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Peanuts Gang

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Born in Minneapolis in 1922, cartoonist Charles Schultz was drawing single panels for The Saturday Evening Post when, in 1950, he started making the newspaper-syndicate rounds in hopes of selling a daily children's strip which he wanted to call Li'l Folks. United Feature Syndicate liked the strip but not the name; over Schultz' heated protestations, the strip debuted as Peanuts on October 2, 1950. At first indistinguishable from the many other kid strips of the era, Peanuts began finding its voice in the mid '50s when Schultz started drawing upon his own experiences for material. The strip's central character Charlie Brown, an eternal loser who wore all his neuroses and fears on his very short sleeves, was based on Schultz himself, while Charlie Brown's intellectual dog Snoopy was patterned after Spike, Schultz' childhood pet. As the dramatis personae developed into highly distinctive, highly appealing characters -- fussbudget Lucy, philosophical thumb-sucker Linus, piano prodigy Schroeder, et al. -- Peanuts grew in popularity to the point that, by 1969, revenue from the strip and all its ancillary merchandising amounted to $50,000,000 a year. In early 1965, Peanuts was honored with a cover on Time magazine. Within the next eighteen months, the strip spawned the hit off-Broadway musical You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, the number-one hit record "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron," and the half hour animated TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Mendelson/Melendez productions, the cartoon firm responsible for the special, responded to its overwhelming ratings success by turning out an average of two specials per year for the next two decades. The company's 1969 animated theatrical feature A Boy Named Charlie Brown was likewise successful enough to spawn several followup films. The Peanuts craze peaked in the mid '70s, but the property has retained its worldwide popularity. The most recent Peanuts TV projects have been the weekly Saturday morning cartoon program The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show (1983) and the historical prime time miniseries This is America, Charlie Brown (1987-88). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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