peanuts n : an insignificant sum of money; a trifling amount; "her salary is peanuts compared to his"
- German: (2: for peanuts) für einen Apfel und ein Ei
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. 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 appropriate season.
1940sPeanuts 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. 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.
1950sPeanuts 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-1970sPeanuts 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.
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 1957, 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 1980; this period was the heyday of the daily strip, and there were numerous animated specials and book collections.
1980s-1990sDuring the 1980s other strips rivaled Peanuts in popularity, most notably Doonesbury, Garfield, The Far Side, Bloom County, and Calvin and Hobbes. However, Schulz 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.
The end of PeanutsThe 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. 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.
Cast of charactersseealso List of Peanuts characters The initial cast of Peanuts was small, featuring only Charlie Brown, Shermy, Patty (not to be confused with Peppermint Patty), and a beagle, Snoopy.
Though the strip did not have a lead character at the onset, it soon began to focus on Charlie Brown, a character developed from some of the painful experiences of Schulz's formative years. Charlie Brown's main characteristic is either self-defeating stubbornness or admirable determined persistence to try his best against all odds: he can never win a ballgame but continues playing baseball; he can never fly a kite successfully but continues trying to do so. Though his inferiority complex was evident from the start, in the earliest strips he also got in his own jabs when verbally sparring with Patty and Shermy. Some early strips also involved romantic attractions between Charlie Brown and Patty or Violet (the next major character added to the strip).
As the years went by, Shermy, Violet, and Patty appeared less often and were demoted to supporting roles (eventually disappearing from the strip by the end of the 1960s/beginning of the 1970s), while new major characters were introduced. Schroeder, Lucy Van Pelt, and her brother Linus debuted as very young children — with Schroeder and Linus both in diapers and pre-verbal. Snoopy, who began as a typical puppy, soon started to verbalize his thoughts via thought bubbles. Eventually he adopted other human characteristics, such as walking on his hind legs, reading books, using a typewriter, and participating in sports. He also grew from a puppy to a full-grown dog.
One recurring theme in the strip is Charlie Brown's Little League baseball team. Charlie Brown is the manager of the team and, usually, its pitcher, with the other characters of the strip comprising the rest of the team. Charlie Brown is a terrible pitcher, often giving up tremendous hits which either knock him off the mound or leave him with only his shorts on. The team itself is also poor, with only Charlie Brown's dog Snoopy being particularly competent. Because of this, the team consistently loses. However, while the team is often referred to as "win-less", it does win at least 10 games over the course of the strip's run, most of these when Charlie Brown is not playing.
In the 1960s, the strip began to focus more on Snoopy. Many of the strips from this point revolve around Snoopy's active, Walter Mitty-like fantasy life, in which he imagined himself to be a World War I flying ace or a bestselling suspense novelist, to the bemusement and consternation of the other characters who sometimes wonder what he is doing but also at times participate. Snoopy eventually took on many more distinct personas over the course of the strip, notably college student "Joe Cool".
Schulz continued to introduce new characters into the strip, particularly including a tomboyish, freckle-faced, shorts-and-sandals-wearing girl named Patricia Reichardt, better known as "Peppermint Patty." "Peppermint" Patty is an assertive, athletic but rather obtuse girl who shakes up Charlie Brown's world by calling him "Chuck," flirting with him, and giving him compliments he is not so sure he deserves. She also brings in a new group of friends (and heads a rival baseball team), including the strip's first black character, Franklin, a Mexican-Swedish kid named José Peterson, and Peppermint Patty's bookish sidekick Marcie, who calls Peppermint Patty "Sir" and Charlie Brown "Charles." (Most other characters call him "Charlie Brown" at all times, except for Eudora, who also calls him "Charles"; Charlie Brown's sister Sally Brown, who usually calls him "big brother"; and a minor character named Peggy Jean in the early 1990s who called him "Brownie Charles" after he could not remember his own name. Also, Snoopy calls his owner, Charlie Brown, "that round-headed kid.")
Several additional family members of the characters were also introduced: Charlie Brown's younger sister Sally, who is fixated on Linus; Linus and Lucy Van Pelt's younger brother Rerun; and Spike, Snoopy's desert-dwelling brother from Needles, California, who was apparently named for Schulz's own childhood dog. Snoopy also had two other brothers who made some appearances in the strip.
Other notable characters include: Snoopy's friend Woodstock, a bird whose chirping is represented in print as hash marks but is nevertheless clearly understood by Snoopy; Pigpen, the perpetually dirty boy who could raise a cloud of dust on a clean sidewalk or in a snowstorm; and Frieda, a girl proud of her "naturally curly hair", and who owned a cat named Faron, much to Snoopy's chagrin. (The way Faron hung over Freida's shoulder prompted Linus to comment that he was "the world's first boneless cat.")
Peanuts had several recurring characters who were actually absent from view. Some, such as the Great Pumpkin or Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron), may or may not have been figments of the cast's imaginations. Others were not imaginary, such as the Little Red-Haired Girl (Charlie Brown's perennial dream girl who finally appeared in 1998, but only in silhouette), Joe Shlabotnik (Charlie Brown's baseball hero), World War II (the vicious cat who lives next door to Snoopy - not to be confused with Frieda's cat, Faron), and Charlie Brown's unnamed pen pal. After some early anomalies, adult figures never appeared in the strip.
Schulz also added some fantastic elements, sometimes imbuing inanimate objects with sparks of life. Charlie Brown's nemesis, the Kite-Eating Tree, is one example. Sally Brown's school building, that expressed thoughts and feelings about the students (and the general business of being a brick building), is another. Linus' famous "security blanket" also displayed occasional signs of anthropomorphism.
Ages of the Peanuts charactersOver the course of their nearly fifty-year run, most of the characters' literal ages do not change more than two years. An exception are the characters who were newly introduced as infants, who begin at birth, catch up to the rest of the cast, then stop. Rerun is unique in that he stopped aging in kindergarten. Linus was first mentioned in the strip where his birth is announced, on September 19, 1952. He then ages to right around Charlie Brown's age over the course of the first ten years, during which we see him learn to walk and talk with the help of Lucy and Charlie Brown. When Linus stops aging he is about a year or so younger than Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown was four when the strip began and aged over the next two decades until he settled in as an eight-year-old (after which he is consistently referred to as eight when any age is given). Sally remains two years younger than her older brother Charlie Brown, although Charlie Brown was already of school age in the strips when she was born and seen as a baby.
In one strip, when Lucy declares that by the time a child is five years old, his personality is already pretty well established, Charlie Brown protests, "But I'm already five! I'm more than five!"
The characters, however, were not strictly defined by their literal ages. "Were they children or adults? Or some kind of hybrid?" wrote David Michaelis of Time magazine. Schulz distinguished his creations by "fusing adult ideas with a world of small children." Michaelis continues:
In other words, the cast of Peanuts transcended age and were more broadly human.
Current events were sometimes a subject of the strip over the years. In a 1995 series, Sally mentions the Classic Comic Strip Characters series of stamps, which were released four years earlier, and a story about the Vietnam War ran for 10 days in the 1960s. The passage of time, however, is negligible and incidental in Peanuts.
Critical acclaimPeanuts is often regarded as one of the most influential and well-written comic strips of all time. Schulz received the National Cartoonist Society Humor Comic Strip Award for Peanuts in 1962, the Elzie Segar Award in 1980, the Reuben Award in 1955 and 1964, and the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. A Charlie Brown Christmas won a Peabody Award and an Emmy; Peanuts cartoon specials have received a total of 2 Peabody Awards and 4 Emmys. For his work on the strip, Charles Schulz is credited with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a place in the William Randolph Hearst Cartoon Hall of Fame. Peanuts was featured on the cover of Time Magazine on April 9, 1965, with the accompanying article praising the strip as being "the leader of a refreshing new breed that takes an unprecedented interest in the basics of life."
Considered amongst the greatest comic strips of all time, Peanuts was declared second in a list of the greatest comics of the 20th century commissioned by The Comics Journal in 1999. Peanuts lost out to George Herriman's Krazy Kat, a strip Schulz admired, and he accepted the positioning in good grace, to the point of agreeing with the result. In 2002 TV Guide declared Snoopy and Charlie Brown equal 8th in their list of "Top 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time", published to commemorate their 50th anniversary.
Cartoon tributes have appeared in other comic strips since Schulz's death in 2000, and are now displayed at the Charles Schulz Museum. In May 2000, many cartoonists included a reference to Peanuts in their own strips. Originally planned as a tribute to Schulz's retirement, after his death that February it became a tribute to his life and career. Similarly, on October 30 2005, several comic strips again included references to Peanuts, and specifically the It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown television special.
The December 1997 issue of The Comics Journal featured an extensive collection of testimonials to Peanuts. Over forty cartoonists, from mainstream newspaper cartoonists to underground, independent comic artists, shared reflections on the power and influence of Schulz's art. Gilbert Hernandez wrote "Peanuts was and still is for me a revelation. It's mostly from Peanuts where I was inspired to create the village of Palomar in Love and Rockets. Schulz's characters, the humor, the insight... gush, gush, gush, bow, bow, bow, grovel, grovel, grovel..." Tom Batiuk wrote "The influence of Charles Schulz on the craft of cartooning is so pervasive it is almost taken for granted." Batiuk also described the depth of emotion in Peanuts: "Just beneath the cheerful surface were vulnerabilities and anxieties that we all experienced, but were reluctant to acknowledge. By sharing those feelings with us, Schulz showed us a vital aspect of our common humanity, which is, it seems to me, the ultimate goal of great art."
In 2001, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors renamed the Sonoma County Airport, located a few miles northwest of Santa Rosa, California, the Charles M. Schulz Airport in his honor. The airport's logo features Snoopy in goggles and scarf, taking to the skies on top of his red doghouse. A bronze statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy stands in Depot Park in downtown Santa Rosa.
Schulz was included in the touring exhibition "Masters of American Comics" based on his achievements in the art form while producing the strip. His gag work is hailed as being "psychologically complex", and his style on the strip is noted as being "perfectly in keeping with the style of its times.".
Theatrical productionsPeanuts characters even found their way to the live stage, appearing in the musicals You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Snoopy!!! — The Musical, and in "Snoopy on Ice", a live Ice Capades-style show aimed primarily at young children, all of which have had several touring productions over the years.
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown was originally a successful off-Broadway musical that ran for four years (1967-1971) in New York City and on tour, with Gary Burghoff as the original Charlie Brown. An updated revival opened on Broadway in 1999, and by 2002 it had become the most frequently produced musical in American theatre history. Pig-Pen appeared in a memorable spot for Regina vacuum cleaners.
They are currently spokespeople in print and television advertisements for the MetLife insurance company. MetLife usually uses Snoopy in its advertisements as opposed to other characters: for instance, the MetLife blimps are named "Snoopy One" and "Snoopy Two" and feature him in his World War I flying ace persona.
The characters have been featured on Hallmark Cards since 1960, and can be found adorning clothing, figurines, plush dolls, flags, balloons, posters, Christmas ornaments, and countless other bits of licensed merchandise.
The Apollo 10 lunar module was nicknamed "Snoopy" and the command module "Charlie Brown". While not included in the official mission logo, Charlie Brown and Snoopy became semi-official mascots for the mission. Charles Schulz drew an original picture of Charlie Brown in a spacesuit that was hidden aboard the craft to be found by the astronauts once they were in orbit. This drawing is now on display at the Kennedy Space Center. Snoopy is the personal safety mascot for NASA astronauts, and NASA issues a Silver Snoopy award to employees that promote flight safety.
The 1960s pop band, The Royal Guardsmen drew inspiration from Peanuts, and their single Snoopy vs. The Red Baron reached number two on the charts.
In the Sixties, Robert L. Short interpreted certain themes and conversations in Peanuts as being consistent with parts of Christian theology, and used them as illustrations during his lectures about the gospel, and as source material for several books, as he explained in his bestselling paperback book, The Gospel According to Peanuts.
In 1980, Charles Schulz was introduced to artist Tom Everhart during a collaborative art project. Everhart became fascinated with Schulz's art style and worked Peanuts themed art into his own work. Schulz encouraged Everhart to continue with his work. Everhart continues to be the only artist authorized to paint Peanuts characters.
Giant helium balloons of Charlie Brown and Snoopy have long been a feature in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
The characters were licensed for use in 1992 as atmosphere for the national amusement park chain Cedar Fair. The images of the Peanuts characters are used frequently, most visibly in several versions of the logo for flagship park, Cedar Point. Knott's Berry Farm, which was later acquired by Cedar Fair, was the first theme park to make Snoopy its mascot. Cedar Fair also operated Camp Snoopy, an indoor amusement park in the Mall of America until the mall took over its operation as of March 2005, renaming it The Park at MOA (now Nickelodeon Universe), and no longer using the Peanuts characters as its theme.
Peanuts on Parade has been St. Paul, Minnesota’s tribute to Peanuts. It began in 2000, with the placing of 101 five-foot tall statues of Snoopy throughout the city of Saint Paul. The statues were later auctioned at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. In 2001, there was "Charlie Brown Around Town," 2002 brought "Looking for Lucy," and finally, in 2003, "Linus Blankets Saint Paul." The statues were auctioned off at the end of each summer, so some remain around the city but others have been relocated. Permanent, bronze statues of the Peanuts characters are also found in Landmark Plaza in downtown Saint Paul.
The Peanuts characters have been licensed to Universal Studios Japan (while Peanuts merchandise in Japan has been licensed by Sanrio, best known for Hello Kitty).
The Peanuts gang have also appeared in video games, such as Snoopy in a 1984 by Radarsoft, Snoopy Tennis (Game Boy Color), and in October 2006, Snoopy vs. the Red Baron by Namco Bandai. Many Peanuts characters have cameos in the latter game, including Woodstock, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Marcie and Sally. In July 2007, the Peanuts gang also made it onto cell phones in the Snoopy the Flying Ace mobile game by Namco Networks.
Peanuts has also been involved with NASCAR. In 2000, Jeff Gordon drove his #24 Chevrolet with a Snoopy-themed motif at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Two years later, Tony Stewart drove a #20 Great Pumpkin motif scheme for two races. The first, at Bristol Motor Speedway, featured a black car with Linus sitting in a pumpkin field. Later, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Tony drove an orange car featuring the Peanuts characters trick-or-treating. Most recently, Bill Elliott drove a #6 Dodge with an A Charlie Brown Christmas scheme. That car ran at the 2005 NASCAR BUSCH Series race at Memphis Motorsports Park.
BooksThe Peanuts characters have been featured in many books over the years. Some represented chronological reprints of the newspaper strip, while others were thematic collections, such as Snoopy's Tennis Book. Some single-story books were produced, such as Snoopy and the Red Baron. In addition, most of the animated television specials and feature films were adapted into book form.
Charles Schulz always resisted publication of early Peanuts strips, as they did not reflect the characters as he eventually developed them. However, in 1997 he began talks with Fantagraphics Books to have the entire run of the strip, almost 18,000 cartoons, published chronologically in book form. The first volume in the collection, The Complete Peanuts: 1950 to 1952, was published in April 2004. Peanuts is in a unique situation compared to other comics in that archive quality masters of most strips are still owned by the syndicate. All strips, including Sundays, are in black and white. The following books publish much of this previously-unreproduced material.
- Chip Kidd, ed. (2001) Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-375-42097-5 (hardcover), ISBN 0-375-71463-4 (paperback).
- Derrick Bang with Victor Lee. (2002 reprinting) 50 Years of Happiness: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz. Santa Rosa, California: Charles M. Schulz Museum. ISBN 0-9685574-0-6
- Derrick Bang, ed. (2003) Lil' Beginnings. Santa Rosa, California: Charles M. Schulz Museum. The complete run of Li'l Folks (1947 – 1950) ISBN 0-9745709-1-5
- Charles M. Schulz (1975) Peanuts Jubilee: My Life and Art with Charlie Brown and Others. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-25132-6 (paperback).
- Charles M. Schulz (2004) Who's on First, Charlie Brown?. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-46412-5.
- Robert L. Short (1965) The Gospel According to Peanuts. Westminster John Knox Press: ISBN 0-664-22222-6.
The Complete Peanuts
The entire run of Peanuts, covering nearly 50 years of comic strips, is being reprinted in Fantagraphics' The Complete Peanuts, a 25-volume set to be released over a 12-year period, two volumes per year, published every May and October. The final volume is expected to be published in May 2016.
- Snoopy.com: Official Peanuts Website
- Snoopy's Home: Charles M. Schulz's home page
- Peanuts Collector Club
- Peanuts Collectible Ornaments Guide
- AAUGH.com: Peanuts Book Collecting Guide
- Peanuts Animation and Reprints Page
- Charles M. Schulz Museum website
- NCS Awards
- Fantagraphics Books - The Complete Peanuts series
- Peanuts Gang Wikia
- Snoopy the Flying Ace on mobile
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