Based on a Dream: José Peterson debuted after Charles Schulz had a dream about creating a half-Swedish, half-Mexican character. He later admitted that the humor of the idea didn't really translate well from dream to actual strip.
Children Voicing Children: The animated productions, which traditionally used actual children to play most of the main characters (a mandate from Schulz himself). Whether those children were actors depended. Charlie Brown was the only character that would always have a working child actor doing his voice.
The announcement that MetLife was ending its three-decade-old licensing agreement to use Peanuts characters in its advertising in 2016 attracted a huge amount of "Snoopy gets fired!" headlines that totally misrepresented what was happening. MetLife had a major restructuring, and as a result elected to adopt all-new corporate branding. A lot of the coverage tried to spin it as "Peanuts doesn't have much enduring popularity," even though the mere fact that MetLife had been using the characters for 31 years would seem to point the other direction. Not to mention quoting marketing experts who implied that younger people wouldn't be as familiar with Peanuts characters as they might be with, for example, characters who starred in an animated film released in the previous 12 months that grossed several hundred million dollars.
A 2018 CBS News story about the 50th anniversary of Franklin's debut showed a clip from There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown, but the graphic mistakenly gave the title of the special as the much grimmer-sounding There is No Love, Charlie Brown.
Physical example. Following heart surgery in the late-1980's, Schulz's motor skills began to deteriorate, his hand tremors resulting in the "wavy" look of the strip's final years. Despite that, as late as early 1999, Schulz publicly stated he had no intention of stopping the strip anytime soon. He wanted to continue into at least 2002, but his rapidly failing health convinced him to retire in November 1999.note Newspaper cartoonists traditionally draw strips in bundles, two to three months in advance of their publication ("eight weeks daily, twelve weeks Sunday" is standard). That's why the strip continued into 2000, and why the daily comic ended over a month before the Sunday strips usually creators will coordinate that sort of thing and end both at once (like Calvin and Hobbes did), but Schulz didn't have the time left to do so. He died mere hours before his final comic ran in newspapers.
Schulz acknowledged that starting around 1968 and lasting the next few years, the strip seemed to take on a more downbeat tone. This coincided with the troubled last few years of his first marriage.
Creator's Favorite Episode: Schulz often stated how much he loved the "Mr. Sack" strip sequence from 1973 (and later adapted part of the animated special It's an Adventure, Charlie Brown), where Charlie Brown goes to summer camp wearing a sack on his head after developing a strange rash, only to become the most popular kid there.
Charles Schulz disliked Pig-Pen because he was basically just one joke, but Pig-Pen's popularity forced Schulz to include him in the occasional strip.
Schulz also disliked the short-lived character of Faron, Frieda's pet cat who never walked and was always being carried. This was partially because Schulz couldn't draw cats very well, but also because Snoopy didn't speak in words, so the only way to have him interact with Faron would be to have them think at each other (as Snoopy would later do with his siblings). Schulz's only regret after retiring Faron was naming him after Faron Young, his favorite country singer. In the late 1960s, Schulz would introduce the unseen, (originally) unnamed "The Cat Next Door", and was much more pleased with the results.
Averted by Sally Dryer, who in the first few years of the animated shows voiced Violet, Lucy and Patty at various times...but never Sally.
Executive Meddling: Schulz was never particularly fond of the title "Peanuts", an invention of the syndicate. He was originally going to call it "Lil' Folks", the title of his proto-Peanuts strip, but had to change it because it sounded too much like names of two other strips from the time, Al Capp's Li'l Abner and the now-unknown Little Folks.
He specifically worried the title was confusing that people would just ask "Who's Peanuts?", or refer to it as "Charlie Brown" or "Snoopy". And of course, he was completely right.
Not that it's justified, but the strip started in 1950, when the most popular kids' show was The Howdy Doody Show. And where did kids sit on Howdy Doody? The peanut gallery. The person who chose the title fails logicforever.
Schulz's authorized biographer Rheta Grimsley-Johnson argued that it really wasn't that bad of a name. A generic title works well for a strip with Loads and Loads of Characters; and given the direction the strip eventually took, Li'l Folks would have wound up being too awkwardly cutesy.
Follow the Leader: Peanuts was influential on comic strips in general, but a few strips took very specific inspiration from it:
The Perishers (1959-2006) was a British strip about a group of kids and a dog. The humor was more British-style and the artwork was more in line with British strips like Andy Capp.
Winthrop (1967-1993). After Peanuts became a cultural phenomenon, Dick Cavalli retooled his strip Morty Meekle to be about a group of kids and a dog. It also had some slightly altered Expies of Peanuts characters: instead of Pig-Pen, an obsessively clean boy (Spotless McPartland); instead of Lucy, a belligerent boy, and so on. The artwork was reminiscent of early Peanuts as well, but it did feature some adults in the cast.
He Also Did: In the 1950s, Schulz drew numerous religious-themed cartoons for magazines and books published by The Church of God, featuring characters that could be seen as teenage versions of the Peanuts gang.
Schulz also co-created a short-lived late 1950s Sunday comic strip about sports called It's Only a Game, though after a while he let the other co-creator, Jim Sasseville, handle everything.
Then there were the non-Peanuts-related illustrations he did for paperback humor books by Art Linkletter and Bill Adler.
The original splash panel for the October 2, 1955 strip has never been recovered. Even the 1955-56 Complete Peanuts anthology had to resort to using a placeholder graphic.
Some specials have still not received a DVD release, notably the live-action/animation blend, It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown. Ironic, the "Girl In the Red Truck" is regularly shown (and in heavy rotation at that!) in the Charles Schulz Museum in Sana Rosa California, which has a mini-theater for visitors to watch all of the various Peanuts specials and documentaries and such.
You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown! is another instance. It was released on VHS in 1993 exclusively at Shell gas stations (then sponsoring the NFL). Warner Home Video owns the rights to the Peanuts catalog, but this will probably never see a DVD release because it features NFL insignia and team logos and the NFL is known to be extremely aggressive about suing for unauthorized use (or no-longer-authorized use in this case).
Not entire specials themselves, but a handful of the earliest specials had Product Placement from Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison cakes such as It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown's All-Stars, and, most famously, A Charlie Brown Christmas. These only appeared in the first few airings (i.e. when the sponsorship deals were still in place), and any remnants of these are relegated to ancient filmstrip recordings of the specials when they first aired. Thankfully, several of these have been uploaded to YouTube, albeit in varying qualities.
The obscure educational specials on dental hygiene, Tooth Brushing with Charlie Brown and its sequel It's Dental Flossophy, Charlie Brown.
Most of the Peanuts documentaries are currently lost, although the 1963 Schulz documentary is in the Charles M. Schulz museum.
Network to the Rescue: Though their relationship with Schulz grew strained over the years (as noted below), United Feature Syndicate deserves credit for sticking with Peanuts even after a poor start. It debuted in just seven newspapers, two of which dropped it within the first six months.
The first Peanuts book appeared in 1952. It was published mainly because the publishing house's editor-in-chief was an early fan of the strip.note He discovered Peanuts when he happened to notice it in the paper one day after reading a daily column about bridge!
The Other Darrin: Since the specials and movies used actual children to voice the characters, there was of necessity a great deal of cast turnover through the years. Averted with Bill Melendez, who continued to voice Snoopy and Woodstock through the years (and even appeared, posthumously, in 2015's The Peanuts Movie) until 2016 when Daniel Thornton took over the role of Snoopy.
Outlived Its Creator: While this was famously (and thankfully) averted with the strip itself, the characters continue to appear in new animated works, commercials, merchandising, etc., more than a decade after Schulz's death.
Poorly Disguised Pilot: A Charlie Brown Celebration and It's an Adventure, Charlie Brown, two hour-long specials consisting of material adapted from the strips, were likely these to The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. Two segments from the latter special were even re-used in the series.
Many of the animated specials have gags, dialogue, and even entire storylines lifted from the newspaper strip. To be fair, some of this was at Schulz's insistence.
One worth noting: Schroeder and Charlie Brown discussing pitching signals in A Boy Named Charlie Brown ("One finger will mean the high straight ball, two fingers will mean the low straight ball") actually dates all the way back to a 1948 gag cartoon Schulz drew for The Saturday Evening Post.
Some gags were even animated twice. One example is Schroeder imagining Lucy's face in sheet music while playing his piano with the Aside Comment "Don't tell me I've grown accustomed to that face!", which was used in Play it Again, Charlie Brown and Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?.
For the first couple years of Peanuts, Schulz re-used a bunch of gags from his earlier local newspaper feature Li'l Folks.
A few punchlines got re-used in the strip over the years. Some seem accidental, others seem deliberate (especially "Am I buttering too loud for you", as a tribute to Amy Schulz).
Screwed by the Network: Although Charles Schulz became a very rich man from the strip, he was never able to buy the copyright back from the syndicate the price was always just a bit more than he could afford (the standard contract has changed since 1950; now the copyright for Newspaper Comics automatically reverts to the creator after 20 years).
Syndicates owning rights to the comics they distributed was largely standard practice until the 1980s and Bill Watterson's famous fight to prevent Calvin and Hobbes merchandise. After that happened, Creators' Syndicate was founded and comic strip creators owning their work become more common.
During a late 1970s contract dispute, the syndicate secretly hired DC Comics vet Al Plastino as a possible replacement for Schulz. Plastino drew some spec strips that were shelved after a deal was reached with Schulz. Schulz didn't learn about the situation until long after the fact, and he was understandably ticked off. A couple of Plastino's strips have been leaked, and they're just as cringeworthy as you'd expect.Explanation The two strips linked here show the characters acting much more mean-spirited than Schulz would ever have them. The slapstick is also more brutal and less funny.
Self-Adaptation: The scripts for the Peanuts specials, more often than not, would simply be ripped directly from the comic strips with minimal changes, so Charles Schulz was the lead writer by default. But Schulz had a lot of creative control, often writing any additional material as well, and many of the specials' trademarks—the jazz score, the casting of children, and the simplistic animation style—were his decisions.
Shrug of God: When talking about his work, Schulz seemed to regard his characters as independent entities, and said that he didn't really have an answer for why Snoopy sleeps on his doghouse, or why Charlie Brown always falls for Lucy pulling away the football, or any of the other questions about the strip.
Technology Marches On: The plot of Charlie Brown having to do a book report on the novel War and Peace in Happy New Year, Charlie Brown would be easier nowadays in the Internet age; Charlie Brown could have simply pulled up online study guides and resources for the novel.
In Charlie Brown's All-Stars, Charlie Brown wants his team to play on an organized league only to learn that teams with girls on them can't be sponsored. At the time, Little League actually was off-limits to girls.
In There's No Time For Love, Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty comments that the metric system will probably be official by the time she reaches high school.note Like the rest of the English-speaking world, the United States was on track to switch to metric by the early 1980s. Unlike everywhere else, however, the process went completely off the rails by the end of the 70s major industries were split on the issue (some supported it, but the economically-vital housing sector - construction, engineering, surveying, etc. - was dead-set against), the public was overwhelmingly opposed (this was also true in other countries, but their governments forced it through anyway), and the cost of changing millions of road signs and other official stuff during the era of Stagflation was deemed "not worth it". So, Congress gave up partway through, leaving the weird mix of Customary & Metric that's still in use in the USA today.
In the decades since Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown, the popularity of the traditional traveling circus fell into steep decline. Most notably, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed in 2017.
There's also It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown, which could not more obviously be tied to the 1983 film Flashdance.
Many strips refer to real world events, but these were rarely reprinted (precisely because they were dated) until The Complete Peanuts. Occasionally some slipped through when the reference was sufficiently obscure: for example, a series of strips in which Snoopy observes birds having furious (but unintelligible) political arguments while holding signs depicting different punctuation marks. This accompanied the bitter polarized political discourse in the US in the run-up to the 1964 election.
One strip from 1954 has Lucy ask a dumb question, only for Charlie Brown to offer an obvious fact as a sarcastic reply. That fact? "I know there are forty-eight states in the union". That's right, Peanuts is so old it was around before Alaska and Hawaii were part of America.
Plans for a Live Action Film was in development in 1992 by writer John Hughes but due to the critical failure of Dennis the Menace the film was never made.
Originally, Marcie was going to be a boy as a joke for his long feminine hair until Schulz changed his mind and was forever thankful he did considering he almost threw away a great character for a cheap joke.
Peppermint Patty was intended to be a main character of another comic strip Schulz planned. But he didn't have the time, so he added her in the Peanuts.
Applies to cast members who cannot reprise their roles in animated adaptations due to hitting puberty. Peter Robbins was offered to voice Charlie Brown in Play it Again, Charlie Brown but had to be replaced since his voice had changed too much by that time.
Write Who You Know: Both of Schulz's major biographies (Good Grief by Rheta Grimsley-Johnson and Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis) agree that, for a man who preferred his privacy, Schulz put much of his personal life subtly in the strip. Grimsley-Johnson pointed to real people and situations that inspired Schulz. Michaelis went much further, arguing that the mean, restless Lucy was based on Schulz's first wife, and after their divorce (represented in the strip as Lucy getting kicked off the baseball team), Lucy became Lighter and Softer to reflect Schulz's happier second marriage, plus that he revealed his affair with another woman during his first marriage through Snoopy falling in love with another beagle and sending love notes and getting scolded for making long-distance phone calls. There has been some debate over how much of that is legitimate and how much is Wild Mass Guessing on the part of Michaelis.