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Friday, October 28th, 2011

Checking In…with the Voice Cast of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

"A person should always choose a costume which is in direct contrast to her own personality."

If you don't like It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, featuring the gang from Peanuts, then, I'm sorry, you're a monster. It's a heartwarming tale about childhood belief, dogs fighting in World War I, getting dissapointed by well-meaning, yet idiotic adults, and not being able to stay awake through the night. In other words, it's perfect.

Great Pumpkin first aired on October 27, 1966 on CBS, and it's been re-aired on that network and, beginning in 2001, on ABC every year since. Like the comic strips themselves, it was written by brilliant man Charles M. Schultz, and it's become as much a part of Halloween as dressing up and eating hideous amounts of candy. But what are the kids (and adult) who provided the voices for Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, etc. up to today? Come take some proverbial candy from this definitely-not-a-stranger and see.

Peter Robbins, as Charlie Brown
I’m going to start this out on an adorable note: according to a 2006 NPR article, Peter Robbins, who voiced Charlie Brown throughout the 1960s, owns a dog named Snoopy. That melts the ice around my frozen heart. Robbins, 55, is now a real estate agent in California, and hasn’t professionally acted since appearing on an episode of My Three Sons in 1972. He was seven years old when he got his first acting gig, in 1963’s A Ticklish Affair, and he guest-starred on everything from The Munsters to Get Smart. But to millions, he’ll always be known as the 10-year-old boy who once muttered, “I got a rock.”

Christopher Shea, as Linus van Pelt
Like Robbins, Christopher Shea was only seven years old when he started working (I was drawing terrible pictures of misshapen Power Rangers when I was seven), and his first roles were as the voice of Linus in the until-recently unreleased 1963 TV special A Boy Named Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas. He delivered the immortal passage, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Shea played Joey Starett in all 17 episodes of ABC’s Shane, based on the book of the same name, and would also appear on The Odd Couple for three episodes in 1971, his final year of acting. Sadly, he passed away from natural causes last year at the age of 52.

Sally Dryer, as Lucy van Pelt
Between 1965-1969, Sally Dryer voiced many members of the Peanuts gang, including Violet (original A Boy Named Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas), Lucy (four specials, including It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and You’re in Love, Charlie Brown); Peppermint Patty’s underlings, Shirley, Clara, and Sophie (It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown); and lastly, Patty (not Peppermint Patty) in the full-length A Boy Named Charlie Brown. (Fun fact: Patty was one of three characters, along with Charlie Brown and Shermy, to appear in the first Peanuts comic strip, on October 2, 1950.) Dryer, 54, now lives in Arizona and works as a mixed media artist, creating structures that “contain complex mirror systems that produce a labyrinth of visual pathways creating an optical illusion that extends beyond the sculpture’s frame.”

Kathy Steinberg, as Sally Brown
Sally was the only character to appear in probably my favorite Peanuts comic strip of all-time, the one where she gets a “C” for coat hanger sculpture and lobs a series of deep philosophical questions back at her teacher. I can’t help but read it in the voice of Kathy Steinberg, who had to record her lines extremely quickly for Great Pumpkin because one of her teeth was lose. They finished in time, and the very next day, the tooth popped out. Good thing, too because, according to animator Lee Mendelson (more on him below) in a Washington Post article, “You couldn’t understand her at all.” She was also so young that she couldn’t read, and had to be fed the script line-by-line. Steinberg would voice Sally for one more special, You’re in Love, Charlie Brown, and that was it for her acting career.

Gail DeFaria, as Pigpen
There’s not much information about Gail DeFaria out there, and the facts that are available are extremely confusing. So: Gail voiced Pig-Pen in Great Pumpkin, then Peppermint Patty in 1967’s You’re in Love, Charlie Brown and 1968’s He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown. Her brother, Christopher (who would later produce Sucker Punch and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, in a movie in which Gail's niece, Adrienne, would voice Eglantine, an owl), took over as Peppermint Patty beginning with 1969’s It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown, the short in which Gail voiced Pig-Pen again. Gail also had a sister, Lisa, who was the voice of Patty (not Peppermint Patty) in Great Pumpkin. Got that?

Bill Meléndez, as Snoopy
Is Snoopy the greatest animated animal ever? Discuss in the comments, though the answer is: yes. But Bill Meléndez (who began his career by working for Disney, providing animation for Bambi and Fantasia) wasn’t just the voice of Snoopy, Woodstock, and Spike (he got those by speaking gibberish into a tape recorder, then playing it at high speed); he, along with fellow animator/good buddy Lee Mendelson, turned the Peanuts comic strip drawings into TV and movie characters. Those two, along with Charles Schultz of course, worked together for over four decades, and produced and animated hundreds of episodes, specials, and commercials. Meléndez also produced Garfield specials; animated the Emmy Award-winning The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe; and started his own animation production company, Bill Meléndez Productions. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 91, but left behind millions of life-affirming memories.

Josh Kurp still believes

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  • kiara ink

    Your power rangers weren't THAT deformed…

  • kiara ink

    < >

    Yes.