All his life he tried to be a good person,” begins the famous quote by Charles M. Schulz. “Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.”
Snoopy, the beloved cartoon beagle based on Schulz’s own family dog Spike, first appeared in the Peanuts comic strip on Oct. 4, 1950. And now, 65 years later, the dog’s legacy will be cemented, alongside Schulz’s, when he receives a star on the Walk of Fame on Nov. 2.
Snoopy’s range of characters over the years — World War I flying ace, famous writer, lawyer, astronaut, hockey player among them — rivals many Hollywood legends. And with a career spanning nearly five decades in the strip and more in TV and film, Snoopy’s career is a model for longevity. He even coined a signature move — the “happy dance” — in which he points his nose to the sky, curves his mouth into a “U” shape and scampers about, feet radiating with energy.
But Snoopy wasn’t always the adventurous, character actor that we know him as today. In the beginning, Snoopy’s anthropomorphic tendencies were more subtle than in later years, says Jean Schulz, Charles’ widow, who now sits as board president at the Charles Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif. In fact, Snoopy did not speak until 1952. But even in those first years, Charles Schulz found creative ways for Snoopy to communicate.
|A STAR IS BORN: Snoopy plays a large part in the upcoming “The Peanuts Movie.”|
“Snoopy was doing some very clever things and Sparky was using him for visual humor,” Jean Schulz says, referring to her late husband by his nickname. For example, in one strip that depicts a baseball game, Snoopy puts his ears out to call safe. In another, the kids play hide-and-seek. “Someone runs past him and he points that ear out,” she laughs.
But Snoopy’s humor is no mystery, considering his inspiration, Spike, was apparently a pretty intelligent model. Jean Schulz says her husband used to say Spike understood 50 words. “He would say ‘Spike, go down to the cellar and get a potato,’ and he’d come back with a potato,” she says.
But despite Snoopy’s immediate tendency toward humor and intelligence, Schulz says her late husband knew he had truly tapped into the beagle’s potential when he allowed the pup to stand on its hind legs and sit atop the doghouse. “He [said] that changed the whole strip.”
From that point on, Charles Schulz helped Snoopy discover his fantasy life that rocketed his career forward to become the famous and beloved character that he is today. Not only did the pup and his bird pals gain popularity in the strip, they also became a sort of marketing national treasure. In the world of flight, Snoopy became a symbol for exploration with ties to NASA, the Air Force communications and MetLife to provide aerial coverage during sporting events. He has also made his way into two of the most prized positions in American culture as both a stamp and a temporary part of the Google logo.
Snoopy will take another step forward when he stars in the upcoming “The Peanuts Movie” feature film, hitting theaters Nov. 6. Though it centers around Charlie Brown and his quest to find love with the Little Red-Haired Girl, Snoopy still gets plenty of attention. The film uses a unique style of animation that attempts to reconcile a current, three-dimensional look with the strip’s two-dimensional integrity.
|“As Snoopy acts in such a big way, he’ll strike poses from different generations.”|
In “The Peanuts Movie” Snoopy is voiced using archival recordings by Bill Melendez who has historically been the voice of Snoopy in addition to directing many of the Charlie Brown TV specials.
Steve Martino, who directed “The Peanuts Movie,” says there was no point in trying to replicate Melendez’s original voiceover work. “As we listened to (the archived recordings) and I started to cut those into our story reels, we couldn’t create anything other than that,” Martino says. “Bill is so funny and Snoopy is so hilarious in his voice, so he is Snoopy and Woodstock.”
In terms of design, Martino says the Snoopy in the movie is close to Schulz’s drawings from the 1980s, something that was a joint decision with the film’s writer and producer, Craig Schulz, who also happens to be the artist’s son. But he is quick to add that there are others thrown in, for example, some poses from the ’60s that the director finds particularly hilarious. “As Snoopy acts in such a big way,he’ll strike poses from different generations.”
Paul Feig, one of the film’s producers, posits that one reason Snoopy resonates so deeply with readers across generations is that the dog’s adventures mirror the process of an artist. “(As an artist) you start to look both beyond your world, and then also into yourself to find things that aren’t part of your life at the moment,” Feig says. “What could I be today? I could be an astronaut. I could be a World War I flying ace. I could be anything, really.”
It seems long overdue that Snoopy be recognized for spreading so much puppy love. “Honestly, Snoopy has probably entertained people for longer than most people on the Walk of Fame,” Feig says. “He’s been making people laugh for 65 years.” Cue the happy dance.
|His live as a dog|
|1934||The Schulz family acquires Spike, the inspiration for Snoopy.|
|1950||Snoopy appears in the “Peanuts” comic strip for the first time.|
|1952||Snoopy’s thoughts are verbalized for the first time.|
|1957||Snoopy learns how to walk on two legs.|
|1965||Snoopy adapts the persona of the World War I Flying Ace for the first time.|
|1969||The astronauts on Apollo X carry Charlie Brown and Snoopy into space.|
|2001||A series of stamps showing Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace are released.|
|2009||Google features Snoopy and Woodstock in its logo.|
Snoopy receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
11:30 a.m. Nov. 2
7201 Hollywood Blvd.