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.
Schulz was born in Minneapolis in 1922 and 12 hours after his birth, an uncle gave him the nickname “Sparky” after the racehorse character Spark Plug in a popular comic strip of the time, Barney Google. Thus, almost from the moment of his birth, Schulz had a connection with comic strips. Early on, “Sparky” showed an aptitude for art and, following service in the European Theater of Operation during World War II, he launched into a career in the funny papers.
In Episode 26 of On the Road with Mac and Molly on Pet Life Radio, I chat with Karen Johnson, Director of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center. 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.
All photos taken at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center by Donna Hailson.