Tag: Peanuts animation art

Mission Control: We’re Ready for Assignment: NASA, SpaceX, Peanuts & Charlie Brown Cartoons

ArtInsights is so excited about the new release of Peanuts animation art, which celebrates the long history of collaboration between Peanuts and NASA. This new collection includes “Mission Control: We’re Ready for Assignment” The NASA Space Station limited edition of 50, and original production cels from the Peanuts animation featurette, which is the 4th episode of This is America, Charlie Brown, originally released in November of 1988, way before what was ultimately the International Space Station was up and running with a crew. I guess you could say that Charlie Brown, his friends, and his dog Snoopy were technically the first to man (and dog) the Space Station!

The SpaceX suits are cooler, but
nobody’s cooler than Joe Cool.

Even with all the darkness of the pandemic and police brutality in the news and on our minds, the anticipation and thrill around the SpaceX launch was high, and offered a brief respite from our country and world’s formidable struggles. Elon Musk has a goal to decrease the cost and improve the reliability of access to space, and as anyone who watched the Falcon 9 rocket with a Crew Dragon capsule take off, orbit, and dock at the International Space Station, which is only the first leg of their journey. This test flight was to certify that SpaceX spacecraft is safe to start making routine trips to and from the space station for NASA, which as relied on Russia for that task since 2011, when space shuttle flights ended. At this moment, astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are on the space station with current commander and NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy. This new mission will be considered a complete success when Behnken and Hurley come home in the Crew Dragon. If all goes to plan, the next mission will be to carry 3 NASA astronauts and one astronaut from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency to the space station. 

Snoopy and Charlie Brown at Mission Control during Apollo 10.

It started in the 60s, when Charles M. Schulz allowed Snoopy to become the mascot for the NASA’s spaceflight safety initiative. Schulz also created comic strips of Snoopy on the moon, to excited the public about the US space program. Then Charlie Brown and Snoopy became mascots of Apollo 10. They named the command module Charlie Brown, and the lunar module Snoopy. The NASA website explains, “In May 1969, Apollo 10 astronauts traveled to the Moon for a final checkout before lunar landings on later missions. Because the mission required the lunar module to skim the Moon’s surface to within 50,000 feet and “snoop around” scouting the Apollo 11 landing site, the crew named the lunar module Snoopy. The command module was named Charlie Brown, Snoopy’s loyal owner.”  In fact, when the lunar module rendezvoused with the the command module, astronaut Thomas Stafford said, “Snoopy and Charlie Brown are hugging each other.” 

 

Only 1% of employees & contractors have the honor.

Even now, NASA astronauts give an award to employees and contractors for outstanding achievements in human flight safety or mission success called the Silver Snoopy. The award includes a sterling silver Snoopy lapel pin that has been flown during a NASA mission, a commendation letter which includes on what mission the pin was flown) and a signed and framed Silver Snoopy certificate. It is a high honor for those who receive it. 

In 2019, NASA and Peanuts Worldwide celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 10’s launch with a collaboration that ‘shared the excitement of science, technology, engineering, and math with the next generation of explorers’. NASA provided support for new Peanuts programs that focus on modern-day Astronaut Snoopy and space themes. 

Most notable is the new show on Apple TV+ “Snoopy in Space”, which had its release on the premiere day of the streamer in November. 

If you have AppleTV+, you can watch the whole 1st season now, which, by the way, got a score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been nominated for 4 Daytime Emmys. Here’s a trailer:

There’s also a 10 minute documentary short, directed by Oscar-winner Morgan Neville, and starring Ron Howard and Jeff Goldblum called Peanuts in Space: Secrets of Apollo 10. It features archival interviews of two of the three Apollo 10 astronauts, Tom Stafford and Eugene Cernan, as well as an interview with current NASA flight director, Ginger Kerrick. It too has been nominated for a Daytime Emmy!

So, for many reasons, this is the perfect time for a release of Peanuts animation art celebrating Snoopy in Space, Space Exploration, and the ongoing connection between Peanuts and NASA. This new art is from the 1988 featurette, This is America, Charlie Brown: The NASA Space Station.

In This is America, Charlie Brown: The NASA Space Station, the plot is based on Linus having a dream about being part of the Space Station after working all day on a school project about it. 

In it, Linus imagines the Space Station commander as Lucy, (showing once again the progressive side of Peanuts) with Space Station operations run by Snoopy, Linus himself as the official scientist onboard, with five spacecraft specialists including Peppermint Patty in charge of exercise, Charlie Brown as cook and photographer, Sally and Pig Pen as experiment specialists, and Franklin as social scientist researching how the crew reacts to living in space for 90 days. 

The NASA Space Station Peanuts limited edition is made with 22 paint colors and 3 ink colors and special wash effects to recreate Pig Pen’s dust, and it takes days to complete each individual piece of art. The background is a reproduction of an original background used in the original featurette. 

This new limited edition was designed by animation director, Larry Leichliter. Using artwork from the studio archives, including publicity drawings, original key pose sheets and an original background, Larry designed the Character Layout drawing for the animation cels and the Key Pose Model Sheet.


This commemorative edition is limited to 50.
Cel Size: Small Pan 16.25 x 9.5”
Key Pose Model Sheet Print, Image Size 7.5 x 14”, Paper Size: 10 x 16”

You can find buy or learn more about the new NASA Space Station Peanuts limited edition “Mission Control: We’re Ready for Assignment” by going HERE

What is fascinating about Charles Schulz and his strong, long-lasting connection with NASA is how he was so committed to space exploration, and getting the public involved. Not only did he create the space-related comic strips that sparked his collaboration, then allowed his characters to be used for Apollo 10, he got involved in promoting the NASA project to construct a permanently crewed Earth-orbiting quite early. Reagan approved the Space Station Freedom project in 1984, and This is America, Charlie Brown: The NASA Space Station premiered in 1988. That was a lot of faith in the project coming to fruition. Basically, he was following the philosophy of “If you build it, they will come”, only the animation came first, and the space station followed… but then again, everyone follows Snoopy!

Lee Mendelson spoke about Schulz’s commitment to the project: 

“They were building the station when Bill and I visited there in Houston. Nasa warned me that it might never work. I asked Sparky if we wanted to take the chance to do a show about a subject that might not ever happen.  He said, “Absolutely. We have to back the efforts of these people.” He had great confidence as was proven earlier when he let Apollo 10 use Charlie Brown and Snoopy with the great risk involved If it failed.” 

After budget cuts that put the project on hold, several times when the whole project was almost completely scrapped, the Clinton Administration announced the transformation of Space Station Freedom to the International Space Station, with Russia becoming part of the project. The first components of the ISS were launched into orbit in 1988, with the first long-term residents arriving in November of 2000. 

The Peanuts characters worked on the space station all the way back in 1988, a full 12 years before NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko of Roscomos began their residency on the orbiting laboratory. In a way, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Peppermint Patty, Pig Pen, Franklin, and Snoopy were the space station’s ‘real’ first residents! 

Check out more about the ISS on NASA’s page HERE.

There are also a very few great This is America, Charlie Brown: The NASA Space Station Peanuts production cels available. Here are a few we have right now, and please contact us via email to check availability for all Peanuts animation art.

I love knowing that Schulz and his wife Jeannie went to NASA in the late 90s for the opening of an exhibit on Peanuts and NASA that was proudly on display there. The Space Administration genuinely loved Charlie Brown and the whole Peanuts gang.

Perhaps it seems odd or even in bad taste to think and talk about cartoons during such troubled times. For some, that may be true. But I’ll finish this blog about space, NASA and Peanuts with a very personal story. Many of you know I’ve had the gallery for over 27 years. Earlier in our time being open, my 16-year-old sister was killed in a car accident. She died right in the car, before she could even be taken to the hospital. I was at the gallery at the time, and my father had to call me and tell me the news. It was one of the worst days of my life. For a while, it was really hard to come into the gallery, and sit surrounded by animation and film art. It didn’t take very long, however, to discover that these pop culture references, these nostalgic, joyful images put things in perspective. I could look around and be surrounded by joyful memories, and it helped. It really did. It’s in the joyful living that we express why it is so important to be free, be healthy, and be safe. The fact that we can and do actively reach for joy is why it is important to stand up for those who can’t. Whether it is the risk of sickness or the risk of bodily harm, we owe it to folks at risk to stand for them. We owe it to those who are no longer here to embrace joy wherever and whenever we can. If that’s watching a Snoopy cartoon, or the SpaceX launch, so be it.

With that in mind, here is Snoopy doing the happy dance at the COVID Comfort Cartoon:

The Peanuts Art of Dean Spille: animation history made watercolor

We are always looking for extremely rare art to offer our clients, but hand-in-hand with that, we are always trying to find ways to promote and expand awareness about the importance of artists.  There are so many important figures in the history of animation that fans and enthusiasts know little about, and we want to change that! That’s where Dean Spille comes in…

He is just such a luminary. Dean Spille, concept and background artist for Bill Melendez Productions, is the official background artist for all the Charlie Brown and Peanuts films. Indeed, he is responsible for the color stories, the graphic design, and the finished look of Peanuts TV specials all the way from the beginning.  He worked on A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in 1968, and continued to influence these classics all the way to the TV short He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown in 2006.  AND WE JUST GOT ART CREATED BY THIS AMAZING ARTIST!!

At first, Bill Melendez, in his desire to give credit to the many contributors on A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dean was listed as doing “graphic blandishment”, which is code for concept artist, background artist, or any other element not yet isolated as deserving of its own credit.  He was named as production designer for over 20 shows, shorts, or tv specials between 1977 through 2000, and as often credited as color stylist as well.

A scene from from Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown, which is the inspiration for one of the 3 originals we are offering:

Given that the art Dean created is from his nostalgia and memory, it’s amazing how close this is to what was used in Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown.  He certainly has the French village vibe down, not least because he’s lived in France for over 40 years!  See his art below:

Inside the animation industry, Dean Spille is widely regarded as one of the most celebrated, talented concept and background artists in history.  It’s impossible to extricate the evocative, inventive backgrounds when considering the look of the beloved Charlie Brown TV specials, and they are all thanks to Dean.

Though native to California, he’s been living in France for over 40 years, and is now 92.  Imagine my thrill and excitement when we were offered an extremely limited collection of original Peanuts watercolor paintings by this treasured artist of the animation world.  We aren’t even sure if we’ll get any more than these three, all of which were created by Dean from his recollections of his contributions over his career with Bill Melendez Productions on the Peanuts cartoons.

Who doesn’t remember the scene with the kids out trick-or-treating from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?

The art Dean Spille created is below.  Classic!

If you’re a fan of animation art, Peanuts, or the Charlie Brown specials, these are exceptional, rare originals that represent an essential element of the beloved cartoons.  We may have them in-house briefly after selling them, and we’ll post about that on our Facebook page, but in the meantime, as we only have three to sell, contact us soon if interested in any or all of them!  We won’t be putting them online for purchase, but rather will sell them to those who contact us, since there only 3 and are one-of-a-kind.

What a wonderful palette Dean created for this scene! The original he created is below, and it may be my favorite.  Dig his subjective use of color, and how well it works, or how well we recognize it from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!

We really want to find Snoopy lovers, those who watched the animated specials as kids (or with their kids!), and art aficionados who get excited by the opportunity to have an original by an artist who is so important to animation history!

MORE ABOUT DEAN SPILLE:

In the fifties, Mr. Spille began working with Bill Melendez at Playhouse Pictures, a studio created by innovative artists who made up UPA. Peanuts’ television endorsement of the Ford Falcon, created at Playhouse Pictures, was the beginning of a partnership and friendship that lasted a lifetime for Melendez and Spille. After leaving for Spain in 1963, Dean returned to find that Melendez had created his own studio. Spille worked on the first three specials while teaching design at California State College, Long Beach. Later a sabbatical from teaching took Spille to live and work in a small town in the hills of Provence. Working on “Babar the Elephant” and later “Dick Deadeye”, he also continued working on the Peanuts films, while splitting his time between Los Angeles and France.  A definitive move to France was made as an additional project was in the works, the Emmy winning “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Dean Spille was, without question, an integral contributing artist to the success of Bill Melendez Productions, Inc.

Dean’s academic studies began at UCLA where he earned his BA in Cinema, furthering his studies at California State University earning his Master Degree in Fine Art. Dean continued his studies at the Accademia Delle Belle Arte in Florence, Italy and at Kokoshkaschule in Salzburg, Austria. Dean is also a former professor of Art at the California State University, where he taught Graphic Design and Animation. Today, he devotes his time to painting, and sells his traditional imagery throughout Europe, where he is known and celebrated for both his animation and fine art works.

Spille’s work is liberally shown through out the book, “The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation, Celebrating Fifty Years of Television Specials” .  Page 30-31 speaks of his process.

Limited Editions from Peanuts TV Specials Make Us Want To Do a Snoopy Happy Dance!

We just discovered we have a few super rare and hard-to-find Peanuts limited editions created for the anniversaries of the Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown TV specials. Given how much we at ArtInsights love all things Snoopy and Charlie Brown, it’s like we got an early Valentine’s Day gift!

What a coincidence.  Fans of the beloved Peanuts animated cartoons just celebrated the anniversary of the first airing of the 1975 Peanuts TV special Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.  Although there are over 40 animated TV specials created over the years through Bill Melendez’s studio, many fans actually remember a few of them really well.  For me it was Snoopy Come Home, for which I had the board game, the Valentine special, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. As an adult, I can to love this weird one that it turns out is the favorite of many of the animators who worked on multiple films for Melendez, What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown!. However, we can all agree that A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown are the most classic, right?

MELENDEZ AND MENDELSON MAKE TV MAGIC

Beyond the fact that the Peanuts Christmas special was a huge deal in that it was the first time the comic strip characters by Charles Schulz were translated to animation, it was also the first religious-based animated special to ever be played on tv, and offered a wonderful jazz score by Vince Guaraldi.  This cartoon has been played during the holidays every year since it played in 1965. The music was also a huge success, selling millions of copies.  At the time, A Charlie Brown Christmas was seen by 45% of those watching television in the US.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown quickly followed the Christmas special in October of 1966, although it was the third, not the second, coming after Charlie Brown’s All Stars in June of the same year. It was nominated for an Emmy. Longtime Peanuts specials producer Lee Mendelson, (who brought Schulz and Melendez together to translate the Peanuts comic strip into a cartoon, among many other important roles in the history of Peanuts specials) was outvoted in the discussion about Charlie Brown getting rocks instead of candy.  He wanted him to get his fair share.  Apparently the audience that year agreed with him, sending the character thousands of bags and boxes of candy to Melendez’s animation studio!

My childhood is filled with memories of watching the specials with my dad.  We also played my Snoopy Come Home board game a lot together.  We quoted lines from all the cartoons and the comic strip, and I’d even say seeing them every year influenced my going into a career selling art and promoting the artistry of animation.

Dog on Duty, a limited edition with three hand-painted layers, was created for the anniversary of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Dog on Duty, a limited edition with three hand-painted layers, was created for the anniversary of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It included the drawings that capture Snoopy’s struggles and bravery as a flying ace.

It was quite an experience the one time I got to eat dinner next to Bill Melendez at an event some years ago, only to discover what a wonderful sense of humor and quick wit he had.  I had already heard he was famously a great boss, according to many people in the industry who had worked at a number of studios.  In the interviews I conducted more recently, that compliment was repeated by everyone who had ever taken part in the creation of the Peanuts specials or any other Melendez studio project.

ANNIVERSARY PEANUTS LIMITED EDITIONS

This "Snoopy's Audition" limited edition was the first one released for anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas. #SnoopyVulture
This “Snoopy’s Audition” limited edition was the first one released for anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas. #SnoopyVulture

2015, the anniversaries were coming up for both the Christmas and Halloween specials.  The company connected with the Melendez family and his studio, who sells all things Peanuts and Bill Melendez Studio related in terms of art, planned a big event to celebrate with Peanuts art.  They spent a long time, with the help and design artistry of Peanuts specials director Larry Leichliter, creating an anniversary collection of Peanuts limited edition cels.  There were only 65 and 66 in each editions.  When the first piece was released, we all called those folks who had always bought art when the company released art.  They were allocated, so each gallery could only get a few of these A Charlie Brown Christmas limited editions and the It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown limited editions.  (I think I got as many as any gallery was allotted, with 6 of each edition).  Those who bought the first one, got right of first refusal on each subsequent piece so they could match the sets.  So some said yes to them all, some skipped one, and so it went.

My Peanuts collectors tend to leave their art with me for a while and come in only a few times a year.  One thing led to another, we did inventory, and POOF! We actually have a few Peanuts Charlie Brown and Snoopy limited editions (and of course some with the whole Peanuts gang!)  available for sale!  Imagine my surprise!

This Peanuts limited edition cel, "Dog Gone Commercial" captures when Snoopy was decorating his dog house for the holidays.  Classic!
This Peanuts limited edition cel, “Dog Gone Commercial” captures when Snoopy was decorating his dog house for the holidays. Classic!

Anyway, this is all to the benefit of big Peanuts fans who will fall in love with these images.  The largest Christmas and Halloween limited edition cels each took weeks to complete, there was so much hand-work involved.  If you think they look cool online, they are truly spectacular in person!  We look forward to a fan or a few fans who grew up with the cartoons and Peanuts comic strips like I did winding up with these pieces.  They can bring them home as a wonderful, nostalgic reminder of holidays gone by.  Or rather, holidays to come, because they will be playing these Peanuts TV specials every year until our great-grandchildren think they came out for them!

In this blog are all the images of the pieces we have.  Click HERE to see them all, or on each image for more information for those specific pieces.

The work-intensive A Charlie Brown Christmas limited edition art created for the anniversary called "50 Years of Joy and Wonder"
The work-intensive A Charlie Brown Christmas limited edition art created for the anniversary called “50 Years of Joy and Wonder”

The anniversary It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown limited edition that we have for sale sold out immediately when it was released, with only 66 created. Linus and Snoopy steal the show again!
The anniversary It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown limited edition that we have for sale sold out immediately when it was released, with only 66 created. Linus and Snoopy steal the show again!

Remember if you love Peanuts and the Charlie Brown TV specials, there are some original production cels available from a number of cartoons you’ll remember we get directly from the Bill Melendez Studio.  None from the Christmas or Halloween specials, but we’ve found a few choice ones for fans from Snoopy Come Home, several Valentine specials, and others that would excite you. Contact us!

We’ll leave you with this an interview I did with the producer Lee Mendelson, talking about the history of the Peanuts cartoons: