When the teaser trailer for the upcoming Peanuts movie dropped, cries of Hollywood defiling yet another beloved childhood icon ensued. While seeing Charlie Brown’s bald melon rendered in CGI is a bit disconcerting, producer Paul Feig reassured Peanuts purists that Snoopy will not be “twerking.” (All bets are off when it comes to Pig-Pen, however.)
Of course, anyone who has taken a deep dive into the many, many Peanuts specials knows that Charles Schulz and company were taking the franchise to some weird places as early as the 1970s. Once they ran through every holiday (yes, even Arbor Day), things got a little weird. And while the best specials like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas are still re-run today, most of the more random and one-off specials have been lost to time. Let’s take a look at some of the stranger (and occasionally downright disturbing) Peanuts specials.
9. It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown
Basically a retread of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, this outing finds Linus obsessed with yet another fictional deity who delivers gifts on a holiday that has nothing to do with gift giving. Except this time it’s a real stretch that Sally would fall for Linus’ nonsense a second time.
Man, Snoopy isn’t even bothering with a disguise here. Clearly Linus has snapped and is just turning everything around him into a magical character. It’s only a matter of time before he dubs Woodstock “The Administrative Professionals’ Day Falcon.”
Outside of the Easter Beagle plotline, this one really meanders even by the standards of later Peanuts specials. There’s a segment where the gang goes to the mall and Charlie Brown bemoans how Christmas decorations are already going on sale. Yeah, you already tackled the commercialization of the holiday season, guys. Basically every scene in this special serves as a reminder of better Peanuts specials.
Also, just in case you forgot that the special was made by baked animators in 1974, a good five minutes is devoted to Snoopy dancing with some rabbits inside of a kaleidoscope.
8. What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?
This 1983 special picks up right after the events of the theatrical film Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown, which explains why the gang is in Europe. What it doesn’t explain is why a bunch of unsupervised children need to learn about the horrors of war during their wacky European adventure.
When their rental car breaks down in a quaint French village (how did they rent a car exactly? Does Snoopy have a major credit card?), the gang visits Omaha Beach and learns all about D-Day.
They then rent another car (again, how??) from a French woman who recognizes Snoopy as a famous World War I flying ace and not as a mischievous dog with a taste for period cosplay. (It should be noted that this is one of the few Peanuts specials that breaks the “never show adults” rule.)
Adding to the fun is a scene where Linus recites the poem “In Flanders Fields” as the group surveys a graveyard filled with markers for those who fell during the battles at Ypres. (Again, this happens in the same cartoon where Snoopy swindles a French lady out of a car.)
Luckily they got out of Europe without Snoopy being tried for his various war crimes.
7. It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown
Have you ever marveled at the many Peanuts holiday specials and exclaimed, “What’s next, ‘It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown’???” Well, that ship sailed back in 1976.
Debuting after the death of musical genius Vince Guaraldi, this special lacks his signature jazzy compositions. It’s also less about planting trees and more about the Peanuts gang playing yet another agonizing slow game of baseball. If nothing else, it’s proof that Charles Schulz never met a holiday that he couldn’t turn into a source of humiliation for poor ol’ Chuck.
6. He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown
A recent addition to the Peanuts canon, this 2006 special attempts to address the topical issue of bullying through the decidedly quaint and dated topic of schoolyard marble etiquette.
The special finds Linus and Lucy’s highly annoying brother Rerun, the closest thing the Peanuts franchise has to a “Poochie,” taking up marbles in an effort to be the most popular kid at summer camp. Along comes hotshot marble shark Joe Agate (voiced by a pre-Twilight Taylor Lautner) who cheats Rerun out of his marbles.
Perpetually bullied Charlie Brown decides to stand up for Rerun and learns the ins-and-outs of the marble racket from Snoopy in his Joe Cool persona. (This special really overestimates the appeal of marbles.)
In the end, Charlie Brown hustles Joe out of his marbles and kids watching at home learn that when it comes to bullies, you should always let an older, more viciously tormented loser to fight your battles for you. There’s also a tacked on subplot about Peppermint Patty thinking that Marcie and Charlie Brown are dating behind her back. As always, Peppermint Patty and Marcie’s master/lackey dynamic says more about bullying than any plotline involving marbles ever could.
5. What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown!
This bizarre 1978 special begins with an extended sequence where Snoopy refuses to pull Charlie Brown’s sled and instead whips his owner and makes him pull him around. (On the scale of Charlie Brown’s many humiliations, being used as a sled dog by your own pet has got to be pretty high up there.)
Snoopy then proceeds to make himself like 10 pizzas and eat them in front of ol’ Chuck, who keeps harping on about how rough Arctic dogs have it. This causes Snoopy to have a dream wherein he’s part of a pack of less domesticated canines who pull their abusive owner in the Iditarod. (In keeping with Peanuts tradition, the owner is only seen in shadow and speaks with the “wah wah wah” adult voice. This only serves to make the whole thing even creepier.)
Tired of losing food to the tougher dogs, Snoopy bares his teeth for what has to be the first time ever in a Peanuts special and reverts to a feral state in a scene that probably inspired more than a few parental conversations about whether or not Snoopy has rabies.
Above, a scene from the lost Peanuts special “Why Is Snoopy Foaming at the Mouth, Charlie Brown?”
Suddenly, the other dogs respect Snoops, which is ironic since whenever Charlie Brown stands up for himself he just gets knocked down further. Snoopy then puts a beat down on the alpha dog and takes all the food, proving that even in his most base state he’s still kind of a jerk. The sled team eventually falls through some ice to their watery deaths, but, thankfully, Snoopy wakes up safe and sound in his dog house. He then proceeds to make himself a giant sundae and go to sleep in Charlie Brown’s bed, having learned absolutely nothing.
4. Snoopy’s Getting Married, Charlie Brown
You’re never too young to start worrying about planning a wedding. And what better way to learn about all the anxieties and familial commitments that come with your big day than through a Peanuts special?
After spotting a sassy poodle named Genevieve, Snoopy falls instantly in love and decides to make her his bride. (Clearly he learned the whole creepy stalker thing from watching Charlie Brown’s frequent strike-outs with the Little Red-Haired Girl.)
Snoopy then experiences the sort of pre-wedding jitters usually reserved for aging bachelors who have finally decided to settle down, including suffering through a miserable bachelor party and breaking down into tears right before the ceremony.
Since this is the Peanuts universe where misery is as common as pick-up baseball games, Snoopy is left at the altar when his bride-to-be runs off with a golden retriever. But Snoops ultimately shrugs off his heartbreak, relishing his bachelorhood with platonic life partner Woodstock.
3. Why, Charlie Brown, Why?
The title is the first sign of trouble with this one. There’s no way anything called Why, Charlie Brown, Why? is going to be a lighthearted romp.
This 1990 special introduces Janice, a character created for the sole purpose of suffering from leukemia. Yes, this is a very special Peanuts special that deals with the tragedy of childhood cancer.
Linus falls for Janice instantly upon meeting her, which is odd since blind, unrequited love is really more of a Charlie Brown thing.
Linus, now is really not the time to go on about the Great Pumpkin…
In its defense, the special doesn’t pull any punches in taking kids through every step of Janice’s suffering, from her initial symptoms to the bully who makes fun of her for losing her hair. (Uh, he did notice the prematurely bald kid with the weird dog in his class, right?)
In the end, Janice turns out to be fine and then is promptly never heard from again. What makes this special particularly unsettling is that Janice was created just so that Linus could learn a lesson about the harsh realities of cancer and utter the titular line of woe. Does her cancer come back? Will she ever be seen again?? Why, Charlie Brown, why?!
2. It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown
For the most part, Peanuts is pretty timeless and immune to pop culture references. Except for that time when Snoopy put on leg warmers and a headband and recreated Flashdance.
A blatant attempt to appeal to that cross section of kids that love both Snoopy and Jennifer Beals vehicles, It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown opts for a series of musical vignettes over an actual story. Most of the segments are forgettable, but when Snoopy and the rarely seen Franklin hit up a discotheque, that’s when the real magic happens. And by magic, we mean a dog in orange sweats dancing to synth pop.
Just like in What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?, the special breaks a long-standing Peanuts rule by showing grown-ups dancing in the club. Grown-ups, it should be noted, who get shown up on the dance floor by a dog.
The special ominously ends with Charlie Brown saying that something needs to be done about his mischievous dog, which we can only assume was the set-up to the never released “Remember to Always Spay and Neuter Your Pets, Charlie Brown.”
Oh, and Franklin busts some awesome breakdancing moves but then has to stand by and watch as Snoopy, er, Flashbeagle hogs all the glory.
(Fun fact: Joey Scarbury of The Greatest American Hero theme fame lent his pipes to the “Flashbeagle” song while a young Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson voiced Sally. Also, Snoopy’s dance moves were performed by Jennifer Beals’ double from Flashdance, making her the only dancer who has choreographed for a cartoon dog.)
1. It’s the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown
If you think those delightful MetLife ads were the first time that the Peanuts gang met live-action people, hoo boy, have we got a weird one for you.
Described by Schulz himself as his “Citizen Kane,” the hybrid animation/live-action special took four years to make and cost millions of dollars. And then Who Framed Roger Rabbit? came along and everyone thought that Schulz was just cashing in with a quickie knock-off.
It didn’t help that after a brief intro with Charlie Brown and Snoopy, the special focused entirely on Spike, Snoopy’s vaguely stoner-ish desert-dwelling brother who somehow has creative facial hair. It also didn’t help that Schulz cast his own daughter Jill as Jenny, a wannabe jazz dancer who picks up a hitchhiking Spike in her titular red truck.
Jenny takes Spike home, where she proceeds to have an argument with her hot-shot record exec boyfriend who has scheduled an audition for her on the same day that she’s supposed to teach an aerobics class. (Seriously, this is the central conflict of the special.)
If it wasn’t for the cuts to an understandably bored Spike in the clip above, we would’ve assumed we’d stumbled across a scene from some forgotten ’80s nighttime soap or possibly a softcore Skinemax movie.
So Jenny does what any gal would after a fight with her beau and goes roller skating with the burnout dog she just picked up in the desert.
Spike then jams with some homeless troubadour dogs, who weirdly look like Snoopy versions of Woody Guthrie, before running afoul of a gang of coyote hunters. Jenny and the boyfriend save Spike, who then promptly goes back to doing whatever it is he does in the middle of nowhere.
Honestly, the only way this special would make sense is if it was revealed to be yet another one of Spike’s mescaline-induced hallucinations.