If Disneyland is the happiest place on earth and Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth, then the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California, is the most charming place on earth.
The museum houses the largest collection of original Peanuts artwork in the world, including the original proof sheets for the debut week of the Peanuts comic strip (Oct. 2-7, 1950) – the very first week of publication. However, through Schulz’s work (and the work of other cartoonists) the museum also traces the history of the medium from early comic strips to modern animated television specials and movies.
But there’s one magical connection that may surprise even the most diehard Peanuts fans…
While most people are familiar with Schulz’s famous Peanuts characters – including Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the beloved beagle Snoopy – many don’t know that a young Schulz was so inspired by Walt Disney that his earliest cartoon-related memories were copying Disney characters (and Popeye) onto his school notebooks.
“Naturally, I was a Walt Disney fan and used to be able to draw quite faithfully Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, the Three Little Pigs, and all the other Disney characters,” said a quote posted at the museum.
He even applied for a job at Disney in 1940 but was rejected. Just imagine what might have happened if he’d gotten the job – would we have had a cartoon co-starring Mickey and Snoopy?
The museum also displays a ceramic Mickey figure and the Mickey Mouse watch Schulz wore in the 1970s (likely a gift from his office staff). A quote posted next to the watch notes that he first wanted a Mickey Mouse watch when he was only nine years old.
“When I finally saved the $2.50 to buy the watch, the jeweler talked my mother and me out of it, saying that for another dollar, I could get a watch of much better quality. I still don’t know why I gave in.”
Beyond Schulz’s interesting – though not surprising – connection to Walt Disney, the museum features his recreated studio, complete with his original chair and drawing board, as well as books, personal memorabilia, gifts, and family photos— just like Walt’s recreated office at the Disney Studios in Burbank, California.
Fun Fact: Schulz sketched comic strip ideas on lined yellow notebook paper, and rejected ideas were crumpled into balls and tossed in the studio trash can (the habit is represented in the recreated studio). At the end of the day, his secretary took the discarded sketches home where she ironed and saved them. They are now part of the museum’s display in the Strip Rotation Gallery.
Charles M. Schulz Museum Highlights
A particularly personal and heartwarming set of cases displays original strips Schulz often inscribed to friends and family as gifts, including a sweet valentine to his wife Jean colored with highlighters and signed “Sparky” (his nickname) with a red hand-drawn heart.
The focal point of the museum’s first floor is a large mural by Japanese artist Yoshiteru Otani depicting Lucy holding a football for Charlie Brown (and we all know how that turns out). The mural is composed of 3,588 2×8-inch ceramic tiles – representing about ten years’ worth of daily Peanuts comic strips originally published between 1956 and 1988 – and Otani placed each strip to compose the image of Lucy and Charlie Brown.
Another Otani mural is the 25-foot-long “Morphing Snoopy” made from 43 layers of maple veneer that follows the pup’s evolution from the 1950s to the 1990s.
“To me, [Schulz] was an artist with whom I could share my pleasures of creativity,” a quote from Otani says. “These pieces…are my interpretations of the two themes [we] agreed upon; the evolution of his work and the everyday aspect of doing a daily cartoon for 50 years.”
On the second floor is a whimsical mural Schulz himself painted in 1951 for his daughter’s bedroom when the family lived in Colorado Springs. The characters had repeatedly been painted over through the years, but in 1979, Polly and Stanley Travnicek purchased the home, and knowing about the hidden treasure buried beneath layers of paint, Polly painstakingly uncovered Schulz’s artwork by hand using sanding liquid and cotton balls. In 2001, the Travniceks removed the entire wall from their house and donated it to the museum.
One (literally) hidden gem is the Peek-A-Boo Box tucked beneath the stairs. Soon after the museum opened, Jean Schulz received a gift from Hatsue Ohi of a framed shadow box picture of Snoopy. Jean sent back five Sally postcards from the museum gift shop, which Ohi turned into whimsical Peanuts figures, and Jean created the Peek-A-Boo box to display them inside little peepholes set at different heights for adults and kids.
Last but certainly not least is an interactive photo op with Lucy’s famous psychiatrist “office” – complete with magnetic speech bubbles to personalize the shot
Oh, and don’t miss Charlie Brown’s nemesis (aka the kite-eating tree) in the museum courtyard.
The Education room is the perfect place for little ones to express their creativity (and let’s face it, even adults will want to get in on the crafty fun). You can even find Peanuts crafts you can do at home on the website.
“The Most Beautiful Ice Arena in the World”
Across the street from the museum (but still part of the Schulz campus) is the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, which avid hockey player Schulz built for the community in 1969.
Dubbed “Snoopy’s Home Ice,” the full-sized rink is used by Santa Rosa locals for skating lessons, birthday parties, and hockey leagues – and it’s where Sparky himself played hockey every Tuesday night. It also houses the Warm Puppy café, where Schulz had breakfast and lunch every day (and where his favorite table remains reserved).
The Disney connection here is that “the most beautiful ice arena in the world” features the same charming (and noticeably Disney-esque) alpine/storybook style as Fantasyland and the Matterhorn attractions at Disneyland.
And, of course, every good museum needs a gift shop. There’s a small shop off the museum’s lobby, but the larger one at the ice arena is well worth browsing for any Peanuts fan.
From Labor Day through Memorial Day, the Charles M. Schulz Museum is open Wednesday to Monday 11:00 am-5:00 pm on weekdays (closed Tuesdays except April 12, Nov. 22, and Dec. 27) and 10:00 am-5:00 pm on weekends. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the museum is open daily 11:00 am-5:00 pm on weekdays and 10:00 am-5:00 pm on weekends.
The museum is closed on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve Day, and Christmas Day.
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Let’s Hear From You!
Have you visited the Charles M. Schulz Museum, and if not, is this a spot you’d like to see for yourself? Did you know about the Disney/Schulz connection? Let’s hear from you Peanuts fans! Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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