Theme Park Ranger
8:44 AM EDT, September 27, 2012
Nuts about "Peanuts"? The Orange County Regional History Center is now home to an exhibit that should appeal to devotees of Charlie Brown and the gang.
"Peanuts … Naturally" opens Saturday, Sept. 29, at the downtown Orlando museum. It includes dozens of examples of the "Peanuts" comic strip produced by Charles Schulz from late 1950 to early 2000.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., has created a few traveling exhibits, and this one deals with Schulz's treatment of environmental issues, particularly in the 1970s.
It isn't preachy, says Michael Perkins, the history center's curator of exhibits.
"It's not like Schulz becomes this crunchy, green conservationist," he says. "It's the children's take on the environment."
It was a sign of the times, Perkins says.
"This is back when the government was running that commercial with the Indian looking out at the vast garbage and showing the tear coming down," he says. "It's just when we're beginning to realize how important the environment is to us."
The exhibit centers on strips featuring Charlie Brown and his nemesis, the kite-eating tree.
"Charlie Brown gets so fed up with the kite-eating tree that he takes a bite out of it. After he does that, he is contacted by the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], which is, of course, there protecting the tree," Perkins says.
History center guests will see a three-dimensional, 12-foot version of the tree at the exhibit. It will be decorated with birdhouses fashioned by children who attended summer camp at the museum.
The strips are presented in a larger format than seen in the newspaper, Perkins says. Some stand individually, and some are presented with text blocks explaining Schulz's message or motivation.
"It's going to point out so many things that even, I think, 'Peanuts' lovers and people who followed the strip for decades are going to learn something about the strip," he says.
In some newspapers, an additional, introductory panel appeared in the Sunday "Peanuts."
"A lot of times there would be a thematic drawing piece that would really set the theme or tone for the rest of the strip," he says.
For instance, music notes coming from Schroeder's piano wouldn't necessarily be random; they might be pieces related to the topic of that strip.
"There's a lot of additional thinking, a lot more depth to his work than at first glance," Perkins says.
The history center will have related programming during the exhibit, which runs through Dec. 31. "Funny Folks Behind the Serious Business of Cartooning," a panel discussion and Q&A featuring Florida cartoonists, will be part of the opening-day events. The session with Allen Bellman, Jeff Parker, Mark Simon and Rob Smith Jr. will be 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
That will be preceded by a 12:30 p.m.-1 p.m. talk by author Tim Hollis on the history of tourism and cartooning in Florida. These events are included in general admission to the center.
On Nov. 3, the "Snoopy's K-9 Friends" event will welcome dogs and their people to Heritage Square in front of the history center. The occasion will cover tips for dog training, information about breeds, shots and doggie day care from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. It's free, although admission is required to enter the history center.
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'Peanuts … Naturally'
When: Daily from Saturday, Sept. 29, through Dec. 31. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: 65 E. Central Blvd., Orlando
Cost: $9 general, $6 ages 5-12
What else: Saturday is Smithsonian Museum Day, which grants free admission to the history center and other institutions. For tickets, a list of participating venues and other information, go to SmithsonianMag.com.
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