Sunday, August 18, 2002
Santa Rosa, Calif. 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 can't wait. Thousands attended Saturday's grand opening of 27,300-square-foot museum and research center.
The Northern California city where Schulz lived and worked has planned a weekend of fun to remember its adopted son, complete with free Snoopy movies and a pancake breakfast.
Other stops for serious fans might include 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 downtown park.
The museum chronicles Schulz's life and the evolution of the enduring comic strip that made its debut 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 readers in 75 countries.
Two galleries at the museum feature exhibits of original strips and memorabilia. There's also a research library, archives of "Peanuts" material, a Snoopy labyrinth in the outdoor gardens and a tile mural of Charlie Brown making his ever-futile run to kick a football from Lucy's outstretched hands.
Schulz, a native of St. Paul, Minn., died of colon cancer on 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 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 last week ranked Schulz the second-richest deceased celebrity, with $20 million in earnings for 2000 ï¿½ right behind Elvis Presley's $35 million.