Ex Situ: Color Design in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

October 29, 2009


Found this one through the reliably bookmarkable Cartoon Brew. It’s a fascinating and insightful study of the color choices used in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Justin Hilden.

Bill Melendez’s 1966 television animated special It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown may not seem the obvious choice for a study in color theory. The Peanuts shorts from that era are usually considered beloved yet simple children’s fare. In animation circles these specials are often footnoted as being produced quickly and on the cheap. While it is certainly true that The Great Pumpkin is not high art, it has endeared itself into the collective holiday psyche of Americans since the late 1960s. Such an emotional attachment stems from the familiarity of the characters, the breezy quality of the music, the innocence of the voice acting, and also – I believe – the use and direction of color.

Mr. Hilden has graciously accompanied his article with illustrative screen captures and comments, e.g.:

The kids are surrounded and buried in these deep, dark tones with two exceptions. The kids who go trick-or-treating are anchored onto a baby blue sidewalk in the same value as the boring house interiors, in contrast to Linus and Sally who remain half covered by the Halloween intensity. This makes trick-or-treating feel less exciting than waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin.

I love this stuff. The early Peanuts specials are more sophisticated and crafted than they may first appear. No wonder these things are classics. For another fascinating over-analyzation in the same vein, see “The Art of Bill Melendez.”

Color Design in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
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Ex Situ: Ice Age 3: Can a Queer Utopia Be Built on Prehistoric Gender Roles?

October 28, 2009


Never saw Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, but since it’s coming to home video soon (I wish I got paid for that plug), it’s time for an apropos update.

Page Schilt has mixed feelings about Ice Age 3. On one hand, it shows animals of heterogeneous gender permuting peacefully. On the other hand, it does its best to reinforce stale stereotypes, particularly masculine tropes. Here’s a bit:

In an attempt to create a compensatory family of his own, Sid appropriates a trio of dinosaur eggs. Now in nurturing mode, he begins referring to himself as “Mommy” and even–unless I’m much mistaken–using feminine pronouns.

All of this, I know, sounds really queer.

But, like so much pop culture, Ice Age 3 simultaneously subverts and reinforces sex and gender norms. All the stuff it’s dredging up from our collective cultural anxiety closet–changing gender roles, the anti-sociality of the nuclear family, alternative communities, homoeroticism–is, I would argue, kept in check by the film’s policing of traditional gender roles.


The utopian nature of the collective is emphasized by the subplot about heterosexual romance between two squirrels. The female squirrel, a hot femme fatale, repeatedly uses her sexual wiles to part the male squirrel from his nut (pun intended, I’m sure). After battling it out in SM foreplay for most of the movie, the squirrels briefly succumb to sexual bliss before descending into domestic hell.

It’s a good read, with some links that I’ll probably highlight individually in the future.

Ice Age 3: Can a Queer Utopia be Built on Prehistoric Gender Roles?
> Catena Ex Situ


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