Grown-ups will find plenty of nostalgia in an art exhibition opening Friday at an East Valley children’s museum.
When “Peanuts at Bat: The Life & Art of Charles Schulz” debuts at 10 a.m. at Arizona Museum for Youth, visitors will find nearly 200 comic strips, works of art and three-dimensional bits of memorabilia detailing the journey of Charlie Brown and the artist who created him.
“It was an evolution over 50 years, evolving (Schulz’s) style of drawing and his line profile and developing these characters that everybody recognizes around the world,” says AMY curator Jeffory Morris.
Some displays reveal surprising early renderings of Charlie Brown, his dog, Snoopy, and his friends.
“(Snoopy) was very doglike in the ’50s, and by the ’60s he’s become much more personified; he’s much more of a personality. He started as simply a dog, and he grew into one of Peanuts’ more beloved characters,” says Morris.
Each of the characters — from Linus to Pig-Pen — are explored in biographical panels that include notes by Schulz himself.
The show also features hands-on elements for youngsters.
Kids will be able to play Schroeder’s piano, pay with wooden nickels for a session at Lucy’s “Psychiatric Help” booth, and crawl through Snoopy’s doghouse to hang out in his living room, where family portraits (remember Spike, Olaf, Marbles or Belle?) are on display.
There’s a glow-in-the-dark Great Pumpkin Patch with a mask-making activity. Children will also find step-by-step comic drawing stations and dress-up props that recreate some of Snoopy’s most memorable personas, including a World War I flying ace and Joe Cool.
“A lot of children know (the Peanuts characters) from the Christmas or Halloween specials on TV, but not so much from the comic strips,” says Morris. “Since Charles Schulz retired in January of 2000 — just before he passed a month later — he retired the strip, so it hasn’t been around for 11 years.”
A portion of the show focuses on the appearance of baseball in Peanuts comics.
“(Schulz) was a huge San Francisco Giants fan, and in the summer baseball tended to come up again and again because that’s when (the Peanuts kids) were out of school,” says Morris. “And, actually, Charlie Brown was obsessed with baseball.”
Morris says Schulz was an important artist.
“He really changed the way comics were done, going to just four panels and running daily and doing full color. And his characters reflected real life.”
The exhibition is organized by the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif. It is sponsored locally by the city of Mesa, the Chicago Cubs, the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust and the National Endowment for the Arts and Arizona Commission on the Arts.
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