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It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Creator Charles Schulz's Playful Joke Led To The Iconic 'I Got A Rock' Scene

When the "Peanuts" special "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" first aired on CBS in October 1966, it was as if lightning had struck twice for Charles "Sparky" Schulz. The "Peanuts" creator and his team were on the heels of the highly successful first-ever Charlie Brown Christmas TV show based on his comic strip, and the Halloween special became just as popular as the first — if not more so.

To appease CBS, Schulz, producer Lee Mendelson, and animator Bill Melendez created a Fall-themed take on the Christmas special. In an interview with SF Gate, Mendelson revealed that the TV network commissioned the trio to create another "blockbuster." Despite the pressure, that tall order actually came to fruition and they had another massive ratings success."It blew our minds," Mendelson admitted. "We had no idea that was going to happen." The Halloween special was even nominated for an Emmy Award.

While the main theme of the animated TV special is Linus' quest to meet the mythical Great Pumpkin, the side storylines also became part of pop culture history: Charlie Brown's football kick mishap, Snoopy's flying ace doghouse, and of course, that trick-or-treating session that left the unlucky Charlie Brown with something other than candy in his sack.

The iconic rock joke was a source of tension in the Peanuts team

One of the ongoing stories in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" involves the "Peanuts" gang trick or treating — sans Linus, who spends his night in the pumpkin patch. Charlie Brown is decked out in a ghost costume with a few too many eyeholes in it, but that's the least of his problems. While all of his peers receive treats, Charlie Brown keeps getting rocks in his candy bag. "I got a rock" is a line uttered by child voice actor Peter Robbins multiple times in the special.

The gag was cooked up by "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz, much to the dismay of his partners. Producer Lee Mendelson told Comic Riffs of The Washington Post that he didn't agree with Schulz's idea to stick Charlie Brown with a bag full of rocks, and they even had an argument about it. "Sparky said that maybe we ought to have Charlie Brown get a rock," Mendelson revealed. "I said, 'Oh, come on, that's a little too harsh and cruel.' But the more I protested, the more he wanted it. And after I protested more, Sparky said, 'Okay, he'll get three rocks!'"

Schulz pulled his rank on the rock decision, but in the end it backfired. In a 1984 newspaper interview, Schulz admitted that the rock prank angered viewers. "This so outraged the audiences sense of fair play that viewers of all ages sent sacks of candy to Charlie all over the country," he revealed. Sympathetic viewers continued to mail candy to Schulz's studio for years after "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" first aired.