AAUGH Blog reader Érico asked if I might comment on something on the Sanrio website, specifically in a message from founder and chairman Shintaro Tsuji, which includes this reminiscence:
Mr. Schulz cheerfully welcomed these two Japanese men who had suddenly come to visit him, and that was the start of our acquaintance. At that time, Peanuts was a popular syndicated comic strip; Charlie Brown and Lucy were its main characters, while Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s dog, was nothing more than a minor side character.
In Japan, Hello Kitty and My Melody had exploded in popularity, and so Senior Managing Director Ogisu and I told Mr. Schulz, “Your comic will be more popular if you make this dog a main character.” After we talked, Mr. Schulz did indeed make Snoopy a main character, and Woodstock also began making frequent appearances.
Let’s do a timeline check here. While this doesn’t give an exact date for this conversation, it was after Hello Kitty had “exploded in popularity”… and that character was introduced in 1974. Was Snoopy “nothing more than a minor, side character” in 1974? Checking just the first month of that year, Snoopy appears in 14 of the 31 strips… which is two more than Charlie Brown himself. Snoopy had been the title character of strip reprint books since the 1950s… in fact, off the top of my head, I think it wasn’t until 1973 that any other Peanuts character besides Snoopy and Charlie Brown was named in the title of a non-Hallmark strip collection. (That third character? Thompson.) By 1974, Snoopy had already had the lead and title role in Snoopy Come Home. Snoopy had been used as a mascot by NASA, was popular in stuffed form.
So this looks to be a bit of self-mythologizing. “As we had predicted, Snoopy became very popular.” That is like suggesting that people would like chocolate chip cookies you put bits of chocolate in them.
Now. the suggestion would have been much more impressive if he had said that the main character should be Thompson…