peanuts interview

Interview – Craig Schulz, Raymond S. Persi, & Robb Armstrong Talk Peanuts

peanuts interview

No matter where we are in our lives, there remains some forms of entertainment which are simply timeless like Peanuts. The creation of Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts long illustrious history began over seventy years when first published as a comic strip on October 2, 1950. Led by a list of characters, such as Charlie Brown and Snoopy, in the decades to follow Peanuts has sustained popularity with people of all ages across the globe. Astounding, the success of Peanuts is a testament to the visuals of the late Charles M. Schulz, who not only created characters that are timeless, but also cleared a path for cartoonists of the future.

Flash forward to present day, Peanuts is still a national treasure, and thankfully Apple TV+ has created a nice home for the classic cartoons, as well as a list of new originals. Staying true to the original intent of the creator, the latest special Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin premieres on the streaming service February 16, 2024… and it is guaranteed to make you smile. Excited for this latest edition to the Peanuts story, Charle’s Son, Craig Schulz, along with Emmy Award winner Raymond S. Persi and is co-written by Robb Armstrong sat down to discuss the work put into Welcome Home, Franklin, the legacy of Peanuts, and more. 

Cryptic Rock – Before we dive into this newest special, the Peanuts story began seven plus decades ago as a comic strip. In the years to follow it has become a universally beloved cartoon and comic. What do you think has been the reason for the staying power of Peanuts, Charlie Brown, and all the cherished Peanuts characters?

Craig Schulz – I think why it has the staying power is that you’ll find some things will come and go depending on the decade, what’s in fashion, so on and so forth. Peanuts characters have been in fashion year in and year out since the 1950s because there’s some character within that comic strip that you can relate to. There are characters that you identify with and you feel empathy for.

It might change day to day. It might change as you get older. You might start life as a philosopher like Linus, then turn into a Lucy for a couple of years, and then finally come back and be like a level-headed Franklin or Pig-Pen. And it’s universal; it’s not a common strip just written for the United States. You go around the globe and Peanuts is everywhere. All the kids, no matter where they’re on the planet, can really relate to those childhood problems that they have to deal with.

A charlie brown christmas.
A Charlie Brown Christmas / Apple TV+
The snoopy show poster.
The Snoopy Show / Apple TV+

Cryptic Rock – Absolutely. It is amazing how people of all ages love it; that is what is really great about it. Peanuts has received new life in the last five or six years with Apple TV+, with all these new series and specials coming out. What has that been like for everyone involved?

Raymond S. Persi – For me, it’s exciting to get to be part of it. When I would tell people that I was going to be working on directing new Peanuts specials, immediately they smiled and their faces softened. That means that there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of goodwill, and you don’t want to mess that up. It’s such a fun world to live in though. There are characters to get to know that it makes you happy working on them.

Robb Armstrong – It’s an honor. It’s tremendous. It’s a gift. When I was a very brand-new cartoonist, I got to meet Sparky Schulz, my hero. He sat down with me and told me right away that Peanuts and my strip Jump Start had a lot in common. I was shocked! I still don’t agree 100%, but he saw something in me and in my work that reminded him of how good the characters can be in a work. Those characters are what’s driving all this.

If not for the characters that Sparky Schulz created, it would be virtually impossible to keep his legacy alive. It would be a struggle and you would see such a shift. You see such a reinterpretation every time that you wouldn’t recognize them anymore.

If you see this special, you’re going to love it. The reason you love Peanuts, and whatever comes out, and I’m telling anybody who reads this, it’s because it’s just like his original creation. Craig Schulz makes sure we don’t stray from that. It’s a relief, frankly, to not stray from it; because it makes the writing easier. It makes the characters resonate and it makes the story make sense.

I have gratitude toward everybody who’s involved with this. I work with some great guys; Craig, his son Bryan, Neil Uliano, and Raymond Persi. I thank Charles “Sparky” Schulz too. I’m like Sparky, “if you could only see this.” It’s hurtful that he can’t. Maybe he’s looking down and he sees it… I don’t know

Craig Schulz – Yeah, that’s our one regret. He didn’t get to see any of these, unfortunately.

Charlie brown and peanuts Franklin
Franklin Armstrong & Charlie Brown in “Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin,”  Apple TV+

Cryptic Rock – Out there somewhere, he is definitely looking down on it. You are all doing a great job of keeping the legacy alive. This new special, Welcome Home, Franklin, as you say, people are going to love it. This is a really heartwarming story. Obviously, it gives us origins of Franklin, but it also gives us a sense of hope in today where it seems like everyone is not getting along. What are your thoughts on all that?

Craig Schulz – I think you hit the nail on the head. We were all saying earlier, when Franklin first came on board in 1968, the world was in turmoil. We had the Kennedy assassination, MLK assassination, and race wars in Los Angeles. Now here we are again with all the uproar and so forth.

Peanuts is the one safe spot. I’ll say this again – when you look at Disney, Marvel shows, or whatever – when the mother sits down with the child and says, “I’m going to watch a Peanuts special,” they know they’re in a safe space. They’re not going to have to watch the channel and be ready with the remote to change channels when something rude, fart jokes come on or everything else. That doesn’t happen in our universe. People know it’s a safe spot to go, and that’s why they enjoy it so much.

Cryptic Rock – Most certainly! The animation and story are both equally great for Welcome Home, Franklin. What was it like for you working on this as far as the writing and the creation of it?

Robb Armstrong – I come from a solitary workspace. I’m usually alone in my house in my basement working on my comics. I had to suddenly learn how to collaborate. Guess what? So did Franklin. Franklin had to learn how to work with others. He came into a situation with his preformed ideas, his notions, and they don’t work. I came into this with some preformed things and they don’t work. You have to give and take.

You have to listen and learn; especially in this world. This is Hollywood baby. These guys have some Emmys and stuff; they’re stacked up in Raymond’s house… it’s unbelievable. He knows what he’s doing.

Craig is bringing authenticity to the brand, to the cannon. He’s saying, “Don’t stray from the cannon.” I’m literally identifying with Franklin as I’m helping to pen this teleplay.

I’m identifying with a kid who’s an outlier hoping to fit in. I’m obsessed with winning, like him. You have to learn that winning is not everything. It’s better that we succeed together than for you to win. Franklin learns his lesson. He gets friends. I learned my lesson. I get these amazing collaborators. It’s a win-win.

Raymond S. Persi – Yeah. What I love about working on a special like this one is, it’s hard. Everybody wants it to be the best it can be and tough questions are asked. It’s not just written and here we go. It’s written and then we shake the tree. Things are changed or we will board it. Then we’ll shake the tree again and throw out whole things and put in new things. Each time we work on is another chance for everyone to look at it and say, “But could it be better?”

I love that, because when everyone is trying to make something good, it’s going to be hard. That’s just going to guarantee that it’s going to be that much better. 

Welcome home franklin.
Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin,” premiering February 16, 2024 on Apple TV+

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