It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

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"You've heard about fury and a woman scorned, haven't you? Well, that's nothing compared to the fury of a woman who has been cheated out of tricks or treats." It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown celebrates its 40th anniversary.

These articles are arranged from the most recent down, so you'll always find the newest news about Charlie Brown and his friends toward the top; older articles will be located further down, or on previous pages.

Peanuts pulled into politics

October 31, 2006

Laura Brown
The Nevada County Union [California]

The son of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz is questioning whether Republican campaign mailers lampooning a Democratic opponent named Charlie Brown infringe on the cartoon copyrights.

The mailers use iconic images from the cartoon strip Charlie Browns yellow shirt with the black zigzag, Lucys psychiatric booth and the football that Charlie never manages to kick.

They came from the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, D.C., and are directed at the Democrat who is challenging Rep. John Doolittle (R-Roseville). The real Brown is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who is making a run against the eight-term congressman with a strength that is surprising some political pundits.

Argh!, wails one flier, reproducing the scrawled type of Snoopys lament. We just cant afford Charlie Browns tax increase.

After seeing the mailers for the first time on Monday from a reporter from The Union, Monte Schulz dialed his telephone, scanned the mailers and e-mailed them to copyright companies in New York from his Victorian home in Nevada City, which was decorated with Halloween dummies.

Who should we talk to right now?, he asked into the phone as he bounced a crossed leg. Casual in flannel and sweats, Schulz fiddled with his glasses as he spoke. A framed black-and-white Peanuts cartoon hung above his desk. A Charlie Brown bobblehead grinned from atop an antique wooden bookcase.

Theyre nitwits. Doing this shows theyre not that bright, Schulz said. Its clearly using Peanuts stuff. I dont know if its arrogance or ignorance.

No problem

At least three mailers were sent out earlier this month to residents of Doolittles district in Northern California.

Charlie Browns plan is going to cost you ... more than five cents, reads the reworked sign above Lucys psychiatric booth in one of mailers.

Good Grief, Charlie Brown ... Thats a dangerous plan for California seniors, the mailer continued.

Richard Robinson, spokesman for the Doolittle campaign, said the Congressional Committee by law does not coordinate with the Doolittle campaign. The first time he saw any of the mailers was when he received one in his own mailbox.

I dont think there is any problem whatsoever with the color scheme of the mailers, Robinson said. I think what should be concerning voters is what the mailers say.

The mailers contain brief statements and bullet points. Sources listed for the information in fine print include newspapers in Doolittles district, including The Union.

All fair in politics?

The Peanuts copyright and trademark is owned by United Media. The Charles M. Schulz Creative Association is responsible for editorial and art control.

Monte Schulz sent copies of the mailers to both companies, which sent them on to lawyers for further investigation.

We take all matters of infringement seriously, said Melissa Menta, vice president of corporate communications of United Media.

United Media is owned by media conglomerate E.W. Scripps. Peanuts is considered one of its top-earning cartoons and still is carried in 2,400 newspapers nationwide. Last week, listed Charles Schulz as the third top-earning deceased celebrity in the United States, behind Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain and rock n roll king Elvis Presley.

Spokespeople for the Congressional Committee, contacted Monday, said they wanted to confer with their lawyers before commenting about the fliers.

Using the Peanuts design without permission in the political spectrum may be allowed because it is considered a form of free speech under the Fair Use Doctrine.

There is more room to borrow in a political setting than a commercial setting, said Stephen Davis, a copyright lawyer with Davis & Leonard in Sacramento.

Still, taking a jab at an opponents name is a low blow, said Charlie Browns campaigners.

These pieces exemplify the pathetic desperation of our opponent, said Todd Stenhouse, spokesman for the Charlie Brown campaign. Name assault just goes to show the sleazy characters were dealing with.

The Great Pumpkin turns 40!

October 27, 2006

By Kevin D. Thompson
The Palm Beach Post [Florida]

Five reasons why Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the charming animated special airing tonight (8 p.m., WPBF-Channel 25), holds up after four decades.

1. Linus unshakable belief in the Great Pumpkin Hes laughed at by his friends. Told hes wasting his time and that hes crazy. Still, every Halloween, theres the blanket-carrying boy, waiting in the frigid fall night for the Great Pumpkin to rise up with his bag of toys for all the good children. He never does, of course. But deep down, you still believe that one year he just might.

2. Vince Guaraldis music Even if you dont like cartoons, you had to love Guaraldis jazzy score. His memorable rendition of Linus and Lucy plays for nearly two minutes during the shows pre-credits teaser.

3. Snoopys Halloween exploits No dog has a more vivid imagination than Charlie Browns pet beagle. Just watch Snoopy pretend to be a World War I Flying Ace who gets shot down crossing wartime France. Charlie Brown may be the heart of Peanuts, but Snoopy is its soul and a very funny one.

4. Lucy pulling the football... again Is this the year that Charlie Brown finally gets to kick that danged football? Lucy has a signed document saying it is. Alas, its not.

5. Four words -- I got a rock. Like Rodney Dangerfield, Charlie Brown never gets any respect. While his fellow trick-or-treaters walked home with gum, candy and popcorn balls, blockhead Charlie wound up with a bag of rocks. But that bit of misfortune only makes us love him even more.

Good grief, Charlie Brown

It's been 40 years and the Peanuts gallery is still waiting for the Great Pumpkin. Fans can revisit the old favorite on TV, DVD and in print.

October 27, 2006

By Michael D. Clark
The Houston Chronicle

As an adult, I say the holiday season begins with the arrival of decorations in the Galleria, the sound of bats cracking in the World Series and -- if all else fails -- the calendar.

But as a kid, I knew the holidays were coming when the Peanuts classic Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown came on TV.

Once ol Chuck got the rock in his trick-or-treat bag and his pal Linus wasted another Halloween night waiting for the ballyhooed Great Pumpkin -- the Santa Claus of Halloween -- to rise from the pumpkin patch and deliver toys to good children, I knew a two-month wave of candy and toys was right around the corner.

Apparently Im not alone.

When Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown makes its annual prime-time appearance on ABC Oct. 27 (7 p.m., Channel 13), it will mark the 40th anniversary -- to the day -- that Charles Schulzs Peanuts gang were brought to animated life for Halloween. Every year since, Charlie Brown has tried to kick Lucys football, cut too many holes in his ghost costume and played second fiddle to Linus belief in the mythical Great Pumpkin.

Lee Mendelson, a producer and original animator of Great Pumpkin and other Peanuts television specials, says comedian Chris Rock described Charlie Browns dilemma best.

Do you want to know what a loser Charlie Brown was? He didnt even star in his own Halloween special. Now, thats a loser, says Mendelson, retelling Rocks joke.

Charlie Brown may have been a bit of a cipher in the Peanuts world, where he was bullied by Lucy Van Pelt and had a worse Halloween costume than his pooch, Word War I flying ace Snoopy. His loneliness, lack of role models and daily palette of emotions were expressions that kids from baby boomers through the present day could all relate to.

Charlie Brown was a depressed little boy. He was the poster boy for Prozac before it was even invented, says Robert Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University. He had very little parental guidance. In fact, all the adults in the Peanuts specials speak in gibberish.

It was the simplicity and universality of the Peanuts gang in motion that helped make A Charlie Brown Christmas an unexpected ratings leader (No. 2 with a 28.8 rating and 46.6 share) in December 1965. It prompted CBS (ABC bought the rights in 2000) to put a rush on Charlie Browns All Stars! and Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Both were also ratings toppers and have held their own in prime time ever since.

Animators Mendelson and Bill Melendez were attentive to the ratings. Their paychecks depended on ratings. But their reverence for Schulzs popular daily newspaper comic strip -- at its peak, Peanuts ran in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and was translated into 40 languages -- brought an even more horrifying thought to mind than a Great Pumpkin no-show on Halloween.

We thought we had just ruined Peanuts, says Mendelson. We had just done A Charlie Brown Christmas and we werent sure about it, and the network executives didnt like it much, either. Half the country tuned in and did like it, though.

Suddenly we got six months to make a Halloween special.

Far from ruining Peanuts, the specials helped the strip run for nearly 50 years. Schulz died Feb. 13, 2000, but many newspapers continue to run Classic Peanuts -- or strips taken from the many that have already run. Another nod to the popularity of the Peanuts gang is Schulzs spot on the Forbes list of top-earning dead celebrities. Each year, Schulz has come in just behind Elvis Presley.

Back in 1965, Schulz, Mendelson and Melendez matched the idea of Linus imaginative invention of the Great Pumpkin with Snoopys fantastical pursuit of the Red Baron aboard his Sopwith Camel fighter plane. Schulz had just started drawing the veterans tribute into the strip, making Great Pumpkin the ideal place to animate it for the first time.

Mendelson says the story came together swiftly, but none of them could ever have dreamed they would still be talking about it 40 years later.

We thought it would run one or two times and that was it, says Mendelson. After a few years we knew we had caught lightning in a bottle.

Thompson says much of its lasting power has to do with the childish lore surrounding Halloween. The fall holiday takes a second only to Christmas on totems and traditions that children identify with.

There is no other case of a television show from the Johnson administration still getting killer numbers in prime time today, Thompson says of the Peanuts Halloween and Christmas specials.

Mendelson, who last weekend spoke about the creation and legacy of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., prefers to think of the special as a work of art more akin to something by John Steinbeck.

These are timeless themes and timeless ideas, says Mendelson. We basically asked ourselves, What would happen if a little kid got his holidays mixed up?

What happened is millions of kids, like me, from the last half century, depended on the Great Pumpkin to rise from the family television each year and officially get things going. The Simpsons annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween special may be more pop-culture relevant now, but come talk to me in 2029 when Matt Groenings demented cartoon family would turn 40.

My guess is that lovable loser Charlie Brown might be the enduring winner after all.

Great Pumpkin still special at 40

October 27, 2006

Denise I. ONeal Favorite Things
The Chicago Sun Times

It was another hit, Charlie Brown, and its magic has endured.

Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which debuted Oct. 27, 1966, on CBS, was the second collaboration of cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, executive producer Lee Mendelson and animator/director Bill Melendez. The trio, riding on the success of their first television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, was approached to make lightning strike twice.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the original broadcast, and Schulzs widow, Jeannie Schulz, and Mendelson share some of their thoughts on Charles M. Schulz and his works.

Jeannie Schulz recalls the day the network approached her husband.

The network came to Sparky [as Charles was known to friends and family] and simply said, Deliver us another hit.

Partnered with the team that worked on his first special, Schulz went to work on Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

We didnt think that there was much we could do to top the Christmas special, said Mendelson. It was serendipity at its best.

Mendelson says Schulzs characters and the teams camaraderie made the task more simple. We basically took the characters off the comics pages and transported them to television.

Jeannie Schulz agrees.

It was keeping Sparkys characters and his vision intact that made it all come together.

Mendelson also believes people relate to the storyline because everyone has a Halloween story to tell from the ill-fitted homemade costume to disappointing trick-or-treating loot.

That commonality has helped to make the story endure, said Mendelson.

The show taps into childhood memories, and its that remembrance that continues to make the show a winner, said Schulz.

Charlie Brown can be likened to Rodney No Respect Dangerfield, playing second fiddle to Linus and Snoopy in his own vehicle.

Charlie Brown is such a loser he couldnt star in his own Halloween show, said Mendelson.

Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown delivered many classic moments, including an optimistic Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch and a disappointed Charlie Brown getting a rock in his trick-or-treat bag. One of the most acclaimed animated scenes was Snoopy as the Red Baron.

Snoopys flying dog house was a great moment in animation, said Schulz.

Although A Charlie Brown Christmas was the first, and in many minds the best, of the Charlie Brown specials, Mendelsons favorite is the Halloween special.

The show had such a rich look because of the use of vivid colors, he said, and who cant identify with the theme?

As part of the celebration, has created a Great Pumpkin Web page that contains trivia, e-cards and clips of the special.

United Feature Syndicate, Inc., owner of the licensing rights to the endearing characters, has teamed with manufacturers to launch products celebrating the milestone.

Sababa Toys launched the Peanuts Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, board game. The Peanuts Gang characters -- Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally and Snoopy -- travel around the board to collect costumes and candy before racing through the pumpkin patch where Linus awaits the visit of the Great Pumpkin. The first player to meet Linus wins the game ($12.95).

Sababa also has issued a special 40th anniversary dominoes design with collectors tin. The set contains 28 super-sized domino pieces featuring images of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Snoopy and Snoopy as the Red Baron ($14.95).

USAopolys Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 500-piece pumpkin-shape puzzle fits together to form a picture of Linus, Sally and a silhouette of Snoopy as the Red Baron in a pumpkin patch ($12.95).

Unos Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown card-game edition features 112 custom-designed cards of the Peanuts Gang ($12.95).

For the true collector, HarperCollins has issued a commemorative book, Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown the Making of a Television Classic by Mendelson and Melendez ($16.95).

Paramount Home Video has released a special edition DVD of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which features the bonus scene, Youre Not Elected, Charlie Brown, ($16.95).

Never Discuss Politics, Religion or the Great Pumpkin

Though the Great Pumpkin Has Been Around for 40 Years, Its Themes Are Timeless

October 27, 2006

By Yvonne Lai

Exactly 40 years ago, Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown first aired in living rooms across the country. That night Snoopys iconic WW I Flying Ace made his debut and for the first time, viewers could watch an animated Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown.

The Peanuts comic strip, at that time one of the worlds most popular (it still runs in 1,200 newspapers worldwide, though its creator, Charles M. Schulz, died in February 2000), sprang to life in our living rooms and created -- along with the Peanuts Christmas special -- an instant tradition for the children of America. The special made the characters come to life.

You remember he [Charlie Brown] got rocks in his trick-or-treat bag, and all the other kids got candy. Well, we got candy from all over the United States for poor Charlie Brown, and people were really upset with us, recalled Lee Mendelson, producer of the The Great Pumpkin and many other Charlie Brown TV specials. I mean, we got some ... not hate mail but letters that really didnt like the fact that he got rocks in his bag.

Viewers are still writing letters, though this year many were in response to an essay contest held to commemorate the 40th anniversary on the topic Worst Halloween Ever.

The essays run the gamut from dark to hysterical, from neighbors dying to getting cans of sardines instead of candy. Many people relived Halloween memories that resulted from watching Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown for the first time.

This whole idea of the Great Pumpkin, just think about it -- what a crazy, wonderful idea. For this little kid in the pumpkin patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to show up -- what a crazy notion, Mendelson said.

Pumpkin Patch Encounter

The contest winner, Lew Seitz, 52, of Cincinnati, told of his visit to a pumpkin patch on Halloween night, 1967. Just as Charlie Browns little sister, Sally, does in the Halloween special, Seitzs diligent brother went house to house asking for extra candy for his stupid brother who was spending the night in a pumpkin patch.

As fate would have it, his brother used that line at the home of the farmer who owned the pumpkin patch Lew was camping in. The story ends with a shotgun and pumpkin-masked man telling Seitz to hurry home.

Great Pumpkin, like other holiday classics, transcends generations, with parents enjoying it as much as their children. With the exception of a few editing cuts to allow for advertising, the special is essentially the same as when it first aired and has managed to keep viewers coming back year after year.

Well I think its pretty amazing to think that Pumpkin is 40 years old. Ive seen it at least 20 times, and I think its kind of wonderful that it is new every time, said Jeannie Schulz, Charles Schulzs widow.

Eternal Truths From the Mouths of Babes

Though times have changed, some things last forever.

Consider Linus, never without his blanket, as he philosophizes There are three things Ive learned never to discuss with people religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.

During a discussion about the difference between believing in Santa Claus and believing in the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown observes, We are obviously separated by denominational differences.

Other memorable moments Sally, realizing shes missed out on trick-or-treating to support her Sweet Babboo (Linus), ranting that Ive been robbed. ... I want restitution. And Linus, when he poignantly writes to the Great Pumpkin asking that If you really are a fake, dont tell me. I dont really want to know.

I think anything that continues to be truthful and soulful eventually becomes timeless, said Stephan Pastis, creator of the popular comic strip Pearls Before Swine. For me, the honesty and likability of Linus and his faithfulness is a compelling theme delivered very honestly and simply. Therefore it will resonate long after some more current Halloween specials are gone.

Pastis, who also works for the Schulz familys Creative Associates in Santa Rosa, Calif., notes that [The Great Pumpkin] has a lot of deeper meanings, whether intended or unintended by Sparky [Schulzs nickname] and it makes a very compelling notion that someone would wait faithfully for someone great to return, and they dont. I think its just an interesting theme to see in a cartoon.

Its because the comic strips and TV specials still reflect basic truths of everyday life -- standing by your beliefs, supporting your friends and using your daydreams as a creative outlet -- that there are generations of fans who never tire of Peanuts.

Lure of the Great Pumpkin

Hope springs eternal in enduring Charlie Brown tale of defiance and failure

Oct. 25, 2006

The Arizona Republic

I got a rock.

Surely as an exclamation of despair this ranks up there with Oh, the humanity! and Ive fallen and I cant get up.

And yet Charlie Browns running narration of what he gets instead of candy and apples while trick-or-treating in Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is just one of many verbal smack-downs and sighs of disappointment -- and theyre not all courtesy of Charlie Brown, known to all as one of historys most lovable losers.

Linus, in fact, bears the brunt of the biggest disappointment, the failure of the Great Pumpkin to show on Halloween night, humiliating him in front of his friends and a potential love interest (many years down the road). Were talking years-of-therapy stuff here.

And it is fantastic. And actually kind of important.

In a time when every kiddie soccer player expects a trophy, when honest criticism is grounds for a lawsuit and when Were all winners! no matter how much we lose, Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a bracing tonic still, on its 40th anniversary (anyone else feel really, really old?). And one that every kid -- and parent -- ought to watch, again.

You know the story. Linus, convinced for reasons we never learn that the gift-bearing Great Pumpkin visits sincere pumpkin patches all over the world on Halloween night, waits in vain for an appearance for what is evidently not the first time. His enthusiasm convinces Sally, Charlie Browns sister, to wait with him.

And the result is, of course, disaster.

No Great Pumpkin. No nothing, except for Snoopy dressed in his World War I flying ace getup showing up and causing Linus to faint. Nothing but heartbreak and disappointment.

Been there.

Who hasnt?

In many ways, Great Pumpkin is the antithesis of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the first and best of Charles Schulzs specials. In that show, it turns out all the sad little Christmas tree needed was love, and love -- as well as a reminder of what the holiday is all about, courtesy of a Scripture reading (try getting that on the air in a new show today) -- conquered all, including Snoopys commercialization of the holiday. Ah, success.

But Great Pumpkin is all about failure -- all about failure, almost, with plenty to go around for everyone. And yet, in the end, maybe a little bit about standing up for what you believe in, no matter how stupid (dont complain to me about insensitivity -- Im quoting Charlie Brown here).

The show begins with Linus and Lucy, the best-known Charlie Brown song, as Linus and Lucy set out in search of the perfect pumpkin to carve. All is well until, with no little effort on Linus part, they get the giant (though not great) pumpkin home, and Lucy sets in with a knife.

Linus screams. You didnt tell me you were going to kill it!

And thus a mood is established.

Then, later, the famous set piece, a shining monument to duplicity Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick. Youre just going to yank it, he says, sporting a rare flash of insight. But no. This time she flashes a signed document. What could possibly go wrong?

Peculiar thing about this document, Lucy says after the inevitable happens and Charlie Brown lies in a heap. It was never notarized.

Ha! What kid got that? What parent didnt? This, folks, isnt why we watch.

Its why we still watch.

Other cruelties abound. Lucy tells Charlie Brown that if he was invited to Violets Halloween party, it was certainly a mistake. Later his famously round head is used as a model for pumpkin carving. Linus ruins a perfectly good sucker by diving into a pile of leaves. Lucy gets kissed by a dog. Snoopy gets shot down. Charlie Browns explanation for his hole-filled ghost costume is so simple and sweet it becomes poignant I had a little trouble with the scissors.

And, of course, the unkindest cut I got a rock.

To grown-up eyes and ears -- particularly eyes and ears used to the politically correct offerings served up by todays TV for kids, in which a happy ending is a requirement and somehow construed as a meaningful learning experience -- Great Pumpkin can seem a bit harsh. Words like stupid and blockhead get tossed around a lot. No one comes along at the end to save the day. Far from it.

After Linus humiliation is complete -- Lucy has to drag him, freezing and alone (Sally long since having deserted him), out of the pumpkin patch and into bed -- hes back at the wall he shares with Charlie Brown for their serious philosophizing. Dont worry, Charlie Brown tells him, Ive done plenty of stupid things, too.

Thats all it takes to set Linus off. Stupid? STUPID?!?!

Just wait till next year, Charlie Brown!

And in this moment, Linus becomes a Chicago Cubs fan, in the best possible way.

It takes a strong constitution to stand firm in the face of constant failure. The temptation is to say Linus is a winner because he doesnt give in.

But hes not. He loses, every time. And yet his defiance is all the more admirable for it.

Granted, ignoring the obvious -- the Great Pumpkin doesnt exist -- isnt always an admirable quality. But youve got to like Linus spunk.

He is so resolute, so willing to suffer the slings and arrows of childhood ridicule and stand by his beliefs, you dont find yourself simply rooting for him, and hoping that maybe, just maybe, next year the Great Pumpkin will grace his sincere little pumpkin patch with a visit.

You find yourself believing it. And coming back for more next year, hoping for the best.


Maybe Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown isnt about failure, after all.

Grand Prize Winner Named in Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest

Lew Seitz of Cincinnati, Ohio Turns out the Worst Halloween Ever Story
40th Anniversary Airing of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on ABC Set for October 27, 2006 at 8 p.m.

October 25, 2006

As ABCs 40th Anniversary airing of the most popular Halloween special draws near, the grand prize winner for the Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest has been named. Lew Seitz of Cincinnati, Ohio, and author of The Night I Met the (Not So) Great Pumpkin has won the top prize and will receive an all-expense-paid trip for two to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California.

Seitzs winning essay recounts a Halloween story from his childhood. An avid Peanuts fan, one year Seitz decided to forgo trick-or-treating and instead, emulate Linus by spending an evening in the most sincere pumpkin patch he could find. As he awaited the coming of the Great Pumpkin, Seitz found himself in a tricky situation with the farmer who owned the land he was on, making his Halloween truly one of the worst. To read Seitzs winning essay, go to

Judges for the Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest finalist and grand prize rounds included members of the Schulz family, the original voice of Charlie Brown, Peter Robbins, the specials Executive Producer, Lee Mendelson, and Director and Producer, Bill Melendez.

Commenting on the winning essay, Lee Mendelson, Executive Producer of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown said, As traumatizing as it was to watch Linus sitting in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin, it became obvious to me as I read Mr. Seitzs winning essay that his Halloween experience might have been worse.

I am extremely thrilled to be the Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest winner, said Lew Seitz. Charlie Brown showed me that if you have faith and never give up, you too will be a winner someday. He was right. I am thankful for this wonderful experience.

Earlier this year, ten finalists were selected in the year long 40th Anniversary contest asking fans to submit their Worst Halloween Ever stories to As their prize for writing one of the best Worst Halloween Ever stories, each of the finalists received $100 worth of cool Peanuts merchandise (including a Great Pumpkin DVD and a new book on the making of the special) for making it to the final ten.

For more information on the Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest and the complete contest rules, visit Its not too late. Dont miss out on all the fun the Web site has to offer. Fans can access a daily Halloween-themed Peanuts comic strip, play games, send e-cards, read Halloween stories from favorite celebrity Peanuts fans, and more.

The classic animated Halloween-themed Peanuts special, Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year on ABC. The full-length version of the Charlie Brown favorite will also include a bonus Peanuts cartoon, Youre Not Elected, Charlie Brown, in which Linus runs for class President, airing Friday, October 27 (800-900 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.

Good Grief! Linus waits 40 years

Sunday, October 22, 2006

By Jim Beckerman
The Hackensack Record [New Jersey]

Youd think that selling Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to CBS back in 1966 would have been as easy as selling ... well, pumpkins on Halloween. Or Charlie Brown at any time.

Not so, animator Bill Melendez recalls.

We didnt know whether the network would buy it, Melendez says. Id always have to do a sales pitch. And I can really do a pitch. They used to say Come on, Bill, do a dance for The Man.

And this was after A Charlie Brown Christmas had been a huge, Peabody- and Emmy-winning hit in 1965, and after the Peanuts comic strip mania was well under way.

Friday will mark the 40th anniversary of the TV special, which has now become for some as much of a Halloween tradition as candy corn and soaped windows.

It will be shown at 8 p.m. Friday on ABC, in tandem with Youre Not Elected, Charlie Brown, a later Peanuts special with a Great Pumpkin subplot.

We translated the Christmas idea to the pumpkin patch, says Melendez, who had little idea he was creating a small but much-loved new piece of Americana with his yarn of the eternally optimistic Linus, who forgoes trick or treating to spend his night in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arise and bring toys to all the good little children of the world.

Never mind that the other kids laugh at him. Never mind that Linus -- otherwise the egghead of the Peanuts bunch -- would seem to have rather obviously confused Christmas and Halloween.

Commentators -- the kind of people who write books like The Gospel According to Peanuts -- have seen in Linus a symbol of faith, which endures even in the face of doubts and sneers.

Or, alternately, a symbol of religious delusion -- persisting in spite of the efforts of sensible people to talk the sucker out of it.

We threw everything [into] it, Melendez says.

And viewers responded. To this day, every gardener who discovers an oversize gourd in October feels it a civic duty to phone the local newspaper to report that the Great Pumpkin has arrived in his back yard.

Believe it or not, thats Charlie Brown, above, happily perched inside our version of the Great Pumpkin [a 125-pound North-ville-grown giant], reads one newspaper caption below a photograph of a toddler peeping out of a giant jack-o-lantern, reprinted in the book Charlie Brown & Charlie Schulz.

A new set of rules

More recently, and more cynically, an episode of the quirky animated cable TV series Robot Chicken featured a Great Pumpkin summoned by black magic, who kills off all of the Peanuts kids except Charlie Brown, before being destroyed by the Kite-Eating Tree.

This year, in honor of the 40th anniversary, there has been a cornucopia of Great Pumpkin-related merchandise, including an Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown domino set from Sababa Toys, a 500-piece Great Pumpkin jigsaw puzzle from USAopoly and a 40th anniversary coffee table book about the making of Great Pumpkin from HarperCollins.

I didnt know at the time that this was going to be anything vital, says Melendez, 90.

Originally from Sonora, Mexico, south of Arizona, Melendez had already been in the animation business for years -- working for such giants as Disney, Warner Bros. and UPA -- when Charlie Brown and fortune came knocking.

By the early 1960s, he had set up his own fledgling animation studio, where among other things he made several Ford TV spots using animated Peanuts characters.

In 1965, Coca-Cola approached the late Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz and independent movie producer Lee Mendelson about doing a Peanuts Christmas TV special. Mendelson and Schulz got Melendez onboard, and they proceeded to create a 30-minute show that turned all the rules upside-down.

Instead of professional adult actors, they recorded kid voices. Instead of brassy humor, they kept the warm, whimsical tone of the original comic strip. Instead of standard cartoony music, they used jazz.

I was at that time doing a lot of work out of San Francisco, Melendez recalls. Thats where I met Vince Guaraldi. He was a very popular musician in the Bay area. You could go into a bar where he would be playing piano. I said, We gotta use him.

Ready for more

Linus and Lucy and the other tunes Guaraldi wrote for the Peanuts specials have since become classic. But when Melendez and his colleagues first screened A Charlie Brown Christmas for CBS executives, they werent having any of it.

Too slow ... the kids dont sound pro ... the music is all wrong ... the story kind of wanders are some of the comments Mendelson recalled hearing from the CBS brass.

They questioned it for a simple reason They wanted something that would be guaranteed to succeed, Melendez says.

They neednt have worried. A Charlie Brown Christmas was such a hit that the network went ahead with plans for other Charlie Brown specials. Of the six earliest ones, only Christmas and Great Pumpkin are regularly revived -- probably because unlike, say, Hes Your Dog, Charlie Brown, they revolve around holidays.

If it was tied up to Happy Dog Day, that would be something, Melendez says. But that show and the others dont have a strong link-up to anything. We dont have any means or chance to expose them.

By now, Melendez has done 50 Charlie Brown specials, and four Charlie Brown feature-length movies. And hes ready to do more.

Even if he has to dance, once again, for The Man.

Even now, we always go job to job, he says. I have things, stories, and Id sure like to do some more. But it depends. First, I have to get a network to agree with the idea.

3-D Peanuts mark milestone When Charles M. Schulz first pondered how to bring his Peanuts comic strip to TV, he considered several options -- among them a puppetoons show featuring animated 3-D figures, a la Thunderbirds.

Well, old ideas dont die -- and they dont necessarily fade away, either. Florida sculptor David Kracov has revived the idea with his first collection of three-dimensional Peanuts sculptures, released to mark the 40th anniversary of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

The sculptures, made of pulverized and reconstituted marble, are set into wood shadowboxes. Into and over and under them, to be precise -- since Kracovs characters have a habit of bursting out of their confines. In the sculpture Fall! a shadowbox scene of pumpkins in the moonlight is bordered by a frame -- on top of which is Linus, struggling with an outsize jack-o-lantern.

Schulzs characters have been licensed for toys, games and dolls before, but Kracov is the first legitimate artist to get the official sanction of United Features Syndicate, owners of the Peanuts strip.

The pieces capture the personalities of the characters, and then hes pushing them outside the box, says Heidi Leigh, owner of Manhattans Animazing Gallery, where the sculptures will debut Friday.

The pieces run from $695 for a signed, numbered copy to $1,500 and up for an original. You can see them at Animazing Gallery, 461 Broome St., between Greene and Mercer streets. The artist will be in residence from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Information or 212-226-7374.

Peanuts exhibit to come to Scales, Schulz's wife to speak

October 5, 2006

By Mary Bolling Blackiston
The Old Gold & Black, Wake Forest University student newspaper [North Carolina]

Good grief, Charlie Brown!

Artwork from the infamous Charles Schulz is making its way to Winston-Salem.

From Oct. 7 through Nov. 15, more than 46 of Schulzs drawings will be memorialized through an exhibit at the universitys Charlotte and Phillip Hanes Art gallery. Many special events will take place throughout the upcoming month in conjunction with this display. On Oct. 7 at 6 p.m., the opening of the exhibit will take place in the Scales 102. There will be a lecture and discussion by Derrick Bang, the author of three books about Schulz including, 50 Years of Happiness A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz and creator of the Peanuts Collectors Club Web site.

The exhibit will include original drawings by Schulz, such as Peanuts collectibles, a handmade Peanuts quilt and unique Lil Folks comics. Following Bangs lecture, the opening reception will start at 7 p.m., where Judy Sladky will make a guest appearance. Sladky, who is a former champion ice skater, dancer and actress, has impersonated Snoopy all over the world since 1979 in ice skating shows and other similar gymnastic appearances. Sladky has also been the voice for Alice Snuffleupagus in Sesame Street for 17 years.

Additionally, music from Vince Guaraldis The Charlie Brown Suite & Other Favorites will be performed by the Matteson Blues Trio.

The night before, on Oct. 6, Sladky (as Snoopy) and Bang will be doing a book signing with the jazz trio performing at Borders Books on Stratford road. In addition to the events of this weekend, there are other upcoming events related to the exhibit.

On Oct. 18 at 1200 p.m., Tom Everhart will be giving a lecture comparing comic art with fine art in Scales 9. Everhart is the only person authorized to paint Peanuts characters and started working with Schulz around 1980.

Rheta Grimsley is another person who knew Schulz fairly well and wrote a biography on him in 1989; she will come to the festivities to reminisce of her times with the artist.

In addition, on Oct. 28 at 3 p.m., there will be A Conversation with Jeannie Schulz in the Scales 102.

Jeannie is the widow of Charles Schulz and president of the board of directors of the Charles M. Schulz Museum. Jeannie will speak of her husbands life as a comic artist from a personal perspective and talk about her work with the Museum dedicated to her husband.

Once again, the Matteson Blues Trio will be performing Charlie Brown tunes.

Stephen R. Turner, who came up with the idea of this exhibit, is also the curator for the display and is in charge of many of the events.

Much of the exhibit is on loan from Turner, a Winston-Salem resident and Schulz memorabilia collector. Turner was introduced to Mrs. Schulz a couple of years ago.

They have a museum in California and that inspired me to do the exhibit because of what [Jeannie] was doing with her husbands work. Now others can experience Schulzs work on the opposite coast.

Aside from Schulzs museum, Turner claims that there are ... very few of just Schulzs work ... no more than handful outside of Schulz museum. At the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles, however, Schulz was honored as one of the fifteen cartoonists of the 20th century whose work was displayed as part of this exhibit. In response to whether or not this exhibit will be repeated in the future, Turner believes that it is possible to ... take the show somewhere else ...there are no immediate plans to do it, though.

Admissions to the exhibit and all events are free and open to the public. Students are encouraged to attend.

Great Pumpkin producer recalls how holiday classic for all ages was carved out

September 30, 2006

By Megan Kenny
The Port St. Lucie News [Florida]

When Lee Mendelson met legendary cartoonist Charles M. Schulz in 1963, he had no idea their friendship would yield one of the greatest Halloween heroes of all time The Great Pumpkin.

This months airing of the special Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will mark 40 years since Linus first went to a sincere pumpkin patch to wait for the super vegetable.

Earlier this year, the 73-year-old Mendelson wrote Its the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown The Making of a Television Classic, where he reminisces about how the special made it to the air, and what it was like to work with animator Bill Melendez and Schulz.

In four decades of working together, we never had a single argument, Mendelson said during a telephone interview from his home in California.

Schulz used to say drawing a comic was like writing a term paper every day, but the work only had to last a few seconds. Working out the details of a 25-minute show was a challenge, Mendelson said, and one the cartoonist met.

He was very competitive in a good way, he said. He wanted to do the very best he could do in whatever he was doing, whether it was playing golf or drawing a comic.

Mendelson and Melendez have produced 50 Peanuts specials, five of them since Schulzs death in 2000. None would have happened without The Great Pumpkin, which almost didnt get made.

Even though two previous 1965 specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Charlie Browns All Stars! had won their time slots, network executives told Mendelson the next one had to be a blockbuster, or that was it.

Mendelson assured them it would be, then set upon Schulz and Melendez to make it happen. They slowly decided to have popular bits from the comics -- Lucy pulling the football out from beneath Charlie Brown, Snoopy as a World War I flying ace -- feature prominently. When Schulz mentioned the Great Pumpkin, the idea for a Halloween special came together.

It was there to be done all the time, it never occurred to us, Mendelson said.

The show won its time slot on Oct. 27, 1966, with almost half the country watching.

It still wins.

Port St. Lucie woman's worst Halloween ever

September 30, 2006

By Megan Kenny
The Port St. Lucie News [Florida]

On the night of Charlean Soulignes worst Halloween ever, she found a kindly old friend had died and was refused candy by a mean man who lived a few doors down.

Little did she know the experience would do more than just build character and haunt her memory -- it also might win her a trip to California.

Souligne, of Port St. Lucie, is one of 10 finalists in the Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 40th Anniversary Essay Contest, selected by the family of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.

The Halloween special, which first aired Oct. 27, 1966, and tells the now-legendary story of The Great Pumpkin, who comes every year to the most sincere pumpkin patch to bring toys to good children.

The Great Pumpkins biggest fan is Linus Van Pelt, who spends Halloween after Halloween in a pumpkin patch, waiting for his benefactor.

Souligne said shes a Snoopy fan and long-time reader of the comic strip, but would not call herself a fanatic.

However, she does describe herself as a storyteller, and often uses personal anecdotes in the speeches she gives for the local Toastmasters public speaking club.

My daughter saw something on the Internet and said, You should enter this contest. You always have a lot of stories and youve got to have a bad Halloween story in there somewhere, Souligne said.

Souligne, who prefers her age to be kept mum, but agreed to go with young at heart, said she got the news while shopping at Publix. She said she made quite a spectacle jumping up and down in her excitement.

So ... whats his story?

My cousins birthday was on Halloween, said the Illinois native. We lived out in the country, my cousins lived in town. Wed go to a party at their house and go trick-or-treating around their house.

In one of the houses lived an older lady whod always ooh and ahh over the costumes, and hand over treats to any child that arrived at her door.

A few doors down lived a mean man who would only give candy to children from the town of Bradley -- not those from the country like Souligne and her siblings.

On her worst Halloween, the nice lady didnt answer the door. Her husband told Souligne she had died.

Heartbroken, Souligne continued to the house of the mean man, who, following tradition, asked the children where they were from before parting with the candy. While her siblings lied that they were from town, Souline stood up and said she was from Custer Park, miles from town. The man refused her candy.

I said, You can keep your rotten candy, and I was crying, she said. I was more upset about the lady. She was wonderful. She never cared where you were from.

Finalist benefits

As a finalist, Souligne will get $100 worth of Peanuts merchandise. If she wins the contest, shell get an all-expenses-paid trip for two to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif.

Souligne moved to Florida in 1979, and has lived in Port St. Lucie for 19 years. She works in acquisitions at the St. Lucie County Library.

Winners will be announced shortly before the 40th airing of Its the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown later this month.

Woodstock on the block

Santa Rosa auction of 20 statues raises $167,000

September 25, 2006

By Kevin McCallum
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Maxine Averbuck saw something of herself in the Woodstock statue entitled The Village Gardener.

An avid gardener from Sebastopol, Averbuck fell in love with the 5-foot-tall statue featuring Snoopys little yellow friend wearing a straw hat and perching atop a nest brimming with fresh flowers, produce and garden tools.

But Averbuck also is a seasoned bargain hunter, and she wasnt about to overpay for her prize. She coaxed the auctioneer into sweetening the pot -- three free rides on the Redwood Empire Ice Arenas Zamboni for her grandchildren.

Going once, going twice -- SOLD for $6,000! announced the auctioneer, as he brought down his gavel and gave Averbuck what will surely go down as one of the more expensive pieces of garden statuary in Sonoma County.

Averbuck was one of dozens of bidders vying Sunday afternoon for one of 20 Woodstock statues auctioned off to raise money for causes supported by the family of the late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip.

The Santa Rosa auction brought to an end the Summer of Woodstock, a public art program that brought 76 fancifully decorated Woodstock statues to the streets, most supported by and displayed in front of local businesses.

The event, which is modeled after a similar program in Minnesota, is on a three-year run -- Charlie Brown last year, Woodstock this year and Joe Cool Snoopy next year, said Craig Schulz, the cartoonists son.

Last years event astonished the Schulz family, raising about $300,000, including one statue by artist Tom Everhart that fetched $54,000. This years auction was more modest, raising about $167,000. Those results disappointed some bidders.

I thought the bidding was terrible, said Shirley Spencer, who bought three statues Sunday, including the highest-priced one. Some people only paid $2,000 for theirs.

Spencer paid $36,000 for a statue by Everhart called Dots the Way I Like It, which features Woodstock drizzled with dots of colorful paint.

The statues cost $5,000 to sponsor and $2,000 to keep out of the auction, not to mention the cost and effort to decorate, she explained. That means some people bought statues for far below what they cost sponsors, she said.

That suited Santa Rosa resident Robin Marcus just fine.

We had no idea wed be going home with a Woodstock tonight, said Marcus, who spent $3,500 for Woodspock, which features the hapless bird dressed up like Mr. Spock from Star Trek. And definitely not one sitting on The Enterprise.

Marcus agreed the bidding seemed to be down from last year, but she couldnt say why. She said she is not a particular fan of Star Trek but bought Woodspock because she and her children thought it was one of the most creative ones in the lot.

Schulz said the funds raised this year will help finance art scholarships for local young people and a bronze Peanuts statue at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.

The auction likely suffered this year because there were other major auctions in the county on the same day, he said. The second year also may have dropped off because the novelty of the first year had worn off slightly, he said.

The number of total sponsors this year was up from the 55 Charlie Browns last year. Only 16 Charlie Browns were auctioned off last year, he said.

Despite the drop, the Summer of Woodstock was a huge success, he said.

It all started with the painting of the statues over three days in May, followed by parades over the summer that featured Woodstock as the grand marshal, he said.

Charles Schulz got the idea to name the little bird in his comic strip Woodstock in 1969 after hearing about the infamous concert in New York that year. Sundays auction was replete with references to Woodstocks roots in American hippie culture.

Attendees wore tie-dyed T-shirts, and Jimmi Hendrixs psychedelic guitar licks reverberated through the ice rink where the auction was held.

Woodstock has always been a popular character worldwide and continues to bring people to Santa Rosa, which is what this is all about, Schulz said.

Good grief, Fergie!

September 21, 2006

By Justyn Dillingham
The Arizona Daily Wildcat [University of Arizona]

As Andy Warhol notoriously remarked In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.

Of course, since this is one of the most frequently quoted remarks of all time, it ironically ensured that Warhols own fame would last much longer than 15 minutes.

But the statement has served well to describe our strange celebrity culture, in which ordinary, often quite mediocre people are elevated to the status of modern-day Caesars for months or even years, only to be ultimately cast into what Leon Trotsky termed the dustbin of history, never to be heard from again.

Lately, though, Ive begun to think that the famous never leave us entirely, but simply transform themselves into other shapes. Like the hapless hero of Kafkas Metamorphosis, they are utterly unrecognizable as what they once were.

Take Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie, whose first solo album came out two days ago. London Bridge, her blockbuster single, is still dancing and cursing its way across the airwaves, with the special glee only known to the temporarily trendy. As far as I knew, it was the first time Id heard her.

Imagine my shock when, as my eyes glided across this months cover story in Entertainment Weekly, nodding at the usual complaints about paparazzi and confessions of one-time meth addiction, I discovered that I had heard Fergies voice before, in the most unlikely context I could have imagined.

It seems Fergie was once Stacy Ferguson, and she got her start as a child actor appearing in commercials for the likes of McDonalds, before landing a spot on Nickelodeons Kids Incorporated, which led to a gig in long-forgotten R&B band Wild Orchid, which led to Black Eyed Peas, which ultimately led to the cover of EW.

But Fergies big break was providing the voice of Sally, Charlie Browns little sister, in two Peanuts television specials 1984s Its Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown and 1985s Snoopys Getting Married, Charlie Brown.

They seem to have vanished from the airwaves today, but when I was growing up, the Peanuts specials, based on Charles Schulzs great comic strip, were an inescapable part of life. With their shaky real-child voices (which often stumbled over impossibly grown-up phrases like big Eastern syndicate), light jazz soundtracks (which suited the shows general air of melancholy and regret) and reliably predictable titles (virtually every special had Charlie Brown in the name, probably because of Schulzs dislike of the word Peanuts), they were unlike any other cartoons.

By the mid-80s, though, Schulzs animation team seemed to be running low on ideas, and Flashbeagle was far and away the most bizarre Peanuts special of them all. I havent seen it since I was 8, but every moment is burned into my mind.

The special, which had virtually no plot, consisted of one animated music video after another, culminating in Snoopy dressing up like Olivia Newton-John and impressing the neighborhood kids with his breakdancing. Im not making this up.

Fergie-voiced Sally then takes a half-asleep Snoopy to school for show and tell; her classmates are unimpressed, until one of them takes out a boom box.

Learning that little Sally Brown (who, I remember, seemed to practically scream all of her lines) grew up to be what EW called the playfully profane Fergie is like finding out that the latest appointee to the Supreme Court is that little kid whose hair you used to pull in kindergarten. It just doesnt fit.

Snoopys Getting Married was considerably less surreal; it revolved around Snoopy falling in love with a French poodle and deciding to get married. Fergie/Sally even sings a little song at the wedding.

The main thing I remember from this special is that whenever Snoopys brother Spike made an appearance, a sad little desert theme was heard. I still cant look at a desolate, cactus-strewn landscape without hearing that music.

Reading Fergie expound on her troubles in the early 90s (I would cut my own bangs, and dye my own hair and dress really freaky), I have the creepy feeling that I am reading Sallys confessions. After all, what else would she be doing all these years later, assuming she somehow escaped Peanuts world and was able to age?

Yet, I cant escape the feeling that EW cover or not, little Stacy Fergusons career has actually gone downhill since her days as Sally.

After all, once youve done Flashbeagle, everything else is going to seem small-time.

Good grief! Camp puts Charlie Brown on ice

August 25, 2006

By Cindy Ferraino
The Plain-Dealer [Gloucester County, New Jersey]

Skaters from the 2006 Great Skates Summer Sports Academy showcased their talents on Aug. 18 in Charlie Brown On Ice. The show capped off the six-week summer camp at Hollydell Ice Arena.

Gina Naegely-Shinn led the group of young skaters through a fun-filled skating extravaganza. Naegely-Shinn is the director for the Hollydell Figure Skating Club. The Hollydell Figure Skating Club provides children with the opportunity to explore the world of figure skating. The club is dedicated to raising funds to secure valuable ice time and needed equipment for the ice skaters.

Gina Naegely-Shinn and the other certified coaches teach the skills needed to advance these young skaters into the next level of competition. The coaches keep the kids focused and motivated, Alora Baver said.

The Baver family is experienced in the sport of ice skating. Alora is the president of the figure skating club and her husband Bob is always around to lend a helping hand. The Baver children, Siearra, Abby and Damien trek to from Collings Lake to Washington Township to fulfill their passion for ice skating. Like the Bavers, many other families bring their children to Hollydell. Hollydell is the only place around here for ice skating, Baver said.

The show began with a solo expedition by Danielle Famnelle. The 12-year-old Mullica Hill resident has been practicing at Hollydell for several years. I have never seen someone work so hard, Naegely-Shinn said about Danielles commitment to skating. Famnelle nailed her final spin and turn, frozen hands warmed up to applaud her remarkable performance.

After Famnelle took her final bow, Charlie Brown (Eleni Brecht ) and his friends glided on the ice. The props made by Bob Baver and his volunteers transformed the public skating area into a magical place. Based on the original play Youre a Good Man, Charlie Brown, in which the cast brought Charles Schulzs characters to life. The littlest members of the ensemble displayed their wiggles and turns while the older skaters created a stir with their spins and jumps.

A brief intermission gave the kids a chance to rest and for some-to get warmed up. A six-year-old Woodstock named Sasha Savona huddled next to her sister, Alexa. Im a little cold, Sasha Savona said fighting back the shivers. Alexa, nicknamed Nike by her skating comrades, was too pumped up to let the cold stop her. Alexa stepped into the role as Linus for the night. I am having a great time, Alexa Savona said.

Siearra Baver and Alexa Rodano of Williamstown chatted before the intermission ended. Rodano gave a glowing review about summer camp.

Besides the show, the best part was when we beat the hockey players in a water fight, Alexa Rodano said. Annie Boyd (Sally) of Pitman took advantage of the break by practicing on the ice.

The cast headed out to the ice again for the rest of the show. In the second act, the famous dog, Snoopy played by Cherry Hill resident Kelli Hambleton got the crowd laughing with his antics. During the summer camp, Hambleton asked Coach Naegely-Shinn for some direction about how to act like Snoopy. Think of Whoopi Goldberg from the movie Sister Act, Naegely-Shinn told her bewildered student.

Kelli Hambleton took the advice and she donned the ears with beaming pride.

The show concluded with a song entitled Happiness. The cast gathered together for one last skate. The song played through the rafters of the skating arena, Gina Naegely-Shinn watched her summer campers working together as a team.

Skating is such a singular sport but a summer camp brings the kids close, Naegely-Shinn said.

Snoopy flying at R.W. Norton Art Gallery

September 5, 2006

By Jennifer Flowers
The Shreveport Times [Louisiana]

Snoopy kept Charles Schulz on his toes.

He always said Charlie Brown is the foundation of the comic strip, he is the character around which everything revolves, recalled Jean Schulz, wife of the late cartoon artist who created Peanuts. He said, I have to be careful that I dont let Snoopy run away with the strip.

Snoopys adventures as the Flying Ace, imagined from his doghouse, include a run-in with influenza and a duel with his nemesis, the Red Baron, on his Sopwith Camel airplane.

Jerry Bloomer, board secretary at the Norton gallery, said the exhibit diversifies the museums offerings this year, including the recent Audubons Animals of North America and the upcoming Window on the West Views from the American Frontier.

We try to vary the themes or the subject matter of these special exhibits whenever possible, and this one is definitely something weve never had before, the art of cartoonists, Bloomer said. The more varied in subject matter, as far as were concerned, the better to give the audience a lot of different things to choose from.

Bossier City resident Al Bohl, a longtime cartoonist who published the textbook Guide to Cartooning in 1997, wrote on Schulz and Peanuts because of their heavy influence on cartoon world. Schulz was king of newspaper cartooning, he said. Hes the one that everybody emulates. Hes the one that set the standard for the way that comic strips are done and he would probably be the best known in the history of cartooning.

Bohl saw Schulzs work once before in a Connecticut museum and plans to attend the exhibit because the images will be on display in their original sizes, which are much larger than the panels people usually see in the Sunday comics.

Whats so great about him is he figured out how to build everything around humor and character and develop devices, which hed repeat over and over, like a well of ideas, Bohl said. By using the device system, its a way to trigger humor.

Devices in Schulzs work allowed him to build on a foundation of themes, Bohl added.

The Red Baron is a device. Every fall, Lucy holds the ball and asks Charlie Brown to kick it. The Great Pumpkin is another one. Another is the valentines from the little redheaded girl, and Linus and his blanket. Snoopy himself was a device, his house was a device.

The exhibit comes to Shreveport by way of Rochester, Minn., and will continue to travel around the country until 2010. Jean Schulz is particularly excited about Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace because of its wide circulation, in part because the images are digital copies and take on fewer curatorial and travel-related costs.

I think (Charles) would just be pleased that people wanted to see it and that its getting such nice distribution, she said. By traveling the reproductions, you can travel them more broadly.

The exhibit is both entertaining and educational, according to Jane OCain, curator of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif. Charles Schulz explored many aspects of World War I and that era through the Flying Aces flights of fancies, she said. It gives teachers a way to examine this time period in world history in a non-threatening way.

The exhibit explores the evolution of one character and scenario over the course of about decades, according to Jean, board president of the Charles M. Schulz museum next to the ice arena where Schulz had breakfast and lunch almost every day for years.

Theyll see how the characters changed, theyll see how he changed, Jean said. Some early ones have Snoopy in the trenches. But as time went on, it was less war if you will and more Snoopy behind the enemy lines, romancing the girl in the French café and using his imagination that way. I think that possibly that became more appealing to him.

Schulz, a Minnesota native and a sergeant in the army, created his Peanuts comic strip in 1950. He included a cast of young people dealing with real-life feelings with a humorous twist. Snoopy was based on his childhood dog, Spike. After 15 years as a cartoonist he introduced Snoopys other identity as the World War I Flying Ace into his cartoons on Sunday, Oct. 10, 1965. The Flying Ace was born out of Schulz and his son Montes time making model airplanes together. Schulz also grew up dreaming of becoming a cartoonist for adventure comics, and the Flying Ace took on that adventure theme he hoped to depict.

For 50 years Schulz drew comic strips daily except for one six-week period in 1997 when he published reprints. Unlike many cartoonists who hire assembly-line artists and use typed fonts, he drew and lettered every strip until he retired in December of 1999. He died in 2000.

Its very draining to draw a comic strip because you always have to be thinking of it, and you really get no holiday, Jean said about Charles, whom she called Sparky. All the time the comic strip was in the back of his mind, which is fine because he loved it.

Local trio enjoys Snoopy hockey

August 2, 2006

By Richard MacKenzie
The Salmon Arm Observer [Salmon Arm, British Columbia]

Good grief. Hockey in the summer? In California?

Sure enough, and Salmon Arms Ron Goodman, Norm Embree and Rem Jeannatte were part of the action as they played in the Annual Snoopy Hockey Tournament in the northern California city of Santa Rosa, last month.

A Minneapolis, Minnesota native, Schulz made Santa Rosa his home in his later years and actually had the rink, where the tournament was played, built so his daughter wouldnt have to travel so far to take figure skating lessons.

He later started the tournament that he himself participated in as a player, doing so up until his death in February of 2000.

Schulz, for his contributions to hockey in his home country, was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.

The city is Peanuts from one end to the other, says Goodman. There is a statue of Charlie Brown with skates flung over his shoulder as you enter the rink, and all the walls are basically murals of the characters.

He also noted that the rink is located directly beside the Charles Schulz Museum.

The three Salmon Arm men received the opportunity to participate in the tournament after an invite by a group of old-timer players from Burnaby.

It was following a tournament here in Salmon Arm at the end of February, says Goodman. We were sitting in the lounge and they approached us, wanting to know if anyone would be interested in playing in the Snoopy tournament.

Goodman went on to say he jumped at the chance, because it was one of the big old-timer hockey events he had yet to take part in. Embree and Jeannatte were happy to join him.

It was just a great experience, says Jeannatte. It was so much fun, I would definitely go again.

The Snoopy tournament, having just completed its 30th year, attracts teams from all over North America as well as a few from overseas.

The Salmon Arm players and their B.C. teammates played three games while in Santa Rosa, all against American opponents.

We played a pretty fair series, says Goodman. We won our first game against a team from Boston 4-2. We lost our second 5-4 in overtime, which was our fault because we blew a 3-0 lead, to the California Silver Seals from Los Angeles. The third game we came out a little slow and flatfooted and lost three 3-0 to the Berkeley (CA) Bears.

Apart from the hockey, the men commented that the trip allowed them to do some sight-seeing (San Francisco is very close), golfing and touring of the northern California wine country.

So long, Snoopy

MetLife blimp, in Hutch for Open, makes final pass Wednesday before moving on

July 13, 2006

By Clara Kilbourn
The Hutchinson News [Hutchinson, Kansas]

Say goodbye to Snoopy.

In a farewell salute to Hutchinson and the 2006 U.S. Senior Open, Snoopy the MetLife blimp circled town Wednesday morning and headed east to an appearance in New York City.

During an extended weekend, the blimp drew onlookers on the ground and in the air. It bedded down nights at Wells Aircraft, next to the Hutchinson Airport, with a watchdog person always in attendance, Wells operations director Pat Drach said.

Airgas of Hutchinson, 1200 North Grand, filled an order for 63 bottles -- or 18,900 cubic feet -- of helium when the balloon arrived. That amount is worth about $5,000.

Snoopy normally needs 30 bottles with each landing, Airgas manager Justin Blick said, but because of multiple holes and a pretty good tear, the blimps crew ordered twice the usual amount. Snoopys outside material resembles the awning of a camper trailer, Blick said.

The famous balloon arrived July 6 from Chicago. Bad weather caused it to arrive later in the golf week than originally had been announced.

When it storms, they dont fly, Blick said.

The blimp gondola seats four -- a pilot, co-pilot and two passengers -- but because of the high-definition television camera equipment needed to shoot the golf championship, the co-pilots seat was removed.

The female pilot, Capt. Kay Board of Australia, and a cameraman were the only people on board, Blick said.

Snoopy traveled to Hutchinson with a ground crew of 10, plus the pilot and co-pilot.

The ground crew follows the airborne vessel in two vans and a pickup. The vehicles pull trailers that hold sleeping quarters and a mobile service wagon.

They cant get too far ahead of the blimp because of the weather, Blick said. It takes all the crew to land it, and if the weather changes, they have to be ready to bring it down.

On a normal, decent day, with help from a tailwind, Snoopy travels at a top speed of 55 mph. When traveling into the wind, it can slow to 10 mph, the crew told Blick.

The blimp and the ground crew arrived at the Hutchinson Airport at the same time, and Snoopy waited for them to secure the tether pole, Blick said.

Each night, the crew tethered Snoopy to a pole secured by 12 stakes, each driven into the ground 6 feet deep. He floated 2 to 3 feet off the ground.

Snoopy drew an audience of kids when he was on the ground, airport manager Phil Florey said. The city extended a courtesy tab for his overnights.

We dont charge landing fees or parking fees, Florey said.

Schulz made leap to big time

July 4, 2006

By Paul Weeks
The Stockton Record [California]

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Pigpen -- the whole gang of Charles Schulzs comic strip characters have been scampering around my desk. Do you remember them?

Schulz and I were from adjoining states -- he, Minnesota, I, North Dakota. Born in 1922, he was two years younger. He passed on six years ago.

One afternoon, in the autumn of 1958, was one of my most memorable, chatting with Schulz about our origins and what led us to California.

My job was to introduce him to readers of the Los Angeles Mirror, to herald his strips arrival. It was eight years after he found himself in the big time.

He was syndicated in October 1950 in seven newspapers, at $90 for his first month. Shucks, my weekly paycheck already was close to that at the old L.A. Daily News.

He could hardly grasp the leap he had made since he rose from a lonely childhood in Minneapolis, where he was often belittled because he was the youngest kid in class after skipping a grade, just as I had.

His dad was a barber. Mine was a rural mail carrier. Schulz didnt want to get bogged down in a job he didnt want to do. Neither did I. We chose careers that would be fun. He succeeded beyond all expectations and became probably the wealthiest person Ive ever known. Me? I just went on having fun.

The Army called Schulz when he was 20. I enlisted at the same age. He served as a machine-gun squad leader in France, Austria and Germany. I never left the United States, writing sports about Army Air Corps athletes, and later about heroes returning from war.

While the interview we had in 1958 was supposed to be about him, I began to think he was interviewing me.

We followed the same comic strip characters as kids -- Moon Mullins, Little Orphan Annie, Popeye, Tilley the Toiler, Mutt and Jeff. Oddly enough, we read them from the same newspaper, The Minneapolis Tribune, in his home town -- the newspaper I sold Sundays in Mott, North Dakota.

His fascination with cartooning led him to enroll in a correspondence cartoon course in high school. I worked my way up the ladder on the high school newspaper.

His first drawing published was a sketch of his dog, Spike, appearing in 1937 in Robert Ripleys Believe it or Not. That was the year I got my first job on The Albuquerque Journal.

In 1958, he moved to Sebastopol with his wife and five children. By that time, his strip appeared in 355 newspapers in the nation and 40 abroad.

He was on his way to become the widest-read cartoonist in history, with 2,620 newspapers reaching 335 million readers in seven languages worldwide.

The Broadway stage welcomed the Peanuts gang, as have movies, TV, books and T-shirts galore, with a museum in Santa Rosa. And I still appear in one newspaper -- not bad for two guys from Minnesota and North Dakota, huh?

Interview with Lee Mendelson

June 1, 2006

By Sarah Gurman
Animation magazine

With the buzz of the approaching Comic-Con in the air and Paramount Home Entertainment releasing This is America, Charlie Brown on DVD this month, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with Peanuts producer extraordinaire Lee Mendelson and talk shop about his experiences with the Charlie Brown cartoon crew. An accomplished animation and documentary producer, Mendelson opened up his own production company in 1963. Over the past 40 years he has delivered more than 45 primetime Peanuts specials with animator Bill Melendez (whos still working and celebrates his 90th birthday this year!) and the late strip creator Charles M. Schulz. The specials racked up five Emmys, two Peabodys and 15 Emmy nominations. Mendelson also served as the exec producer on four Peanuts features and has worked on Emmy-winning animated specials for such comic strip all-stars as Cathy and Garfield. He recently wrapped up production on Hes a Bully, Charlie Brown, which will air on ABC in November.

Animation Magazine Online How did you get your start in the industry?

Lee Mendelson I was a producer at KPIX, thats the local CBS affiliate in San Francisco, and we did a whole flock of documentaries, including a series of four historical documentaries on things like the earthquake and San Simeon. It won a Peabody Award for best local series so we decided to go out on our own.

And how did you end up crossing paths with Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz?

So we formed a company in 1963 up in Burlingame, Calif. where I still am and did a documentary on Willie Mays, which we sold to NBC and it turned out to be a big hit. And for some reason it popped into my mind that we had done the worlds greatest baseball player and we should now do a documentary on the worlds worst player, Charlie Brown. I called Charles Schulz, and he had seen the show and liked it and invited me to come up.

We did a documentary in 1963 with him drawing the characters and talking about them and we did a couple of minutes of animation. But then, ironically, we couldnt sell it to anybody. Everybody liked it, but there was just no place for it. Two years went by and then Coca-Cola called us. They had seen the documentary and saw the animation and asked us if wed ever considered doing a Charlie Brown Christmas show because they were looking for one. And I said Oh, absolutely, and then I hung up. &Oh and they said, We need an outline by Monday, and this was a Wednesday. I called Mr. Schulz and I said I think I just sold A Charlie Brown Christmas, and he said Whats that? and I said, Something youre gonna write tomorrow. So the animator [Bill Melendez] flew up and we drove up to Sebastopol, Calif., and sat down together and worked out an outline, which we then sent to Atlanta. Then a couple of weeks later they bought the show. This was around May of 1965.

So A Charlie Brown Christmas ended up getting aired before the documentary?

The documentary never got aired, but we updated it four or five years later and it won an Emmy. I often have wondered how many good ideas dont get on, ever. They either dont get produced or dont get on the air. Youre very lucky when lightning strikes.

A Charlie Brown Christmas has such a distinct feel compared to other prime time Christmas specials. Why do you think that is?

Schulz and Melendez, had worked on the first [Charlie Brown] animation ever done in 1961. They had done a commercial for Ford, and they had animated the characters, so when we all got together on this show, we made some key decisions. One was that we would use real kids voices, which they had done on this Ford commercial and it seemed to work, not using adults. Because up till then, it was always adults doing kids voices. And we decided to use the jazz music from Vince Guaraldi again, which had been on the documentary. The show just evolved from those original notes.

What was it like working with Charles Schulz and Bill Melendez?

We all worked as partners for almost 40 years and we did 50 specials. The first one was just like all of the 49 to follow, which was like good friends getting together, picking up an idea for a show and doing it. It was a lot of fun working with Charles because he respected everybodys turf. Bill and I would be directing the kids, Bill would be doing the animation and he [Schulz] would be doing the story. You know, we each respected each others strengths if you will. And we werent together under the same Hollywood roof where there might have been a lot of pressure. We were in three different cities, so we would just get together, like I say, three friends working on a fun project with no pressure from the outside. I think one of the greatest things over the 40 years is that we never had any interference from the networks. We could do as we wished. Pick the subjects, and then do them as we wanted, which is probably unprecedented.

Did the ideas for the different specials come directly from the strips or did you use the comics more as a launching pad?

Well you know they could come from anywhere. For the Christmas show, he had done some Christmas strips so there was a basis for that. He had done a ton of baseball strips so the second show was about baseball because that was a main subject. And then of course the other big hit, Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, came right out of the comic strips. So in the beginning I would say probably the first dozen shows came out of the comic strip, but then ideas would come from all over. After the movie Flashdance, I thought it might be kind of fun to do Snoopy doing that kind of dance and he came up with the idea of Flash Beagle. We started thinking of doing a movie called This is America, Charlie Brown, but it was kind of unwieldy. We went to the network and said theres never been an animated mini-series so wed like to do eight shows on different aspects of American history. CBS said Lets do it. And thats where that idea came from. And a lot of that series came out of my own documentary experience. I had done one on the transcontinental railroad, I had done one on the Constitution, the Depression and so forth, so that probably evolved from my documentary background.

What does This is America Charlie Brown bring to the table for Peanuts fans?

Up to that time we had never done anything on the history stuff or had adults even in there. The reason we use that waa-waa-waa sound for the teacher is because we never wanted to show adults up until that time because they had not been in the strip. We thought that the Mayflower and the Constitution and the building of the railroad and things like that would work. We tried to pick out something that would be educational of course, but mainly entertaining. We always felt through out this whole series that our main job was to entertain people and if we could throw some history in there and educate at the same time that would be a nice thing to be able to do. So theyre dressed like Pilgrims and then theyre dressed like Revolutionary War times, and so on.

What is it about Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang that makes them appeal to people so much and what gives them their staying power?

Of course it all goes back to the comic strip. He drew 18,000 comic strips and it was read by 100 million people every day and thats a pretty good fan base. Thats like an American Idol fan base when you start out, even before you do television.

The success over the years probably comes from Schulzs Midwest values and his sense of humor. The characters talk like adults a lot of the time, and that would appeal to the comic strip readers who are mostly adults. I think everybody identifies with Charlie Brown because we all have our ups and downs, we all have our struggles. What we like about him is he keeps coming back and keeps trying no matter what happens to him. Lucy also had a huge following in the beginning. And so did Peppermint Patty when she came out during the womens lib movement and wore sandals to school. Comic strips reflect the changing American scene. I think because Peanuts evolved from decade to decade, it didnt get stale.

On the TV show I think the music had a huge impact because jazz appealed to both the kids and adults. I think too, the transition from comic strip to animation was seamless in that Bill Melendez, the animator, just moved the characters. He kept the simplicity of the characters and of the backgrounds. And so it looked like the comic strip moving instead of something over-animated or over-done. So its the artistry of Bill Melendez and all of his associates thats kept the animation going for 40 years.

How has the production process been on the more recent Charlie Brown properties without Charles Schulz around?

Much of the more recent shows that we produced without him came right out of the comic strips, so we literally used his material, just like if he were still writing them. More importantly, the last two shows, including the one were just finishing, we had all written and worked on together before his passing. We did a show a couple of years ago called I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown, and we just finished one called Hes a Bully, Charlie Brown, and both of those were his creations and stuff weve worked on years before his

passing. So this new one that comes out in November was his original script.

Do you have plans set for Charlie Brown down the road?

No, we just take it one year at a time. We just finished Hes a Bully, Charlie Brown and well see how that goes. I really dont know at this point what the future holds after that.

Do you think that in future Charlie Brown projects you would consider using CG animation or would you stick with traditional animation?

Again, that would be a decision by the Schulz family, but theres no plans to do a movie and thats the only time we would go with that. We havent discussed it because were not going to do a movie. I dont know, we might stay in the traditional, we might not, but since there are no plans to do a movie, it hasnt come up.

Do you have a favorite Peanuts character or one that reminds you most of yourself?

Well, I know in regard to Schulz, he used to say that he thought he was like Charlie Brown in real life and Snoopy was his fantasy life. Ive always identified with Linus more than anything, and I cant even tell you why. Its just that I think that if the characters ever grew up hed probably be the most fun. Theres a certain innocence about him. Hes very smart and very bright, but then he can end up sucking his thumb and the reliance on the blanket and all, I just think that he was the most fun character. And it was always fun to animate him, particularly with the blanket. So I think that would probably be mine.

Snoopy Two blimp docks at Carroll County Regional Airport

May 20, 2006

By Isaac Baker
Carroll County Times [Maryland]

David Gonzalez has no real home, no physical address.

He has a mailing address in Orlando and every week he gets a care package from his company -- the previous weeks mail. He spends most of his nights in hotels.

But the crew leader of the MetLife blimp known as Snoopy Two does get to travel. A lot.

Gonzalez and his crew of about a dozen people have been to almost every state in the continental United States with the large blue blimp, which is adorned with a huge scarf- and goggle-clad Snoopy, Charles Schulzs famous cartoon beagle. The crew follows Snoopy Two in vehicles loaded with all the equipment necessary to dock and service the blimp.

The Carroll County Regional Airport is one of many sites where the blimp has docked while on its year-round journey across North America.

Gonzalez and his crew once traveled from California to New Jersey to Texas to Canada with the helium-filled airship, making various stops along the way, in just two weeks.

Gonzalez travels 11 months out of the year.

Theres some mileage behind me, Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the MetLife blimp had been stationed at the airport since Wednesday and was flying back and forth to Pimlico. It is scheduled to provide aerial footage of the 131st annual Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in thoroughbred horse racings Triple Crown, today.

One of Snoopy Twos pilots, Ben Travis, said he flies the blimp over the U.S. Open, golf tournaments and other events with a camera man, who gathers the birds-eye-view footage for television broadcasts.

Gonzalez said the commonly held notion that the helium-filled blimps are subject to being popped like balloons and collapsing to the ground isnt realistic.

If a person were to take a gun and shoot Snoopy Two, with the bullet piercing entry and exit holes in the blimps nylon polymer shell, it would be seven to 10 days before the loss of helium could even be noticed, Gonzalez said. After all, he added, Snoopy Two is filled with 69,000 cubic feet of helium.

Gonzalez said flying a blimp is actually rather safe.

Its pretty much like a boat, he said.

But blimp pilots are nowhere near as common as ship captains, Gonzalez said -- theyre a rare breed. There are more people able to pilot space shuttles than blimps, he said.

As Snoopy Two is scheduled with events to cover all over the country, it may be a long time before its back in Westminster.

Blimps dont stop at the Carroll airport that frequently.

Steve Brown, who has worked at the airport for 11 years, said only six -- including the Fuji, Goodyear and Budweiser blimps -- have docked at the airport in that time.

After shooting the horse racing, Snoopy Twos crew is packing up and heading to Atlantic City on Sunday.

Gonzalez said he doesnt mind the travel. And, he said, a tight-knit crew make life on the road -- and in the air -- easier.

The sinkable Charlie Brown

A new volume of The Complete Peanuts reveals the round-headed heros dark side

May 15, 2006

By Jaime J. Weinman

The most famous comic strip in Fantagraphics Books The Complete Peanuts 1959-60 is a heartwarming, sentimental one fuss-budget Lucy hugs the imaginative dog Snoopy, and sighs Happiness is a warm puppy. Thats the popular image of Charles M. Schulzs Peanuts, based mostly on the spinoffs Schulz authorized TV specials, commercials, merchandising. But the new volume in Fantagraphics series -- a multi-year project that aims to collect the whole run of the strip -- allows readers to get a look at Schulz at his best funny, melancholy, and, yes, sometimes pretty dark.

Peanuts was a popular and successful strip early on, winning Schulz his first Reuben award (the award of the National Cartoonists Society) in 1955. But in the 1959-60 volume, not only do we see Schulzs art mature into the hyper-simplified, minimalist style that became the strips trademark, we watch Schulz introduce many of the themes and running gags that would be part of Peanuts for the next 40 years.

So in this volume, Snoopy starts sleeping on top of his doghouse, even when it rains. Linus first mentions his Halloween deity, the Great Pumpkin, and develops a crush on his teacher, Miss Othmar (I never said I worshipped her, I merely said Im very fond of the ground on which she walks). And in Schulzs parody of the 50s craze for therapy, Lucy dispenses psychiatric help for five cents a session -- a price that would never change no matter how much inflation there was.

It is around this time that Charlie Brown establishes himself as the ultimate loser. When the strip started in 1950, Charlie Brown was a happy-go-lucky character, but over the years Schulz put more and more of his own depressive tendencies into his round-headed hero. By 1959, Charlie Brown constantly fails in the most humiliating ways possible. One strip ends with him just hanging his head and closing his eyes after his baseball team loses 600 to nothing no joke, no punchline, just a simple drawing showing the essence of what it feels like to be a loser. No comic strip artist before Schulz had put that kind of pain into his drawings.

Also in these years, Schulz started to focus more on a theme that would become forever associated with Peanuts religion. The best-known expression of Schulzs religious belief is the scene with Linus reciting from the Bible in A Charlie Brown Christmas. But befitting its creator, who described himself as both a Christian and a secular humanist, the material in the strip tends to be more ambiguous about religion than a book like The Gospel According to Peanuts suggests.

Linus belief in the Great Pumpkin -- a being who never shows up and whose existence he cant demonstrate -- becomes an obvious, intentional metaphor for religious belief; when Linus suspects that the Great Pumpkin might not be real, he laments, I was a victim of false doctrine. Schulz even takes some digs at the idea that peoples beliefs should be respected no matter what The way I see it, Linus says, defending his belief in the Great Pumpkin, It doesnt matter what you believe just so youre sincere. Fantagraphics editor Kim Thompson thinks that part of the genius of Schulz is that its in fact possible to read the Great Pumpkin strips from a Christian point of view as satirizing false doctrine or from a non-Christian point of view as satirizing any religion -- with Christianity obviously looming large.

Dirk Deppey, managing editor of The Comics Journal, says people make too much of Schulzs dark side It seems to me that people talk up the occasional streak of melancholy running through the strip as a means of making it seem more sophisticated or adult than it actually is.

Deppey is right that Peanuts shouldnt be mistaken for Schulzs long dark night of the soul; the new volume features plenty of strips that are good-natured, and some that are happy, like Charlie Browns ecstatic reaction to the birth of his sister Sally. (Though theres even a dark edge to that strip, as Linus tells his sister Lucy You didnt act like that when I was born.) But its hard to deny that some of the humor is, as Thompson says of one strip, pretty grim the world of Peanuts 1959-1960 is one where characters are so confused they have to find little bits of happiness wherever they can. After all, Schulzs second-most famous line from this volume is one that became a popular T-shirt slogan in the 60s I love mankind -- its people I cant stand.

Good grief! tradition of Sunday comics, Peanuts alive and well

May 16, 2006

By Shanna Sissom
The Midland Reporter-Telegram [Texas]

Its refreshing to know kids still read Sunday comic strips.

That is just one of the many things I recently learned in classrooms where I was supposed to teach Washington Elementary sixth-graders about the newspaper business during their career day.

Nearly three-fourths of the students I polled live in homes where the Reporter-Telegram is delivered to their doorsteps, and almost all read the paper at least occasionally. Above all, they were very interested in the comic strips and wanted to know why theyre only in color on Sundays, as I briefly tried to explain the economics of color in newsprint.

The sixth-grade students of Ms. Pierce and Ms. Sherrod were also interested in certain high-profile local news stories involving crime and the courts. They look forward to reading Peanuts, the horoscopes and Dear Abby, as I also remember doing at their age.

Theres no doubt Charlie Brown and Snoopy are characters loved by every generation of children since Peanuts, created by the late Charles Schulz, debuted in seven newspapers in 1950.

It was during that decade most of the best newspapers of every size in America, including this one, began continuously carrying the beloved syndicated comic strip.

One of our editorial staffers partly attributes her love of Peanuts to becoming a journalist, explaining her grandmother always made her read a front-page news story or two before she was awarded the treat of seeing what Charlie Brown was up to that day.

From the Washington Elementary sixth-graders to adult colleagues of all ages I polled, reading Peanuts is at least a part of nearly everyones childhood.

Remember sticking Silly Putty on them? one colleague said of copying Peanuts characters onto putty, as we reflected on our youth that included Sunday comics, with the main attraction being Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

In my household, comics were called the funny pages, and Dad always pulled them out for me to read after church.

It wasnt too long after their creation when Charlie and Snoopy jumped out of the funny pages and onto our TV sets.

The A Charlie Brown Christmas show debuted in 1965, several years before my birth, and when I was five, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving came out, both of which have long since become classics for generations of children. The Charlie Brown Specials as they were known, were always a part of childrens holidays back when as they are today.

But no doubt the success of the shows came from loyal child newspaper readers of Schulzs famous strips.

It makes my heart glad to learn todays youngsters are still reading the Sunday comics, by holding a real newspaper in their hands, rather than viewing images on the Internet.

As is happening with the Washington Elementary students I visited last week, eventually my childhood newspaper reading was broadened from Sunday comics, to Dear Abby and eventually on to front page news.

Im hopeful their children will grow up enjoying the wholesome tradition of Sunday comics, with the likes of Snoopy, Charlie Brown and friends.

Because somehow, our world is a better place with them in it.

Good Grief!

May 16, 2006

By Arnold T. Blumberg
Now Playing magazine

Kites stuck in trees. A football pulled away at the last second. The warmth of a security blanket. Fussbudgets, World War I flying aces. The Great Pumpkin. Just a glimpse of the sheer joy that Charles Schulz gave the world in his 50-year masterpiece, the newspaper comic strip that became the mirror for the human condition for half a century. Of course Im talking about Peanuts, the home of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, Woodstock, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty, and many more. But what Im really talking about is pure childhood. The magic of discovery, of entering a world of characters that can touch your heart, give you a giggle, and teach you something about what it means to be human all at the same time. And thanks to Fantagraphics Books, we can discover these things all over again.

If you havent noticed yet, then good grief, where have you been? Fantagraphics has undertaken the gargantuan task of reprinting every single Peanuts strip ever published -- including many early strips that never saw the light of day after their very first and only appearance in papers -- in a series of beautiful hardcover volumes. This is by far the most ambitious project of this sort to date, promising to give us The Complete Peanuts in about 12 years or so in over two dozen books. Theyre not particularly inexpensive, nor are they too pricey -- theyre just right and theyre worth every last penny.

So far, there have been five volumes released (seen here on this page), with two box sets offering two books each with a nice slipcover for those who want to keep things even neater on the shelf. But whether you buy the sets or the individual books, the important thing is -- buy them! Tell friends and family to buy them! Make sure no one has any reason to call a halt to this series before it reaches the end. The recent archival collection of Calvin & Hobbes, another beautiful achievement in publishing, only had to cover ten years of strips. It did so with a lavish three-volume tome that, while unwieldy, could at least be wrestled out of a bookstore in one trip. This, however, is a different story, so by all means we dont want this plan to falter before the series is completed.

Sure, the Peanuts strips after about 1977 are shadows of what came before, and the 90s material is just the sad remnant of a once glorious achievement, focusing on third-level characters Spike and Rerun almost to the exclusion of everyone else and reducing the four-panel strip to three-, two- and even one-panel variations. At the end of his life, Schulz was still soldiering on, refusing to turn the strip over to anyone else and drawing every installment by hand even after a plethora of health issues weakened his penmanship. But in their own way, those wavy, squiggly lines of his 90s work stand as a testament to his determination as much as the strong, crisp lines of his 50s strips speak of a young man bristling with energy and ideas.

Peanuts is not just the story of our lives but the story of one mans lifelong efforts to leave a mark on the world. That he died within a day of the publication of his final strip and reportedly never felt that he achieved a sufficient level of artistic merit says a lot about Schulz humility and how closely his soul was tied to his work. Whether he knew it or not, he was one of the greatest artists our nation has ever produced. Its there in every Charlie Brown sigh.

Now Peanuts is an indelible part of our souls. Every time another one of these books arrives on my doorstep, Im transported back to carefree days of sitting with my mother and reading Peanuts books for hours at a time. Its a time that can never come again, but with each turn of the page, I can recapture just a bit of it. So dont let it slip away. Buy these books and cherish them. Peanuts is a one-way trip to youth; its magic.

Thatll be five cents, please.

So Long, Charlie Brown

Please dont hate us, but were replacing three comic strips, and (gulp) one of them is Peanuts

May 14, 2006

By Tim Clodfelter
The Winston-Salem Journal [North Carolina]

Starting Monday, readers of the Winston-Salem Journal comics pages will see two new strips. But theres a trade-off, and that means three strips will be going away. One is Spot the Frog, a daily strip recently added to our comics pages. We feel it isnt working well and that there are better alternatives. Another is Beakman & Jax, a Sunday-only educational strip that is one of the lowest-rated strips in our comics surveys.

But the third ... ooh, boy. We may as well come out and say it.

The third is Peanuts.

Todays Sunday comic is the last one for Charlie Brown and the gang.

Now, dont go sending the Red Baron after us. Just hear us out. We love Peanuts. It was a terrific comic strip, arguably the best in comics history. But the truth is, it ended more than six years ago when Charles Schulz died. Schulz was adamant that no one else would do the strip after him, an admirable sentiment in an industry where some long-running strips become little more than cartoon mills run by ghost artists and writers.

The Journal has been running repeats of the strip since 2000 because no one wanted to be the person who put Snoopy to sleep.

But the fact of the matter is, the strip is taking up a spot on our comics page that could be handed over to a newcomer. One reader wrote to us back in February 2000, when Peanuts ended, saying that he felt that Schulz would have wanted us to give the space to a younger cartoonist, to give the next generation a chance. That sentiment stuck in our heads, but change is hard, and changing something as fundamental as Peanuts on the comics page is even harder.

Peanuts first appeared on the Journals comics page on March 20, 1953, with a front-page blurb telling readers that For Kids Young and Old Peanuts, a delightfully different kind of comic strip, starts today on page 32. The strip started three years earlier, in 1950, but only seven newspapers in the country carried it at first (four of those papers still carry it and two no longer exist). Many papers werent sure whether audiences would take to the offbeat strip, in which little kids spoke with adult wisdom and the humor revolved around such bleak issues as insecurity.

Two of the new cartoonists joining the Journal comics page, Mike Fry and T. Lewis, are among the cartoonists who fondly remember Schulz -- or, as his cartooning buddies called him, Sparky.

I cant speak for Sparky, of course, Lewis said, but he was very encouraging -- more than anyone else Ive met in the National Cartoonists Society -- of getting new blood in there and encouraging young cartoonists.

That said, speaking selfishly, I still love reading Peanuts. Im a geek about this. I guess the day will come, but its kind of hard to let go, because that guy shaped so much of the way cartoonists think.

Fry and Lewis are the writer and artist respectively of Over the Hedge, and they were relieved to hear that their strip wasnt the one taking Peanuts place.

That fate falls upon Mark Tatulli, whose new comic strip, Lio, will start Monday in the daily paper and next Sunday in the color comics. Editors at the Journal saw samples of Lio months ago and realized that this was a strip worth paying attention to.

The decision to stop running Peanuts, of course, turned on finding a strip strong enough to take its place, said Carl Crothers, the executive editor of the Journal. We think Lio is that strip. It embodies the sense of eternal childhood innocence that endeared Peanuts to us for generations. We believe weve waited a respectful period after Charles Schulzs death to do this. I think he would be proud that we did.

Tatulli was a bit shell-shocked to hear that his strip would be taking Peanuts place.

Oh, jeez, oh my God, you made me the bad guy, he said. He recalled a previous incident in the late 1990s when he was in a bar talking with someone about his other comic strip, Heart of the City. Another patron overheard their conversation and angrily declared You replaced Calvin and Hobbes!

Technically, that was true; Bill Watterson, the Calvin cartoonist, retired from the business, leaving a hole that newspapers had to fill.

Like I had anything to do with it, but people immediately blame me, Tatulli said. Its a real Catch-22 People dont want to change, but then there are other people complaining that the comics arent relevant anymore. Im trying to walk that line, make comics relevant but at the same time not make the people angry who have loved Blondie and Peanuts.

We hope that you will give both Lio and Over the Hedge a fair chance. Theyre both first-rate strips that deserve a shot at making you laugh.

We're on the hunt for the elusive Red Baron

May 2, 2006

Over the decades, there have been many colossal rivalries that have shaken the world with the force of their titanic struggles. Ali vs. Frazier. Terrell Owens vs. Donovan McNabb. Brown v. Board of Education. You can now add one more rivalry to that list -- Snoopy vs. The Red Baron. The fun-loving beagle will take to the skies to hunt down his hated crimson-colored rival in Namco Bandais upcoming Snoopy vs. The Red Baron, a fun-looking flying adventure game starring Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang.

The story of this kid-friendly flying game involves Snoopy falling asleep on top of his doghouse and lapsing into a dream where he chases The Red Baron all across an imaginary version of France. The level we played at the recent Namco pre-E3 press event featured Snoopy roaming the skies in his trusty biplane looking to shoot down multiple enemy surveillance bots that are on the lookout for the famous World War I flying ace. As we hunted down the bots, we got a pretty clear picture of the big, open-ended world that comprised the level -- multiple islands were strewn throughout the map, full of brightly colored terrain and plenty of buildings to check out as you fly around. Theres plenty of action in the sky as well -- in addition to the surveillance bots, there are plenty of enemy planes to engage in dogfights with. In other missions, youll even run into friendly planes, usually piloted by Peanuts characters (we hear Franklins a dead-eye ace in the game).

In fact, you can expect to see many of Charles Schulzs original Peanuts characters make their way into the game. Charlie Browns little sister Sally will portray a spy in the game, and Snoopys best pal Woodstock will be ever-present at Snoopys side, usually manning the numerous secondary weapons aboard the plane. And speaking of weapons, in addition to the standard machine guns, Snoopy will be able to upgrade his secondary weapons to add some more punch to his arsenal -- such as upgrading to a pumpkin shotgun that can really blast enemies at short range. In total the game will include more than 25 weapons and gadgets you can collect in the game.

Snoopy vs. The Red Baron will feature more than 50 missions across six distinct levels, and producers told us they are aiming to pack in about 20 hours of playtime in the game. This means that the games missions are be a bit more complex than simple run-and-gun affairs -- in some levels, Snoopy will be performing reconnaissance duties over enemy territory; in others, youll be going up against level bosses in arcade-style fights on rails -- which will offer a nice contrast to the more open-ended flight missions that make up the core of the game.

Controls in Snoopy vs. The Red Baron are very easy to pick up, befitting the cartoon nature of the game. Snoopy turns on a dime in the game and has plenty of tricks, like barrel rolls, that he can pull of when in a tight spot. As you progress through the game you can open up new characters to play with, as well as new planes Snoopy can pilot (including, of course, his famous Sopwith Camel doghouse plane).

With both team-based and competitive multiplayer support for up to six players (four on the PlayStation 2), Snoopy vs. The Red Baron looks to be shaping up as a kid-friendly game that parents probably wont mind joining in on as well. Expect to see more on the game in the coming months.

Charlie Brown teaches tenacity

April 28, 2006

Jeffery Westhoff
The Northwest Herald [Crystal Lake, Illinois]

Another of my favorite films, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, finally has made it to DVD.

Its release is much more timely than the folks at Paramount Home Video probably realized. Just like a girl named Akeelah in a movie opening today, Charlie Brown discovers a talent for spelling and goes all the way to a national spelling bee (though he goes to New York while she goes to Washington, D.C.).

The first of four Peanuts feature films, A Boy Named Charlie Brown was released in 1969 and reflects the humor, philosophy and literary nature of Charles Schulzs 1960s comic strips, the era when Peanuts was in its prime. In the opening scene, Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus are lying on a hill discussing the shapes they see in the clouds. Linus reels off a comparisons to Renaissance paintings and Gothic architecture.

Charlie Brown responds, I was going to say I saw a horsey and a ducky, but I changed my mind.

The animation is limited, but more Pop Art experimental than the Peanuts TV specials. The visuals verge on psychedelic when Schroeder sits down to play Beethovens Pathetique Sonata. Hmmm, that means Peanuts did it before A Clockwork Orange. How cutting edge is that?

This is the only Peanuts movie graced with a score by Vince Guaraldi, who composed Linus and Lucy, often considered the Peanuts theme song. For his score and other reasons, A Boy Named Charlie Brown has a loveliness and soulful quality the later films lacked.

The ending has what I consider the most profound line ever delivered in a movie. Of course, Linus says it.

After losing the national bee by blowing a word he certainly should know (to reveal the word would be too much of a spoiler), Charlie Brown seals himself in his room and refuses to get out of bed.

Steadfast Linus comes to console him. He says he understands Charlie believes that he let everyone down and that he humiliated himself on national television. As Linus leaves, he pauses at the door and says, But did you notice something, Charlie Brown? The world didnt come to an end.

I often say those words to myself. Probably too often, but I always did identify with Charlie Brown. On his pitchers mound, Charlie is clobbered with a line drive that sends him pinwheeling so that every item of clothing except his shorts fly off. He methodically puts his clothes back on and delivers the next pitch, another line drive that leaves him on his back and half naked.

Does he curse and give up? No, he dresses himself and tries again. That is why I love Charlie Brown. He perseveres. And for a few preliminary spelling bees, A Boy Named Charlie Brown allows him to taste victory. It has seldom tasted so sweet.

Horizon Air coming to Sonoma County

April 26, 2006

Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport press release

Horizon Air will provide nonstop service from Sonoma County/Santa Rosa to Los Angeles and Seattle starting March 20, 2007, the airline announced today at a press conference held at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.

Horizon is a great company and an airline that fits our area well, said Sonoma County Supervisor Paul Kelley, who along with others from the public and private sectors has been working to restore commercial air service to the area. Serving LAX and Seattle will help recruit and retain businesses, boost our tourism industry, and make a major improvement to our transportation infrastructure.

Service to Los Angeles (LAX) will be twice daily Sunday through Friday and once on Saturdays, and service to Seattle will be once daily. Flights will be operated with 74-seat Q400 high-speed turboprop aircraft. With its near jet-like speed, the Q400 will take one hour and 40 minutes to Los Angeles and two hours and 15 minutes to Seattle.

Statistics show that among the destinations travelers fly to from the five-county Sonoma County airport region, Los Angeles (LAX) ranks No. 2 and Seattle (SEA) No. 5.

Horizons new service will strengthen business ties between Sonoma County, Southern California and the Pacific Northwest while expanding tourism opportunities among the three regions, said Patrick Zachwieja, Horizons vice president of marketing and planning. Schedules and fares to Los Angeles and Seattle have not been finalized. Fares are expected to be competitive with the total cost to drive, park, and fly out of a Bay Area airport.

Horizon said its Los Angeles flights will depart from Sonoma County early enough for North Bay travelers to get a full business day in L.A. and return home the same night. The flights will also make convenient connections to many international flights out of L.A.

The flight to Seattle will operate into a Horizon and Alaska hub where the two airlines offer 294 daily departures, giving North Bay travelers new convenient flight connections to cities throughout the Northwest, Alaska, and western Canada, as well as other transcontinental and international connections.

For vacationers, Horizon and Alaska offer a variety of economical Southern California, Mexico, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska air/hotel packages. Horizon and Alaska already offer wine country packages via flights into the Bay Area but expect interest in wine country tourism to soar with the new flights directly into Sonoma County.

Because the new service is nearly a year away, Charles M. Schulz -- Sonoma County Airport is coordinating a clearinghouse for the marketing and promotion of the new service. Interested parties are asked to contact the airport at 707-565-7243 with questions, requests and ideas. They will be forwarded on to the appropriate Horizon officials.

Snoopy boxers give Kane extra edge

April 22, 2006

By James D. Horne
The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle [Tennessee]

So how would you feel if you owned the longest hitting streak in the nation?

Ive never had anything to do with anything in the nation before, so its kind of cool to have my name put in with people that have done things like this, said Austin Peay senior left fielder Ryan Kane, who currently holds the nations longest hitting streak of 33 games.

Theres a lot of good players, Im sure, so its kind of cool to be a part of that. Then to be chasing (former Gov) Chuck Abbotts record, which is fourth in the nation (in Division I) ever is kind of cool to be a part of that history if I get there. Well see.

He and the rest of the Govs (21-16, 5-7 OVC T-7th) head over to Southeast Missouri (14-20, 5-7 OVC T-7th) this weekend for a three-game Ohio Valley Conference series that starts with a doubleheader at 1 p.m. today and a single game on Sunday.

Abbotts record of 42 games, which was set in 1996, still ranks as the fourth-longest in Division I history and is eighth-longest ever in all divisions of the NCAA.

But if Kane had his way, he wouldnt have to worry about the streak. Hed trade it all for victories.

A week ago, when we werent winning I wish I would have gone 0-for-4 and gotten it out of the way, said Kane, whos also reached base safely in 45 straight games. I would have rather started over and worry about winning games. Im not big on talking about it, but obviously its something people want to talk about. So Im getting used to it.

Unlike some of the more superstitious baseball players of note -- i.e. Wade Boggs, who always ate chicken before a game -- Kane doesnt have a routine he performs before every game.

Well, almost none.

For most of the streak, Kane kept it alive with just a single hit.

But in two games last week against Western Kentucky on Tuesday and Belmont on Wednesday, Kane went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, and 4-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, respectively.

So what was the difference?

I do have the same routine in the on-deck circle -- I do the same stretches, Kane said. But I dont listen to or wear the same thing. Actually, yeah I do. Against Western I wore my Snoopy boxers and I finally got two hits. I hadnt done that in a week or so. So I had to wear them against Belmont and I went 4-for-4, so I guess thats my superstition, now. So I might be wearing my Snoopy boxers for a while.

But unfortunately, Austin Peay hasnt shown the consistency Kane has.

After losing seven in a row, the Govs won the third game against Tennessee Tech and topped Western Kentucky before losing to Belmont.

And as a team thats tied for seventh in the OVC --only the top six make the season-ending tournament -- Austin Peay knows it needs to start playing.

Its a big series this weekend, and there are no ifs, ands or buts about it, Austin Peay head coach Gary McClure said. We can play it off if we want and say whatever. But the bottom line is if were going to do something this year, and theres still plenty out there to play for and theres a lot that can happen and a lot of season left, this thing is far from being won.

Rowdy Hardy, who is still looking to tie the OVC career-wins mark of 30, and Shawn Kelley, whos been solid in his last two outings -- where he combined to strike out 18, walk one and allowed 11 hits and one earned run, but suffered one-run losses in each, will go today.

Austin Peays Sunday starter is still up in the air and will depend a lot on what happens today. Brad Daniel, Matt Reynolds, Ben

Wilshire and Michael Dunn are the possibilities.

A Warm, Fuzzy Surprise

Generic Santa Rosa, California home of an American dream

April 14, 2006

By Paul Gerald
The Memphis Flyer

US 101 south of Arcata, California, is among the prettier drives in the U.S. -- and also the goofiest. Theres Confusion Hill where balls roll uphill, the Tree House, the Drive-Thru Tree, Trees of Mystery, and every sort of Bigfoot thing you can imagine. Theres also the headwaters of the Russian River, a winding road through tree-covered hills, and the little town of Garberville thats like dropping into an Eden of redwoods and riverside cabins with smoke coming from their chimneys.

As the Greyhound dropped out of the mountains, the big trees, fishing holes, and Bigfoot statues gave way to generic Santa Rosa strip malls, Applebees, construction sites, Starbucks, traffic jams, and smiling TV news crews on billboards. Feeling deflated, I just wanted a hotel room and some food. Then I saw the words Charles Schulz Museum. It was one of those no way! moments when suddenly your whole perspective -- and schedule -- shifts. I knew I would be spending some time in Santa Rosa.

After transferring to a city bus and asking directions, I arrived at an ice rink. An ice rink in sunny Santa Rosa was odd in its own right, but I was looking for the Schulz Museum. As it turns out, Schulz built the ice rink -- known as Snoopys Home Ice -- which is done up in a Peanuts/Swiss Village theme with murals of frozen ponds, a Woodstock room, a stained-glass image of Snoopy playing hockey, and a Snoopy room in the Warm Puppy Café (as in, happiness is).

And thus began my introduction to the world of Charles M. Schulz, a world which happened to take shape in the otherwise completely uninteresting Santa Rosa.

Every day, for 50 years, Schulz wrote a Peanuts comic strip. Every day. For 50 years. Every day, he would dip into his world of ideas and come up with a joke, a situation, and some human interaction that we could all identify with.

For the last 30 of those years, he was in Santa Rosa, living, in many ways, a profoundly ordinary life. Hed wake up and walk over to the ice rink he built. He was a native Minnesotan, so hockey and skating were a big part of life, and Santa Rosa to this day is a hub of both activities. Hed have breakfast at the same table at the ice rink, then walk back home and sit down at his drawing table, which is now in the museum, and sketch out ideas. Hed break for lunch, walk back over to the same table at the rink, and somewhere along the way he would ink the final strip for the day. He said you need to be in the same place to let the creativity flow.

They still reserve that table in the Warm Puppy Café for him, even though Schulz died in 2000, the day before his final strip ran. The museum is across the street from Snoopys Home Ice, where, on the day I was there, all the conversation among the locals was about Olympic figure skating and the problems in the scoring system.

The museum isnt large, but it takes a while for the experience to register. At first, you see the strips and your mind says, Right, got it -- Peanuts. Then the scope starts to sink in, along with the fact that youre looking at the original drawings, so theyre quite large, and you can see the strength in the lines. There are also sketches that Schulz threw out but his secretary rescued, ironed flat, and saved.

You see the changes in the strip over the years, whether its girls becoming less mean, Snoopy getting thinner, or characters coming and going. And in the sketches you see the subtle changes in a characters expression, or the last-minute adjustments to a jokes wording, or all the cross-outs that suggest a tough day at the drawing table.

Two images stand out in my memory. One is a 17-by-22-foot mural of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. Its such a familiar, sad, and sweet image -- all the elements that make Peanuts what it is -- but the mural is made of more than 3,500 strips printed on 2-by-8-inch ceramic tiles. Somehow that captures the whole experience the simple made up of the massive.

My other memory is the museums reconstruction of Schulzs studio, where a video plays. There are interview clips with Schulz, but the best scenes show his hands making drawings. Its pure magic to watch those familiar forms emerge from emptiness so easy-looking, so clean, so elegant. In the middle of all the marketing and analysis and the years and the memories there was one man whose very routine life included creating a world all his own right here in Santa Rosa.

Asthmatic kids under a cloud

March 19, 2006

By Steve Sternberg
USA Today

Half a century ago, when Pigpen was new to the Peanuts gang, Charlie Brown asked him the obvious question PIG-PEN, why are you always so dirty?

Pigpen, his face ringed with grime, offered this sage response I have affixed to me the dirt and dust of countless ages.

He isnt the only one. Even kids as clean as Charlie Brown are wreathed in invisible halos of dirt and dust that can be detected using small personal monitors, research shows.

For children who have allergic asthma, that can be a problem. Their not-so-angelic halos can make them sick.

Each kid has his own individual pollution cloud, says lead author Nathan Rabinovitch of National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver. Whats in it depends on whats in their house, whats in their school and what their daily experience is.

Even serious scientists such as Rabinovitch have begun to call this the Pigpen Effect, a nod to Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, who introduced Pigpen in 1954.

Scientists have known for a long time that dust and dirt make allergies worse, especially in inner-city urban areas. A study of 1,528 children, financed by the National Institutes of Health, found that a childs symptoms and cost of care can be significantly reduced by spending $1,469 per family on counseling, cleaning and buying such supplies as an impermeable mattress and pillow cover.

But the Inner-City Asthma Study, reported in 2004 by Meyer Kattan of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and colleagues, focused on allergens at home and not on what children carry with them.

Rabinovitch chose to focus his study of the Pigpen Effect on a highly allergenic protein called endotoxin. Endotoxin, one component of the pollution cloud, comes from bacteria that are everywhere in the environment, including on pets.

No two days are the same

Researchers hoped to answer a question that puzzles doctors and parents of children with asthma Why do kids who have asthma get better and worse from one day to the next? They also aimed to clarify a related asthma management question How do pets complicate a childs asthma even when the child is involved in activities away from home?

But theres a curious wrinkle to the new research as well. Thats because other studies have shown that exposure to lots of endotoxin before allergy develops -- usually through contact with insect dust, pets and farm animals -- can prime the immune system to become tolerant to the things that often promote allergy. In these kids, endotoxin exerts a protective effect.

In the specialized world of allergy, the theory underlying this research has become known as the hygiene hypothesis. Multiple studies now suggest that it may be grounded in fact. But, as in so many areas of science, the facts are anything but clear-cut.

Its very murky, Rabinovitch says. In some kids, (endotoxin from) cockroach and dust mites is associated with allergy, even when theyre younger. In others it may be protective. But the hygiene hypothesis basically asks whether a kid has allergies or not and why. Thats different than asking why kids who have asthma get better or worse.

The distinction is important, Rabinovitch says, because once a person has allergies, dust, dirt and pets make matters worse.

When patients see these studies (supporting the hygiene hypothesis), theyre excited about keeping their pets, because theyre hearing that their pets are good for them, he says. The problem is that once they have allergies, when theyre exposed to pet allergens, theyre going to get sick.

The researchers studied students ages 6 to 13 who attended National Jewishs Kunsberg School and whose asthma would interfere with their performance and attendance in ordinary schools. Rather than vacuum up house dust, which has been used in past studies as a proxy for personal exposure, each child in this study wore a monitor equipped with a filter fine enough to capture airborne endotoxins.

Its not just the environment

The kids were studied in two groups; 10 were monitored for one month and 14 for two months in 2000. The researchers assessed the childrens asthma severity by measuring their breathing and by asking the children to log the severity of their symptoms using a daily scoring system. Researchers compared readings from the kids monitor with those from monitors in the environment.

The monitors showed that personal exposures to endotoxin were significantly higher than the levels the kids were exposed to in the environment, supporting the notion that children, like Pigpen, are surrounded by a personal cloud.

One kid may have very different exposure than a second kid, Rabinovitch says.

The bigger the child's endotoxin cloud, the more airway obstruction they had to endure, researchers reported in the Sept. 26 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Researchers also looked at activities that influence endotoxin exposure.

They concluded, Rabinovitch says, that pets are not good for asthma. If you play with a cat or a dog on a given day, you will get a high dose of endotoxin. If you live with a cat or dog, you will get the maximum dose.

In a little cloud of dirt and dust. Just like Pigpen.

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