The Peanuts comic strip ran in papers for nearly 50 years – from 1950 right up until 2000 – 17,897 strips in all, making it (arguably) the longest story ever told by a single person, Charles M. Schulz. Schulz wrote and drew every strip himself.
This is the very first strip, featuring the original Patty and a character called Shermy. More popular characters appeared later: Schroeder (May 1951), Lucy (March 1952), Linus (September 1952), Pig-Pen (July 1954), Sally (August 1959), “Peppermint” Patty (August 1966), Woodstock (introduced April 1967; given a name in June 1970), Franklin (July 1968), Marcie (July 1971), and Rerun (March 1973).
Franklin appeared in 1968 at the urging of a schoolteacher who thought it might help normalize friendship between a black kid and a white kid. Schulz was initially worried it would seem patronizing, but the strip was published and was ahead of its time.
Schulz was pretty wily about gender discrimination too, once having Charlie Brown refuse sponsorship of his team when they wouldn’t allow girls (or dogs!) to play. Although some of the holiday specials on TV mentioned God, the strip itself tended to stay fairly neutral.
Schulz necessarily always wrote several panels in advance, so when he retired in 2000, there were still a few to be published and he actually passed away one day before his final strip ran.
This weekend The Peanuts Movie hits theatres, looking better and brighter than ever. The Schulz family is ever in control of the Charlie Brown empire; Schulz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan wrote the script and hand-picked Steve Martino to direct because they felt he’d shown a “faithful to classics” with his adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! They’ve used archived music and classic settings so even though this movie is rendered in 3D CGI, it should still feel familiar to old fans of the strip and the movies we’ve watched on TV every year since infancy. Animator Bill Melendez provided the voice of both Snoopy and Woodstock ever since the first Peanuts cartoon, 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. He died in 2008, but the new movie uses archival samples of Melendez’s Snoopy and Woodstock voices from previous cartoons. Musician Trombone Shorty will even be providing the old “wah-wah” of the adults in the Peanuts universe with a plunger mute as always.
Sidebar: I have a tiny head. Yeah, I said it. I no longer wear glasses, but my sunglasses are either XS if I can find them, and children’s when I can’t. Back when I did wear eyeglasses, in the dark ages before Prada, my first pair were Nintendo brand, but my second and third were Peanuts brand. They were even more awful than you’re imagining, and no, I will not be posting a picture. I find it interesting that Charles Schulz actually disliked the Peanuts name. He didn’t come up with it, an editor did “It’s totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing,” he said. “And has no dignity. I think my humor has dignity.” And I think he’s right. Except for my glasses. Those were hilarious but totally without a shred of dignity.
As you may have guessed, the boys are dragging me to see Spectre tonight, but my heart will be in the theatre down the hall. So to soothe myself a bit, here are a couple of fun things I’ve come across while in serious-research-mode:
- Which Peanuts character are you? I can’t vouch for its authenticity because it just called me a Sally Brown (Charlie’s little sister) and I’m nobody’s second banana. Still, if you take it, be sure to share your results in the comments!
- Peanutize yourself! Ever wondered what you’d look like if you made a cameo in the strip? Now you don’t have to. May I present: