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Snoopy: The Life and Times of an American Pop Icon (with Video)

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This is the story of Snoopy of Peanuts fame, one of the world's most recognizable and beloved TV and movie actors of all time.

Snoopy was born on October 4th, 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 Schulz’s own boyhood dogs Snooky and Spike, Snoopy first arrived in Charlie Brown’s neighborhood two days after the strip premiered on October 2nd.

Originally intended to be called, “Sniffy,” (some sources say, “Sparky”), Snoopy was not Charlie Brown’s dog initially, as Schulz is said to have been planning to parallel the storyline used in the popular Our Gang comedies where “Pete” was 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 Patty that Snoopy isn’t following him, he “merely lives in the same direction.”  In fact, many early strips show Snoopy interacting with Shermy and Patty without Charlie Brown, making Snoopy appear to belong to the whole neighborhood.

Snoopy (aka "Sniffy")

Snoopy was silent the first two years of his life, until May 27th, 1952, when he verbalized his thoughts for the first time via a thought balloon (a creative device Schulz would utilize for nearly all of Snoopy’s appearances in the strip from then on).  In addition to Snoopy’s ability to “speak” his thoughts to the reader, many of the human characters in Peanuts have the remarkable ability to read his thoughts and often respond 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 skillful displays of 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 performed by Robert Towers and Cam Clarke, respectively.

Far From Temporary

Later evolving into the quirky, often hyper pet of the always fatalistic 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 have become famous: his propensity for sleeping on top of his doghouse, pretending he is 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 throughout the world.

A Complex Character

Snoopy 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 a mountain of bones in one sitting, but gets claustrophobic in high weeds and is deadly afraid of icicles forming over his doghouse.  Snoopy has been reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace for many years now, can play fetch with soap bubbles, can hear from afar 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 own dances--which he often demonstrates on TV specials.  In short, Snoopy has become the most actualized character in American pop culture history!

Dancing Snoopy (from Christmas Special)

Snoopy's Many Accolades

While all the adorable Peanuts characters have found a soft spot in the hearts and minds of most Americans and fans throughout the world (the Peanuts specials on Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and of course, Christmas have now reached 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 likeability, 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,” depicted on 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 air craft “nose art,” appearing on Gulf War airplanes, and is the namesake given the caps worn by NASA astronauts (Snoopy Caps).  And for the past several years, Snoopy has been the (silent) spokesdog for Met Life Insurance.

Today, Snoopy is not only one of the world’s most recognized and beloved characters, he is likely to remain so for many decades to come!

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For Other Biographies and Related Articles See

Charlie Brown Christmas

Marlon Brando

Edgar Allan Poe

John Lennon

Janis Joplin

Gerald Gardner

Houdini

Lizzie Borden

Sybil Leek

Primary sources:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/charles-schulz/good-ol-charles-schulz/86/

http://www.schulzbiography.com/

http://peanuts.com/

http://www.schulzmuseum.org/timeline.html

images via wikipedia.org

6 comments

James R. Coffey
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Posted on Feb 26, 2012
deepa venkitesh
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Posted on Feb 26, 2012
Phoenix Montoya
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Posted on May 2, 2011
Jonel Abellanosa
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Posted on Dec 8, 2010
Bhart Verma
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Posted on Dec 7, 2010
Ileen Zovluck
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Posted on Oct 18, 2010

About This Article

James R. Coffey

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