The Peanuts gang have been around for 65 years

By Drew Mackie
Updated November 03, 2015 04:15 PM
United Features Syndicate/Everett

This week, the beloved Charles Schulz comic strip Peanuts makes the transition to the big screen. It’s the first theatrically released Peanuts movie in 35 years, since 1980’s Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown!, and the first to be computer-animated. Fans might be wary that the change in animation style would mean The Peanuts Movie would lose the magic of the old cartoons, but based on the previews we’ve seen so far, that magic appears to be intact.

Peanuts has come a long way since the strip first debuted on Oct. 2, 1950. In celebration of the new movie and the decades of strips and cartoons that came before, we’re rounding up some Peanuts trivia.

1. The new movie was written by Schulz’s son and grandson

For Charles Schulz, Peanuts was a very personal creation. And one of the reasons the new movie might stick close to that original vision is that it was written by his son, Craig Schulz, and grandson, Bryan Schulz.

In 2014, Craig Schulz explained the family’s thinking to the Washington Post: “If we’re going to do this project, it has to be under Schulz control – this is a Schulz film. No one is going to grab and run with it. We need to have absolute quality control and keep it under Dad’s legacy. You can t bring people in from the outside and expect them to understand Peanuts.’ ”

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2. It also uses the same voice that Snoopy has always had

Animator Bill Melendez provided the voice of both Snoopy and Woodstock ever since the first Peanuts cartoon, 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. He died in 2008, but the new movie uses archival samples of Melendez’s Snoopy and Woodstock voices from previous cartoons. (Click here to watch Melendez explain how the Snoopy voice came about.)

3. The wah wah sound didn’t show up until 1967

It’s probably one of the best-known elements of the animated Peanuts adaptations, but it didn’t show up in A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was a subsequent special, You’re in Love, Charlie Brown, that had students interacting with an offscreen teacher – her name is Miss Othmar, in case you were wondering – and the producers needed to devise a way for her to “talk” without actually talking. Longtime Charles Schulz collaborator Lee Mendelson explained to Mashable how the “wah wah” came about.

“We chose not to show the adult. So I asked our music director, Vince Guaraldi, ‘Would there be some instrument we could use as a sound to emulate what an adult might sound like to a kid?'” Mendelson said. Guaraldi brought in a trombone player, though no one remembers his name today. “He was the first one, he worked and that was it,” Mendelson said. (BTW, check out the official Peanuts Movie Wah Wah Machine if you haven’t already.)

4. A few famous folks voiced Peanuts characters in their younger years

The 1985 TV special Snoopy’s Getting Married, Charlie Brown is one of the installments that features Fergie – though not quite 10 years old and still known as Stacy Ferguson – voicing Sally. (Fast-forward to the 5:53 mark to hear Fergie-as-Sally.) She’s not the only one: Jenny Lewis voiced Frieda in It’s an Adventure, Charlie Brown, Chad Allen voiced Charlie in Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!, and Jodie Sweetin voiced Sally and Frieda in It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. A pre-Twilight Taylor Lautner voiced the villain in He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown. Elisabeth Moss, Nicole Eggert and Lindsay Sloane were among those who also voiced characters.

5. Those animated specials didn’t just celebrate holidays

They did cover a lot of the major holidays, and there was even an It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown, but to date there have been nearly 50 of those specials covering a wide range of themes, and easily one of the most surprising is It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown, which, yes, did air about a year after Flashdance hit theaters. It’s an odd wonder to behold.

6. Peppermint Patty was not the original Patty

// Patty, the tomboy character who wears the green shirt, didn’t show up until 1966. However, there was a different little girl named Patty who appeared in the first-ever Peanuts strip. (She’s the one with the bow.) She started to vanish around 1970, however, as more popular characters joined the cast, including the similarly named Peppermint Patty. However, she appears in The Peanuts Movie.

7. The Little Red-Haired Girl has a name

Though Schulz declined to either show or name the longtime object of Charlie Brown’s affections in the comics, the animated special It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown does finally show what she looked like. It also gave her a name: Heather.

8. The Peanuts characters age – to an extent

Charlie Brown started out around four years old, but he’s been stuck at eight years old since 1971. Strangely, Schroeder, Sally and Linus all debuted as babies, but then aged quickly to catch up more or less with the rest of the cast. Indeed, there’s some strange space-time happening in the Peanutsverse.

9. Schulz once killed off a Peanuts character – as a joke

In 1954, Schulz introduced a new character, Charlotte Braun, a sort of female anti-Charlie Brown who acted like a more assertive version of Lucy. She didn’t prove especially popular and was eventually dropped from Peanuts. However, before that, a reader wrote Schulz a letter asking him to eliminate the new character. Schulz responded with a hand-written letter telling the reader that she would “have the death of an innocent child on your conscience.” Schulz included a doodle of Charlotte with an axe embedded in her head. In 2000, the reader donated the letter to the Library of Congress.

10. Schulz never liked the name Peanuts

In a 1987 interview, Shulz said the comic’s title was chosen by an editor and that he didn’t think it fit Charlie Brown’s world. “It’s totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing,” he said. “And has no dignity. I think my humor has dignity.”