'A Tribute to Sparky' is a temporary exhibit featuring original cartoons drawn by some of Schulz' contemporaries when they learned he was retiring in 1999, and upon his death in 2000. Fun to see those original pieces of art from Cathy Guisewite ['Cathy'], Lynn Johnston ['For Better or Worse'] Kevin Fagan ['Drabble'], and Chris Browne ['Hagar the Horrible'].

 

Upstairs were more artifacts and historical remnants.

Schulz' office/studio is recreated here. Very modest and spartan, Schulz apparently felt that routine sparked his creativity - that working in the same office, in the same chair and using the same quill pens, provided him with creative inspiration. One look at the worn-out old chair certainly makes that apparent.

And this system obviously worked for him, as he cranked out one of the most beloved comic strips for 50 years.

Maybe someone could have surprised him with an expensive Herman-Miller Aeron chair for his birthday or something.

The Education Center is also on this floor. According to the literature, this is the place to draw, write and learn about cartooning. Sounds cool.

It's a large, classroom-like space, with white walls, white tables, white cabinets, and fire engine red stackable chairs. When we walked in, the docent handed Megan a number two pencil and a sheet of white paper and invited her to draw. Trooper that she is, Megan sat down and started to draw.

We were the only ones in the room. And it was about as much fun and enriching as taking the test at the DMV -- except without any of the noise and crowds and standing in line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside, a small patio/courtyard features some fun displays, including a Charlie Brown sculpture, a giant sized Charlie Brown baseball cap, and the kite-eating tree. [left]

 



As we headed for the exit, we were left with the sinking feeling that we didn't really learn much about Charles M. Schulz. Which is disappointing. The 100-seat theater near the main entrance was showing 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' -- a nice seasonal choice, but one which most patrons in this video generation have probably seen many, many times.

 

What about a specially produced 10-12 minute film - one that would set up the life and work of Charles Schulz and Peanuts? Give the visitors even more of a reason to care, and add a historical and personal perspective to all those cartoon strips, merchandise, animated shorts and features, and the books in 75 languages.

Now, that would be something to see.

 

[Left] At the front entrance this little standup of Charlie Brown and his live 'Charlie Brown Christmas Tree' was surprisingly lighthearted. And visitors loved it. There was laughter and picture taking. This kind of fun addition works extremely well, and overall, the museum could use more of this.

Fun, let's not forget fun. Yes, this is a museum, but it's dedicated to someone who described himself as 'a guy who draws funny pictures for a living.' A man nicknamed 'Sparky' when pressed to talk about himself, would simply say "if you want to know me, read my strip."

Fair enough. But we can read the funny papers at home. And it's frustrating to travel all this way and not get anymore than just framed comic strips and an old Astronaut Snoopy in a Plexiglas case.

During the design phase of the museum, the designers asked themselves 'Would Sparky be comfortable here?'. And maybe through their research, the designers know something we don't -- that the museum perfectly reflects the dichotomy that is Charles Schulz, a man who put smiles on other's faces, while feeling depressed and lonely himself.

Like Schulz, the museum bearing his name is far from a jubilant celebration about the creator of the Peanuts gang, it's more of a destination that invites you to a party, and then stands in the corner trying desperately not to be morose and sad.

Good Grief, indeed.

 
 

Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center
2301 Hardies Lane
Santa Rosa, CA 94503
707-579-4452

www.schulzmuseum.org

Admission

Adults -- $8.00
Seniors and Youth -- $5.00

Museum Hours:

Weekdays (except Tuesday) 12 Noon - 5:30 PM;
Saturday and Sunday, 10AM - 5:30PM;
Closed Tuesdays.

Closed for the following Holidays:
Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.

 
 

I'm not as big of a Charlie Brown fan as Jim, but I certainly am familiar with, and have an appreciation for, the Peanuts gang and Schulz' contributions to cartooning. However, this museum is really underwhelming and I hate to say it, boring. I felt nothing. I didn't like it. And unless you live close by, I would not recommend traveling any distance to see it.


I really like the Peanuts gang and especially Snoopy. He rules. And I really thought I was going to like this museum. But it was kind of boring.

It was fun to have a place to draw -- and fun to see all the pictures that other kids had done. I drew a picture and called it Snoopy Rules. I liked the wood carving of Snoopy -- that was cool. I also liked the picture of Snoopy and all the birds "I guess the birds have prepared for winter" that was painted on the wall.

I wish it had been more fun.


This place has so much potential -- it just kills me that it fell so short. We recently revisited the Disney Animation Exhibits at California Adventure. What a place this is. An engaging floorplan, a knock-your-socks-off main lobby, several shows and films to explore, and a beautifully produced short film about Walt Disney called ''One Man's Dream." It's just excellent. We learn about Walt Disney, his life, his dreams, and we get to see some of his faults and insecurities too. It's a touching film that really works well.

The staff at The Schulz museum could use a bit of 'Imagineering' in Santa Rosa -- some touches of magic to make it a real destination for Peanuts fans.

 

 
 
Enjoying Museum Madness? Continue on with our Winter/Spring Tour 2003
 
 
 
   
 
 
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