|First appearance||May 30, 1948 (first mention)|
October 2, 1950 (official debut)
|Last appearance||February 13, 2000 (comic strip)|
|Created by||Charles M. Schulz|
|Voiced by||Various voice actors|
|Family||Sally Brown (younger sister)|
Silas Brown (grandfather)
Snoopy (pet dog)
Charlie Brown is the principal character of the comic strip Peanuts, syndicated in daily and Sunday newspapers in numerous countries all over the world. Depicted as a "lovable loser," Charlie Brown is one of the great American archetypes and a popular and widely recognized cartoon character. Charlie Brown is characterized as a person who frequently suffers, and as a result is usually nervous and lacks self-confidence. He shows both pessimistic and optimistic attitudes: on some days, he is reluctant to go out because his day might just be spoiled, but on others, he hopes for the best and tries as much as he can to accomplish things. He is easily recognized by his trademark zigzag patterned shirt.
The character's creator, Charles M. Schulz, said that Charlie Brown "must be the one who suffers because he is a caricature of the average person. Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than winning." Despite this, Charlie Brown does not always suffer, as he has experienced some happy moments and victories through the years, and he has sometimes uncharacteristically shown self-assertiveness despite his frequent nervousness. Schulz also said: "I like to have Charlie Brown eventually be the focal point of almost every story." Charlie Brown is the only Peanuts character to have been a part of the strip throughout its 50-year run.
Charlie Brown's age is neither normally specified nor consistently given. His birth date in one strip is given as October 30. He is four years old in a strip originally published November 3, 1950. He ages very slowly in the strip's floating timeline, eventually settling at around eight years old. A strip published on April 3, 1971, suggests he was born around 1963 (setting up the gag that when he is 21, it will be 1984). Initially, Charlie Brown suggests he lives in an apartment, with his grandmother occupying the one above his; a few years into the strip, he moves to a house with a backyard.
The character's name was first used on May 30, 1948, in an early Schulz comic strip called Lil' Folks, in which one boy has buried another in a sandbox and then denies that he has seen the other boy ("Charlie Brown") when asked. The character made his official debut in the first Peanuts comic strip on October 2, 1950. The strip features Charlie Brown walking by, as two other children named Shermy and Patty look at him. Shermy refers to him as "Good Ol' Charlie Brown" as he passes by, but then immediately reveals his hatred toward him once he is gone on the last panel. During the strip's early years, Charlie Brown was much more playful than he is known for, as he often played pranks and jokes on the other characters. On December 21 of the same year, his signature zig-zag pattern appeared on his formerly plain T-shirt. By April 25, 1952, his shirt changed to a polo shirt with a collar and the zig-zag. On the March 6, 1951, strip, Charlie Brown first appears to play baseball, as he was warming up before telling Shermy that they can start the game; however, he was the catcher, not yet the pitcher.
Charlie Brown's relationships with other Peanuts characters initially differed significantly from their later states, and their concepts were grown up through this decade until they reached their more-established forms. An example is his relationship with Violet Gray, to whom he was introduced on the February 7, 1951, strip. The two constantly remained on fairly good terms; a bit different from their now-known relationship. Charlie Brown often fed on Violet's mud pies. In the August 16, 1951, strip, she called Charlie Brown a "blockhead", being the first time Charlie Brown was referred by that insult. On November 14 of that year, Charlie Brown is first unable to kick a football, and Violet is responsible because the fear of her hand being kicked by Charlie Brown resulted in her letting go of it.
Charlie Brown is introduced to Schroeder on May 30, 1951. As Schroeder is still a baby, Charlie Brown cannot converse with him. On June 1 of the same year, Charlie Brown stated that he felt like a father to Schroeder; in fact, for quite some time, he sometimes acted like a father to him, trying to teach him words and reading stories to him, and on September 24 of that year, he taught Schroeder how to play the piano, thus allowing Schroeder to become the prodigy he is known by Peanuts readers. Then on that year's October 10, he told Schroeder the story of Beethoven and set the piano player's obsession with the composer. Charlie Brown placed the Beethoven bust on Schroeder's piano on November 26, 1951. Schroeder aged rapidly over time, catching up to Charlie Brown in age, and Charlie Brown became less like a father figure and more like a close friend to Schroeder. Charlie Brown had Schroeder become his catcher for the first time in the April 12, 1952, strip. Around this point, their final relationship has pretty much been established.
On January 6, 1952, Charlie Brown made his appearance in the first Sunday Peanuts strip.
Charlie Brown is first seen interacting with the character Lucy van Pelt on March 3, 1952. He was on better terms with her at first than later in the strip, as they often made fun of each other out of mere playfulness. The November 16, 1952, strip is the first strip in which Charlie Brown was prevented by Lucy from kicking a football; in this strip, she pulls it away because she fears that Charlie Brown will get her new football dirty, and then on the same strip, she holds it too tightly, so Charlie Brown is unable to kick it for a second time.
Charlie Brown first began flying a kite on April 25, 1952, strip.
Charlie Brown is first seen with Linus van Pelt on the September 19, 1952, strip. Charlie Brown was unable to talk to him because he was introduced as an infant. Similar to Schroeder, Linus caught up to Charlie Brown in age and settled as being slightly younger than him; on January 18, 1956, Linus befriended Charlie Brown, and eventually he would become Charlie Brown's best friend, and their current relationship was established.
On September 1, 1958, Charlie Brown's father was formally revealed to be a barber (after earlier instances in the strip that linked Charlie Brown to barbers by implication).
In early 1959, Charlie Brown (and other Peanuts characters) made his first animated appearances after they were sponsored by the Ford Motor Company in commercials for its automobiles, as well as for intros to The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show. The ads were animated by Bill Meléndez for Playhouse Pictures, a cartoon studio that had Ford as a client.
In the 1960s, the Peanuts comic strip entered what most readers consider to be its Golden Age, and Charlie Brown reached heights higher than ever before, becoming known in numerous countries, with the strip reaching a peak of 355 million readers.
In 1960, the now-popular line of Charlie Brown greeting cards was introduced by Hallmark Cards.
While the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show ended in 1961, the deal between Charles Schulz and the Ford Motor Company lasted another three years. Schulz and animator Bill Meléndez became friends, and when producer Lee Mendelson decided to make a two-minute animated sequence for a TV documentary called A Boy Named Charlie Brown in 1963, he brought on Meléndez for the project.
Before the documentary was completed, Coca-Cola asked Mendelson if he had a Christmas television special. He said "yes." The next day he called Schulz and said they were making a Christmas special featuring Charlie Brown and the Peanuts characters, in which he collaborated with both Schulz and Melendez. Titled A Charlie Brown Christmas, it was first aired on the CBS network on December 9, 1965. The special's primary goal is showing "the true meaning of Christmas". Before its broadcast, the people involved in the special's creation were worried that it might be a project blow, with its unorthodox soundtrack and explicit religious message. It was, however, a huge success, with the number of homes watching the special an estimated 15,490,000, placing it at number two in the ratings, behind Bonanza on NBC. The special's score made an equally pervasive impact on viewers who would later perform jazz, among them David Benoit and George Winston. The special was honored with both an Emmy and Peabody Award.
The success of A Charlie Brown Christmas was followed by the creation of a second television special starring Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown's All-Stars, which was originally aired on June 8, 1966. Later that year, Charlie Brown made his appearance in a third Peanuts special: the Halloween-themed It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
The stage adaptation of a concept album titled You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, based on Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, and Patty, went into rehearsal in New York City on February 10, 1967. Prior to its opening, the musical had no actual libretto; it was several vignettes with dialog based on the Peanuts strips and a musical number for each one. Since Patty was such a weakly defined character in Schulz's strip, she became a composite character in the musical, with much of her material taken from Violet and Frieda in the strip. On March 7, 1967, the musical premiered off-Broadway at Theatre 80 in the East Village, featuring Gary Burghoff as Charlie Brown.
On December 4, 1969, Charlie Brown starred on the first full-length animated feature based on Peanuts: A Boy Named Charlie Brown. The film was a box office success, gaining 6 million dollars in the box office out of its 1 million dollar budget, and was well received by critics.
Charlie Brown and his dog Snoopy reached new heights on May 18, 1969, they became the names of the command module and lunar module, respectively, for Apollo 10. While not included in the official mission logo, Charlie Brown and Snoopy became semi-official mascots for the mission. Charles Schulz drew an original picture of Charlie Brown in a spacesuit; this drawing was hidden aboard the craft to be found by the astronauts once they were in orbit (its current location is on a display at the Kennedy Space Center).
For this decade, the character appeared on twelve Peanuts television specials that were produced as a result of the success of the prior ones. Charlie Brown also appeared on two full-length animations (Snoopy, Come Home and Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown, released respectively on August 9, 1972, and August 24, 1977).
A Broadway production of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown opened at the John Golden Theatre on June 1, 1971, and closed on June 27, 1971, after 32 performances and 15 previews, featuring Dean Stolber as Charlie Brown.
Charlie Brown went on to feature in fourteen more television specials, two of which are musicals (one of which is the animated version of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown).
Charlie Brown starred once again on a full-length animation, which was titled Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!), and was released on May 30, 1980.
Six television specials featuring Charlie Brown were produced during this decade.
Within the comic strip, a storyline got Charlie Brown the character Peggy Jean as a girlfriend; this relationship lasted for roughly nine years.
Charlie Brown made his final comic strip appearance on the final original Peanuts strip, which was published on February 13, 2000--the day after Schulz's death. Fittingly, Charlie Brown was the only character to appear in both the first strip in 1950 and the last in 2000.
After the comic strip ended, Charlie Brown continued to appear in more television specials. On November 20, 2006, the special He's a Bully, Charlie Brown beat a Madonna concert special with its 10 million views, although Peanuts was no longer in its heyday. As of 2016, the latest of Charlie Brown's original television appearances is Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown, which came out on October 1, 2011.
A computer-animated film starring Charlie Brown, The Peanuts Movie was released on November 6, 2015, to introduce Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang to a new generation. The film was directed by Steve Martino, produced by Blue Sky Studios, and distributed by 20th Century Fox. The director said of the character: "We've all been Charlie Brown at one point in our lives"
Here's where I lean thematically. I want to go through this journey. ... Charlie Brown is that guy who, in the face of repeated failure, picks himself back up and tries again. That's no small task. I have kids who aspire to be something big and great. ... a star football player or on Broadway. I think what Charlie Brown portrays -- what I hope to show in this film -- is the everyday qualities of perseverance...to pick yourself back up with a positive attitude -- that's every bit as heroic ... as having a star on the Walk of Fame or being a star on Broadway. That's the [story's] core. This is a feature film story that has a strong dramatic drive, and takes its core ideas from the strip.
Charlie Brown's traits and the events he underwent are inspired by those of Schulz, who admitted in interviews that he'd often felt shy and withdrawn in his life. In an interview with Charlie Rose in May 1997, Schulz observed: "I suppose there's a melancholy feeling in a lot of cartoonists, because cartooning, like all other humor, comes from bad things happening." Furthermore, both Charlie Brown's and Schulz's fathers were barbers and their mothers housewives. Charlie Brown's friends, such as Linus and Shermy, were named after good friends of Schulz, and Peppermint Patty was inspired by Patricia Swanson, one of Schulz's cousins on his mother's side. Schulz devised the character's name when he saw peppermint candies in his house. Even Charlie Brown's unrequited love for the Little Red-Haired Girl was inspired by Schulz's own love for Donna Mae Johnson, an Art Instruction Inc. accountant; When Schulz finally proposed to her in June 1950, shortly after he'd made his first contract with his syndicate, she turned him down and married another man.
Charlie Brown is always referred to by his full name (with the exception of Peppermint Patty who calls him "Chuck", and Marcie and Eudora who call him 'Charles') and his usual catchphrase is "good grief". Like Schulz, Charlie Brown is the son of a barber. The character is an example of "the great American un-success story" in that he fails in almost everything he does with an almost continuous streak of bad luck; but still keeps trying with large efforts and work, resulting either in more losses or great victories. Some of these victories are hitting a game-winning home run off a pitch by a minor character named Royanne on a strip from 1993, and his victory over Joe Agate (another minor character) in a game of marbles on a strip from 1995. Although Charlie Brown is often unlucky within the strip's storylines, in some ways Charles M. Schulz created through the ever-persevering character "the most shining example of the American success story in the comic strip field."
Charlie Brown cares very deeply for his family and friends, even if he was maltreated by them. His care for his sister is shown on a strip from May 26, 1959(the strip in which his little sister Sally was born), when he exclaims: "A BABY SISTER?! I'M A FATHER! I mean my DAD's a father! I'M a brother! I have a baby sister! I'M a brother!" at her birth, and two strips later threw a celebration over it by handing over chocolate cigars to his friends. When Charlie Brown was maltreated by his companions (most often Lucy, Violet and Patty), he does not usually take out his anger on them, but often retaliates and even manages to turn the tables. An example is a strip from 1951, which features Violet and Patty telling Charlie Brown that they are not going to invite him to their party, with Charlie Brown replying that he does not wish to go their "dumb ol' party" anyway, leading the two girls to invite him.
Christopher Caldwell has stated that "What makes Charlie Brown such a rich character is that he's not purely a loser. The self-loathing that causes him so much anguish is decidedly not self-effacement. Charlie Brown is optimistic enough to think he can earn a sense of self-worth, and his willingness to do so by exposing himself to humiliations is the dramatic engine that drives the strip. The greatest of Charlie Brown's virtues is his resilience, which is to say his courage. Charlie Brown is ambitious. He manages the baseball team. He's the pitcher, not a scrub. He may be a loser, but he's, strangely, a leader at the same time. This makes his mood swings truly bipolar in their magnificence: he vacillates not between kinda happy and kinda unhappy, but between being a "hero" and being a "goat"."
Another characteristic of the character is his never getting a chance to kick a football, with one of the themes that recurred in the strip involving Charlie Brown attempting to kick a football before the ever-sadistic Lucy pulls it away to make him feel miserable and powerless. The two often talk, as Charlie Brown, being smart and knowing what she will do, often initially rejects the offer, but then appears to ultimately succumb to desperation and tries to kick the football. The humor of the strips with this theme, however, are not primarily slapstick but rely on the circumstances surrounding the event. Furthermore, no two of such strips have the same formula, as Schulz varied them significantly. Since 1952, this theme was featured once every year, usually during the autumn season (the years 1984, 1985 and 1990 did not feature this gag.) The first iteration of this theme appeared on November 14, 1951. In this instance, the ball holder was Violet who didn't pull the ball away but let go out of fear of having her hands kicked with the familiar result of Charlie Brown missing the kick and falling flat on his back.
Charlie Brown is the manager and pitcher of a baseball team which frequently loses. His entire team is not skilled, especially his right fielder Lucy van Pelt, who is the worst baseball player in the entire Peanuts universe. Charlie Brown's dog Snoopy, who is his shortstop, is purported to be his best player, his best friend Linus was his second baseman, and his next closest friend Schroeder, his catcher, once commanded the team on Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!) when Charlie Brown, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Snoopy and Woodstock traveled to France. Charlie Brown is often hit by a line drive back through the box on the same ball he pitched, resulting in him being stripped of all his clothes with the exception of his shorts, a literal example of being "undressed" by a hard hit ball. Despite the fact that his team almost always loses, usually with no runs scored, he remained determined and acted as an ambitious commander of a team of players who often appeared to be uncooperative; aside from this, none of the other players seem to share his determination. His apparent admirable strength as a leader was shown in his scoldings and advice to his players; an example of his strict attitude was shown when he yelled at Lucy "Go back to right field where you belong!" when she continued to annoy him. While the team frequently loses, it has some wins. While terrible misfortune has placed some of Charlie Brown's team's wins when Charlie Brown is not playing, there are times in which Charlie Brown has heroically led his team to a championship although it never wins any of them.
Charlie Brown frequently becomes involved in love. His general love interest was dubbed "The Little Red-Haired Girl", as he didn't know her name and had never even talked to her. Charlie Brown liked to watch the little Red-Haired girl but hid from her sight because he is too shy to let her see him. She was usually not shown, being outside the panel, and her only actual appearance was silhouetted. Charlie Brown did fall in love with Peggy Jean, a girl first featured in the July 23, 1990, strip. Most of the other girls call him "wishy-washy"; however, the characters Peppermint Patty and Marcie were both infatuated towards him. Peppermint Patty believed wishfully that Charlie Brown liked her, though Charlie Brown considered her as only a friend. Her wishful thinking shows when she asks Charlie Brown on a Sunday Strip: "You kind of like me, don't you, Chuck?"; her saying on another Sunday strip that Charlie Brown "doesn't even understand who he likes"; her sending a Valentine to Charlie Brown that said: "I know you like me." Marcie, on the other hand, was usually too shy to admit her feelings.
Another one of Charlie Brown's characteristics is his inability to fly a kite. Almost every attempt to fly a kite resulted in failure, usually due to his nemesis, the Kite-Eating Tree and his lack of skills was often commented on by other characters, most often Lucy. On the March 7-8, 1958 strips, Charlie Brown got his kite to fly into the air, but it spontaneously combusted, making his victory worthless.
During Halloween, like other kids, Charlie Brown went trick-or-treating along with most of his friends. During this holiday, he always wore a ghost costume by making two oval holes on a white blanket to give the impression of a ghost with two hollow eyes. Sometimes, Charlie Brown wore this costume after Halloween, usually due to a screw-up, like his laundry coming in late. Charlie Brown got rocks whenever he goes trick-or-treating, resulting in depression, but he remained hoping that he will get a chance to receive candy on the next year's Halloween. When the special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was first aired in 1966, the viewers sympathized so much with Charlie Brown that they sent Halloween candy to the studio to show their sympathy towards him. Charlie Brown's best friend, Linus frequently got him to wait in a local pumpkin patch to see Linus's mythological being, "The Great Pumpkin". Charlie Brown was always shown trying to convince Linus that The Great Pumpkin didn't exist, but Linus was always shown to hope that The Great Pumpkin will arise from a "sincere" pumpkin patch and bless him with toys, making Charlie Brown's efforts in vain.
On Valentine's Day, Charlie Brown was frequently shown waiting at his mail box to get a Valentine from a girl, but, in almost every case, Charlie Brown doesn't receive any, though on the special Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, he received a Valentine from Violet out of pity, and he accepts it, even though Schroeder (Charlie Brown's best friend after Linus) scolded Violet for trying to appease her and her female companions' guilty conscience. The special's viewers, similar to the viewers of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, sent Valentine's Day cards to the studio out of sympathy.
On the first Peanuts television special, Charlie Brown sought to know the true meaning of Christmas, as even though the jolly season was approaching, he was still depressed. It involved him directing a Christmas play with his uncooperative companions, and eventually, Linus told him the meaning that he had always wanted to know. "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.' That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
Charlie Brown said in an early strip (November 3, 1950) that he was "only four years old", but he aged over the next two decades, being six years old as of November 17, 1957, and "eight-and-a-half years old" by July 11, 1979. Later references continue to peg Charlie Brown as being approximately eight years old.
However, Charlie Brown, like the other Peanuts children, was not strictly defined by his literal age, as creator Charles M. Schulz distinguished the Peanuts characters by "fusing adult ideas with a world of small children." "Were they children or adults? Or some kind of hybrid?" wrote David Michaelis of Time magazine. Michaelis continues:
Through his characters, "[Schulz] brought... humor to taboo themes such as faith, intolerance, depression, loneliness, cruelty and despair. His characters were contemplative. They spoke with simplicity and force. They made smart observations about literature, art, classical music, theology, medicine, psychiatry, sports and the law."
In other words, Charlie Brown and the other human Peanuts characters transcended age and were more broadly human.
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Charlie Brown takes care of Snoopy. While he is puzzled and sometimes frustrated by some of Snoopy's activities, Charlie Brown nonetheless does his best to provide his dog with a happy life. Snoopy is always there for him when he gets let down or needs support. The two most frequently interact during Snoopy's suppertime, when Charlie Brown comes out of the house and presents his dog with a bowl of food. Snoopy, however, refers to Charlie Brown as "the Round-Headed Kid."
Charlie Brown and Lucy often do not get along well. Charlie Brown primarily dislikes Lucy for her bullying and abrasive, loud-mouthed personality, and Lucy calls Charlie Brown names (especially "blockhead") and constantly bullies and scolds him about his failures. Charlie Brown frequently tries to tell Lucy that her crazy theories are false, and when he finally succeeds, Lucy makes an insensitive remark about the way he looks. Charlie Brown often visits Lucy's psychiatric booth for help, but always gets useless advice (such as "Snap out of it." or "The insecurities people have can lead to colds and other illnesses").
Linus is Charlie Brown's best friend. Linus is sympathetic towards Charlie Brown and often gives him advice after listening to Charlie Brown's various insecurities. Similarly, Charlie Brown, who is older, generally acts as an overseer to Linus's faults, such as his undying faith in the Great Pumpkin, his dependence on his security blanket, or any of his other odd quirks. They are also together in an allegiance over a common enemy: Lucy, who harasses and bullies Charlie Brown as much as she does Linus. Charlie Brown and Linus are often seen having discussions while sitting on a street curb or leaning up against the brick wall. At some point in the strip, Linus begins to appear sitting behind Charlie Brown in school, despite being younger than Charlie Brown.
Peppermint Patty is perhaps Charlie Brown's closest female friend and Peppermint Patty refers to him as "Chuck". Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty lead baseball teams which often play against each other. Peppermint Patty is infatuated with Charlie Brown, who seemingly has no romantic interest in her. Peppermint Patty often talks to Charlie about matters of the heart.
Marcie is infatuated with Charlie Brown and they are good friends. Marcie often asks Charlie Brown if he likes her. As he does with Peppermint Patty, Charlie Brown often responds to Marcie's inquiries by trying to evade the issue. Marcie refers to Charlie as "Charles".
Charlie Brown is often the straight man in stories focusing on his sister who often complains about different sorts of things such as her homework.
Charlie Brown was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals in 2017. Similar in concept to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, criteria for inclusion in the Shrine of the Eternals differs in that statistical achievement is not a primary consideration for induction. Specifically, the Baseball Reliquary defines criteria for the Shrine as follows:
Criteria for election shall be: the distinctiveness of play (good or bad); the uniqueness of character and personality; and the imprint that the individual has made on the baseball landscape. Electees, both on and off the diamond, shall have been responsible for developing baseball in one or more of the following ways: through athletic and/or business achievements; in terms of its larger cultural and sociological impact as a mass entertainment; and as an arena for the human imagination.
While the Baseball Reliquary's description of possible inductees includes fictional characters, Charlie Brown was the first fictional character inducted to the Shrine.