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Charles M. Schulz Museum pays tribute to pop culture & imaginary places

Charles M. Schulz Museum pays tribute to pop culture & imaginary places

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When I was a kid I would read the comics in the Los Angeles Times every day. There was an entire page of them, and they had all kinds: Broom Hilda, Rex Morgan, Andy Capp, Wizard of Id, and many more. One comic that did not appear on the comics page was Peanuts. Peanuts appeared in the first section of the paper. If you weren’t the type to turn to the comics, you still could see it if you just looked at the news. That way, no one could miss it.


Image courtesy of the Charles M. Schulz Museum. All Rights Reserved

Everyone read Peanuts. It is one of the most, if not the most, influential and successful comic strips of its kind. The strip has been translated into many languages all around the world, and has been the subject of plays, movies, TV shows, and toys of all kinds.


Charles M. Schulz. Image courtesy of the Charles M. Schulz Museum. All Rights Reserved

Charles M. Schulz (“Sparky”) was the creator of Peanuts, starting the strip in the 1950s and continuing with it until his death in 2000. No one has taken over the strip since, per his wishes. The strips that you may see today are all reruns that were made before 2000. Even though the strips you see now are from decades past, the timelessness of their humor keeps them fresh and accessible for today.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

Mr. Schulz lived in the town of Santa Rosa, California. There he had his art studio, and from there he wrote his comic strip. The last 30 years of his life were centered in Santa Rosa, and it was chosen to be the location for the museum. The beginnings of the museum started in 1997, and Charles Schulz involved himself fully in the project. After his death, his widow Jeannie, close friends, and other family members took over the work of design and construction. The 27,384 square-foot museum is modest and low-key, reflecting the comfortable style of the artist. It opened in August of 2002.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

The museum has a constantly changing rotation of exhibits. I went this last weekend to see two of these exhibitions: Pop Culture in Peanuts, and The Language of Lines: Imaginary Places in the Comics. I also went to see the museum itself; for although I live about 90 minutes south of there, I had never been to see it.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

The museum is deceptively small looking. When you first walk in, it seems to not have much, and yet, you are able to very easily lose yourself in the content and surroundings. As not only is the museum simply about Peanuts and Charles Schulz, it is also about the history of cartooning, and how it has developed over the years into various types of media.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

For Peanuts fans, the Pop Culture in Peanuts exhibition is an interesting exploration into how current events in pop culture affected the cartoon strip in the half century that it ran. Back in the 1950s, Charlie Brown wore a coonskin cap and argued with Schroeder over who was better, Davy Crockett or Beethoven. In the 1970s, disco music permeated our lives and made it into the cartoon. The exhibition features dozens of strips, from the nearly 18,000 that were created, which reflect the spirit of the times that they were written in. The strips are placed in cases throughout their room, allowing for a leisurely read of each piece.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

The Language of Lines: Imaginary Places in the Comics features a fascinating look back at comics over the last 100 years, and how the settings of these comics affected their development and created well known environments ranging from Beetle Bailey’s Camp Swampy, to Gasoline Alley, to the skyscrapers of Manhattan in Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland. These 60 comic strips date from the 1890s to current day, with each one being well worth close examination. The ability of the artists to create these imaginary places in which their cartoons take place is thoroughly amazing.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

In addition to the final products themselves, you also get a glimpse into the process that goes into creating the art. A reproduction of Schulz’s art studio using the original furniture is on display, as well as his doodles and other drawing that would form the basis of later comic strips. Also shown is how the many Peanuts animated TV shows and other animation came to be, including the music by Vince Guaraldi. There is also a drawing lab for kids, and a couple of really nice gift shops where I bought a Snoopy and a Woodstock doll as souvenirs. Kids are welcome, but much of the museum’s content will be totally lost on them.


Photo by John Nadelberg

When you go to this museum, you step into the world of Charles M. Schulz. You are surrounded by his characters and his creations and gain an incredible appreciation for the man and his work. It’s located next to his indoor tennis court, his baseball field, and across the street from his ice rink, the Redwood Empire Ice Arena. Also known as Snoopy’s Home Ice, it contains the Warm Puppy Café that Mr. Schulz would walk to from across the street at his studio. He ate there every day. For fans of comic strip art, and for Peanuts in particular, the museum is a shouldn’t miss experience. It will leave you feeling good about Mr. Schulz, his art, and the healing nature of gentle good humor.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center is open every day in the summer (except July 4) from 11AM to 5PM, and 10AM to 5PM on the weekends. Allow about two hours for a visit. The museum changes its exhibitions frequently, so check on its website to see what is currently scheduled. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and kids. Children under 4 are free.

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  • Comics are dying along with newspapers. Peanuts is a COMPLETE unknown to anyone under the age of 30.

    WHO CARES!

    And I'm 39.

  • Your loss, jedited. Actually, the characters probably aren't as unknown as you might think, given the TV specials, their presence at theme parks, and the tons and tons of merchandise that's still out there.  Admittedly, they might not be aware of Schulz's comic strips, but they're probably aware of the characters themselves, and as we've seen with the Fab Five, that might be enough.

    The museum's a lot of fun - I wish Santa Rosa wasn't so far out of the way for me, because I'd love to go back and see it again. Between the Schulz Museum, the Cartoon Art Museum, and the Walt Disney Family Museum, you could actually have a pretty interesting weekend of museum hopping in the Bay Area.

  • Yes, that's right.

    These characters are in theme parks, such as Great America in Northern California, and Knott's Berry Farm in Southern California. They are in advertising and you can even get a Snoopy license plate, the proceeds going to state museums.

    My 7 year old son knows these characters, and was thrilled with his Snoopy and Woodstock toys.

    It's still quite pervasive in our culture.

    Jon

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