They’re the stars of the most popular comic strip in history and now the Peanuts gang – led by good ol’ Charlie Brown, his beloved beagle Snoopy and friends – is making a comeback with this playful set of 12 collectible figurines, and a new animated movie in 2015.
It might seem a tad eccentric to call a cartoon strip ‘seminal’ – and yet it’s no exaggeration to call Peanuts just that. Written and illustrated by Charles M Schulz, the simple four-picture comic strip became the world’s longest running and most popular storyline ever, appearing in American and international newspapers for nearly half a century from 1950 to 2000, and spawning a host of spin-off merchandise, a TV series and animated feature films.
A total of 17,897 strips were published, portraying a memorable cast in their perpetual youth. At its peak, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages. Not bad for a bunch of kids and a pooch…
At the heart of the tale is “good ol’ Charlie Brown”, a world-weary little fella who’s full of contradictions. While his natural propensity is to be a gloomy glass-half-full type, you still got to hand it to him: that boy is a trier.
And therein lies the ageless appeal of Peanuts: the personalities and predicaments of the pint-size gang reflect Every Man. Their insecurities, hopes and dreams echo the human condition, where trials and tribulations rub shoulders on a daily basis with fleeting glimpses of triumph.
It was a bold move indeed by Schulz to depict a childhood that wasn’t always a sunny idyll and to admit that childhood is not without its emotional challenges (Schulz admitted that Charlie Brown was based on his own childhood). In the Peanuts world, there’s angst and frustration, but there’s also the saving grace of enormous warmth and humour. It’s a world of friendship and quarrels, laughter and tears, and the perfect place for young children to learn a little of life’s social etiquette. By the way, if you’ve ever been baffled by the ‘Peanuts’ connection, you’re not alone. In a 1987 interview, Schulz said of the title: “It’s totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing, and has no dignity—and I think my humor has dignity.”
Schleich first produced Peanuts figurines in the 1950s, with figures appearing sporadically over the years since. The New Peanuts collection coincides with the 65th anniversary and a new animated film, due for release in November 2015.
The new figurines: Five are depictions of Snoopy, including the iconic image of him wearing ‘Joe Cool’ shades; his (seldom seen) sister, Belle, who could be easily mistaken for her brother were it not for her beads and bows; plus Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Franklin and Woodstock, the cute yellow bird who only ever speaks in hashtags (clearly ahead of his time!). There are also three gift sets, two of which feature seasonal scenes – one for Halloween, with Charlie in possession of a mighty pumpkin, and another for Christmas, with Snoopy’s doghouse bedecked in festive fairy lights. The other gift scene is one of the classic comedy scenes from Peanuts, when Charlie Brown is psyching himself up to kick the football, which Lucy is holding in position. Just as he strikes, Lucy moves the ball away (little minx!). Made of PVC, with safe non-phthalate softener that makes them more touch-feely and lending a slight give in movement, the hand-painted pieces also have heaps of personality, from the cuteness of a thumb-sucking Linus, with his beloved blankie firmly in his clutch, to Charlie’s affectionate little sister Sally, with her arms outstretched and no doubt primed for hugs. And while the happy-go-lucky puppy Snoopy has a devil-may-care nonchalance, Charlie Brown, of course, is wearing his signature furrowed brow, ready to bounce back from life’s little knocks. Good grief!
Fun fact Charlie Brown and Snoopy reached new heights in 1969 when they became the names of the command module and lunar module, respectively, for Apollo 10.
Good For… Creative and imaginative play, role play, emotional intelligence and empathy, manual dexterity, storytelling, communication skills and vocabulary
Keep in Mind… The very nature of ‘collectibles’ is that you collect them all, so begin with one and you will probably be making something of a commitment. Thankfully, these figurines have a pocket-money price point (just about), and with only 12, you can actually achieve the full set without too much chasing about town
Kids Love… Collectibility has immense appeal for kids who love to tick off each character as they add them to their toy shelf. Collecting, of course, also encourages patience
Parents Love… That trip down Memory Lane and rediscovering the charms of your favourite Peanuts character all over again. Schulz was never afraid to tackle the big issues of the day, like racial and gender equality and was significantly ahead of his time. The other characters never question that there are three girls on the baseball team, and in the TV special ‘Charlie Brown’s All-Stars’, player-manager Charlie Brown also refused team sponsorship because the sponsor said the league does not allow girls or dogs to play. Good ‘ol Charlie Brown indeed.
If you love this, then… why not invest in one of the classic Peanuts animations. There’s also a lovely new range of picture books by Puffin, including Peanuts: Merry Christmas Snoopy, so you can reacquaint yourself with the Peanuts crew and fall in love all over again.
Did you know? Ever a fashionable little fella (you can tell by the jaunty cut of his jip) Snoopy is a style icon. Along with his sister, Belle, who lives in Paris, Snoopy has been dressed by some of the world’s most famous and flamboyant fashion designers, including Gucci, Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel and Versace. Snoopy made his haute-couture debut in 1984 at the first ‘Snoopy in Fashion’ exhibition, shown at the Louvre in Paris and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The sibling duo reprised their role as fashion muses in ‘Snoopy and Belle in Fashion‘ at the New Museum in New York in September 2014, wearing designs by Diane von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan. The exhibition will be travelling to Paris, Milan, Moscow, Tokyo, Asia and other global locations from 2015 (for details, visit the exhibition website here).
Designer Details Friedrich Schleich founded his company in 1935 in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany. The now famous Schleich figurines first came to life in the 1950s with figurines depicting popular comic characters of the time. In the early 1980s, animal figurines and Schleich Play Worlds were added, from dinosaurs to domestic and wild animals and even mythical creatures, followed by Knights, the Wild West and Elves. All Schleich products are developed in-house with input from children, parents and teachers. Play figures are designed to be as realistic and naturalistic as possible to encourage children to appreciate the variety of nature. Licensed products, such as comic figurines, are chosen for their character and the positive message they carry.