The Birth of the 'Peanuts' Cartoon Series
On 'Charlie Brown's All Stars' (1966).
Happy Thursday! This issue of the Animation Obsessive newsletter is about Charlie Brown’s All Stars (1966), the second animated Peanuts special.
During most of the years he spent drawing Peanuts strips, Charles Schulz was also writing Peanuts cartoon specials for television. The first, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), is an annual tradition close to 60 years strong. Before his death in 2000, Schulz would oversee 38 more Peanuts shows.
Initially, convincing the networks to take a full special based on Schulz’s work was hard. People told producer Lee Mendelson, “Viewers are not ready for a sophisticated comic strip like Peanuts.” Even after CBS signed A Charlie Brown Christmas, preview screenings went badly and Peanuts’ future with the network looked grim. When the Christmas show became a hit with viewers, though, CBS immediately wanted more.
And so the Peanuts cast would lead an informal cartoon series — starting with Charlie Brown’s All Stars. Given that it’s sandwiched between the first special and the third (the one about The Great Pumpkin), All Stars is often overlooked. Even so, it was a massive success, and it proved that A Charlie Brown Christmas wasn’t a one-off. In that sense, you can call it the start of Peanuts as an animated series.
All Stars deserves a closer look — which is what we’re doing today. Here we go!