All Things Snoopy
Karen Johnson ..............................................................
On October 2, 1950, three kids - Charlie Brown, Patty and Shermy - appeared on the funny pages of seven newspapers. Over the next 50 years plus - via television specials, a Saturday morning cartoon, books, live theater productions, recordings, amusement parks and 17,897 comic strips - these three, along with Snoopy, Woodstock and others in a sizable cast of characters, have taught us and entertained us.
The Peanuts Gang was the invention of Charles M. Schulz and, today, visitors to Santa Rosa, California may explore the art and nuances of his craft at a museum that carries on his legacy.
In this episode, Donna chats with Karen Johnson, Director of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center and longtime friend of the Schulz family. We hear about the Peanuts Gang, its creator and the museum. And then we center, most especially, on all things Snoopy from his doghouse decor (a pool table, Wyeths and a Van Gogh) to his impersonations (from a moose and a pelican to Mickey Mouse); his moments at the typewriter (“It was a dark and stormy night…”); his alter-egos (who doesn’t love his WWI flying ace and his battles with the Red Baron?); his “band of brothers” (siblings Spike, Marbles, Olaf, Andy and Belle); and his connection with aviation (from NASA to the U.S. Air Force).
Karen explains how Snoopy’s character evolved over time to embrace more and more of the fanciful. We also hear why Schulz believed the best idea he ever had in the strip was to move Snoopy from inside the doghouse to the rooftop.
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For more than sixty years a group of precocious, angst-ridden children and a beagle with a rich fantasy life have lived within our national consciousness. The lexicon of the Peanuts comic strip (“security blanket,” “blockhead,” and “happiness is a warm puppy”) and Schulz’s repertoire of images (Lucy’s psychiatry booth, Snoopy on the roof of his doghouse, and the kite-eating tree) are universally recognized. The Peanuts characters, images, and lingo can be found daily in all media forms as metaphors that reinforce ideas and provide mental images instantly understood by all.
Today, thirteen years after Schulz’s death, Peanuts continues to be rerun in many newspapers by popular demand. In fact, papers that conduct polls find that Peanuts consistently ranks #1 or #2 with their readers. Peanuts–themed merchandise is still selling well—especially in Japan—and new products are continually being developed. New television specials have been aired in the last decade and have been well received, with more in the planning stages. The art of Peanuts lives on in its many manifestations.
So, who was the artist behind this phenomenon? What were his sources of inspiration? How was he able to keep producing intriguing, funny, exquisitely drawn strips for half a century? Why do people love this comic strip and its characters so much? How did Charles M. Schulz revolutionize the art of the comic strip? These are some of the questions that are explored in the exhibitions and programs of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, in Santa Rosa, California which opened to the public on August 17, 2002.
Nearly 100 original strips are on view at any one time to illustrate the development of Schulz’s characters and line, a re-creation of his studio includes his well–used drawing board, and biographical materials chronicle his early artistic abilities as well as his devotion to family and friends. The Museum also exhibits large-scale pieces to give visitors a keener sense of who Schulz was. One of the works on view in the Great Hall is Yoshiteru Otani’s mural that depicts Charlie Brown running to kick a football held by Lucy; it is made up of 3,588 2”x8” ceramic tiles, each with a different comic strip image. All these elements and more await fans and students of Charles Schulz’s life and art.