May 29, 2019

The Redwood Empire Arena — Snoopy's Home Ice — Turns 50

(This special post is by 5CP Associate Editor Gayna Lamb-Bang.)

A milestone celebration took place at Santa Rosa’s ice arena on April 28, 2019.  Many people associated with the arena’s history attended the event, including Karen Kresge, director, choreographer and co-writer of the wonderful holiday ice shows; Judy Sladky, the one and only skating Snoopy; and famed ice skating star, Richard Dwyer (aka Mr. Debonair).

(For a history of Redwood Empire’s holiday ice shows, which ran from 1986 to 2003, read our previous blog entry.)

Charles M. Schulz grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where his father would flood their back yard with a garden hose; this created a small skating rink, where Schulz played hockey with his friends.   

Judy Sladky and alter-ego
When Charles Schulz moved to California as an adult, he missed playing hockey.  Meanwhile, he and his family enjoyed skating at Santa Rosa’s existing ice arena.  Unfortunately, that rink had structural issues, and was forced to close.  

In 1969, Schulz and his first wife, Joyce, decided to build their own ice arena on an empty plot of land on Santa Rosa’s West Steele Lane.  Joyce spent a month in Europe seeking inspiration from the buildings and landscapes she admired. Thanks to this research, the Schulzs’ new rink was designed with a Swiss chalet-inspired exterior.  The interior is just as lovely, with hand-painted flowers and designs on the walls, and an overall old-world charm.

After the arena was completed, the April 28, 1969, grand opening gala was emceed by baseball broadcaster Joe Garagiola. The show starred 1968 Olympic Gold Medalist Peggy Fleming, with music provided by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

The rink has since provided skating and ice hockey for generations of children and adults.  But, after half a century, it’s necessary for the miles and miles of refrigeration steel pipes to be replaced with a high-density polyethylene piping system.  This $1 million renovation — to replace the below-ground infrastructure that keeps the ice smooth — began May 6, 2019, right after the anniversary ceremony, and is slated to be completed on Sept. 6, 2019.

To learn more about the Redwood Empire’s history, visitors to Northern California should check out the adjacent Snoopy’s Gallery and Gift Shop; the second floor has a terrific exhibit of pictures, videos and memorabilia that commemorate the building’s first 50 years. You also can check out the arena web site.

During the arena’s closure, the Warm Puppy CafĂ© will remain open.

May 17, 2019

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Apollo 10

On May 18, 1969 - fifty years ago - Apollo 10 launched on a mission to perform a "dress rehearsal" for the moon landing. Astronauts Thomas Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan would go the moon and do almost everything that Apollo 11 would eventually do... except for landing on the moon. While the previous Apollo mission had tested the lunar lander module in Earth orbit, Apollo 10 would test it in lunar orbit - coming within 50,000 feet of the moon's surface. The mission would also gather pictures and data that was used to refine the plans for Apollo 11.

What does this all have to do with Peanuts, you might ask? (Or, perhaps, since you're a fan, you already know.) On every Apollo mission, both the command module (the spacecraft that stayed in orbit) and the lunar lander had unique call signs; hence, for Apollo 11, we heard that "The Eagle has landed" because the lunar module was named "Eagle."

For Apollo 10, with the blessing of Charles Schulz, the calls signs for the command module and lunar lander were "Charlie Brown" and "Snoopy," respectively. This led to the two Peanuts characters appearing in some of the iconic photos from the mission - such as Thomas Stafford patting the nose of a plush Snoopy doll on his way to the launch; two figurines on one of the consoles of mission control; and Tom Stafford holding up a drawing of Snoopy during the first live color television broadcast from space.



To learn more about Apollo 10, visit this NASA page, this New York Times article, or view this historical documentary from NASA.

Apollo 10 was part of the relationship between NASA, Schulz, and the Peanuts characters that continues to this day. The Silver Snoopy is a prized NASA award recognizing "outstanding performance contributing to flight safety and mission success." And just last year, NASA and Peanuts Worldwide announced a new initiative to collaborate on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) educational activities, featuring the Peanuts characters.

You may remember a series of Peanuts comic strips that ran from March 10 to March 15, 1969, in which Snoopy becomes the first beagle to land on the moon (beating his namesake lunar module there by a couple of months).  Go here to read the entire sequence.



To celebrate Apollo 10 and their long history together, Snoopy, Jean Schulz, and other members of the Schulz family visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston back in April, an event which also featured an Peanuts-themed art installation by Kenny Scharf.  To learn more, see this Johnson Space Center blog page with photos; Facebook posts one and two; Jean Schulz's own blog entry; and this Space Center Houston blog post.



The Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California hosted an event on May 18, 2019 with presentations and representatives from NASA and the Space Station Museum, and has a small exhibit that will be on display until early 2020.

The Schulz Museum has also put together a traveling exhibit titled To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA that will be visiting several museums around the country - visit this page for the current schedule.

Finally, a short 9-minute "documentary of sorts" titled Peanuts In Space: Secrets of Apollo 10, created by Morgan Neville, Ron Howard's Imagine Documentaries, and DHX Media was released May 18 on the Apple TV app. The free-to-watch video is "an affectionate, lighthearted look at NASA and Charles Schulz's beloved Peanuts characters" and "seek to answer the question: was Snoopy a world famous astronaut?"  (As if we didn't already know the answer!)  Ron Howard and Jeff Goldblum star. See a teaser trailer here.

For now, to view it you'll need an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.  (Apple has announced plans to make their TV service available on other platforms by fall 2019; in fact, you may be able to get the Apple TV app for select Samsung televisions now.)  To find the video, open the Apple TV app and search for "Peanuts in Space".  If you can't find it, you may need to update your device's operating system to at least iOS 12 or tvOS 12.

Take this opportunity to marvel that 50 years ago men went to the moon and back - with a little help from Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

April 12, 2019

A bird by any other name...

Many American newspapers currently have been re-running the lengthy 1972 storyline that begins when Snoopy starts to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace — one word at a time — and climaxes when, after a silly spat with Woodstock, Snoopy bravely hops the fence in order to save his little bird buddy from the vicious cat next door … only to wind up “rescuing” an old yellow glove.

Fellow Peanuts fan Derek Tague just called our attention to an existential hiccup that pops up midway through this sequence, in the strip originally published April 7. (And boy, we love to get mail like this!)

The “cat and dog fight” has drawn the attention of the entire gang, at which point Linus hastily explains that “Snoopy is rescuing Woodstock!”

So … how does Linus know Woodstock’s name?

We take for granted that Snoopy and Woodstock communicate with each other, via thought balloons and chirps, but they certainly don’t talk to people. And it’s not as if Woodstock’s nest is equipped with a mailing label.

We’d be inclined to dismiss this as a single slip on Charles Schulz’s part, except that — as we discovered via some quick research — it happens several more times, with Charlie Brown: in a weeklong January 1973 sequence, when Snoopy gets annoyed after receiving a bill for items he broke during Woodstock’s New Year’s Eve party; when Charlie Brown encourages Snoopy to put an orange in Woodstock’s Christmas stocking (12/23/75); when Charlie Brown chastises Snoopy for getting out of control at another of Woodstock’s New Year’s Eve parties (1/1-3/76); and when Snoopy, traveling to Kansas City, sends Charlie Brown a letter and asks him to say hello to Woodstock (6/22/76).

Although the latter offers an explanation for how Charlie Brown would know Woodstock’s name — rather late in the game — it does beg another question; one is forced to wonder how Snoopy penned this missive.

No doubt there are other examples of Charlie Brown and his friends somehow knowing Woodstock’s identity; we leave their discovery to our readers. Logically, we can assume that word spread after Linus’ initial announcement, but that still doesn’t explain how he found out.

Mention also should be made of 1977’s big-screen film, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown. Recall that when Woodstock wins the race, he’s honored with a trophy that’s presented to him, by name. Granted, we’ve long insisted that the TV specials and movies are “non-canonical,” but still … it remains part of the same droll mystery.

Was Schulz aware of this delightful anomaly? Did he do it intentionally, or did he not realize the whimsical muddle he made of his own continuity?

We’ll never know…

February 25, 2019

Peanuts by Schulz: Springtime DVD - Very little is "all new"

As mentioned in the previous blog post, on February 26, 2019, Warner Home Video released another "Peanuts by Schulz" DVD containing a selection of 6-7 minute-long shorts based directly on the Peanuts comics strips. These shorts originally aired on the Boomerang Channel here in the United States.

After the previous four releases, 14 of those shorts remain unreleased on DVD. The last DVD release, Peanuts by Schulz: It's Only Love, claimed "18 all-new shorts," but really only had 10 new shorts.

This new DVD, Peanuts by Schulz: Springtime, says "15 all-new shorts" on its cover... which is an even more egregious falsehood, since in reality only 3 of the 15 shorts are new to DVD. The other 12 are repeats from previous DVD volumes. That's an abysmal value for the price of $9.99.

When the It's Only Love DVD was released with only half of the shorts being new, I was willing to consider that it perhaps it was just sloppiness. But with the release of the Springtime DVD, having only 3 new shorts while claiming they are all new, it's difficult to accept sloppiness on Warner Home Video's part as an excuse, and instead one has to consider if there are less charitable explanations as to why the cover misleads potential purchasers.

If Warner Home Video's goal is to provide themed collections of these shorts, that would be fine, if they didn't say "all new" on the cover. While we would be disappointed that they didn't include the last of the unreleased shorts, at least the cover would be honest. But instead the repeated use of "all new" when neither DVD has been all new is... suspect.

My recommendation is to avoid buying the Peanuts by Schulz: Springtime DVD, or cancel or return your order if you've already placed one. And refuse to buy any future releases in this series unless it can be proved they truly include all-new shorts.

For reference, the 3 new-to-DVD shorts on Peanuts by Schulz: Springtime are:
Being Nice
Birds of a Feather
Philosophy

January 24, 2019

Two new Peanuts by Schulz DVDs with some (but not all) new-to-DVD Boomerang shorts

Readers will recall that back in 2016, the Boomerang channel aired 104 shorts based directly on Peanuts comic strips, each about 6-7 minutes long.

In 2017, Warner Home Video released three Peanuts by Schulz DVDs that compiled those shorts. Between them, the DVDs contained 80 of the 104 shorts. The last DVD went on sale in October 2017... and for 15 months, there have been no further releases, leaving 24 shorts unreleased on DVD.

The good news: Warner has released a fourth Peanuts by Schulz DVD, and a fifth is on the horizon.

The bad news: We may still not get the shorts on DVD, even so.

The first new DVD, Peanuts by Schulz: It's Only Love, came out on January 8, 2019, and proclaims "18 all-new shorts" on its cover. (Unlike previous volumes, this one is a single disc.)

The problem is... that's false. Only 10 of the shorts on the disc are new. Eight are repeats, already released on the previous DVDs.

That makes Peanuts by Schulz: It's Only Love a pretty poor value, even at the normal sale price of $9.99, and it leaves 14 Boomerang shorts unreleased.

(Note that Amazon lists this DVD's title incorrectly... they call it Peanuts by Schulz: The Complete Series, which is most certainly isn't.)

The 10 new shorts on Peanuts by Schulz: It's Only Love are:
The Little Red Haired Girl
The Mysteries of Love
Nobody Likes Me
Not Your Day
Love is in the Air
It's Only Love
Go for It, Charlie Brown
A Fascinating Friend
Misunderstanding
Just for Love
(For a complete list of all 104 broadcast episodes, and a few additional details about the shorts and other DVDs, visit the Peanuts Animation & Video Page.)


The next DVD, Peanuts by Schulz: Springtime, is due out on February 26, 2019. Its cover claims "15 all-new shorts"... which can't actually be true, since there are only 14 new ones left to release. Will all 14 of those really be on this DVD? We don't know, since a list of the shorts that will be on the disc hasn't been announced yet. But given that It's Only Love didn't really contain 18 new shorts, and we already know that a claim of "15 new" for the February disc can't be correct, it would be wise to be skeptical.  [And indeed, it turns out this DVD is even worse: only 3 of the 15 are new.  See this blog post for more details and commentary.]

Memo to Warner Brothers: it's not that hard to keep track of which shorts you've already released, and you shouldn't be making fans buy repeats just to get some new ones.


Meanwhile, all 104 of the Boomerang shorts are available from iTunes and Amazon as digital streams/downloads, in four separate Peanuts by Schulz collections (or one big complete one). However, the shorts not released on DVD yet are spread out across each of the four digital collections, so you'd have to re-buy everything to get the rest of the shorts; and of course, you can't put the digital downloads on DVD. (For what it's worth, the digital downloads are available in high definition as well as standard definition.)

In fact, in another apparent attempt to confuse or mislead consumers, Warner has now added a fifth digital collection, matching the It's Only Love DVD, even though it just repeats shorts that are already in the other digital collections. Sheesh!

January 23, 2019

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown & A Charlie Brown Valentine to air Friday, February 8, 2019 on ABC

Have a big, heart-shaped box of chocolates on hand on Friday, February 8, 2019 for ABC's annual Peanuts Valentine's Day double-feature of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975) and A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002) from 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific).