Peanuts Characters Series – Lucy van Pelt


Oh, Charlie Browwwwn. I’ll hold the football and you kick it…

For years, that sing-songy lilt in Lucy’s voice as she tossed a football in the air, taunting our hero, has pretty much defined her character. Charlie Brown’s ultimate foil, Lucille “Lucy” Van Pelt made her first appearance as a toddler on March 3, 1952. By 1954, however, Schulz had aged her to be Charlie Brown’s contemporary and the two have been going at it ever since. Lucy plays right field on Charlie Brown’s baseball team. She has never caught a fly ball. Despite her brash, overbearing and sometimes all-too-honest observations, she does have a softer side. It was Lucy who actually said the now familiar phrase “Happiness is a warm puppy” in the April 4, 1960 comic strip.

“She genuinely likes Charlie Brown and cares about him,” observes director Steve Martino. “When she gives him advice at her psychiatric booth, she may do so in a funny way, but it’s coming from a place where she’s really trying to help him. She sees the world through her own filter and fully believes that is the only way to see the world.”

Lucy’s unique point of view, sense of humour and ability to cut to the chase are front and center in the film, and for some, it was a chance to rediscover just how funny she can be. “In researching the strip and exploring the characters, I had forgotten just how funny Lucy as a character really is,” says producer Michael Travers. “Her certainty that she’s always right and her ‘my way or the highway’ attitude, while being completely wrong, end up being some of the funniest moments in the film – Lucy just being Lucy.”

Charlie Brown and Snoopy aside, perhaps one of the most recognisable silhouettes of all the characters is the shape language Lucy’s hair. But keeping her iconic bob on model was a challenge.

The bob is always dominant on the opposite side to where she looks,” Martino explains.” We designed the objects of her hair so that when she goes from one Sparky view pose to another, the objects will move and snap in place to follow her eyeliner.”

Because of the sheer volume of hair on Lucy (and other characters such as Schroeder, Marcie and Peppermint Patty), the crew wanted to avoid the dreaded “helmet hair” look. Explains Job Campbell, fur supervisor, “We purposely added flyaway hairs on Lucy and other characters to not only avoid helmet hair, but to emphasize the Sparky line. These are messy kids.”

Peanuts Characters Series – Linus van Pelt


Listen, Charlie Brown, Ignoring what my sister Lucy says has enabled me to make it this far in life.

Charlie Brown’s loyal and trustworthy friend Linus made his debut as the baby brother of Lucy on September 19, 1952, but did not actually speak until 1954. Over the years, Schulz progressed his age to match that of the other characters. Whether on the baseball field (where Linus plays second base), at the neighborhood wall or showing unwavering faith in the Great Pumpkin, Linus is always there for Charlie Brown. “You like to think that sometimes you might have just a little bit of that wisdom that Linus had,” says director Steve Martino. “I always loved that about him. Here’s the kid with the security blanket, but he possesses wisdom years beyond any of the other kids.”

Although Linus’s trusty blanket does not take on a personality in the movie like it does in the specials, multiple rigs were created so that the blanket could be animated and posed to do whatever the animators needed it to do. “There was the classic pose of Linus sucking his thumb while holding the blanket,” recalls supervising animator Nick Bruno, “crumbled on the floor, over his head like a shepherd, and being dragged along on the ground.”

For fur supervisor Jon Campbell, Linus’s hair, or more accurately, lack thereof, proved rather challenging when it came to defining the character’s look.

“In some of the reference from the strip, he basically just has three ribbons or strands of hair,” says Campbell. “Translating those ribbons into a full head of hair became our problem to solve.”

Turning to the work of Tom Eberhart, the team’s primary goal was to stay true to Schulz’s pen line. By closely examining the work of Everhart, the artists were able to fill in the blanks, or in this case, hairs.

“We explored a lot of iterations on Linus, settling on three layers of different kinds of hair,” Campbell says. “Two layers are actually two varying degrees of fuzz with a final layer of different lengths and sizes of strands rigged in a similar manner to Charlie Brown’s hair.”

Peanuts Characters Series – Charlie Brown


Whenever I feel really alone, I just sit and stare into the night sky. I’ve always thought hat one of those stars was my star, and at moments like this, I know that my star will always be there for me. Like a comforting voice saying, “Don’t give up, kid.”

To say that “Good ol’ Charlie Brown” holds a unique position in pop culture would be an understatement. He has the illustrious distinction of being the only Peanuts character to appear in both the first comic strip on October 2, 1950 and the last strip on February 13, 2000. Despite his less-than-stellar track record as a baseball manager, his inability to fly a kite or kick a football, through it all Charlie Brown never gives up. His eternal optimism gives us hope and that has made him undeniably relatable to readers all over the world.

“Everybody’s got a little piece of Charlie Brown in them,” observes Martino. “What’s great about him is that he operates on such an extreme level, which always makes you feel better about your and we’ve all had failures. He teaches us a wonderful thing in that in the midst of all that, you can pick yourself up and try again, so it was very important for us to capture that spirit in his expressions.”

As the team began the process of refining details for each of the characters’ looks, they turned their attention to one of Charlie Brown’s most defining features: his hair. Or lack thereof.

So just what exactly is the curlicue, loop-de-loop swirl that rests just above Charlie Brown’s forehead called? “I just call it his hair,” says Martino with a smile. “But what little hair he has in that loop is full or personality,” continues the director. “ The way Schulz drew his hair would echo Charlie Brown’s emotions. It would move and reinforce his own expressions.”

According to Charlie Brown’s stylist – aka fur supervisor – Jon Campbell, 219 strands of hair were created for his iconic swirl/loop/curl.

“All of his hairs are wound up into a bundle,” explains Campbell. “We knew we could not just give Charlie Brown a single hair. No matter how the hair is rendered, it would only be a pixel wide, so that is why bundled a large number of hairs that we squeezed, straightened and relaxed just right to basically reproduce the ebb and flow of Schulz’s pen line.”

Because Schulz drew the hair loop differently each time, Campbell knew he needed to provide the animators with enough flexibility to achieve the desired results. “If we were to take a hair and groom it into a curve, it will basically be stuck in that position,” he explains. “So instead of grooming his hair into a loop-de-loop, we groomed it straight out, like a unicorn, and rigged it, allowing the animators to control it.” Campbell compares Charlie Brown’s hair rig to that of a spring coil: “You have no idea how long a spring actually is until you uncoil it,” he says. “Proportionally, when uncoiled, Charlie Brown’s hair is nearly two feet long!”

In a nod to the spring coil reference, Martino cites a very subtle Easter egg (an oblique reference or in-joke) in the film: “The wire sculpture that Charlie Brown makes by mistake looks exactly like his hair loop.”

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Charlie Brown’s Legacy

“I always thought of my dad as the great observer,” reminisces Craig Schulz, the son of Charles M. Schulz and one of Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie’s writers and producers. “No matter where he was or what he was doing, he would find a comic strip in the moment. Whether it was a tennis match, a game of golf or just ordinary life, he never missed an opportunity to tell a story.”

On October 2, 1950, Charles M. Schulz began a 50-year journey of sharing those observations with the world. Through a comic strip that made its debut in just seven newspapers across the country, he introduced readers to the characters of Shermy, Patty and Good ol’ Charlie Brown. Over time, Schulz would introduce the rest of the characters that are now staples in pop culture.

By the end of the 1960s, Peanuts had reached millions more fans through publishing, licensing and marketing partnerships. Although the first licensed Peanuts products were paperback books published in 1951, it was a 1960 comic strip featuring the now-iconic motto “Happiness is a Warm Puppy” that launched the characters into the stratosphere of the licensing industry. The “Happiness is…” phrase had caught the attention of Connie Boucher, founder of Determined Productions, who approached Schulz with the idea of publishing a book based around it. Schulz was initially reluctant, but agreed, penning additional “Happiness is…” sayings. The book spent forty-five weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list.. An industry was born.

Today, the Peanuts characters are an ongoing merchandising and marketing force with long-standing relationships with top brands still in place. For example, 2015 marks the 55th anniversary of the brand’s relationship with Hallmark, the characters have been featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since 1968 and MetLife celebrates 30 years with Snoopy and the gang as spokes-characters. The Schulz family has stayed involved with the creative direction and positioning of all things Peanuts related, still working out of offices in Santa Rosa, California, where Charles Schulz’s art studio was located.

Yet through all the boos, apparel and toys, it was always all about story and character for Charles M. Schulz. With a knack for social commentary, Schulz would introduce the characters and storylines with wit, sarcasm, humour and heart. In the mid-1960s, he introduced the character Peppermint Patty. A tomboy at heart, she excelled in the sports and served as the manager of a rival baseball team. While that may seem benign to most now, the introduction of girls playing sports on the same team as boys was nearly a decade ahead of its time. By today’s standards, it is incomprehensible to think of a character;s introduction to a comic strip as “controversial,” yet that is exactly what occurred in 1968 when Schulz introduced Franklin to the cast, the 1st African American character featured in the strip. Encouraged by schoolteacher Harriet Glickman, Schulz introduced the character of Franklin on a beach to a vacationing Charlie Brown and later incorporated him into the strip as a classmate of Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Schulz received letters of opposition, which he ignored. Schulz was able to further expand his voice through the various personas of his alter-ego Snoopy, most notably Joe Cool, the World Famous Author and of course, the World War I Flying Ace.

Schulz possessed the natural ability to organically and seamlessly weave relevant topics into the panels his strips as if they were self-evident. “Through it all, my dad never took advantage of his position,” says Craig Schulz. “In 50 years, he never turned cynical about the world around him and that paid off. People genuinely care about these characters. I remember when Snoopy’s doghouse burned down,” he add. “People sent him money to help rebuild it!”

Bordering the top of a wall in the main conference room at Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates at One Snoopy Place in Santa Rosa is a line-up of each of the major Peanuts characters: Shermy, Patty, Pigpen, Violet, Sally, Schroeder, Linus, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Woodstock, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Franklin, Rerun and Frieda. When seated at the table, it gives the impression that the characters are watching over all the activity in the room.

“We always say that each of the characters represents a piece of our dad,” says Craig Schulz. “Chalie Brown was his real self, while Snoopy is what he wanted to be. The reality is that each of us can find an identifiable character to relate to.”

The universal appeal of the characters, whether it is the crabbiness of Lucy, the heart of Linus, the introspection of Marcie, or one of the many personas of Snoopy, is without question why the strip and its characters have remained relevant as Peanuts nears its 70th anniversary.

By the time the strip completed its run in 2000, Peanuts had an estimated readership of over 350 million people, in 2,600 newspapers, representing 21 countries around the world. With a combined grand total of 17,897 strips (15,391 daily; 2506 Sunday), each one drawn, inked and lettered by Schulz, the comic continues in syndication, reaching new readers every day.

The list of accomplishments and accolades bestowed upon Peanuts is, in a word, impressive: 50 primetime network TV specials, 4 Emmy awards, an additional 32 nominations, 4 Peabody awards, 2 Grammy awards, 4 feature animated films, an Oscar nomination, a Broadway musical, 2 Tony awards and multiple magazine covers on Time, Newsweek, LIFE, Rolling Stone, TV Guide and People, etc. To say the strip and its characters have made an indelible impact from the mid-twentieth century to the present would be an understatement.

Last year, that legacy continued with the return of the Peanuts gang to the big screen after a 35 year absence, and for the first time ever in CG.

As loyal Charlie Brown and Snoopy fans, we all hope the legacy will last forever.