Saturday Night Live is no stranger to throwing some of their best sketches together for a holiday special. It is almost as routine as the saxophone that plays during the show’s opening credits. For their 2017 Halloween episode, SNL added a new addition to their holiday lineup: The David S. Pumpkins Animated Halloween Special. The cartoon is narrated by Peter Dinklage and featured the return of Tom Hanks as the kooky Halloween hero and Bobby Moynihan and Mikey Day as his skeleton companions.
For those who may have missed the Pumpkins “Haunted Elevator” sketch, it aired during Hank’s hosting spot last year (Season 42, Episode 4). The scene depicted Hanks as a miscast character in a Tower of Terror-style ride. Flanked by Moynihan and Day as dancing skeletons and backed by goofy music, the sketch was an unexpected viral video. It could have easily been that weird waste-of-time filler that runs as you struggle to stay awake at 12:45 AM, but it turned out to be mindless comedy gold and took off as one of the most popular SNL moments ever.
The animated special is like the sketch. It never really answers the question what is David Pumpkins, but that is okay. It is not the most cerebral comedy, but it does not have to be. It is silly and enjoyable and fun. Hanks sounds a lot like Randy Newman as his character enjoys substantially more lines than it did in the sketch. The 21-minute cartoon makes fun of itself as it intentionally stumbles to channel a quasi-“Night Before Christmas” vibe and follows the adventures of a boy who stumbles upon Pumpkins. After Pumpkins and Co. meet up, they eventually try to reclaim candy stolen from neighborhood trick-or-treaters. Along the way Pumpkins drives a car shaped like a strawberry, makes a stand against those disappointing raisin boxes, and takes on the story’s villain: Raincoat Man.
A television program with a long history of abusing its best material, the NBC variety show is close to adding David Pumpkins to its overdone list. Dave Chapelle referenced Pumpkins in his SNL episode and Hanks returned as a spin-off of the character (David Pimpkins) for the digital short “Rap Song” in the season finale. The concept of Pumpkins is fun, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Hanks frequently appears on SNL and it would be a shame to have this character follow the actor round. If the fourth use of the character in just over a calendar year puts the sketch to rest, the animated special was at least a nice sendoff to a beloved sketch.