“Peanuts” grew slowly at first; caught on hugely in the ’60s, when almost by accident it seemed to speak to everyone who was experiencing the generation gap; and then almost drowned in a licensing binge and flood of tchotchkes. Schulz said yes to everything, no matter how kitschy — toys, cards, books, sweatshirts — until even his fans began to complain he was selling out.
What saved “Peanuts,” Michaelis suggests, was the elevation of Snoopy into a main character in the late ’60s, and the way his boundless, almost surreal fantasy life frequently took over the strip, which at the same time was being pared down to a visual minimum: a scarf, a helmet, a doghouse indicated by just a few horizontal lines.
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