Raggedy Ann: The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile

"Why couldn't I have gotten work in a pie or something?" asks the poor pumpkin. "I'm a failure. I can't help it. That's the way I was carved." And he cries - his tears are pumpkin seeds. Nice touch. Chuck Jones, the Looney Tunes director, directed this special, and there are times when it shows.

This was one of a couple of Raggedy Ann specials that were made in the late 70s, when Ann was being "branded" as a mulitmedia licensed character. A few years later, a group called “Those Guys from Cleveland” would use characters like Strawberry Shortcake and The Care Bears to overshadow her; those guys raised "multimedia licensing" to a fine art.
I haven't seen her other specials, but it's almost a shame Ann got shoved aside, because, while I'll admit I expected to really hate it as an adult (I only vaguely remember seeing it as a kid), this special turned out to be awfully funny - thanks, I assume, to Chuck Jones, who realized that just because he was writing a sickly-sweet show for little kids didn't mean he couldn't be funny. The people who wrote "Casper Saves Halloween," "Which Witch is Which," and any number of other C-list specials would have done well to take note.

Anyway... far away, on the other side of town from the lonely pumpkin in the introduction, Raggedy Ann and Andy are almost as sad as the pumpkin because of a nearby little boy named Ralph whom they've never seen smile. He has no reason to - he lives with an aunt who happens to be a real pill. The aunt's house is an old Victorian, and she dresses and acts as though she's been in there since it was built. She won't let Ralph go trick or treating, and, when kids come to trick or treat at her house, she runs them off and shouts "can't you find honest jobs?" Her voice is instantly recognizable as that of June Foray - Hazel the Witch in "Donald Duck: Trick or Treat," "Witch Hazel" in various Looney Toons, Mother Nature in the Smurfs, the old lady who owns Tweetie Bird, etc. She's also the voice of Raggedy Ann. Her voice is all over the specials on this site.

The Raggedy pair try to come up with plans to make Ralphie smile. Andy suggests accusing the aunt of income tax evasion. Ann, who is not nearly as funny as Andy, suddenly shouts "Pumpkin!" to which Andy replies "Pumpkin? What do you mean 'pumpkin?' Heh. You're always yelling 'pumpkin.'" Life at these guys' house must have been strange.

The two hit on the notion of bringing the poor boy a pumpkin and go to work (with the help of a skateboarding stuffed dog who would have been far more at home in the 80s). The last pumpkin in the patch is still sitting on the shelf, beating down on himself so loudly that even the nearby mice get fed-up and leave.

So, that's act 1. Act 2 and Act 3 consist entirely of Ann, Andy and the dog getting the pumpkin and bringing it back (which is kind of hard for dolls who aren't strong enough to lift a jack-o-lantern.) It's not a terribly involving plot - each scene moves along at a very, very leisurely pace. There's no suspense for even a second.

Luckily for the viewer, Chuck Jones was involved not just as director, but as a writer. If the plot lacks any twists or suspense (and it does), he made up for it by having some pretty clever dialogue, mostly on Raggedy Andy's part. It's though Jones said "well, I have to write a show about talking dolls that will appeal mainly to the under 6 set. Might as well make the most of it." And, being Chuck Jones, he got away with it (I can easily imagine getting notes from the producers telling writers to dumb the script down, make the plot even MORE generic, etc. - that happens all the time when you're working for hire on something for kids).
This isn't to say it's as anarchic or clever as an Animaniacs episode, or even Witch's Night Out," but the people involved in this clearly had fun about as much fun as they could with the gig. It may be faint praise, but this is probably the best of all possible Raggedy Ann halloween specials.

Consider this dialogue:

Raggedy Andy: "Why don't we just take someone else's pumpkin?"
Raggedy Ann: "You can't make someone happy by making someone else sad!"
Raggedy Andy: "Ever try it?"

Or how about this:
Ralph (on the trick or treaters): But it's Halloween, aunt Agatha! They were just having fun!
Aunt Agatha: That is no excuse, young man, for threatening honest citizens....be a good boy, and tomorrow we'll go to the museum and look at the rocks.

What do you know - trick or treating CAN get you accused of taking part in a rumble, just as Sally suspected in It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Sure, I got bored at times while watching this special as an adult. The song at the end is pretty forgettable (it's the polar opposite of the disco ending songs that were popular at the time), but the funny moments seem all the funnier in a special like this, and make it worth finding a copy of, though it's pretty rare these days.

The good folks at DTV-5 have posted the whole thing, re-edited to look like an epsidoe of CBS Storybreak. I don't know WHY DTV-5 does these things, but it puts the whole episode into one file.


Anonymous said...

You can watch all but a couple minutes of this here!


GaryBoz said...

Yeah I have this one on a dvd transfer as well. The pumpkin is a little whiney but he's kind of funny. The last line probably should have been changed, even my mom thought it was cheesy back in the 80's. "A very merry Hallo, and a happy new Ween." I sure they could have come up with something better lol.

Chris Heffernan said...

I had vague memories of this from childhood, and have since gotten my hands on a copy. I agree with you in that I get bored here and there during it, but I still watch it each year. The wide-shot trick-or-treating scenes of the town really capture a great Halloween atmosphere.

GhostlyLydia said...

It might be better to have never stopped watching it... I still have a working VHS player and the VHS to this cartoon short and I'm 24. I've watched it nearly every year and I love it. I always found it to be a very charming little cartoon and I have often gotten the pumpkin's song stuck in my head. Unfortunately, there is no way for me to find the lyrics to sing it off and it is difficult to tell what he is singing at times on the VHS.

I have also loved that line "A very merry Hallow and a happy new Ween!" because I've always liked crossing over Halloween and Christmas. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is actually one of my favorite movies, come to think of that.

I have also been "bred" to love the dolls themselves. My mother loved her collection of Raggedies when she was a girl and when I was small, I was given what was remaining of her collection. Every Halloween, my parents would sit me down with my giant Raggedy Ann doll and pop in that VHS. Unfortunately, watching this cartoon made me wonder why I didn't have the adorable orange-haired Raggedy Andy too and I started to silently protest by not playing with Raggedy Ann... But now, as an adult, I have three pairs of Raggedies. A Madame Alexander set made of soft cloth and yarn, the 100th Anniversary set mint in boxes and the Living Dead Dolls Rotten Sam and Sandy set. I also have a copy of the behind-the-scenes book for the animated musical film and several copies of the original Raggedy Ann and Andy stories, including the story involving the Camel With the Wrinkled Knees. (Just missing a toy of the Camel!)

So everytime I watch this cartoon, it reminds me of how much I have always loved these dolls in animation and Chuck Jones' Raggedy Andy is one of my favorite Raggedy Andys.

GaryBoz said...

Thanks for the reply Lydia.

Has anyone heard whether or not this may be released on DVD anytime soon?


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