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Vote of the Week: Is Peanuts Still Worth Celebrating?

January 22, 2022, 2:49 PM · The Peanuts Celebration returns today to Knott's Berry Farm. But is Peanuts still an entertainment franchise worth celebrating?

Knott's annual Peanuts Celebration runs through March 6, giving Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts characters more than a month in the park's spotlight. The Calico Mine Stage this year offers a new game-show-themed musical called It's Your Life, Charlie Brown, while fans can learn how to draw the Peanuts characters in the Bird Cage Theatre's Peanuts Sketch School. Franklin and Linus host the Peanuts Cowboy Jamboree at Calico Park. Knott's is rolling out new Peanuts-inspired food items for sale throughout the park, and new-to-the-park character Marcie joins the Peanuts meet-and-greet lineup.

Peppermint Patty and Marcie
Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Photo courtesy Knott's Berry Farm

But how many Knott's Berry Farm visitors know Peanuts as anything other than the theme for the park's Camp Snoopy children's area?

Half a century ago, Peanuts was bigger than Disney. Charles Schulz' creation anchored the comics pages of every major newspaper in America - back when pretty much every household subscribed to the local paper. The Charlie Brown Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving specials were must-watch television every year. Millions of American children went to school carrying Peanuts-themed lunch boxes. Peanuts characters hawked everything from their parents' life insurance to the Dolly Madison snack cakes in those lunch boxes. The Apollo 10 mission to the Moon named its lunar and command modules after Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

And, like countless other GenX kids, a Snoopy plush doll was my most prized possession and companion for years after I got it on Christmas morning.

Robert getting his Snoopy

So what happened? Why didn't Peanuts continue to grow and dominate family entertainment in the United States and abroad, the way that Disney ultimately managed to do?

A clue to that answer lies in the farewell letter that Schulz wrote to fans in Peanuts' final Sunday comic strip, which was drawn weeks in advance but ran the day after Schulz's death in February 2000:

"Unfortunately, I am no longer able to maintain the schedule demanded by a daily comic strip. My family does not wish 'Peanuts' to be continued by anyone else, therefore I am announcing my retirement."

Unlike Schulz, Walt Disney built his business to be done by others. Yes, Walt put his name on everything, but even the first Mickey Mouse cartoons were as much the work of Ub Iwerks as Walt himself.

Walt Disney built an entertainment company. Charles Schulz drew a comic strip. Ultimately, that difference explains why Peanuts failed to thrive in Schulz' later years and after his death, while The Walt Disney Company eventually grew into the most dominant entertainment brand in the world.

Yes, Schulz oversaw a multi-billion-dollar business, like Walt did. But Schulz did not branch out and create other franchises beyond Charlie Brown and company. When Schulz sold the rights to Peanuts, they did not go to a movie studio with the ability to grow the franchise across multiple media. Instead, they went to a newspaper company. (Full disclosure: I worked for that newspaper company - E.W. Scripps - for several years.)

One great deal that Charles and Schulz family made, however, was with Knott's Berry Farm. In 1983, they licensed the Peanuts characters to the park for its Camp Snoopy - a trailblazing children's area that continues to delight many young fans who have no clue what a "newspaper comic strip" might be. Even if Peanuts hasn't kept up with other animation franchises in film and television, Peanuts continues to resonate with many fans as a theme park IP. Knott's Peanuts Celebration provides an opportunity for the franchise's Boomer, GenX and elder Millennial fans to reconnection with Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest, even if they've long passed the age when they - or their children - would spend time in Camp Snoopy.

Camp Snoopy train
Camp Snoopy. Photo courtesy Knott's Berry Farm

IP can help give a theme park attraction a head start in resonating with guests. But whether you come to an attraction knowing its backstory or not, that attraction must deliver something special to its guests to succeed. Knott's often leans on live entertainment, and the Peanuts Celebration gives Knott's talent another opportunity to show off for park audiences. The shows are cute and charming, the characters engaging, and there's plenty on the celebration menus for a variety of tastes.

So, ultimately, this celebration might not need Peanuts as much as Peanuts needs a celebration like this.

Knott's Peanuts Celebration runs daily through March 6. For discounted tickets to Knott's Berry Farm, please visit our travel partner's Knott's Berry Farm tickets page.

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Replies (27)

January 22, 2022 at 3:50 PM

I still think Peanuts is a beloved and evergreen IP. There was a successful movie a few years ago and quite a few TV programs since then. Even if it's not a "red-hot" property like anything Disney has, I'm sure there are plenty of kids who get excited at seeing the characters in the parks and the grownups accompanying them feel nostalgic.

And Snoopy is certainly more relevant in the public consciousness than the mascot for Universal's parks, Woody Woodpecker. I don't think there's anyone who still cares about that character.

January 22, 2022 at 4:00 PM

I think Universal pretty much has shelved Woody Woodpecker in favor of the Minions as its animated mascot.

January 22, 2022 at 5:26 PM

I think Snoopy has stood the test of time -- and that might be just about it. Granted, I'm self aware enough to admit I have no clue what anybody under 25 does or doesn't know about ... Let alone what their q-rating is.

January 22, 2022 at 5:27 PM

Great poll of your twenty-plus yearx of people who have patronized your business.

A suggestion for your next ShULD WE RELAUNCH THE DISCUSSION PAGE ?

January 22, 2022 at 5:28 PM

When would we expect to see THAT poll?

January 22, 2022 at 5:38 PM

I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s evergreen, but other than finding it on Apple TV, I don’t think I’ve seen much of good ol Charlie Brown, my Mid 20s Canadian wife was unfamiliar with it at all… but that said, it’s surely not the stalest of IPs featuring in a park…

January 22, 2022 at 8:32 PM

@James Trexen

Funny you bring up Woody Woodpecker: Snoopy and the Peanuts have a presence at Universal Studios Japan(They even have a land).

January 22, 2022 at 9:34 PM

Honestly, not to be rude but to be frank, this is revolting. Is Disney’s stranglehold on the entertainment industry a good thing? Should we celebrate the fact that IPs must be “multi-media” now to stay relevant? Peanuts is a timeless classic that tapped into the hopeful yet melancholic spirit of all generations, and nothing will ever change that.

January 22, 2022 at 9:36 PM

I feel like this article fundamentally misunderstands Peanuts and art as a whole. Just because something isn’t a “viable franchise” means it’s not worth celebrating anymore? What kind of logic is that? If anything franchises tend to kill artistic freedom and integrity. Peanuts, at its core, was never about being some big franchise, the comic always had a small scope and I don’t think that that’s a bad thing.

January 22, 2022 at 9:54 PM

Peanuts had anything but a small scope in the 1970s. When you plaster your characters all over TV and newspapers the way that Peanuts did then, I think the franchise forfeits all claims to a small scope. The drawing may be primitive and its themes simple, but Peanuts' scope was exploiting a mass market.

The second photo should confirm that I adore Snoopy. And I agree that Snoopy has passed the test of time in forging emotional bonds with multiple generations of fans.

But people today don't quote the Peanuts comics the way they do Calvin and Hobbes, to reference another dead strip. Peanuts had a movie out seven years ago, with little movement toward a sequel. There's little outside what Knott's is doing with this festival each year creating fresh content for the franchise.

Peanuts simply does not rise to the level of art that allows a creative work to endure with being refreshed with new content. Could someone revive Peanuts beyond the parks today? Absolutely. The bones are there. Charles M. Schulz did amazing work in creating Peanuts' narrative foundation.

If no one wants to greenlight an expensive new animated feature, there are other media available to revive the franchise. But where is the Peanuts TikTok, with new one-minute animated shorts aimed at today's kids? Where are the new YouTube videos? Where are the character Twitter accounts, interacting with fans in real time? Those are the tools of a viable entertainment franchise today.

January 22, 2022 at 11:23 PM

As a member of Gen X, I grew up reading the daily newspaper comics. I wasn't a big fan of the daily Peanuts strip, but I enjoyed the TV specials and had a book of best Peanuts comic strips of the late 1950s and 1960s that I treasured.

The fairly recent "Complete Peanuts" series of books that reprinted every comic strip between 1950 and 2000 was a fun way to learn about the first three decades of the strip and Charles Schulz's genius in storytelling, how to set up a gag or punchline, and exploring the world from the child's emotional perspective.

Our teenage kids are fans of Peanuts from a combination of the comic book collections, the tv specials, and the Knott's presence.

The characters are so much more rich and complex than what the Knott's shows and activities demonstrate, but the target audience is younger children under 12.

I see families and kids and older visitors enjoying Peanuts at the park, even if it's likely largely a nostalgia factor for the adults. I imagine that the kids of regular visitors will likely be lifelong fans of Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

Also, from visiting the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, one gets the feeling that the Schulz family is satisfied with the comic strip being something that ended with Schulz's death in 2000, with a theme park presence, and the minor media efforts like the Apple+ series and recent movie. Coincidentally, Peanuts is huge in Japan-- merchandising is everywhere, maybe almost as much as Disney or Studio Ghibli there.

January 22, 2022 at 11:46 PM

Can you write another article about how WB has forfeited Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes to Mickey and the rest of the Walt Disney Company?

Going back to the even the late 90s, WB invested quite a bit in making their cartoon characters matter and rival Disney; but they dropped the ball several times with the IP when the crossover to 3D/CGI happened with cartoons post 2000s.

Sure, there was the new Space Jam movie that came out last year (that even appeared to poke fun at how out of date Looney Tunes has become) , but ultimately that movie came and went… and so far it hasn’t appeared to create that much needed spark of reinvigorating interest with today’s youth.

January 23, 2022 at 12:32 AM

@NYPark

WB still cares for the Looney Tunes: There has been a non-stop content with this IP since the last decade(The Looney Tunes Show, Wabbit, New Looney Tunes, and Looney Tunes Cartoons).

The thing is that the Looney Tunes has always catered to the older audience than small kids(They were originally considered to be edgy cartoons, alá South Park and Rick and Morty, back in their heyday).

January 23, 2022 at 5:03 AM

I want to see a multi-billion dollar land with Forbidden Journal level attractions based on The Far Side.

January 23, 2022 at 6:43 AM

If the Peanuts are a dying intellectual property, then I blame Apple TV. Good ol' Charlie Brown and the gang were staples in my house growing up. My dad always had a collection of Snoopy books beside his bed to read at night, and everyday I made sure to read the strip in the daily paper, and looked forward to the weekend colour version (before I read this article, this Sunday morning, I was just thinking how much I miss the weekend papers).

My kids know Snoopy and the rest well, but almost exclusively from the TV specials. Just like when I was a kid, we all gathered around the TV to watch them every Halloween, Easter, and especially Christmas. They don't know comic strips, but the themes, characters, and simple stories of those fantastic holiday specials continued to remain relevant to them.

Now Apple TV has the rights to the specials, and bar anybody else from showing them. They have become an exclusive commodity to leverage. I either pay Apple a fee for yet another programming service, or go watch something else. It's no longer something on the airwaves for free every year, for parents to pass onto their children. It is not something that is a tradition to look forward to, that becomes a part of your family, and shared by so many other families around North America. THAT always kept Peanuts relevant.

When Apple got the rights a couple of years ago, and prevented the specials from airing on regular TV, I ordered a set of the Peanuts Holiday Special DVDs. Now, even though my guys are older teens, they still take the time in the lead up to major holidays to gather around with us and watch Charlie have trouble with scissors, Snoopy lick Lucy to make her scream, Marcie try to boil an egg in a waffle iron, and have Linus tell us what Christmas is all about.

And I'm afraid, that my kids generation might be the last ones to have some notion of why the Peanuts were worth celebrating. Some children with Apple TV might get introduced to the Peanuts experience, but that's only a small portion of the population, and, over a short time, their relevance will be less and less, and their recognition will become like the characters in Islands of Adventure's Toon Lagoon; "Hey, that's neat, but when are they going to get rid of this stuff."

I know I'm tainted by nostalgia, but I actually CAN accept when the world moves on. I just hate seeing it forced to change, because a corporation thinks they can make a buck.

Oh well. That's my rant.

Vince Guaraldi, play me out.

January 23, 2022 at 10:28 AM

American Eagle recently had a peanuts clothing line. I purchase a long sleeve t-shirt with a picture of snoopy as 'joe cool'. Personally, I thought they should have added a 'B' in a different font to make it 'American Beagle'.

January 23, 2022 at 3:19 PM

They are absolutely with celebrating! But while artists can create works in the style of Michelangelo and Leonardo, there will never be anymore original Michelangelo and Leonardo works of art.

I have tried to watch the new animated Peanuts movie and cartoons, but they just don’t have the same feeling as the original hand-drawn cartoons of years past. It goes beyond the just the difference between hand-drawn and computer animation. The stories aren’t as enjoyable. I have tried to show the Apple Peanuts series to the younger kids in my family, and it failed to hold their interest. However, they happily drag out the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD every winter and watch it repeatedly.

January 23, 2022 at 3:46 PM

I don't get this "not widely quoted" thing as yes, I do see quotes of it all over and great influence. They absolutely deserve to be remembered and celebrated and I'll continue to do so.

Could they be bigger, sure but this idea it's a dying property seems off. I still see kids getting into it, it's still popular from decorations to memes so it seems unfair to say just because it didn't become Disney massive, it's somehow "forgotten."

Me, I've been a fan since a little kid in the '80s and seen my brother's kids get into it. That's the charm of the Peanuts, every generation a chance to rediscover it and likely to go on for a while.

January 23, 2022 at 4:11 PM

KOWABUNGA! Spending a lot of time at the beach in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, the Snoopy surfing poster was incredibly popular among our non-jock crowd. Seriously, though, it’s less a saying than a meme that often makes a difference. Lucy taking the football away is classic and timeless.

January 24, 2022 at 7:28 AM

I dunno my dog totally rejected her Mickey Mouse stuffed toy but can’t get enough of Snoopy and the Charlie Brown song - must be the demographic

January 24, 2022 at 8:34 AM

I’m not sure I agree with the not widely quotred either.. if you say the phrase “Lucy snd the football” or “Linus and his blanket”, a lot of people know exactly what you’re saying.

January 24, 2022 at 11:50 AM

To me, still definitely worth celebrating. The cartoons may be dated, but deal with issues that kids focus on (at least I know I did as a kid).

Maybe a DVD giveaway at Knott's, or showing Charlie Brown cartoons between drawing sessions at the Bird Cage Theater to show more of the younger generation what it was all about. It's not about animation quality; it's about the story that is told.

I was 8 years old when Camp Snoopy debuted "for a limited time only," and remember commercials about it being held over due to popular demand. And I'm really glad that it became a staple of Knott's Berry Farm (yeah, I'm old enough to remember watching Roy Rogers and Dale Evans at the Good Time Theater, AKA the Walter Knott Theater and, pertinent to this post, the Charles M. Schultz Theatre; not sure whether that's still the name -- I sadly haven't been to Knott's since the 90s).

But I know I've gotten older. I don't know whether it is as well liked by the whippersnappers today, especially since it's not something many of them grew up with. But I think, if nostalgic parents take them to this, the whippersnappers would like it. Sometimes a thing that a kid doesn't recognize can still resonate with them.

January 24, 2022 at 12:41 PM

I saw a comment about this on a different article a few weeks back. I believe they said it best with "The people demand more Snoopy-related events and festivities."

January 24, 2022 at 1:28 PM

My kids are not yet teenagers, and they could care less about Peanuts. The CGI movie a few years back was fine, but they didn't choose to watch it over and over like with many other kid movies. I tried to show them Halloween special, and it moved so slow by modern standards they weren't into it (note: it's also depressing). Shultz's 2-D drawings also do nothing to entice them.

So sure, the Peanuts are good for older folks' nostalgia factor, but otherwise they're pretty washed out. Lose them in favor of something current.

January 24, 2022 at 3:21 PM

Of course it must be celebrated!!!! It is first of all a masterclass on how to make a classic strip. There is something to every body in peanuts. It is as influental to Many a generación as sesame street.
One of it's more remarkable aspects it's that Even if all children can relate..it's a very mature and adult strip ( the tv movies and specials were different animales ). It never treat ANYBODY down. What a classic. I AM very happy that it does mantain a presente in the mind of so many. it's problem is that now days it does compete with not only Mickey and Donald or Bugs, it must also compete with Mario and sonic and baby yoda and spidey.....the list goes on....but kudos to a still relevant IP ( who can forget the hilarius Charlie Brown referencie on tarantino's kill Bill?)

January 24, 2022 at 10:50 PM

Umm, yes, Peanuts is one of the best out there, that isn't afraid to be politically incorrect in sharing the spirit of moral, uplifting and even religious values while still showing that we can all be equal and treat others with respect, even when they are different than we are. And it was way ahead of its time in doing so.

Schultz added Franklin as a black character in 1968 and his publisher really didnt like it, his response was publish it with Franklin or he would stop completely.

Linus is definitely a nerd.

Peppermint Patty and Marcie may very well have had different gender identities, well before it was ever a thing.

Lucy van Pelt is clearly a bully.

Schroeder is way too into classical music

So on and so forth, but they are all still friends and get along with each other, even if they don't see eye to eye or have their disagreements, they always come to accept one another.

If anything, Peanuts is more essential than ever and could teach us how to become a much better society overall.

January 26, 2022 at 9:01 AM

@B Goodwin Actually AppleTV not only made the Peanuts specials available for free to non-subscribers in 2020 (and I think 2021 but I can't confirm it)but also broadcast TV on PBS.

The fact of the matter is the viewing landscape has changed long before AppleTV got the rights to the Peanuts gang. Gone are the Saturday morning cartoons, afternoon cartoons, and the occasional prime-time animated special. For better or for worse kids now have access to practically anything they want to watch 24/7, simply put the specials aren't special anymore except in the nostalgic hearts of adults of a certain age.

If anything AppleTV is doing its best to keep the Peanuts relevant with new shows and "specials".

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