Snoopy became a star after he stood up
THE world knows the beloved beagle Snoopy as he appears in The Peanuts Movie (which opened Friday). He’s the sunglasses-wearing Joe Cool, the famed novelist typing on his doghouse, the First World War fighting ace creation of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz.
“Snoopy is a dominant character in our culture. At one time, CocaCola, Snoopy and Mickey Mouse were the most well-known things coming out of America,” says Karen Johnson, director of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif. “But people don’t get that Snoopy evolved like everyone else.”
Fans often are shocked to see that Snoopy was once a sniffing little puppy on all fours with a long neck who was afraid of birds.
“When I tell people that, they just go, ‘What?’ ” says Johnson.
You’ve come a long way, Snoopy. But when Schulz introduced the dog on Oct. 4, 1950, two days after his first Peanuts comic strip, it was a radically different comic canine.
By 1956, Schulz (who died in 2000) had drawn his pooch standing on two legs. In 1957, Snoopy started walking upright.
“Schulz would tell you he didn’t know how Snoopy stood up, he just did. Things evolve,” says Johnson. “But it opened up a new storyline for him. Once Snoopy stood up, the strip just took off.”
The dog, once content to chase sticks, developed a fantasy life, playing sports and pretending to be the World Famous Attorney. By 1965, he was plane-fighting his dreaded enemy the Red Baron from atop his doghouse. “Schulz loved how funny Snoopy looked in googles,” says Johnson.
Snoopy’s head became increasingly more egg-shaped over decades, and the pooch took on a more pleasantly plump midsection.
“Snoopy and Charlie Brown were both skinny in the beginning, then they kind of gained weight,” says The Peanuts Movie screenwriter/ producer Craig Schulz, Charles Schulz’s son. “The joke was that was because my dad was making enough money to feed them at that point.”
The biggest problem became keeping the superstar dog from dominating the beloved comic strip.
“When Snoopy developed all these alter egos, my dad thought he could run away with the comic strip and overshadow everything,” says Schulz. “You didn’t want Charlie Brown to fade into the background because Snoopy was so popular.”
Director Steve Martino says animators chose various traits from past decades to create a “hero” Snoopy for The Peanuts Movie.
The latest Snoopy evolution? An in-depth storyline with his true poodle love, Fifi, and glorious beagle fur seen for the first time through high-definition computer-graphic imagery. But the new look respects tradition, Martino says.
“We never stepped outside the history of who Snoopy has been,” he says. “Our approach for Snoopy was never to overtake the beauty of the silhouette that Charles Schulz gave us.”
Snoopy evolved into a prominent character in North American culture.