This article discusses the life and times of one of the world’s most popular and talented stars of TV, film, books, and stage: Snoopy.
From the mind of illustrator Charles Schulz
Snoopy was born on October 2nd, 1950, in the fictional comic strip world of the Peanuts gang created by artist and illustrator Charles Schulz (one of a liter of 8 born at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm). A composite of Schult’s boyhood dogs Snooky and Spike, Snoopy first arrived in Charlie Brown’s neighborhood on November 10th of that year, two days after the strip premiered. Originally intended to be called, “Sparky,” Snoopy was initially not Charlie Brown’s dog, as Schult was planning to parallel the storyline used in the popular “Our Gang” comedies where “Pete” is everybody’s dog. This is illustrated in the February 2nd, 1951 strip where Charlie Brown accuses Snoopy of following him, only to be told by Peppermint Patty that Snoopy isn’t following him, he ‘merely lives in the same direction.’ Many early strips show Snoopy interacting with Shermy and Patty without Charlie Brown, making Snoopy appear to belong to the whole neighborhood.
Snoopy (aka “Sparky”)
Snoopy was silent the first two years of his existence, until May 27th, 1952 when he verbalized his thoughts for the first time via a thought balloon (a device Schulz would utilize for nearly all of Snoopy’s appearances in the strip thereafter). In addition to Snoopy’s ability to “speak” his thoughts to the reader, many of the human characters in Peanuts have the uncanny knack for reading his thoughts and responding to them. (In the animated Peanuts films and television specials, Snoopy’s thoughts are not verbalized; his moods are instead conveyed through growls, sobs, laughter, etc., as well as through pantomime. The only exceptions are in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Snoopy!!! The Musical, in which Snoopy’s thoughts are verbalized through voiceovers (by Robert Towers and Cam Clarke, respectively).
Far from temporary
Later evolving into the oddball, manic pet of lovable loser Charlie Brown (explained in the storyline as having first been the pet of a little girl named Lisa who had to return him to Daisy Hill after her family moved to an apartment where dogs weren’t allowed), Snoopy’s charming quirks became famous: his propensity for sleeping on top of his doghouse, pretending he was a WWI airplane pilot or Foreign Legionnaire (in costume), befriending a little yellow bird, Woodstock, and even playing shortstop on Charlie Brown’s sandlot baseball team. Far from a temporary role, Snoopy went on to appear in Peanuts comic strips from 1950 until Schulz’s retirement (and death) in February of 2000 and now appears in rerun strips in hundreds of newspapers.
A dog of many amazing talents
Over his lifetime, Snoopy has developed an amazing array of special abilities including being able to imitate a variety of animals and Peanuts characters including a pelican, a moose, a snake, a penguin, a rhinoceros, a lion, a vulture, Lucy, Beethoven, and Mickey Mouse (as was amply demonstrated by his “acting” abilities in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Walking upright for the first time on June 28th, 1957, Snoopy then expanded his abilities to include the creation of his alter-egos Flying Ace, Joe Cool, and the character “Flashbeagle,” as well as exploring his talents as a writer, attorney, hockey player, Olympic figure skater, and an astronaut.
A complex character
Snoopy has also developed into a complex character with many likes and dislikes. For example, he loves root beer and pizza but hates coconut candy. He can eat bones by the dozen, but gets claustrophobic in high weeds and is deadly afraid of icicles forming over his doghouse. Snoopy has been pouring over Tolstoy’s War and Peace for many years now, can play fetch with soap bubbles, can hear at a distance when someone peels a banana or eats a marshmallow, can disappear into the Cheshire Cat character from Alice in Wonderland, can use his ears to fly like a “whirlydog,” can understand some French and Serbo-Croatian, and even invented his dances. In short, Snoopy has become the most actualized character in American pop culture history!
Snoopy’s many accolades
While all the lovable Peanuts characters have found a soft spot in the hearts and minds of most Americans (and much of the world)–the Peanuts specials on Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and of course, Christmas now reaching cult classic status-–for a dog who was never meant to be a permanent member of the Peanuts gang, Snoopy has shown the greatest staying power and likability and is respected far beyond any other cartoon creation. Among his many accolades, Snoopy was honored with the Silver Snoopy Award which is given by NASA to “someone who works in the space program that has gone above and beyond in pursuit of quality and safety,” given a series of postage stamps featuring him as the WWI Flying Ace, is the US Air Force Technical Control official mascot, is among the most popular “nose art” appearing on Gulf War airplanes, and is the namesake given the caps worn by NASA astronauts (Snoopy Caps). Always the prankster seeking recognition, Snoopy is not only one of the world’s most recognized and beloved characters, but he is also likely to remain so for many decades to come!
(Snoopy images provided by the C. Schulz estate.)