This page is some insights from the book, Schulz And Peanuts: A Biography. Now, in this segment, I plan to share some thoughts I've had from reading the book, and how it relates to Peanuts, as well as selected information from the book. I don't plan on giving a lot of the story away, for those of you who haven't read it, but just give you an idea of how the Peanuts strip ties in with Schulz' life, from his childhood to adulthood.
The Early Days
A lot of the strip was a reflection of himself as a child, playing with his siblings or his small circle of friends. Often times, his relatives would make fun of him because of the way he dressed or acted, and he would find ways to return the favor later on when he created the strip. These were the strips from the 1950's that reflected this period of his life.
One interesting fact is that Snoopy's name came from Charles' mother, Dena Schulz. Before she passed away, she said, "If the family has another dog, it should be named Snupi." That was her spelling of what would later become the biggest star of Peanuts.
Schulz suffered anxieties as an adult, because he was used to the way things were as a child, having the same routine where he would visit his father at the barber shop each day, and playing at home. As his adult life became less routine and more random, he suffered stomachaches. His character, Charlie Brown would often say, "My stomach hurts."
A lot of strips mirrored the things going on in his life as well. For example, when he was drafted into the military, Charlie Brown went off to camp. When he was in love, Charlie Brown talked about the Little Red-Haired Girl. In the early days, Lucy was based on one of Schulz' daughters. During his adulthood, she became more like his first wife, in her verbal exchanges with Charlie Brown, his alter ego. Later, Snoopy would become yet another persona of his.
His real-life friends and loves became characters in the strip. Linus, for instance, is based on Linus Maurer, a co-worker at the Art Instruction Schools in Minnesota. The Little Red-Haired Girl was first known as Donna Wold, another employee there. And, yes, there was a real Charlie Brown. You'll have to read the book to find out more. He was known as Charles Brown.
As I mentioned before, Schulz suffered from anxieties. He never liked to step away from routine in his life, and it wasn't until the mid 1970's that he really began to change and travel. This might have come from a regular, non-changing life when he was young. (His family moved away once, but then moved back home a couple of years later.) His father stuck with his barbershop routine for many years, and so it was that Schulz inherited this trait. He would never really learn to love until much later in life, because of a general lack of affection as a child from his parents.
The Peanuts Name
It may very well be general knowledge by now that Schulz hated the name Peanuts. But do you know how Peanuts actually got its name? It came from an old children's TV show, The Howdy Doody Show. (Some of you may remember this, but for those of you who do not, it was a show with a wooden cowboy ventriloquist dummy. Almost like Woody from Toy Story, but you could move his mouth in real life, like a puppet.) The children's section of the audience was then known as The Peanut Gallery. And, the executives at United Feature Syndicate liked this name, Peanuts. Schulz was originally going to call it L'il Folks, since he had already drawn strips for this feature before. When UFS informed him that the name was too similar to Little Folks, an extinct comic strip from the 30's, he then thought of using Charlie Brown or Good Ol' Charlie Brown. But, UFS was firm on their decision of using Peanuts. Schulz really didn't have much choice but to agree at the time, as he was trying to get his strip published, and he was a young cartoonist.
Well, there you have it. I just gave a little bit of information on the book. I don't really want to reveal too much, especially to those of you who haven't read it. But I do want to say that once you read it, you'll understand where a lot of the strip material came from and the hidden messages behind them. A lot of them came from events happening in Schulz' life at given times. And, you'll understand a bit more about the man that Charles Schulz was. Be forewarned, you may not agree with some of his decisions in life, but you'll understand from the way he was raised and the circumstances in his life, why he made some of those decisions. No one has a perfect life, neither did he. But it is a very interesting look into his life and career. Let's just say, if you didn't know Charles Schulz before, you will after you read this.