November 07, 2015


(CBS, September 7, 1983-October 12, 1985)

Lee Mendelson/Bill Melendez Productions

Brad Kesten (season 1) & Brett Johnson (season 2) – Charlie Brown
Stacy Ferguson – Sally Brown, Patty (both season 2)
Angela LeeLucy van Pelt, Patty (both season 1)
Heather Stoneman – Lucy van Pelt (season 2)
Jeremy Miller – Linus van Pelt (season 2)
Kevin BrandoSchroeder (season 1), 5, Thibault
Danny Colby – Schroeder (season 2)
Victoria Vargas (season 1) & Gini Holtzman (season 2) – Peppermint Patty
Michael Dockery (season1) & Keri Houlihan (season 2) - Marcie

            Peanuts has been a part of cartoonist Charles M. “Sparky” Schulz’s career since before the strip even began. 

Charles M. Schulz.

From 1947-50, Schulz published a weekly single panel strip called Li’l Folks for the St. Paul Pioneer Press after it initially debuted in the Minneapolis Tribune. The series focused on a rotating cast of usually nameless little kids (although the name Charlie Brown was used for three different kids at different times) and featured a dog. In 1948, Schulz tried to have the strip syndicated through the Newspaper Enterprise Association, but the deal fell through. When the Press refused to move the strip from the women’s section to the comics page and give Schulz a raise, he quit.

A Li'l Folks strip.
Schulz again tried to get the strip syndicated, this time through United Feature Syndicate. He presented them the best examples of his prior work, as well as a new multi-panel strip he conceived of that was similar to his previous strip and used the same title. United ended up taking the multi-panel strip, but to avoid confusion with Al Capp’s Li’l Abner and another strip called Little Folks, they changed the strip’s name to Peanuts after the peanut gallery on The Howdy Doody Show. Schulz famously hated that title, stating “it’s totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing, and has no dignity—and I think my humor has dignity.”

Nonetheless, Peanuts debuted in nine papers on October 2, 1950 as a daily strip, with its larger Sunday incarnation debuting on January 6, 1952. The first strip introduced what would become the series’ main character, Charlie Brown: a hard-luck bald little boy whose life continued to reinforce his pessimism with his kite repeatedly being eaten by a tree and by coaching the world’s worst baseball team, among other indignities. It also introduced tertiary characters Shermy (unnamed until December 18th and was based on one of the “Charlie Brown” characters from Li’l Folks), who was generally superior in skill to Charlie Brown, and Patty (unnamed until October 26th), an early love interest for Charlie Brown and Shermy who tended to bully others as well as mother them. Shermy became the first child in a comic strip to express hatred for anyone (in this case, Charlie Brown). 

Charlie Brown’s well-known beagle, Snoopy, made his unnamed debut in the third strip and was actually meant to be Patty’s, but he ended up adopting Charlie Brown. Snoopy would become a breakout star and one of the most recognizable characters; fueled in part by his acting more human than dog-like and his overactive imagination. Snoopy would often pretend to be a World War I Flying Ace (first seen October 10, 1965) with a scarf and aviator helmet, using his dog house (which he slept on top of instead of inside) as a Sopwith Camel to defeat the dreaded and unseen Red Baron. His other fantasies featured him as a world-famous author always being perpetually rejected by publishers or suffering writer’s block (debuting July 12, 1965), and college student Joe Cool (first seen May 27, 1971). Various other personas appeared as different situations arose. Snoopy never talked, but his thoughts were projected to the reader. Gradually, Snoopy’s family was introduced in the strip and featured in other media.

As the strip went on, the well-known cast began to be introduced and established. Violet Gray (February 7, 1951) was the first major new character until others gradually moved her to the background. An upper-class snob, she shared character traits with Patty, which made them friends and gradually reduced Patty into a yes-man role for her. She also served as an early love interest for Charlie Brown.

Schroeder (May 30, 1951) was Charlie Brown’s best friend and a musical prodigy. He had a strong love for the works of Beethoven and was usually seen sitting and playing at his toy piano (which belted out tones akin to a grand piano, debuting on September 24). Schroeder’s piano was inspired by a similar toy Schulz’s daughter Meredith once had, and his name came from a fellow caddy when Schulz worked at Highland Park golf course. Initially, Schroeder debuted as a baby but was quickly advanced to the age of the other characters.

Lucy van Pelt (March 3, 1952) was the new alpha-female of the strip. Loud-mouthed, violent, aggressive, vain and temperamental, she tended to dominate over all her friends while managing to exhibit a decent heart now and then. Like Schroeder, she debuted as a toddler but was quickly aged and her toddler strips weren’t reprinted until after Schulz’s death. Instead of the traditional lemonade stand, Lucy ran a psychiatric booth where she charged five cents to distribute nonsensical and unhelpful advice to her patrons. A recurring gag featured Lucy holding a football for Charlie Brown to kick and yanking it away at the last second. Lucy also had an unrequited love towards Schroeder and bothered him with it frequently. Lucy was named after Schulz’s former neighbor, Louanne van Pelt, and modeled after his first wife, Joyce.

Linus van Pelt (September 19, 1952) was Charlie Brown’s other best friend and Lucy’s younger brother. Despite his age, he was an intellectual and theologian. However, that was often undercut by the fact that he constantly sucked his thumb and carried around a security blanket. 

Pig-Pen (July 13, 1954) was a young boy who was perpetually dirty. On rare occasions, he did appear clean but would become dirty immediately afterwards. Although all but Charlie Brown take issue with the cloud of dirt that followed him, Pig-Pen was very proud of it. Pig-Pen was shown to have a crush on Violet.

Sally Brown (August 23, 1959) was Charlie Brown’s younger sister. Like others, she debuted as a baby--with her birth marked in the May 26th strip--but was also quickly aged. She developed a crush on Linus, much to his chagrin, and often called him her “sweet baboo.” Sally had difficulty in school, exhibiting trouble with malapropisms and was often ignorant about the ways of the world.

Frieda (March 6, 1961) was a girl obsessed with her looks--particularly her curly red hair--and one of Linus’ classmates. She was based on Schulz’s longtime friend Frieda Rich whom he met in art school.

Woodstock (March 4, 1966) was one of many birds Snoopy befriended and was often his closest associate in his imagination and schemes. Woodstock could barely fly, always flopping around in the air and crashing into things. Woodstock wouldn’t be named until June 22, 1970, after Schulz was reading about the Woodstock Festival from the previous year. Until that point, he considered Woodstock to be female, but the name made him permanently male. His speech was always represented by a series of vertical dashes in his word balloons that Snoopy seemed to understand.

Peppermint Patty (August 22, 1966), not to be confused with the other Patty, was a tomboy who lived across town from Charlie Brown (whom she called “Chuck”) and had a bit of a schizophrenic crush on him (in a one-sided conversation she could go from fawning all over him to reacting to a non-existent rejection by him). Schulz got the idea for her by looking at a dish of candy and deciding the name was too good to pass up. He had planned to write her into her own strip, but lacking the time worked her into Peanuts instead. She was also a product of the women’s liberation movement, defying standard gender norms and being the first female character to wear shorts instead of a dress.

Franklin (July 31, 1968) was the strip’s first Black character. Schoolteacher Harriet Glickman wrote to Schulz and urged him to incorporate a Black character to help normalize the friendships between children of different ethnicities. He attended the same school as Peppermint Patty and was confused by the strangeness found in Charlie Brown’s group of friends.

Marcie (July 20, 1971, named on October 11) was Peppermint Patty’s best friend, and her soft-spoken voice of reason. She always addressed Patty as “Sir”. Initially portrayed as na├»ve, Marcie soon became the brightest of the Peanuts gang; excelling in school and already planning out her future. She also had a secret crush on Charlie Brown.

Rerun van Pelt (March 26, 1973) was Linus and Lucy’s younger brother. First mentioned in the May 23, 1972 strip, he resembled a smaller version of Linus. Initially unhappy with his arrival, Lucy soon became a mentor to Rerun. A frequent gag featured Rerun on the back of his mother’s bicycle (the mother, like all adult characters, never seen) commenting on life and her driving. Schulz ran out of ideas for him quickly and Rerun faded to the background until he resurfaced in the 1990s, a little older but excluded from the games of Linus and his friends because of his youth.

Eudora (June 13, 1978) was the last major character created for the strip. Like Sally, she had an attraction towards Linus and was able to charm him enough to even get his blanket for a time. 

Peanuts’ popularity soared as the strip entered the 1960s. Lee Mendelson approached Schulz about creating a half-hour documentary about the strip with the possibility of a couple minutes of animation. Schulz, having worked with animator Bill Melendez on Ford’s advertising campaign using the Peanuts characters, suggested him for the job. However, Mendelson had a hard time selling his special. It wasn’t until Time magazine featured the characters on its cover that advertising executive John Allen contacted Mendelson about producing a Christmas special that the Cocoa-Cola Company could use for advertising during the holiday season. Mendelson agreed and he and Schulz hashed out an outline in less than a day--three days ahead of their deadline.

The Christmas play.

The special was approved, and work went underway to complete it in a brief six month time period. Schulz wanted something that focused on the real meaning of Christmas, and was adamant about including a Bible verse in there since there was a lack of faith exhibited on television. Melendez didn’t want Hollywood actors and cast actual children who had to be coached one line at a time; however he provided the vocal effects (rather than any kind of discernable dialogue) for Snoopy himself. The special also featured a mix of traditional Christmas music and jazz created by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Guaraldi’s composition “Linus and Lucy” would go on to become the de facto theme for the Peanuts franchise.

Completed just ten days shy of its broadcast date, A Charlie Brown Christmas was aired on CBS on December 9, 1965. What was feared to be an unmitigated disaster by Mendelson and the network executives turned out to be a critical success. It became a holiday staple, airing annually on CBS until 2000 when ABC acquired the broadcast rights and continued the tradition. It went on to win the Emmy for “Outstanding Children’s Program” in 1966, and CBS promptly ordered four more specials.

If it's not one tree, it's another.

Through the partnership of Schulz, Mendelson and Melendez, numerous specials were produced for CBS between 1966 and 1983, including four feature films. Throughout that time, CBS executives pressed Schulz to consider bringing the Peanuts to television in a regular animated series. Schulz for just as long resisted their urging due to his not wanting the stories to be written by anyone else, nor to fall into the usual trappings of other animated series. Eventually, Schulz relented only under the condition that the show use stories taken directly from his strips. CBS agreed, and Mendelson and Melendez went to work on The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. It was one of the few full series Melendez ever worked on.

Lucy trying to hit on Schroeder.

The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show premiered on September 7, 1983. In order to accurately adapt Schulz’s strips, episodes were usually comprised of several short segments representing a different standalone story. While the majority of the stories were pre-existing, Schulz did write several specifically for the show. As with their other productions in the Peanuts franchise, children were cast to fill the roles of the various characters; many of which had appeared in the specials made immediately before the show. Melendez stayed on as Snoopy, and also provided the effects for Woodstock since his inclusion in the specials. 

Dramatic Snoopy.

After a thirteen episode first season, the show took a break for a year before resuming for an additional five episodes. Because many of the actors’ voices had begun to change, they were all recast for the remaining episodes. One of the more notable casting was future music star Fergie as the second voice for Sally Brown. Adults, when heard, were represented by the “wah wah” sound of a trombone first used in 1967’s You’re in Love, Charlie Brown. Reruns aired in the 90s on Nickelodeon and Nicktoons Network under the name You’re on Nickelodeon, Charlie Brown. It also aired on CBS Canada and YTV in the early part of the 2000s. The Disney Channel, Cartoon Network and the UK version of Boomerang aired the show in 2002.

Instead of the usual Peanuts theme, a new piano-based theme was written and produced for the series by composers Desiree Goyette and Ed Bogas. The theme, “Let’s Have a Party with Charlie Brown and Snoopy,” was later given lyrics and included on the soundtrack to 1984’s It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown. A shortened version of the theme with the lyrics was used for the show’s second season. Several of the show’s segments were reused from the specials A Charlie Brown Celebration and It’s an Adventure, Charlie Brown and for the final CBS special, It’s Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown

Learning football.

Specials continued to be made and air through 2011, although CBS had long since ended their association with the productions. The strip, however, had come to a conclusion in early 2000 due to Schulz being forced into retirement by declining health. The final daily strip ran on January 3, 2000 and was reprinted with two additional panels for the final Sunday strip on February 13, 2000; the day after Schulz’s death. Many other cartoonists paid tribute to Schulz in their own strips that year. Peanuts continued to run in newspapers in various rerun packages offered by United Features Syndicate and in collected editions.

VHS Cover.

Peanuts remained to be a merchandising giant, releasing toys and comic books featuring he characters. They were also a prominent partner of MetLife, having been part of their advertising campaigns for decades until the company decided on an image change in 2016. Computer animation was introduced to the franchise with the Italian-French animated series Peanuts by Schulz and The Peanuts Movie ,which hit theaters on November 6, 2015—a month shy of the 50th anniversary of their very first special. As for The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, Kartes Video Communications released four episodes on two VHS volumes with titles reminiscent of the Peanuts specials in 1987. From 1994-2001, Paramount Home Video released VHS tapes in a similar fashion but using the actual show title for nine volumes. Throughout 2011 and 2012, Warner Home Video released episodes of the show as a special feature on their various Happiness Is…Peanuts titles, with three episodes being released on Touchdown, Charlie Brown. In 2012, the entire series was released to DVD through the Warner Archive Collection from Warner’s online store and Amazon. It was also released in two 2-disc box sets in Australia and Germany. The entire series was made available for download on iTunes.

Season 1:
“Snoopy’s Cat Fight” (9/17/83) – Woodstock is angered when Snoopy throws a basketball into his nest. / Charlie Brown tries to impress the Little Red Headed Girl. / Sally presents to the class. / Peppermint Patty annoys Charlie Brown. / Lucy criticizes Beethoven and Schroeder’s music. / Linus gives his blanket to Eudora.

“Snoopy: Team Manager” (9/24/83) – Lucy drafts Linus into planting her garden. / Rerun entertains himself on his mother’s bike. / Linus mails his blanket to himself and it disappears. / Snoopy becomes manager of the baseball team.

“Linus and Lucy” (10/1/83) – Sally’s report on Snoopy gets an A. / Linus teaches Sally how to kick a football. / Lucy makes Schroeder love beads. / Lucy doesn’t know if Schroeder likes her. / Linus returns Charlie Brown and Schroeder’s lobbed snowballs. / Charlie Brown fails at flying paper planes. / Linus must compliment Lucy if he wants his toast. / Lucy hits a home run.

“Lucy vs. the World” (10/8/83) – Lucy doesn’t know Snoopy drank from her straw. / Lucy becomes a sports reporter when she’s kicked off the baseball team. / Peppermint Patty stays in Snoopy’s doghouse. / Snoopy forces the kids to nominate him for an award. / The Van Pelts get a new addition.

“Linus’ Security Blanket” (10/15/83) – Snoopy thinks he’s rescuing Woodstock from the cat next door. / Sally tries her hand at stand-up comedy. / Lucy bothers Schroeder. / Charlie Brown refuses to let the ball game be rained out. / Lucy psychoanalyzes Charlie Brown. / Lucy tricks Charlie Brown into kicking the football. / Linus tries to quit his blanket by giving it to Snoopy. / Charlie Brown ends up hanging in a tree by his kite string. / Snoopy and Woodstock try to nap. / Snoopy clings to anyone who believes dogs make the world better.

“Snoopy: Man’s Best Friend” (10/22/83) – Snoopy kisses a sad Lucy. / Snoopy has trouble with Peppermint Patty’s water bed. / Linus is told about the time Snoopy took Woodstock and his friends to camp. / Snoopy’s imagination runs away with him.

“Snoopy the Psychiatrist” (10/29/83) – Snoopy replaces Lucy at her booth. / Charlie Brown loses his hat and his kite. / Peppermint Patty invites Snoopy to the school dance. / Peppermint Patty’s new teammate steals Charlie Brown’s glove and feels girls shouldn’t play baseball.

“You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown” (11/5/83) – Snoopy demonstrates how to train a puppy through shaking. / Woodstock has a culinary discussion with Snoopy. / Sally throws a ball into Woodstock’s nest. / Rerun wins Charlie Brown their first game of the season. / Linus gives Woodstock his burnt toast. / Lucy and Linus make snow sculptures. / Charlie Brown tries to train Snoopy. / A leak forms over Peppermint Patty’s desk. / Charlie Brown’s kite gets stuck on Snoopy’s doghouse. / Sally tries to joke in class.

“The Lost Ballpark” (11/12/83) – Lucy tries to teach Charlie Brown how to walk. / Marcie fends off a love-struck boy at camp. / Linus and Snoopy compete for the affections of a girl. / Charlie Brown’s team can no longer use their vacant lot as a ball park.

“Snoopy’s Football Career” (11/19/83) – Peppermint Patty wants a gold star in class. / Snoopy keeps stealing Linus’ blanket. / Lucy ditches Schroeder’s piano to get his attention. / Linus, Sally, Snoopy and Woodstock learn football while Peppermint Patty teaches Marcie.

“Chaos in the Classroom” (11/26/83) – Sally brings Woodstock’s nest for show and tell. / The kids all play football. / Peppermint Patty gets made at Marcie over her new traffic patrol position. / Linus’ blanket attacks Lucy. / Charlie Brown tries to teach Lucy how to hit a ball.

“It’s That Team Spirit, Charlie Brown” (12/3/83) – Snoopy pretends to be a vulture. / Snoopy steals Linus’ blanket and Linus steals his supper dish. / Peppermint Patty refuses to go to school and instead stays on Snoopy’s doghouse. / Rerun watches the world from his mother’s bike. / Charlie Brown tries to coach his team.

“Lucy Loves Schroeder” (12/10/83) – Charlie Brown goes to Lucy for advice to beat the kite eating tree. / The World War I Flying Ace steals Sally’s school report. / Charlie Brown is sent home from camp. / Lucy throws Schroeder’s piano into the washing machine. / Snoopy gets psychiatric help from Lucy when he hears strange noises at night.

Season 2:
“Snoopy and the Giant” (9/14/85) – Peppermint Patty wants Snoopy to play on the team, but he breaks his foot. / Woodstock and Snoopy climb a beanstalk and meet a giant. / A day in the life or Rerun.

“Snoopy’s Brother Spike” (9/21/85) – Peppermint Patty recruits Charlie Brown to sell popcorn for her team. / Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown go bowling. / Snoopy’s brother comes for a visit and to fight the cat next door.

“Snoopy’s Robot” (9/28/85) – The kids and Snoopy visit a computer camp. / Linus tries to give up his blanket. / Peppermint Patty and Marcie both may love Charlie Brown.

“Peppermint Patty’s School Days” (10/5/85) – A day in the school life of Peppermint Patty and Marcie. / Snoopy performs a magic trick for Linus. / Snoopy flies Schroeder to a summer music camp.

“Sally’s Sweet Babboo” (10/12/85) – Charlie Brown writes an essay about the gang’s Christmas play. / Unrequited love abounds on Valentine’s Day. / Peppermint Patty writes an essay about Snoopy.

Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2020.

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