Just like with Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, you’d have to have lived under a rock for the last 50-years to not know Charles Schulz and the Peanuts. In fact, both cartoonists have very similar early lives.
Both were born into immigrant European families, grew up in the midwest, served in one of the World Wars, and dramatically impacted some element of the world of cartooning. While Walt Disney was innovating in the world of motion pictures, Charles Schultz invented the modern comedy comic strip; before his debut in 1950, comics were slapstick and adventure cartoons. To date, Schulz is the only cartoonist to have his work shown at the Louvre.
Another striking similarity is that both also refused to compromise when it came to their art; and, when Schulz realized the value of his cartoons (Li’l People) on the St. Paul Pioneer Press and asked for a raise, he was refused. Like Disney, he quit on the spot and went on to evolve his characters into the Peanuts which appeared in newspapers around the world for almost 50-years.
The characters in Peanuts are a reflection of Shultz’s life: Lucy is modelled after his dominating wife Joyce, Linus and Charlie Brown after fellow art instructor friends at the Art Instruction Inc., and the red-haired girl is based on an early girlfriend who broke his heart.
The themes of the comic are of bullying, self-loathing, failure, and other things we tend to not like to talk about in our overachieving “happy” world. Melancholy and anxiety are mixed with hopefulness and optimism. Snoopy’s fantasy life counteracted Charlie Brown’s excessively serious life.
In the end, Peanuts are Charles Shultz; he lived in the Peanuts world. His wish was that no one would take over the strip when he retired, which is what happened in December 1999. Schulz died the evening before his last strip was published. The Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa is a tribute to his comics and his life.