A Christmas Day Homage to Peanuts


I have decided to revive Russellpop from it’s early grave. I just got through reading an excellent biography of Charles Schultz entitled Schultz and Peanuts by David Michaelis. As I was growing up I identified with Charlie Brown and Linus. I understood the underlying loneliness and dark humor beneath what seemed at first to just be a family-friendly cartoon. Actually it was the first newspaper cartoon which reflected life as it is, with all of it’s disappointment and sad wistful longing for a world that never existed to begin with. Peanuts wasn’t always great, and as Schultz grew older his strip lost it’s edge, and became much more sentimental. But in the fifties and sixties he spoke for the baby boom generation, introducing a comic strip ‘anti-hero’. Today is Christmas and instead of writing about my usual crappy feelings on this holiday, I thought it appropriate to write a little about Peanuts, after all the best known Peanuts cartoon was actually the Christmas special which aired in 1965 and has since become a regular holiday event. Unfortunately most of the animated films of Peanuts which followed were dreadful, with the exception of the Halloween special which was excellent, and the second Christmas special which was almost as good as the first. But most of what followed is unwatchable. As I killed time on this holiday, browsing through old Peanuts cartoons (I am embarrassed to say that I have hardback copies of all of the Peanuts strips from the beginning (1950) through 1970.) As I read them I wished that many of the classic ones could be animated, brought to life with color, and voices, and movement. Then, as I browsed Youtube for Peanuts related material, I discovered that in 2008, 20 motion comics were made based on some of the best strips from 1964. They were made with the blessing of the Charles Schultz estate, and they are excellent. Even though they are not fully animated, you would never notice it. Peanuts is a very simple, basic comic and so the animation required is minimal anyway. But the color and the voices which sound identical to the voices used on the classic Peanuts animated films, are excellent. Very special care is taken to preserve the integrity of the original Schultz drawings. In some cases, the humor comes across even more strongly when animated.  I hope more of these will be made. I have noticed that they got mixed reviews, negative from those who would rather the old strips were not messed with, and positive from those who like how those classic strips were enhanced by this motion comic process. Not all comics lend themselves to this kind of treatment, but because Peanuts had a simple visual structure, it lends itself well to this format. I would encourage you to read the biography of Charles Schultz I mentioned, which contains some surprising information which flies in the face of what is traditionally thought about Schultz. For instance, even though he was quite religious in his younger years, teaching Sunday school and including religious themes at times in his strip, he came to dislike evangelical Christianity and any kind of mass commercialism of Christianity. He developed a kind of melancholy view of life, wistful, longing for a past that really only existed in his imagination. He never thought he amounted to very much, and thought, at the age of 75 that it was a total waste of time to have spent all his life drawing a comic strip. He was not particularly fond of children, and thought that children were anything but innocent, that actually they could be very cruel. He kept returning to the loneliness and hurt of his childhood right up to when he died. His comic strip meant a lot to me when I was a child. I never thought of myself as a child, rather I thought I was a small adult, and Peanuts captured my point of view exactly. Here are four short motion comics of some of my favorite strips from 1964.


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