Thursday, October 19, 2006


Charles Shulz began writing and drawing a strip cartoon in 1950 that was to become one of the most successful strips of all time. This was Peanuts and it ran until 2000, syndicated in newspapers across seventy five countries and translated into forty languages. Shulz didn't have anyone to assist him in the process, preferring to do all the work himself. The strip spawned several animated television specials, some of which won Emmy awards and feature films. Newspapers still run repeat cartoons today.
The world that Shulz created was a big influence on future cartoonists. His characters became household names, especially Charlie Brown and his faithful beagle, Snoopy. Peanuts dealt with the often painful process of growing up and coping with school and friends. Charlie Brown is the focus of the stories, an insecure boy who bears his defeats in baseball philosophically. A lot of people could identify with him. There are no adults in the cartoon; the children are seen in their own world, interacting with each other. Shulz uses the strip to express aspects of his own childhood and makes comments on society.
Snoopy is the character that is merchandised the most. He is more than a pet, and is humanized as he walks on his hind legs and types out his would be novel. He spends most of his time on top of his kennel and is never seen going inside the kennel. Snoopy fantasizes about being a World War I fighter pilot, complete with scarf and goggles. Woodstock, a scrawny looking little bird, is Snoopy's best friend. He is a very strange dog indeed and an integral part of Peanuts.
Other characters play important roles in the strip. Lucy is famous for her health booth, where she charges five cents for psychiatric counseling. Schroeder is a serous boy who sits at his toy piano, playing classical music. Linus is fond of Bible passages and needs a security blanket at all times. Peppermint Patty throws Charlie Brown into confusion by flattering him and showing an interest. There is also Marcie, with her head in a book, and the grimy Pig-Pen who walks around in a cloud of dust. Peanuts was so successful because fans cared about all the characters and recognized situations from their own growing up.
Shulz died in 2000 and was commemorated in a museum and by statues of his Peanuts characters. The airport near his hometown was named after him. His contribution to popular culture is appreciated and Charlie Brown and his friends will never be forgotten.