Snoopy be­came a star af­ter he stood up

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - ARTS & LIFE - By Bryan Alexan­der

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.”

BLUE SKY STU­DIOS

Snoopy evolved into a prom­i­nent char­ac­ter in North Amer­i­can cul­ture.

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