Fans sent mounds of real candy to the studio ''for Charlie Brown'' after the Peanuts Halloween special first aired
Viewers' hearts sank every time Charlie Brown said, "I got a rock."
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On October 27, 1966, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown aired for the first time on CBS. It came on during the time when families were normally settling around the TV to watch My Three Sons, replacing the sitcom with the 25-minute special that would go on to become a sacred Halloween tradition for many families for the next 50 years (and on).
The special is notable in the Peanuts film canon for being the first to pattern the title as a quippy phrase spoken to Charlie Brown. After that, we got You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown; Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown; What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown; and many more.
While the Peanuts characters have come together for a ton of memorable specials, the Great Pumpkin resonated in ways that not even Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz could have predicted. In fact, for some perhaps overly sympathetic viewers, the special even prompted some to take action.
You'll likely remember that it's a recurring bit in It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown for the gang to compare candy after each house, only for Charlie Brown to repeatedly reveal that he received a rock. It happened three times total, even though Schulz only wrote in the script for it to occur once. Animator/producer Bill Melendez was the one to suggest that the gag be repeated, and for some viewers, it turns out that three times was just too heart-breaking for a lighthearted Halloween special.
Their response? According to the book/documentary Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown, there were viewers who sent in mounds of candy to the studio, addressed to Charlie Brown.
So remember that when you throw the Halloween special on this year and feel a stir in your heart when you hear Charlie Brown, defeated, hold up a hunk of stone and say, "I got a rock." At least in 1966, he got more candy than one fictional character could ever eat.