Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Raggedy Ann & Andy in the Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile

One of my very favorite Halloween specials that I looked forward to watching every year as a child has pretty much fallen into obscurity. It's such a shame, because it is one of the sweetest, most charming little animated specials ever made and I still love it immensely. I am referring to Raggedy Ann & Andy In The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile, written, produced and directed by none other than Chuck Jones and released in 1979.

The special starts out on the evening of Halloween. We are immediately introduced to a glum pumpkin that no one has bought and time is quickly running out as the sun begins to set. He begins sobbing uncontrollably at the thought of missing out on the opportunity to make some child happy and fulfill his ultimate purpose.

Next we find Raggedy Ann (June Foray) and Andy (Daws Butler) looking out a window and talking about a sad boy next door named Ralph who lives with his stern Aunt Agatha (June Foray), that forbids him from partaking in any of the Halloween festivities. Raggedy Ann decides to give the aunt the benefit of the doubt, but begins to devise a plan to find a pumpkin to bring the boy a bit joy on the spooky holiday. It doesn't take long to figure out where this is going, but the journey of uniting these two misfits is the focus.

Enter Raggedy Arthur, a skateboard riding rag doll dog! He joins Raggedy Ann and Andy as they begin their journey into the unknown in search for the prized gourd! Time is running out and just as they begin to get hopeless they stumble upon the glum pumpkin, who is still having a pity party and doesn't see that his saviors have arrived.

It all seems to good to be true, as the dolls explain their predicament and how needed he is. He begins to cry tears of joy at the news - tears in the form of pumpkin seeds (awww)! They quickly grab a wooden beam to scoot him off the platform and onto the skateboard. Here begins a difficult trek back to town, wrought with a zany chain of events that stun a homeowner, jogger and police officer. It's quite a funny, clever classic Chuck Jones scene that still gets a laugh out of me!

They finally make it to Ralph's house and decide to use a rope and pulley to haul the pumpkin up to the boy's room on the 2nd floor. Ralph is in bed sleeping when we wakes up to see a beautifully glum looking jack-o-lantern facing him in the window. It's a very touching moment as he is overcome with joy at seeing the pumpkin! He brings him to the bed and wraps his arms around his new friend and all seems to be well, until they remember Aunt Agatha.

Raggedy Ann and Andy know that there is no chance Ralph will be able to keep the pumpkin unless something is done to soften Aunt Agatha's heart and help her remember what it is like to be child again. The two sneak into her bedroom, where she is fast asleep, and Ann begins whispering in her ear to conjure up her own fun Halloween memories from the past.

* * * SPOILER ALERT * * *

Just like Scrooge, Aunt Agatha suddenly wakes from her stupor and realizes the error of her ways. She instantly seeks to make things right with Ralph and whisks him off to enjoy the last bit of Halloween with some trick-or-treating. He dresses up like a pirate and she joins the fun by dressing up as a witch (just as she did as a little girl). Best of all, even the glum pumpkin comes along for the fun and it's a very happy ending for all!

This special is quite difficult to find, especially in any decent quality. Most copies were released by companies looking for a quick cash-in who did nothing to restore to the sound or picture. In fact, the sound is so bad on some copies that it makes it virtually impossible to watch. To my knowledge it has never been released on DVD at all. While I still have my VHS copy, which also includes the hard-to-find Christmas special, 'Raggedy Ann & Andy in the Great Santa Claus Caper', I was fortunate to get my hands on a decent digital transfer, but it's still a far cry from the restoration it deserves. In the meantime, you can watch the special in its entirety on YouTube. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do and make it part of your own yearly traditional Halloween viewing!

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