How 'SNL' Created Tom Hanks' Viral David S. Pumpkins

"It was a dumb idea with the perfect host," says cast member Mikey Day about the origin of "Halloween's Santa," who has an animated special on NBC Oct. 28, just in time for the holiday.

"It was definitely a late-night idea," says Saturday Night Live's Mikey Day of David S. Pumpkins, the more-goofy-than-scary Halloween character getting his own Lorne Michaels-produced animated special on NBC (set to air Oct. 28 at 11:30 p.m.).

For the uninitiated, Pumpkins is a pumpkin-suited weirdo — played by Tom Hanks — who hangs out in a Tower of Terror-style theme park attraction and whose entire act involves waving a pair of finger guns and asking, "Any questions?" For added atmosphere, he is backed by breakdancing skeletons Day and Bobby Moynihan.

Odd though it was, the "Haunted Elevator" sketch introducing Pumpkins, which originally aired Oct. 22, 2016, generated an instantaneous and huge response. Within days, costume stores across the country sold out of Hanks' orange-and-black ensemble. (Day found it by "literally going into Google and typing 'pumpkin suit.' ") The sketch has since been viewed more than 9 million times on YouTube.

Day attributes Pumpkins' pop to "a combination of things: It was Halloween; it was a week or two before the election, and people just wanted something silly to laugh at; and it was a dumb idea with the perfect host — Tom Hanks, the man who can unite us all." Observing his 5-year-old son's delight at the sketch, Day realized it would be the perfect basis for a Halloween special (in which Peter Dinklage also voices a role). "The comedy of it is pretty accessible to all demographics," Day explains. "David S. Pumpkins could be Halloween's Santa!"

The trio who wrote the sketch — Day, Moynihan and SNL writer Streeter Seidell — had a hard time deciding just how much of the Pumpkins mystery to unravel in the special. "The appeal is you never get much information about him," says Day. "So there's some allusions to aspects of David S. Pumpkins' life, but it's not a complete origin story." Not up for debate: his middle name. "The S stands for Simon," says Day. "Some people think it's for Scary, but that's wrong."

This story first appeared in the Oct. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.