The Newspaper Comic ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000. Beginning in The '60s, Schulz started collaborating with animator Bill Melendez and producer Lee Mendelson to produce the much-loved animated specials. The first of these, A Charlie Brown Christmas, aired on December 9, 1965. By 1967, there was even a play, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which was followed by Snoopy! The Musical in 1975.
While the strip's cast began very young, they grew as time went on — well, sort of; consensus is their age topped out at about 6 (Linus and Sally) to 8 (Charlie Brown, Lucy, et al.) — but adults were always conspicuous by their absence, famously represented in the TV specials by unintelligible offscreen "wah-wah" noises produced by a muted trombone. (This was originally due to the editor's restrictions on the strip: to fit the kids in at a decent size in the small panels, he put the "camera" at their height and did away with anyone taller.)
When the kids weren't in school, they were usually playing baseball or having amazingly sophisticated intellectual conversations while leaning on a brick wall. Over the years, the strip became famous for its psychological realism, bordering on an all-out satire of more typically sentimental kiddie comics, though it arguably took a turn away from the philosophical toward more direct comedy relatively early in its run (around 1970). Charlie Brown developed from a standard "lovable loser" into a sensitive and intelligent Everyman, whose relentless track record of failure meant he struggled perpetually with the Really Big Questions. Alternately aiding and exasperating him in his quest were his best friend Linus, a philosopher who sucked his thumb and carried a Security Blanket, and Linus's big sister Lucy, a bossy, brassy self-described "fussbudget" who already knew what the universe's major problem was: it never asked her what to do.
The supporting cast included Charlie's little sister Sally, a ditz-in-embryo whose literalist streak was only equaled by her crush on an appalled Linus; Schroeder, a handsome neighbor boy who — much to Lucy's chagrin — lived only to play Beethoven on his toy piano (with painted-on black keys), and Franklin, the smart black kid who quietly integrated the strip in the late 1960s. "Peppermint" Patty, the tough tomboy from across town, and Marcie, her meek bespectacled acolyte, were frequent visitors.
One unique character, The Little Red-Haired Girl, was never seen, heard, or named (except in certain TV specials, but as Schulz made very clear, those don't count). She was Charlie Brown's Ideal, and thus in a sense everyone's, so Schulz wisely let each of those readers envision her for themselves.
Then there was Snoopy, beagle extraordinaire. Nominally Charlie Brown's pet, he actually lived in an incredibly rich world of his own imagination, acknowledging the existence of "that round-headed kid" only when hungry. Over the years Snoopy would invent literally dozens of alternate personae, the most famous of which is the WWI Flying Ace, perpetually locked in combat with the Red Baron. Attending and often abetting Snoopy in his fantasies was his little yellow bird buddy Woodstock, who took to hanging out at the doghouse while he failed to get the knack of the whole "migrating" deal.
Various works based on Peanuts:
Television Specials that have Their Own Pagesnote
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
- It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
- It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)
- What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown (1978)
- Shes a Good Skate, Charlie Brown (1980)
- Why, Charlie Brown, Why? (1990)
- Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown (2011)
- A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)
- Snoopy, Come Home (1972)
- Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)
- Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!) (1980)
- The Peanuts Movie (2015)
- The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show (CBS, 1983-85)
- Peanuts (Boomerang, 2016)
- You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1967)
- Snoopy: The Musical (1975)
- Snoopy's Magic Show (Game Boy, 1990)
- Snoopy vs. the Red Baron (2006)
- Snoopy Flying Ace (2010)
- Snoopy's Grand Adventure (2015)
Frequent conventions and Running Gags throughout the Peanuts franchise:
- Snoopy's imagined personae: World War I flying ace, novelist, attorney, golf pro, Beagle Scout leader, 'Mad Punter', tennis player, hockey player, streaker, vulture, helicopter, Easter Beagle, Flashbeagle, Joe Cool, etc. etc.
- Leading Charlie Brown to ask, "Why can't I have a normal dog like everyone else?"
- Also, Snoopy's fights against the cat next door (represented by her swipes through his doghouse ceiling) and his tennis playing against the garage door.
- Charlie Brown's baseball team: Generally visible in these sequences were himself as pitcher, Schroeder as catcher, Linus at second base, Snoopy at shortstop, and — most memorably — Lucy in right field. The team seemed to lose almost every gamenote unless Charlie Brown was unable to play for some reason, in which case they seemed to win every game (usually with Linus on the mound).
- Charlie Brown trying to kick the football and Lucy yanking the ball away. (Schulz briefly toyed with the idea of having him finally kick the football, but realized that the entire 'football' gag was about Charlie Brown's unending sense of optimism, rather than Lucy simply being mean).
- During the arc in which Charlie is seriously ill in the hospital (see under Littlest Cancer Patient below), Lucy vows that if he recovers she'll let him kick the ball for real. Come time to make good, she indeed doesn't pull the football away... but in true Charlie Brown fashion, he kicks her arm instead. Interestingly enough, the very first football gag occurred because Lucy was afraid of this very outcome, rather than a sense of cruelty.
- In the very last football strip, Lucy is called in for lunch and entrusts the ball to Rerun, who goes outside and enacts the ritual off-stage. When Lucy later asked him whether he pulled it away, the answer is: "You'll never know..."
- Also, Snoopy never shoots down the Red Baron, Linus never sees the Great Pumpkin rise from the pumpkin patch, all the love is unrequited, etc...
- Lucy and her "Psychiatric Help 5 Cents" booth (a parody of a lemonade stand). Charlie Brown went through a lot of nickels.Franklin: Are you a real psychiatrist?Lucy: Was the lemonade ever any good?
- Charlie Brown's unrequited admiration of the Little Red-Haired Girl...well, not exactly unrequited, as on no recorded occasion did he get himself under enough control to speak to her in the first place.note For that matter, All Love Is Unrequited: there's also Lucy and Schroeder, Sally and Linus, Linus and Miss Othmar, Peppermint Patty (and Marcie) and Charlie Brown...
- Linus sitting up waiting for the Great Pumpkin each Halloween, and/or attempting to convince others to do the same. His most frequent companion on these nights was Snoopy, but sometimes one of the other kids joined in the "fun":
- When he convinced Sally to wait with him in 1962, she threatened to sue him after the Great Pumpkin didn't show up, making her miss trick-or-treating.
- Linus was surprised by Peppermint Patty's enthusiastic reaction to the idea in 1966, but her method of buying pumpkins to create her own pumpkin patch didn't sit well with the other characters.
- When Marcie decided to wait with Linus in 1977, her parents found out and took her away to be "de-programmed".
- Various attempts to separate Linus and his blanket, by either Lucy or his "blanket-hating grandmother." Or a certain beagle.
- Frieda (she of the "naturally curly hair") attempting to roust Snoopy into chasing rabbits.
- Sally's...creative...school reports: "Butterflies are free. What does this mean? This means you can have as many of them as you want."Sally: So much for higher thought.
- Lucy leaning on Schroeder's piano, trying to get his attention. Or sometimes Snoopy and/or Woodstock playing around with the notes coming from the piano.
- Peppermint Patty in class, trying and failing hopelessly to figure out what's going on. This sometimes extends to her misunderstanding some concept so completely, and ignoring all rational warnings from Marcie, that she would find herself publicly humiliated.
- For a long time, she didn't realize that Snoopy was a dog and just called him "The funny looking kid with the big nose."
- Marcie calling Peppermint Patty "sir", over the latter's objections. Conversely, Patty was the only one who called Charlie Brown "Chuck" on a regular basis (although Marcie also did at first, but later switched to calling him "Charles").
- At first Peppermint Patty's standard reply was: "Stop calling me sir," but eventually she just gave up. Marcie is the only one who calls Charlie Brown "Charles".
- In later strips, a girl Charlie Brown meets at camp calls him "Brownie Charles" because, when they met, he was so nervous that he flubbed up his own name.