Redbook: 13 Things You Never Knew About Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang
Here’s a fun fact: CBS reluctantly aired A Charlie Brown Christmas for the first time in 1965. Fifty years later, we have a feeling they’re pretty darn grateful they went ahead and broadcast it. Not only has it aired twice a year ever since, but its Emmy win propelled CBS, ABC, and Fox to order plenty of other Peanuts shows over the years (heck, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown bumped Grey’s Anatomy out of its usual time slot for Halloween last week).
But, that’s not where it all began. That dates back to October 2, 1950, when Charles Schulz had his first Peanuts comic strip run in the daily newspapers. And even though it’s been 65 years, we’re still just as obsessed with Snoopy and the whole gang. Which is why we took the liberty of finding out more from one very special person in Charles’ life: Tom Everhart, the only artist to learn how Charles created the lines within his comic strip directly from Charles himself, and arguably the man’s best friend for 20 years. Here’s what you might not know about our favorite cartoon characters, and the creator of them.
1. A new Peanuts strip was printed every single day until the day after Charles Schulz’s death.
That amounts to a grand total of 17,897 different strips published. He only took one vacation while Peanuts was running—a five-week vacation in 1997 to celebrate his 75th birthday—and that’s the sole time reruns were ever published before his death. Charles passed away on February 12, 2000 from colon cancer, and the original strips stopped on February 13th. “That’s more than outrageous,” Tom says about the fact. “Do you know anyone who has been published every single day for 50 years? That means you must know how to communicate with people.”
2. Snoopy was inspired by Charles’ dog, Spike.
Charles would draw the family pet here and there, and he ate unusual objects, like pins and tacks. In 1937, Charles sent a drawing of Spike to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and it ended up being featured in Robert Ripley’s syndicated panel. Funnily enough, though, he originally wanted to name the dog in his strip Sniffy. That name was already being used in a comic strip, though, so Charles changed it when he remembered his mother saying that if they ever got another family dog, it would be named Snoopy.
3. Charles’ high school yearbook team rejected his drawings.
So, guess they consider that a mistake now. Sixty years later, the school’s main office had a five-foot statue of Snoopy brought in.
4. Friends and family often called Charles “Sparky.”
“That comes from way back when he was a child,” says Tom. “He had an uncle that named him Sparky after the racehorse Spark Plug in the Barney Google comic strip.”
5. Charlie Brown didn’t originate in Peanuts.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press published Charles’ first group of regular cartoons, Li’l Folks, from 1947 to 1950. It was then that he first named a character Charlie Brown, and the series had a dog that looked pretty similar to Snoopy. And no, he wasn’t named after Charles, but rather a co-worker at the Art Instruction Inc.
6. There’s something extraordinary about Snoopy.
Sure, we love the character, but Tom suggests taking a look at the drawings themselves again. “If you look at Snoopy, you’ll see a side view of Snoopy’s face, but a front view expression, and sometimes you’ll see the black dot on his back and his tail,” he reveals. “Sparky did that on purpose, because he knew that if you could see around the whole figure, you knew where you were—inside the comic strip; inside his story. That’s also why, if you look at the desks drawn, you don’t see the top—it’s always the side view, what a child’s perspective would be.”
7. The women in Charles’ life inspired many of the female characters.
This probably isn’t all that surprising, but still worth noting. Charlie Brown’s unrequited love, The Little Red-Headed Girl, was inspired by Donna Mae Johnson, an accountant at Art Instruction Inc. that he fell hard for. Charles eventually proposed to her in 1950, but she said no and married another man.
That’s not all, though. Lucy was created with Charles’ first wife, Joyce Halverson, in mind. And Peppermint Patty—not a romantic interest for Charlie Brown—was inspired by his cousin, Patricia Swanson. She got the peppermint nickname simply because Charles spotted peppermint candies in the house. Hey, if it sounds good, roll with it.
8. Fergie was the voice of Sally Brown from 1983 to 1985.
She was eight years old at the time, so it was well before singing about lovely lady lumps became a thing.
9. He regrets not letting Charlie Brown kick the football.
One of the most famous recurring themes in Peanuts is Charlie Brown’s attempt to kick a football held by Lucy, only to have Lucy yank it away at the last second and Charlie would spin up and land flat on his back. When Charles was asked if Charlie Brown would get to finally kick the football, he said, “Oh, no. Definitely not. I couldn’t have Charlie Brown kick that football; that would be a terrible disservice to him after nearly half a century.” But later, when he was recounting the moment he signed the panel of his final strip, he said, “All of a sudden, I thought, ‘You know, that poor, poor kid, he never even got to kick the football. What a dirty trick—he never had a chance to kick the football.'”