New mecca for 'Peanuts' lovers opens up in California

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2002

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) -- It's missing the shag carpet and classical columns, but to ''Peanuts'' fans the new Charles M. Schulz museum has all the lure of Elvis' Graceland.

''I have been a Snoopy fan for life,'' said Bridget Feeley, a Chicago native who sports a Snoopy tattoo and cherishes her growing collection of ''Peanuts'' Christmas ornaments and art. ''I plan to visit by the end of the year.''

Plenty of others couldn't wait. Thousands attended the Aug. 17 grand opening of 27,300-square-foot museum and research center.

''I think it's spectacular,'' Schulz' son, Craig, said after taking in a preview. ''I think if he saw the entirety of all he has accomplished, I think he'd be overwhelmed.''

The Northern California city where Schulz lived and worked had a weekend of fun to remember its adopted son, complete with free Snoopy movies and a pancake breakfast.

Other stops for serious fans included the cartoonist's studio, the ''Peanuts''-themed ice skating rink Schulz gave to the city, and the bronze statue of Snoopy and Charlie Brown in a park.

The museum chronicles Schulz' life and the evolution of the enduring comic strip that debuted on Oct. 2, 1950. The musings and misadventures of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and their friends eventually ran in more than 2,600 newspapers, reaching millions of readers in 75 countries.

Schulz' wife, Jean, and other family and friends wandered through rooms filled with original strips and a recreation of Schulz' studio, complete with his easel and shelves crammed with books and mementos.

There also is a research library, archives of ''Peanuts'' material, and a Snoopy labyrinth in the outdoor gardens. The walls of the museum's great hall feature a 7,000-pound morphing Snoopy sculpture and a mural, created from 3,588 ''Peanuts'' strips, of Charlie Brown making his ever-futile run to kick a football from Lucy's outstretched hands.

Schulz, a St. Paul, Minn. native, died of colon cancer Feb. 12, 2000, just hours before readers saw his farewell strip, featuring Snoopy typing a letter thanking fans for their support.

Schulz saw to it that no one would create new ''Peanuts'' strips after his death, but reruns of ''classic'' strips still appear in the world's funny pages.

The strip's influence reaches across many languages and cultures. Collectors can indulge themselves at Snoopy shops in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shanghai that feature apparel, stuffed dolls and even bone china tea sets. There is a Snoopy Place restaurant in Singapore.

The widespread fan base has translated into ongoing value for the Schulz estate, handled by Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates. Forbes magazine this week ranked Schulz the second-richest deceased celebrity, with $20 million in earnings for 2000 -- right behind Elvis Presley's $35 million.

Internet message boards reveal collectors and enthusiasts from Belgium, England, Mexico and France. Ashley Lindsay, a freshman majoring in computer science at the University of Chicago, launched such a site while in high school, and is excited to make a second trip to Santa Rosa.

''It's just universal. Everything that Schulz tackled in his comic strip, it seems like everybody can identify with,'' Lindsay said.


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