Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas has been part of our holiday tradition, as long as I can remember. Being a child of the 80’s, I know I’m not alone in that. But what would it be like growing up with Charles Schulz as your dad? Do you think that your memory of Christmas would be like the one in the movie? Peanuts set up a phone interview with Jill Schulz, daughter of Charles Schulz last week, and she spoke with a group of bloggers about her experiences, growing up with A Charlie Brown Christmas.
We had a lot of different questions for Jill about growing up with Charles Schulz as her dad, but first we had to ask about Christmas.
What was it like to celebrate Christmas in the Schulz Family?
“Back then, there was not as much merchandise, publicity, worldwide status for Peanuts and Snoopy.” While things seemed more simple as far as the Peanut Franchise went, the Schulz family had what everyone would see as a typical holiday tradition. “We had a pretty typical Christmas, except that we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve. Typically, we’d have neighborhood friends and kids coming over and my mom cooked a great big dinner. Then we’d wait for Santa Claus, I’d always sneak back down and open a window because I thought there was no way he could fit down the chimney.”
But it wasn’t long until the TV Show and the Franchise began to grow. As it did, it was incorporated into the family tradition. “Once the TV show came out, that became a tradition: both Christmas and Halloween, they became something we’d gather around TV to watch. But to me, it just seemed like a normal family Christmas.” Just like our household and family to this day, the TV special became a part of the yearly tradition.
And for Christmas now for Jill’s family? “After those big Christmases as a kid, I had to get adjusted to having Christmases with just my husband and my two kids. It felt so small. I tried to do the same traditions, watch the special, do the presents.”
Was there anything in the special that was similar to your childhood?
There are so many questions about where Charles Schulz got his inspiration. We all can relate to some of the characters in the show, but was there anything specific that Jill could relate to her life?
“There are elements that are supposed to come from my family. Like Lucy’s crabbiness came from Meredith. I’m told that Linus has a blanket because I always had a blanket.” But I can’t say there’s anything specific in the special.” Now, we know where the iconic Linus blanket comes from!
Why do you suppose after 50 years, it’s still resonating with people?
“Because the characters, the experiences they have, in the strip and the TV show are things that every generation has, does, and will continue to experience in life. Football with Charlie Brown. Everyone experiences losing. Everyone comments on commercialism. It’s been happening for years, will continue to happen. Siblings teasing each other, fighting, even if they love each other.” There are so many things for everyone to relate to, and still are today.
Tell me about ice skating and Snoopy.
The special wasn’t the only thing that started to grow for the Peanut Franchise. Soon the idea of Snoopy on Ice was born. Jill’s mom made the original Snoopy costume, and Jill was the first to play Snoopy! “Way back when I was 9 or 10 and ice skating, they decided to build a Snoopy costume to have him in the ice show. My mom made the first Snoopy costume. Someone else was supposed to be in it, and he didn’t show up. So I was the first skating Snoopy, skating to Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. It was hard to see-I remember falling over on the ice, but I got up and waved. I’m too claustrophobic now, so can’t do it anymore.”
The Snoopy on Ice Show continues to grow after all of these years! “Now we just need to get an Extreme Beagle out there. Get Snoopy dropping on the mega ramp.”
Who’s your favorite Peanuts character and why?
“My absolute favorite is Snoopy because I like his imagination and his free spirit, how he imagines whatever he wants to be. I had a pretend friend as a kid that everyone teased me about. And because he’s a dog and I love rescue animals. Then it would be Linus, because I like how calm he remains, how philosophical he is.”
Where do you see the franchise in 10 years?
“We’d like to see it grow, to continue the legacy of my dad and keep the characters out there. But there’s a careful line between keeping the integrity of my dad’s characters and creating enough new material to keep it fresh for new generations.”
With new Peanuts and Snoopy products coming out all the time, collectors and a lot more, there is no doubt in my mind the franchise will be around for years to come!