It was a dark and stormy night….
No Snoopy, it was a dark and stormy day when I ventured over to see “Charlie Brown and the Great Exhibit” at the Museum of Science and Industry. Ostensibly, this exhibit is about the Peanuts gang and its creator, Charles Schulz, but it’s really about so much more.
It’s about imagination and the creative process.
It’s about perseverance and the human spirit.
It’s about diversity and history and of course, humor.
Thrillsville. That’s how I felt when I walked into the exhibit and saw life sized Peanuts’ characters staring me in the face. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Franklin…the gang was all there. Not knowing much about Charles Schulz’ life, I was thrilled to see a decade-by-decade display of artifacts and key events. Still another thriller—a letter from Nancy Reagan thanking Schulz for one of his books.
But most impressive was the model of Schulz’ studio and the film clips in which he describes his creative process: the pens he used, his style of drawing, and how he came up with ideas. He thought of the name Peppermint Patty after he saw a bowl of peppermints. Simple as that. As for Snoopy’s alter ego, the World War I Flying Ace, Schulz couldn’t recall whether he or his son came up with that idea, though he did remember their conversation. So much fun to hear Schulz reflect on how he typecast members of the gang, including revealing the character he thought would be most successful.
When it came to his work, Schulz, like many gifted children, was a perfectionist. He was very particular about his drawings and proud of his ability to show movement through simple lines. Snoopy’s tennis racket is a good example. Very prepared, Schulz worked six weeks ahead of production. He cleaned his studio daily, throwing out drafts of the comic strip. In later years, family members had the foresight to save his drafts!
Family friendly activities in the exhibit:
- Schroeder’s Piano,
- Snoopy’s Dog House (you can go in it)
- The Peanuts Gang celebrating various holidays, (including Valentine’s Day/Poor Charlie Brown still has an empty mailbox)
- Historic comic strips
- Hands on “cartooning” activities.
The Peanuts gang (a name Schulz hated) was at the height of its popularity in the 60s and this exhibit highlights historic connections Schulz made. Woodstock was named for the Woodstock Music Festival. Franklin was included in the gang after Martin Luther King was assassinated. Marcie was brought in to represent a studious student dealing with school and parental pressures. Snoopy aspired to be the first beagle on the moon.
Visit the exhibit and discover or reconnect with Schulz’ artful take on the meaning of life. Your children will love your stories about growing up with the Peanuts’ gang and they’ll connect with Schulz. With a few strokes of genius, he captured the human spirit and conveyed it to parents and children alike.
Arrrrggghhh! Better get moving. Charlie Brown and the Great Exhibit is supposed to close on February 18th (some notices say 1/30 so check).
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