Friday, November 15

Peanut Gallery


Wednesday, January 29, 1997

The ‘Peanuts’ gang is By Kristin Fiore

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

From Albert Einstein to Eddie Vedder to Bart Simpson, the world
loves a lovable outcast. But before the multi-million dollar "ay
caramba" of bad boy Bart, there was the hapless "good grief" of
Charlie Brown.

He’s not as cool as Bart ­ in fact, he’s the type that
endures Bart’s wedgies and pranks. He’s also not the first cartoon
character to live under the cloud of Murphy’s Law. Yet, Charlie
Brown has an emotional frankness and childlike simplicity that
gives him an endearing third dimension.

In "You’re an Animated Classic, Charlie Brown," the Museum of
Television and Radio pays tribute to Brown and the entire Peanuts
gang ­ Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, Peppermint Patty and, of
course, the original Snoop dog. The small exhibit of cels,
storyboards, and three televisions with continuous live animation,
brings out the unique element of the comic strip that has made it
last over 40 years ­ simple stories that illustrate our
foibles in understanding ourselves, each other and the world around
us. Their magic is not readily evident in the individually framed
cels but is unlocked through the memories they conjure.

The exhibit also has photos of the voices of all of these
characters, as well as their creators. It is eerie to look at the
real life versions of Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Charlie Brown, Linus
and Snoopy, who was played by creator Charles Schultz’s animator
Bill Melendez himself. These old photographs and the animation cels
are the most moving and fascinating part of the exhibit, as they
are what we remember and love of Peanuts.

But the storyboards and comic strips are revealing, too. Mostly
from the late ’80s and ’90s, they feature the same trials and
characters, but offer insight into how the pencil scribbles are
transformed into the lovable characters we know. Storyboards and
their corresponding finished cells of "What a Nightmare, Charlie
Brown" (1978) illustrate the difference vivid color, simplicity and
even the little strokes that define each character make. Snoopy’s
charming antics are reduced to penciled-in sound bytes ­
"scratches belly" and "yawns" ­ in the storyboards. And
Charlie Brown just isn’t the same without his furrowed brow and
lonely curl.

Most of us have grown up with these characters, but have never
gone back to look at them in a different light ­ as adults.
This exhibit gives us the chance to relive those scenes we
witnessed every year at holiday time, like Linus and Sally waiting
in the pumpkin patch for The Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown
accidentally cutting 20 eye-holes into his
white-sheet-turned-ghost-costume in "It’s The Great Pumpkin,
Charlie Brown" (1966).

A few cels from this classic, as well as the Easter,
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s specials grace a white wall
of the museum. They seem strangely out of place and time ­
silent on the sterile wall, but they come to life upon remembering
the stories they are woven into.

The most recognizable and poignant cels are from "A Charlie
Brown Christmas" (1965), the first live animation from the team of
Schultz and animator Melendez. The first two highlights of the film
are represented ­ Linus (blanket in hand and thumb in mouth)
and Charlie Brown picking out the feeble, puny tree among an
intimidating ocean of aluminum orange and pink ones, and Charlie
Brown setting the tree down on Schroeder’s piano in front of the
gang only to have them laugh in his face. The weight of the tree’s
single red ball bends its barren tip to the ground. It’s a shame
the final scene of the film isn’t shown ­ the one of all of
Charlie Brown’s friends singing around the newly decorated, full
and beautiful tree.

This is the happy ending Charlie Brown so often misses, and the
one we are all always hoping for. Charlie Brown seems to stand for
those of us who struggle and fall flat on our faces ­ his
success is our vindication. The other characters have their own
struggles, trivial though they may seem. Marcie tries day after day
to kick that damn football that Peppermint Patty always jerks away
at the last minute; Sally loves Linus, and Lucy loves Schroeder;
even Snoopy is a frustrated writer at times with an overactive
imagination.

In all of these characters we see our vulnerabilities openly and
plainly expressed with the fearlessness that only children possess.
And though many of us are more cynical now, as children we poured
through Schultz’s books, fully expecting that at any moment Marcie
would kick that football over Peppermint Patty’s head and out of
the stadium.

It is a testament to Schultz’s talent that such simple comics
can convey such characters and the qualities that each embody
­ Snoopy is imagination, unfettered by human rules and
limitations; Linus is the security of early childhood; Peppermint
Patty is cleverness and Marcie its unwitting victim. Then there’s
the self-absorption of Schroeder and Lucy, the ultimate artist and
egotist, respectively. Charlie Brown is their muddled
conglomeration, with an extra dose of awkwardness and rotten luck
thrown in.

The knowledge of the process of their creation doesn’t diminish
the reality of Peanuts characters. The stubborn child in all of us
won’t let that happen.

"You’re an Animated Classic, Charlie Brown": The Artistry of
Charles M. Schulz runs through August at The Museum of Television
and Radio, 465 N. Beverly Drive. Information: 786- 1025, or on the
Internet, http://www.mtr.org.

Museum of Television and Radio

Charles Schultz, creator of "Peanuts."Museum of Television and
Radio

Displayed animation cel, "It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"
(1966).GENEVIEVE LIANG/Daily Bruin

Peanuts comic strip cels and color cartoon cels give the history
of Charles Schultz’s loveable Peanuts cartoons. "You’re an Animated
Classic, Charlie Brown" runs through August at The Museum of
Television and Radio, located at 465 N. Beverly Dr.

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