Halloween was on a Wednesday night in 1979. That's a pretty blah night for Halloween; it's a school night and it's only halfway through the week.
It seems somewhat counterintuitive to program a children's Halloween special on Halloween night, especially when your target audience might be out trick-or-treating.
But that's what CBS did on October 31, 1979, when they premiered "Raggedy Ann and Andy and The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile".
Hat tip to my good friend Denis who pointed me toward this little-known special this past week. He figured I would really like the art design, which he aptly described as a "nifty autumnal vibe".
He's right -- it has a great color palette and is spooky in a melancholy way.
I suspect there may have been an additional motive, since after watching it, I realized how I MAY have had a tendency to act a little like the glum pumpkin in the past.
I had no recollection of this at all, even though I watched a LOT of TV in those days. Of course, by Halloween night 1979, I was a 15 year old sophomore and little interested in cartoons (that would eventually change), while Denis was firmly in the intended demographic -- a wee lad of 8.
Most likely I was watching Eight is Enough over on ABC. Real People was on NBC, but I wasn't a big fan of that.
It's an interesting special, but it's kinda weird too -- and I suspect that even though it was written and directed by Chuck Jones, it never became a perennial favorite because of this weirdness.
First of all, why have Raggedy Ann and Andy as the stars? As I see it, they could have substituted virtually any other characters, like say, Casper and Wendy. There's no clear reason why these two dolls are there -- whose are they, anyway? They don't appear to belong to the little boy, and there's no sister in evidence.
More importantly, I think, there's no musical number (unless you count the rather halting closing credits). I think the musical scores go a long way to making Rankin Bass holiday specials so memorable.
But there's plenty to like here -- a couple great Chuck Jones set pieces, and those evocative backgrounds.
Check it out for yourself (and leave a comment on what you think!):
The Pumpkin that Wouldn't Smile
Sorry for the link -- it wouldn't let me embed it for some reason.