Peanuts

Alternate meaning: See peanut

Peanuts book cover

Peanuts is the name of a syndicated comic strip written and drawn by American cartoonist Charles Schulz from October 2, 1950 to 2000.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Television and films
3 Feature Films
4 Animated TV Specials
5 External Links
6 Books

History

Schulz originally called the strip Good Ol' Charlie Brown, after the strip's feature character. The syndicate insisted on the name Peanuts, a name Schulz disliked. The title panel for the Sunday strips usually read Peanuts, featuring Good Ol' Charlie Brown, as a result.

Peanuts features a group of children, ranging from infants to eight-years olds, whose perspectives on the world around them are at once childlike and adult. Initially, the strip revolved around Charlie Brown, a boy who generally fails at anything he attempts but nevertheless continues trying. He can never win a ballgame, but continues playing baseball. He can never fly a kite successfully, but continues trying to fly his kite. Charlie Brown's playmates in the early years included Lucy van Pelt and her little brother Linus, Charlie Brown's beagle Snoopy, and piano-playing Schroeder.

The Peanuts characters generally do not age, except in the case of infant characters who catch up to the rest of the cast, then stop. Linus, for example, is born in the first couple of years of the strip's run. He ages from infancy to Charlie Brown's age over the course of the first fifteen years of the strip's run, during which we see him learn to walk and talk with the help of Lucy and Charlie Brown. Linus then stops aging, and becomes Charlie Brown's classmate in third grade and best friend.

In the 1960s, the strip shifts in two ways. For one, Snoopy becomes a more prominent character. Many of the strips revolve around Snoopy's active fantasy life, in which he might be a World War I fighter pilot or an ice hockey star, to the amusement and consternation of the children who wonder what he is doing.

Also, Schulz introduced greater diversity in his cast of characters by replacing some of the largely anonymous neighborhood children (Shermy, Violet) with a character named Patricia Reichardt — known universally as Peppermint Patty. Patty is an assertive, athletic, but rather obtuse girl who shakes up Charlie Brown's world by calling him "Chuck", flirting with him, and giving him compliments he's not so sure he deserves.

Peppermint Patty (not to be confused with an earlier character named Patty) also brought a new group of friends, including the strip's first black character, Franklin, and Peppermint Patty's bookish sidekick Marcie Johnson, who calls Patty "Sir" and Charlie Brown "Charles" (all other characters call him "Charlie Brown" at all times). Some have speculated that Peppermint Patty and Marcie are portrayals of lesbians, but this may well be idle fantasy especially considering the girls' mutual affection for Charlie Brown.

The newest character is Rerun van Pelt, the little brother of Linus and Lucy, who was introduced in the 1970s.

Peanuts is remarkable for its deft social commentary, especially compared with other strips appearing in the 1950s and early 1960s. Schulz did not explicitly address racial and gender equality issues so much as he assumed them to be self-evident in the first place. Peppermint Patty's athletic skill and self-confidence is simply taken for granted, for example. However, Schulz could throw some barbs when he chose.

One memorable sequence featured a little boy named "5", whose sisters were named "3" and "4", whose father had changed the family surname to their zip code number as a protest. Another sequence lampooned Little Leagues and "organized" play, when all the neighborhood kids join "snowman-building" leagues and criticize Charlie Brown when he insists on building his own snowmen without leagues or coaches.

The final original Peanuts comic strip was finished on January 3, 2000 and published in newspapers a day after Schulz died on February 13.

Television and films

Aside from numerous books of or about the comic strips, the Peanuts characters have appeared in animated form on television many times. This started when the Ford Motor Company licensed the Peanuts characters in 1959 for black and white television advertisements for the Ford Falcon. This commercial was animated by Bill Melendez who worked at Playhouse Pictures, a cartoon studio that had Ford as a client. Schultz and Melendez became friends, and when then documentary producer Lee Mendelson decided to make a short film called A Boy Named Charlie Brown, he brought on Melendez to work on the animated sequences. Before this project was completed, the three of them produced their first television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, first broadcast in 1965 on CBS, which featured the music of Vince Guaraldi. The success of A Charlie Brown Christmas was the impetus for CBS to air a long-running, celebrated series of prime-time Peanuts TV specials over the years, including It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, and many others. In total, more than thirty animated specials were produced.

During the early 1990s, Peanuts was adapted to a weekly Saturday morning animated series, entitled The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. This series failed to gain the acclaim and the audiences of the prime-time specials, and it was cancelled after two seasons.

Schulz and team later collaborated on other television specials and full-length feature films, the first of which was A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1968). (Again, note the absence of the word "Peanuts" in the title.) Most of these made use of material from Schulz's strips, which were then adapted. The Peanuts characters even found their way to the theatre, appearing in the musicals You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Snoopy. You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown was originally an extremely successful off-Broadway musical that ran for four years (1967-1971) in New York City and on tour, with Gary Burghoff as the original Charlie Brown. An updated revival opened in New York City in 1999.

Feature Films

Animated TV Specials

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
  • Charlie Brown's All-Stars (1966)
  • It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
  • You're In Love, Charlie Brown (1967)
  • He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown (1968)
  • Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz (1969)
  • It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown (1969)
  • Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971)
  • You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972)
  • A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
  • You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1973)
  • There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown (1973)
  • It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown (1974)
  • It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)
  • Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975)
  • You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown (1975)
  • It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown (1976)
  • What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown (1977)
  • It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown (1977)
  • Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown (1979)
  • You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown (1979)
  • Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown (1980)
  • It's an Adventure, Charlie Brown (1980)
  • She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown (1980)
  • It's Magic, Charlie Brown (1981)
  • Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown (1981)
  • A Charlie Brown Celebration (1982)
  • Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown (1983)
  • What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown (1983)
  • It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984)
  • Happy New Year, Charlie Brown (1985)
  • You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1985)
  • Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown (1985)
  • It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown (1988)
  • This Is America, Charlie Brown (1988)
  • Why, Charlie Brown, Why (1990)
  • You Don't Look 40, Charlie Brown (1990)
  • Snoopy's Reunion (1991)
  • It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992)
  • You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown (1994)
  • Good Grief, Charlie Brown: A Tribute to Charles Schulz (2000)
  • Here's to You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years (2000)
  • A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002)

External Links

Books

  • Chip Kidd (Ed.) (2001). Peanuts: the Art of Charles M. Schultz. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-375-42097-5.

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