Sweetheart Al sits for his portrait by Peanuts character Snoopy.
I’ve loved the comic strip Peanuts for as long as I can remember.
When it showed up in the 1950s, the strip’s characters and topics were just perfect for my sensibilities. Little kids mulling over grown up themes (war, environmental degradation, success & failure) grabbed my imagination.
The Characters – Charlie Brown, Snoopy his dog, Linus and his blanket, Lucy, the yellow bird Woodstock, Schroeder the pianist and Pig Pen the dusty kid – were engaging as they dealt with vulnerabilities and anxieties that lots of us experience.
Peanuts became part of my family’s cultural milieu. It was funny, serious and refreshing. Our parents read the strip and so did my brother, sister and I. Sometimes we even all talked about it.
So when I learned that Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, had a museum in Santa Rosa, California, I wanted to go see it. A couple of weeks ago, Sweetheart Al and I drove there.
The 27,384 square foot museum building at 2301 Hardie Lane is elegant and inviting. Its grounds also beckon, with statues of the Peanuts characters and a walkable Snoopy labyrinth.
Inside, there’s a re-creation of Schulz’s studio work area and a 100-seat theater that shows documentaries about Charles Schulz as well as Peanuts’ animated movies.
There’s an educational area, where kids and adults can learn to cartooning and other kinds of art.
There are exhibits about both Charles Schulz and his comic strip. And there are lots and lots of Peanuts cartoons. People read them and chuckle.
The day we were there, it seemed that everyone in the museum (including me) was smiling.
In the area called the Great Hall, there is a 22-foot high ceramic mural made of 3,588 Peanuts strips that combine to form the familiar image of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick. Created by Japanese artist Yoshiteru Otani, it’s great fun to look at from a distance, and equally fun to get up right next to and enjoy the strips forming the bigger picture.
Among the 17,897 Peanuts strips published between Oct. 2, 1950 and Feb. 13, 2000, were many involved with deft social commentary. But there were also many filled with delightful whimsy involving Snoopy’s flights of fancy.
The museum captures that sense of amusing imaginings in its entry area, where you can sit for a portrait to be painted by Snoopy. You can see from the photo at the beginning of this post, that Sweetheart Al got into that flight of fancy spirit immediately.
If you like Peanuts, I think you’ll love this place.
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