It’s been quite a while since the Peanuts gang have graced our screens with a new story. But Charles M. Schulz’s classic characters never disappeared from pop culture. And now, our kids get to experience them when The Peanuts Movie hits theaters this month, starting Nov. 6.To get in the mood for Peanuts’ big comeback, here are a few inspiring facts about Schulz and Peanuts.
1. Charles M. Schulz’s link to cartoons began very early. His uncle gave him the nickname Sparky -- just days after he was born – in honor of the cartoon horse in the comic strip Spark Plug in Barney Google and Snuffy Smith.
2. Years before the birth of Snoopy, above, Schultz debuted his first cartoon dog. As a teen, a comic that Schultz drew of his dog Spike ended up in the Ripley's Believe It or Not! column.
3. In the heart of Santa Rosa, California, there is the sprawling Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, a constantly evolving tribute to the man and his work. Along with galleries showcasing old comic strips, the facility has a huge collection of Peanuts work.
4. The Museum is right alongside Schulz’s office and studio, which still has the décor – from the books and furniture – from when he would work and create the Peanuts strips.
5. Along with a passion for cartooning, Schulz loved hockey. He enjoyed the sport so much that in 1969 he built an alpine themed ice skating arena in Santa Rosa. He would, almost daily, have lunch at the rink’s Warm Puppy Snack Bar. He’s even in the Hockey hall of fame for his contributions to the sport including his organization of Snoopy’s Senior Hockey Tournament.
6. Schulz was prolific, creating nearly 18,000 strips. He didn’t hire assistants to help him pen the strips, he did it all himself.
7. Charlie Brown's unrequited love – the Little Red-Haired Girl – was inspired by a real girl that Schulz himself fell for. Her name was Donna Mae Johnson, an accountant for Art Instruction Inc.. After he signed his first contract to syndicate his strip, he proposed to her, but she turned him down and married another man.
8. The character Franklin was added to the Peanuts gang after Harriet Glickman, above, an ex-school teacher and a mother, wrote a letter Schulz after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.. She was moved to act and encouraged Schulz to include an African American child in the strip. He agreed and Franklin was born, debuting in the strip on July 31, 1968. He’s been part of the Peanuts family ever since.
9. The strip was not initially called Peanuts. At first it was called Li'l Folks and ran from 1947 to 1950. This was where the name Charlie Brown first appeared. The company that syndicated the strip changed the name to Peanuts to avoid confusion with two other strips – Al Capp's "Li'l Abner" and "Little Folks."
10. Schulz was an incredibly hard worker. He only took one vacation during his career, a five-week break in late 1997 to celebrate his 75th birthday. During this time, reruns of the strip ran while he was gone. This was the only time his comics were ever reprinted while he was alive.