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More Cartoons    List of Peanuts Characters
Peanuts is a syndicated daily and Sunday comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, which ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000 (the day after Schulz's death), continuing in reruns afterward. The strip is considered to be one of the most popular and influential in the history of the medium, with 17,897 strips published in all, making it "arguably the longest story ever told by one human being", according to Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University. At its peak, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages. It helped to cement the four-panel gag strip as the standard in the United States,and together with its merchandise earned Schulz more than $1 billion. Reprints of the strip are still syndicated and run in many newspapers.

Peanuts achieved considerable success for its television specials, several of which, including A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown won or were nominated for Emmy Awards. The holiday specials remain quite popular and are currently broadcast on ABC in the United States during the corresponding season. The property is also a landmark in theatre with the stage musical, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, being an extremely successful and often performed production.

It has been described as "the most shining example of the American success story in the comic strip field", ironically based on the theme of "the great American unsuccess story", since the main character, Charlie Brown, is meek, nervous and lacks self-confidence, being unable to fly a kite, win a baseball game or even kick a football.

 

The first strip from October 2, 1950.

History

1940s

Peanuts had its origin in Li'l Folks, a weekly panel comic that appeared in Schulz's hometown paper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, from 1947 to 1950. He first used the name Charlie Brown for a character there, although he applied the name in four gags to three different boys and one buried in sand. The series also had a dog that looked much like the early 1950s version of Snoopy. In 1948, Schulz sold a cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post; seventeen single-panel cartoons by Schulz would be published there. The first of these was of a boy who resembled Charlie Brown sitting with his feet on an ottoman.

In 1948, Schulz tried to have Li'l Folks syndicated through the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Schulz would have been an independent contractor for the syndicate, unheard of in the 1940s, but the deal fell through.[citation needed] Li'l Folks was dropped in 1949. The next year, Schulz approached the United Features Syndicate with his best work from Li'l Folks.

When his work was picked up by United Features Syndicate, they decided to run the new comic strip he had been working on.This strip was similar in spirit to the panel comic, but it had a set cast of characters, rather than different nameless little folk for each page. The name Li'l Folks was too close to the names of two other comics of the time: Al Capp's Li'l Abner and a strip titled Little Folks. To avoid confusion, the syndicate settled on the name Peanuts, a title Schulz always disliked. In a 1987 interview, Schulz said of the title Peanuts: "It's totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing, and has no dignity — and I think my humor has dignity." The periodic collections of the strips in paperback book form typically had either "Charlie Brown" or "Snoopy" in the title, not "Peanuts", because of Schulz's distaste for his strip's title. The Sunday panels eventually typically read, Peanuts, featuring Good Ol' Charlie Brown.

 

1950s

Peanuts premiered on October 2, 1950, in seven newspapers: The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Minneapolis Tribune, The Allentown Call-Chronicle, The Bethlehem Globe-Times, The Denver Post and The Seattle Times. It began as a daily strip; its first Sunday strip appeared January 6, 1952, in the half page format, which was the only complete format for the entire life of the Sunday strip.

Schulz made the decision to produce all aspects of the strip, from the script to the finished art and lettering, himself. Thus the strip was able to be presented with a unified tone, and Schulz was able to employ a minimalistic style. Backgrounds were generally eschewed, and when utilised Schulz's frazzled lines imbued them with a fraught, psychological appearance. This style has been described by art critic John Carlin as forcing "its readers to focus on subtle nuances rather than broad actions or sharp transitions."

While the strip in its early years resembles its later form, there are significant differences. The art was cleaner, sleeker, and simpler, with thicker lines and short, squat characters. For example, in these early strips, Charlie Brown's famous round head is closer to the shape of a football. Most of the kids were initially fairly round-headed.

1960s-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, as is Franklin's presence in a racially-integrated school and neighborhood. The fact that Charlie Brown's baseball team had three girls was also at least ten years ahead of its time (and in fact, one cartoon episode dealt with Charlie refusing sponsorship of the team because the sponsor did not want girls or dogs on his team).

Schulz would throw satirical barbs at any number of topics when he chose. Over the years he tackled everything from the Vietnam War to school dress codes to the "new math". One of his most prescient sequences came in 1963 when he added a little boy named "5" to the cast, whose sisters were named "3" and "4", and whose father had changed their family name to their ZIP Code, giving in to the way numbers were taking over people's identities. In 1958, a strip in which Snoopy tossed Linus into the air and boasted that he was the first dog ever to launch a human, parodied the hype associated with Sputnik 2's launch of "Laika" the dog into space earlier that year. 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.

Peanuts did not shy away from cartoon violence. The most obvious example might be Charlie Brown's annual, futile effort to kick the football while Lucy holds it. At the last moment, she would pull the ball away just as he was kicking. The off-balance Charlie would sail into the air and land on his back with a loud thud. There was also the ever-present threat of Lucy to "slug" someone, especially her brother Linus. Though violence would happen from time to time, only once was a boy ever depicted hitting a girl (Charlie Brown, who accidentally hit Lucy; when Lucy complained about it, Charlie Brown went down to her psychiatric booth where she returned the slug much harder). Schulz once said, "A girl hitting a boy is funny. A boy hitting a girl is not funny."

Peanuts touched on religious themes on many occasions, most notably the classic television special A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965, which features the character Linus van Pelt quoting the King James Version of the Bible (Luke 2:8-14) to explain to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about. (In personal interviews, Schulz mentioned that Linus represented his spiritual side.)

Peanuts probably reached its peak in American pop-culture awareness between 1965 and 1982; this period was the heyday of the daily strip, and there were numerous animated specials and book collections.

1980s-1990s

Though other strips rivaled Peanuts in popularity during the 1980s and 1990s, the strip still had one of the highest circulations in daily newspapers.

The daily Peanuts strips were formatted in a four-panel "space saving" format beginning in the 1950s, with a few very rare eight-panel strips, that still fit into the four-panel mold. In 1975, the panel format was shortened slightly horizontally, and shortly after the lettering became larger to accommodate the shrinking format. In 1988, Schulz abandoned this strict format and started using the entire length of the strip, in part to combat the dwindling size of the comics page, and also to experiment. Most daily Peanuts strips in the 1990s were three-panel strips.

Schulz continued the strip until he was forced to retire because of health reasons.

2000-On

The final daily original Peanuts comic strip was published on January 3, 2000. Original Sunday strips continued for a few weeks, with the last one published, coincidentally, the day after Schulz's death on February 12. The final Sunday strip included all of the text from the final Daily strip, and the only drawing: that of Snoopy typing in the lower right corner. It also added several classic scenes of the Peanuts characters surrounding the text. Following its finish, many newspapers began reprinting older strips under the title Classic Peanuts; uniquely, the syndicate offered papers strips from either the 1960s or the 1990s (few carried both), with the Sunday edition being from the 1960s in all papers carrying the Sunday strip. Though it no longer maintains the "first billing" in as many newspapers as it enjoyed for much of its original run, Peanuts remains one of the most popular and widely syndicated strips today.

Television and film productions

A Charlie Brown Christmas was the first Peanuts television special.

In addition to the strip and numerous books, the Peanuts characters have appeared in animated form on television numerous times. This started when the Ford Motor Company licensed the characters in 1961 for a series of black and white television commercials for the Ford Falcon. The ads were animated by Bill Meléndez for Playhouse Pictures, a cartoon studio that had Ford as a client. Schulz and Meléndez became friends, and when producer Lee Mendelson decided to make a two-minute animated sequence for a TV documentary called A Boy Named Charlie Brown in 1963, he brought on Meléndez for the project. Before the documentary was completed, the three of them (with help from their sponsor, the Coca-Cola Company) produced their first half-hour animated special, the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was first aired on the CBS network on December 9, 1965.

The animated version of Peanuts differs in some aspects from the strip. In the strip, adult voices are heard, though conversations are usually only depicted from the children's end. To translate this aspect to the animated medium, Meléndez famously used the sound of a trombone with a plunger mute opening and closing on the bell to simulate adult "voices". A more significant deviation from the strip was the treatment of Snoopy. In the strip, the dog's thoughts are verbalized in thought balloons; in animation, he is typically mute, his thoughts communicated through growls or laughs (voiced by Bill Meléndez), and pantomime, or by having human characters verbalizing his thoughts for him. These treatments have both been abandoned temporarily in the past. For example, they experimented with teacher dialogue in She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown. The elimination of Snoopy's "voice" is probably the most controversial aspect of the adaptations, but Schulz apparently approved of the treatment. (Snoopy's thoughts were conveyed in voiceover for the first time in animation in the animated version of the Broadway musical "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown", and later on occasion in the animated series The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show.)

The success of A Charlie Brown Christmas was the impetus for CBS to air many more prime-time Peanuts specials over the years, beginning with It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Charlie Brown's All-Stars in 1966. In total, more than thirty animated specials were produced. Until his death in 1976, jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi composed highly acclaimed musical scores for the specials; in particular, the piece "Linus and Lucy" which has become popularly known as the signature theme song of the Peanuts franchise.

In addition to Coca-Cola, other companies that sponsored Peanuts specials over the years included Dolly Madison cakes, Kellogg's, McDonald's, Peter Paul-Cadbury candy bars, General Mills, and Nabisco.

Schulz, Mendelson, and Meléndez also collaborated on four theatrical feature films starring the characters, the first of which was A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969). Most of these made use of material from Schulz's strips, which were then adapted, although in other cases plots were developed around areas where there were minimal strips to reference. Such was also the case with The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, a Saturday-morning TV series which debuted on CBS in 1983 and lasted for three seasons.

By the late-1980s, the specials' popularity had begun to wane, and CBS had sometimes rejected a few specials. An eight-episode TV miniseries called This is America, Charlie Brown, for instance, was released during a writer's strike. Eventually, the last Peanuts specials were released direct-to-video, and no new ones were created until after the year 2000 when ABC obtained the rights to the three fall holiday specials. The Nickelodeon cable network re-aired the bulk of the specials, as well as The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, for a time in 1997 under the umbrella title You're on Nickelodeon, Charlie Brown. Eight Peanuts-based specials have been made posthumously. Of these, three are tributes to Peanuts or other Peanuts specials, and five are completely new specials based on dialogue from the strips and ideas given to ABC by Schulz before his death. The most recent, He's a Bully, Charlie Brown, was telecast on ABC on November 20, 2006, following a repeat broadcast of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Airing 43 years after the first special, the premiere of He's a Bully, Charlie Brown was watched by nearly 10 million viewers, winning its time slot and beating a Madonna concert special.

Many of the specials and feature films have also been released on various home video formats over the years. To date, 20 of the specials, the two films A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Come Home, and the miniseries This Is America, Charlie Brown have all been released to DVD.

In October 2007, Warner Home Video acquired the Peanuts catalog from Paramount for an undisclosed amount of money. They now hold the worldwide distribution rights for all Peanuts properties including over 50 television specials. Warner has made plans to develop new specials for television as well as the direct to video market, as well as short subjects for digital distribution..


Record albums

In 1962, Columbia Records issued an album titled Peanuts, with Kaye Ballard and Arthur Siegel performing (as Lucy and Charlie Brown, respectively) to music composed by Fred Karlin.

Fantasy Records issued several albums featuring Vince Guaraldi's jazz scores from the animated specials, including Jazz Impressions of a Boy Named Charlie Brown (1964), A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), Oh, Good Grief! (1968), and Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits (1998). All were later reissued on CD.

Other jazz artists have recorded Peanuts-themed albums, often featuring cover versions of Guaraldi's compositions. These include Ellis Marsalis, Jr. and Wynton Marsalis (Joe Cool's Blues, 1995); George Winston (Linus & Lucy, 1996); David Benoit (Here's to You, Charlie Brown!, 2000); and Cyrus Chestnut (A Charlie Brown Christmas, 2000).

Cast recordings (in both original and revival productions) of the stage musicals You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Snoopy!!! The Musical have been released over the years.

Numerous animated Peanuts specials were adapted into book-and-record sets, issued on the "Charlie Brown Records" label by Disney Read-Along in the 1970s and '80s.

RCA Victor has released an album of classical piano music ostensibly performed by Schroeder himself. Titled Schroeder's Greatest Hits, the album contains solo piano works by Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, and others, performed by John Miller, Ronnie Zito, Ken Bichel, and Nelly Kokinos

TV Specials

Name Original Air Date Network Current Network
A Boy Named Charlie Brown 1963 Unaired None
A Charlie Brown Christmas December 9, 1965 CBS ABC
Charlie Brown's All-Stars June 8, 1966 CBS None
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown October 27, 1966 CBS ABC
You're in Love, Charlie Brown June 12, 1967 CBS None
He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown February 14, 1968 CBS None
Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz May 24, 1969 CBS None
It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown September 27, 1969 CBS None
Play It Again, Charlie Brown March 28, 1971 CBS None
You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown October 29, 1972 CBS ABC
There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown March 11, 1973 CBS None
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving November 20, 1973 CBS ABC
It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown February 1, 1974 CBS None
It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown April 9, 1974 CBS ABC
Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown January 28, 1975 CBS  
You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown October 28, 1975 CBS None
Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown January 9, 1976 CBS None
It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown March 16, 1976 CBS None
It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown October 24, 1977 CBS None
What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown February 23, 1978 CBS None
Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown January 5, 1979 CBS None
You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown March 19, 1979 CBS None
She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown February 25, 1980 CBS None
Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown October 24, 1980 CBS None
It's Magic, Charlie Brown April 28, 1981 CBS None
Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown October 30, 1981 CBS None
A Charlie Brown Celebration May 24, 1982 (1981) CBS None
Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown? February 21, 1983 CBS None
It's an Adventure, Charlie Brown May 16, 1983 CBS None
What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? May 30, 1983 CBS None
It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown April 16, 1984 CBS None
Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown March 20, 1985 CBS None
It's Your 20th Television Anniversary, Charlie Brown May 14, 1985 CBS None
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown November 6, 1985 CBS None
Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! January 1, 1986 CBS None
Snoopy!!! The Musical January 29, 1988 CBS None
It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown September 27, 1988 CBS None
You Don't Look 40, Charlie Brown February 2, 1990 CBS None
Why, Charlie Brown, Why? March 16, 1990 CBS None
Snoopy's Reunion May 1, 1991 CBS None
It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown 1992 CBS None
It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown November 27, 1992 CBS None
You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown January 18, 1994 NBC None
It Was My Best Birthday Ever, Charlie Brown Straight to video (1997) Unaired  
Good Grief, Charlie Brown: A Tribute to Charles Schulz February 11, 2000 CBS None
Here's to You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years May 10, 2000 CBS None
It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown Straight to video (2000) Unaired  
The Making of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" December 6, 2001 ABC Unknown
A Charlie Brown Valentine February, 14, 2002 ABC ABC
Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales December 8, 2002 ABC ABC
Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown August 29, 2003 ABC Unnoted
I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown December 9, 2003 ABC ABC
He's a Bully, Charlie Brown November 20, 2006 ABC ABC

 

 The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show

Episode Name Original Air Date
Snoopy's Cat Fight 9/17/1983
Snoopy: Team Manager 9/24/1983
Linus and Lucy 10/1/1983
Lucy VS the World 10/8/1983
Linus' Security Blanket 10/15/1983
Snoopy: Man's Best Friend 10/22/1983
Snoopy the Psychitrist 10/29/1983
You Can't Win Charlie Brown 11/5/1983
The Lost Ballpark 11/12/1983
Snoopy's Football Career 11/19/1983
Chaos in the Classroom 11/26/1983
It's that Team Spirit, Charlie Brown 12/3/1983
Lucy Loves Schroeder 12/10/1983
Snoopy and the Giant 9/14/1985
Snoopy's Brother Spike 9/21/1985
Snoopy's Robot 9/28/1985
Peppermint Patty's School Days 10/5/1985
Sally's Sweet Baboo 10/12/1985

 

 This is America, Charlie Brown mini-series

Episode Name Original Air Date
The Mayflower Voyagers 10/21/1988
The Birth of the Constitution" 10/28/1988
The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk 11/4/1988
The NASA Space Station 11/11/1988
The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad 2/10/1989
The Great Inventors 3/10/1989
The Smithsonian and the Presidency 4/19/1989
The Music and Heroes of America 5/23/1989

 

 Other Specials

Name Original Air Date Network
Snoopy at the Ice Follies 10/24/1971 NBC
Snoopy's International Ice Follies 11/12/1972 NBC
Snoopy Directs the Ice Follies 11/13/1973 NBC
Snoopy's Musical on Ice 5/24/1978 CBS
The Big Stuffed Dog 2/8/1981 NBC

 

Feature films

Movie Release Date
A Boy Named Charlie Brown December 4, 1969
Snoopy, Come Home July 14, 1972
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown June 3, 1977
Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown June 13, 1980