pumpkin special differed due to its very vivid colors in order to depict the bright colors of autumn.

• Vince Guaraldi, composer for the first 15 Peanuts TV specials and the feature film A Boy Named Charlie Brown. composed twenty songs for the Great Pumpkin special including “The Great Pumpkin Waltz,” “The Red Baron,” “Breathless,” “Graveyard Theme,“ “Trick or Treat,” and “Fanfare.” This music was performed by the Vince Guaraldi Sextet and released on a soundtrack album. Schroeder played World War I songs that Snoopy listens to. The happy songs were “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag.” The sad songs to which Snoopy cries were “There’s a Long, Long Trail” and “Roses of Picardy.”

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The original How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was published as a book in 1957 and in Redbook magazine. The original text is in rhymed verse. The Grinch was the first adult character and villain in a Dr. Seuss book. The Grinch Christmas special first aired on the CBS network on December 18, 1966. In the special, the Grinch decides to take away the Whos’ Christmas because his heart was two sizes too small making him full of hatred. Even after stealing the Whos’ Christmas trees, presents, and food, the Whos still gather to sing and celebrate the spirit of Christmas. Upon hearing the singing, the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes, he gains compassion, and he returns everything he stole to the Whos and even celebrates Christmas with them.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Interesting Facts

• The speaking voice of the Grinch was done by famed actor Boris Karloff. His voice was mechanically altered because Dr. Seuss did not think Karloff had the appropriate voice to play the Grinch.

• Thurl Ravenscroft did the singing for “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” without receiving credit. Ravenscroft also did the voice of Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes commercials.

• Famous voice artist June Foray, who voiced many female voices in the Warner Bros. cartoons such as Tweety’s Granny, did the voice of Cindy Lou Who in the Grinch special.

• The main songs in the Grinch score included “Welcome Christmas” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

• The budget for the Grinch special was huge at over $300,000, equivalent to $2.2 million dollars today.

• Dr. Seuss wrote the lyrics for the special How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Chuck Jones believed that only Dr. Seuss could do this task because of his way with words.

• The original Grinch was black and white with red or pink eyes. The green color for the animated special was inspired by the ugly shade of green of a car rented by Chuck Jones.

• A live action film version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was released in 2000 starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch.

• Universal Orlando Resort’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Hollywood both feature an annual “Grinchmas” live action stage event during the Christmas season.

• Dr. Seuss was anti-Hollywood after a few unpleasant experiences. He trusted Chuck Jones to handle the Grinch special because of their previous working relationship.

• It was extremely difficult to get a sponsor for the Grinch special. Dr. Seuss secured backing from The Foundation for Commercial Banks.

• Many fans thought that the “Fahoo Foraze” (“Welcome Christmas”) song was written in Classical Latin and wrote the network requesting a translation of the lyrics.

• Because the original 1957 book took only about 12 minutes to read, Chuck Jones had to find a way to fill the 26-minute special. The middle section of the animated special featuring Max the Dog being tied to the sleigh and going down the mountainside was added specifically for the program and was not part of the original book.

• A new animated film version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is scheduled for release in 2018. The Great Pumpkin and the Grinch in the Curriculum: Activities

A number of curriculum frameworks exists that support student learning. With these in mind, consider the following guidelines that will lead to learning scenarios at various levels of instruction and with students’ learning styles in mind.

Three modes within learning styles theory can be fostered to accommodate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. All three modes are incorporated in the suggested activities. Some students use a combination of all three modes and this should certainly be encouraged.

When designing, keep in mind Bloom’s taxonomy so that learning opportunities are not only at the lower levels. Design activities that can challenge students but differentiate performance tasks so that all students can be successful, engaged, and motivated. Consider grouping students as well as giving them individual work.

Activities that foster the Multiple Intelligences, especially musical intelligence, are ideal ones for the Great Pumpkin and Grinch specials.

Considering performance versus background history, students could perform some of the dialog or music from the two specials, do experiential activities that are thematically-based, do interdisciplinary activities and projects, and undertake inquiry-based activities.

Activities for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

• History of Halloween Students can complete research about Halloween in historical terms and create a written report, oral presentation, or a multi-panel comic strip.

• Great Pumpkins Students decorate pumpkins and create their vision of the Great Pumpkin. These can be placed on display in class or in a common area in your school for others to see or can even be voted on for best Great Pumpkin.

• Waltzes Using Vince Guaraldi’s “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” as inspiration, students learn about the musicality of the waltz. Which composers are famous for their waltzes? Students can explore one or more composer and create a collage of what they learn either through hands on creation or technology.

• Jazz Music Because much of Vince Guaraldi’s music is the jazz genre, students might explore the history of jazz, New Orleans, and modern jazz artists and create a timeline, either hands-on or through technology.

• Lyrics for “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” Using the melody of “The Great Pumpkin Waltz,” students create lyrics for this instrumental waltz. They can perform this alone or with others for the class.

• Performing “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” Students alone or with other learn to play “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” on one or more instruments.

• Acting Out Scenes Student groups choose one scene from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and act out the scene for the rest of the class. The appropriate soundtrack music can play in the background. Students could prerecord the scene ahead of time in order to present the best performance they can do.

• Dear Great Pumpkin Letters/Emails Students write letters or emails asking the Great Pumpkin what they would like for Halloween.

• Charles M. Schulz Students learn about the life and work of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. Students can learn about St. Paul where he was born and hypothesize how his birth locale helped shape the Peanuts characters and settings. Students could also read some of the original Peanuts comic book collections to encourage reading comprehension in a fun way.

• Vince Guaraldi Students explore the life and music of Vince Guaraldi, composer of the Peanuts music found in the Great Pumpkin special and 14 other Peanuts specials and the feature film A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

Activities for The Grinch Who Stole Christmas!

• Christmas Students can learn about Yuletide traditions internationally because of the Christmas theme of the Grinch special. Consider having students create hands on presentations or technology- based presentations. Students can explore the traditions of Victorian England because many of our traditions in the United States stem from these Victorian traditions.

• Winter Holidays Because not all students celebrate Christmas, students can explore other late year or winter holidays such as Saturnalia, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Consider hosting a culture day whereby students can create experiential celebratory activities to share with classmates (e.g., food, manual arts, decorative items, customs, and historical facts).

• Dr. Seuss Students can learn about the life and work of Dr. Seuss including reading the original book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! or other works by Dr. Seuss. Students can complete expansion activities whereby they come up with a new ending for a Dr. Seuss story, create a montage of the main scenes of a Dr. Seuss story by hand sketching or using technology to create drawings, or create an entirely new character and story that Dr. Seuss might have created.

• Dear Mr. Grinch Letters students write Dear Mr. Grinch letters and convince the Grinch not to steal the Whos’ presents and food. This activity can foster persuasive writing and can be tailored to the level of students’ writing abilities.

• The Grinch Score Students can learn to perform “Welcome Christmas” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” instrumentally or vocally. They could perform solos or work as an ensemble.

• Chuck Jones Students learn about famous animator Chuck Jones who brought the Grinch and many Warner Brothers animated characters to life. Students can explore the Chuck Jones Experience website as part of this assignment: ( Students could also view one or more Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Sylvester the Cat, Porky Pig, and many other characters.

• What does a Grinch look like? Design a different look for the Grinch. What would he look like? What would a female version look like? Students could design costumes and dress up in a way the is different than what is depicted in the animated special.

• Seussical the Musical Students can be exposed to the Dr. Seuss musical, especially the songs on the cast album. Students could learn to perform one song instrumentally or vocally from the

Seussical score and perform it alone or with others for the class. Students could also act out one scene from the musical by assigning roles and deciding the staging of the scene.


It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! are two holiday specials that have been enjoyed by millions. Who could imagine Halloween and Christmas without these two programs?

Keith Mason, Ph.D. teaches world languages and cultures at New Providence High School. He received eight Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for Outstanding Educational Impact for integrating musicals into the high school curriculum. Dr. Mason has authored numerous articles about musicals in the interdisciplinary curriculum. His book collection includes translations of Peanuts comic books in more than a dozen languages.








Charles M. Schulz

Charles Monroe Schulz (November 26, 1922-February 12, 2000) is an American cartoonist most famous for the comic strip Peanuts that ran from 1950 to 2000. His characters are a part of American and international popular culture and include Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus Van Pelt, Lucy Van Pelt, Sally Brown, Pig Pen, Schroeder, Sherman, Patty, and Violet. Introduced later were the characters Woodstock, the Little Red Haired Girl, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and Franklin.

Schulz was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and grew up in St. Paul. After serving in the U.S. army, Schulz created his first regular cartoons; it was a regular series of weekly one-panel jokes called Li’l Folks published from 1947 to 1950 in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The newspaper dropped the strip in 1950. Schulz published seven one-panel cartoons for The Saturday Evening Post in 1948. In 1950, Schulz attempted to syndicate Li’l Folks through the Newspaper Enterprise Association but the deal fell through. That same year, Schulz approached the United Feature Syndicate and they embraced a four-panel version of Li’l Folks. Entitled Peanuts, it made its first appearance on October 2, 1950 in seven newspapers. The Sunday-page first appeared on January 6, 1952. At the height of its success, the Peanuts strip appeared in 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and 21 languages. Over the nearly fifty years, Schulz drew close to 18,000 strips. Schulz died in his sleep at home on February 12, 2000. His last original Peanuts strip was published the next day on Sunday, February 13, 2000. Schulz received a number of awards and honors throughout his career including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Chuck Jones

Charles “Chuck” Martin Jones (September 21, 1912- February 22, 2002) was an internationally famous American animator, cartoon artist, producer, director and screenwriter of animated films. He is most famous for cartoons done for the Warner Bros. Cartoons Studio (Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies). After Jones graduated from Chouinard Art Institute, he worked his way up within the animation industry. Jones worked in his own production companies as well throughout his career, for example Sib Tower 12 Productions. Jones also worked for Metro Goldwyn- Meyer (MGM) for a new series of Tom and Jerry shorts and the television adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Jones received eight Academy Award nominations and won three times for cartoons. Jones published his autobiography Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist in 1990. Jones worked closely with Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, during World War II. The two created the Private Snafu series of Army educational cartoons. Jones created a number of animated characters including Marvin the Martian, Pepe LePew, Wile E. Coyote, and the Road Runner. Jones worked on a number of TV specials and feature films including Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Curiosity Shop, and Carnival of the Animals featuring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7011 Hollywood Boulevard.

Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel or Dr. Seuss was born March 2, 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Dr. Seuss is world famous as a children’s book author and illustrator. Some of his children’s books are considered the most popular ones of all time having sold more than 600 million copies and being translated into more than 20 languages. Geisel began using his pen name “Dr. Seuss” when studying at Dartmouth University and the University of Oxford. He became a cartoonist and illustrator for Vanity Fair, Life, and other publications. His first children’s book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street! was published in 1937. His other classic children’s books include If I Ran a Zoo (1950), Horton Hears a Who! (1954), If I Ran the Circus (1956), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), and Green Eggs and Ham (1960). Dr. Seuss published more than 60 books during his career and many adaptations have resulted in feature films, a Broadway musical, and four television series. His birthday, March 2, has become the annual date for National “Read Across America,” promoting a love of reading in children. Dr. Seuss passed away on September 24, 1991, at the age of 87 but he has left a legacy of classic children’s books and characters that live on including How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

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