Who are you, Charlie Brown? is streaming now on Apple TV+.
First published in 1950, Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts became one of the most famous global comic strips ever committed to press. Peanuts started life in a small local newspaper under the title Li’l Folks, where Schulz or Sparky, to his family and friends, would begin to shape the characters, style and vision we all came to love. Here, Schulz gave life to Charlie Brown, a boy who reflected many of his own childhood experiences. Michael Bonfiglio’s delightful and loving documentary of Schulz begins here, exploring Schulz’s creativity and talent through the Peanuts gang he loved and cherished as his most famous character, Charlie Brown, asks, who am I?
Over the twenty years since Charlie Brown and Peanuts retired from the press following the death of Schulz, they continued to win new hearts and minds. Their enduring appeal is rooted in the intelligence, wit and charm of their creator, who dedicated his life to a diversity of characters who changed the world.
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But, as Who are you, Charlie Brown? also demonstrates; the lasting legacy of Schulz in pop culture, psychology, tv and film is rooted in intelligent writing and not just the hand-drawn characters. Here, Schulz’s belief in diversity, unity and hope dovetailed with an honest, loving and intelligent dissection of childhood experience. The result was a comic strip every kid and adult could relate to, every character speaking to an old or young individual who saw themselves reflected in ink. Each story of Peanuts is a loving tribute to the anxieties, magic, belief and disappointment that surround childhood and adult experience.
Narrated by Lupita Nyong’o, we are taken from Schulz’s childhood full of insecurities to his service in World War II and eventual work as an artist and storyteller. Here we explore the building blocks of Schulz’s creative drive and the origins of each Peanuts character. But it is within the discussions on Schulz’s commitment to the evolution, love, and protection of imaginary and real family that Bonfiglio’s documentary truly finds its voice. Here the privacy and security Schulz created are fascinating, not just around his own family but around his treasured Charlie Brown and Peanuts. Bonfiglio weaves interviews with animation as he explores the private world of Schulz in a documentary that lovingly celebrates the man, his family, his creations and his place in animation history.
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