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‘SNL’ goes all in on David S. Pumpkins for Halloween

In this Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, file photo, Actor Tom Hanks, left, flanked by his wife Rita Wilson, arrives to receive a lifetime achievement at the Rome Film Festival, in Rome. (Andrew Medichini / Associated Press)
In this Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, file photo, Actor Tom Hanks, left, flanked by his wife Rita Wilson, arrives to receive a lifetime achievement at the Rome Film Festival, in Rome. (Andrew Medichini / Associated Press)
By Elahe Izadi Washington Post

“Saturday Night Live” didn’t air a regular episode this weekend, instead opting to re-air old Halloween sketches and a half-hour animated David S. Pumpkins special that answered no one’s questions.

“The David S. Pumpkins Animated Halloween Special,” featuring a live-action Tom Hanks at the start and close and voiced by the veteran actor and “SNL” host, was narrated by Peter Dinklage and tried to give the backstory to an oddball character from a 2016 sketch.

“How’s it hanging? I’m David Pumpkins, and I’m gonna scare the heck outta you,” Hanks says, flanked by skeleton sidekicks Mikey Day and Bobby Moynihan. “Any questions?”

It then cuts to animation, and Dinklage, voicing the adult version of the kid at the center of the story, Kevin, says, “Well, yes. In fact, I have a question that perhaps you can answer. Who would you say is Halloween’s Santa, who is that magical person, I mean, who embodies the spirit of Halloween?”

The answer: David S. Pumpkins, “this jazzed-up man in crazy attire.”

In the animated special, a young Kevin and his younger sister, Dotty, stumble upon a magic pumpkin that unlocks David Pumpkins, who fails to adequately explain who he is, and each new detail about his character – the strawberry car he drives – makes him even more confounding. Kevin and Dotty go trick-or-treating, and with David Pumpkins and his sidekicks, they save the day from bullies who steal the neighborhood kids’ candy. (It all involves David Pumpkins promising a very scary song, but the anticipation keeps building and he never actually sings.)

“Haunted Elevator,” the original David Pumpkins sketch, was a hair-brained idea that turned into an instant “SNL” classic. It aired weeks before the 2016 presidential election and was a welcome reprieve from much of the political material. Here was some wacky character no one was expecting, brilliantly portrayed by Hanks, who gave him his trademark voice and hand signal.

“Before the show, we had told Tom that for the voice, he would just be a normal-sounding dude,” sketch co-writer Streeter Seidell told Vulture. “He decided to put that voice on himself. Literally not until air.”

The initial sketch was polarizing. Some found it hysterical and endearingly bizarre, and Hanks’s pumpkin suit quickly sold out ahead of last year’s Halloween. Others found the sketch and the hype surrounding it unfunny and annoying, just like the baffled characters in the original sketch who grew increasingly frustrated with each new David Pumpkins appearance.

So, naturally, the animated special would draw similar criticism. It’s not uncommon for “SNL” to create a much larger story for a character from a five-minute sketch. But in the past, those adaptations were usually feature-length movies. This time, if you hated David S. Pumpkins, only 30 more minutes of it was put into the world.

In the original David Pumpkins sketch, “Haunted Elevator,” two people go on an amusement park ride, but it’s full of this David Pumpkins character. One rider grows exasperated and asks the operator, “Why did you go all in on David Pumpkins?”

“Hey, it’s ‘100 Floors of Freight,’” the operator responds. “They’re not all gonna be winners.”

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