I was delighted to receive the opportunity to screen Who Are You, Charlie Brown? ahead of its June 25th release on Apple TV+. This is a documentary that takes a fresh look at the life and legacy of Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts and everyone’s favorite lovable loser, Charlie Brown.
One detail that really drew me into Who Are You, Charlie Brown? is that this isn’t a straight up documentary. While we spend plenty of time listening to well-known figures recounting their love and recollections of iconic Peanuts moments and characters, as well as numerous archival clips of Schulz recounting his own experiences, the entire thing is woven around a newly made Peanuts cartoon, where Charlie Brown has to deal with the seemingly monumental task of writing a 500 word essay about who he is. As the documentary takes us through Peanuts history, Charlie Brown revisits some of the most iconic characters and locations seen throughout the history of the comic strip: the baseball field, Lucy’s psychiatric help desk, Schroeder and his piano, Linus standing by the brick wall, Snoopy and his fight with the Red Baron, and so on. As Charlie Brown comes to understand who he is, we also come to a better understanding of who Charles Schulz was, and gain a greater appreciation for Peanuts at the same time.
As a lifelong fan of Peanuts, I already knew a lot of the information presented in this documentary, but I didn’t know a lot about the cartoonist’s early years, and this period was covered in touching detail. With added input from the artist’s widow, you really get a feel for how Charles Schulz grew into the man who gave us some of the most iconic cartoon characters to ever exist. We actually get to hear quite a lot from the man himself from clips taken from over the years of his life. It was quite touching to see so much of Schulz, given that he’s been gone for 21 years (a day I’ll always remember because that was the day the last Peanuts strip was published).
On top of all this, what really brings this documentary together for me is the great music from Jeff Morrow. It to be extremely difficult to write music for a series that features some iconic pieces from Vince Guaraldi, but Morrow really pulls it off. The music throughout sounds like it came straight out of the world of Peanuts and he makes sure to cite some of Guaraldi’s greatest hits along the way.
While not nearly as long, Who Are You, Charlie Brown? reminded me in all the best ways of the 2018 Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? because it gives insight into a beloved creator (in this case Charles Schulz) and we get to hear from a number of people who talk about Schulz and his work on Peanuts.
Who Are You, Charlie Brown? is available exclusively on Apple TV+ as of June 25, 2021 and I highly recommend checking it out, it was a lot of fun to watch.
Let me know what you think about Who Are You, Charlie Brown? in the comments below and have a great day!
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