Snoopy and the Red Baron
October 24, 2015 to April 24, 2016
Downstairs Changing Gallery
Snoopy first imagined himself as a World War I flying ace on October 10, 1965, making 2015 the 50th anniversary of this popular persona. When asked about the origins of Snoopy’s aviator role, Charles Schulz credited his son Monte’s interest in making plastic airplane models as his chief inspiration. Schulz described drawing a little helmet on Snoopy after seeing Monte’s World War I aircraft models, and “suddenly got the idea for it.” He also cited 1960s events that commemorated the start of World War I, and movies such as The Dawn Patrol. He immediately recognized the potential of the Flying Ace, acknowledging, “I knew I had one of the best things I had thought of in a long time.”
Throughout the decades, Snoopy comically embraced his fighter pilot role for delighted Peanuts readers. As Snoopy envisioned himself soaring through the clouds in pursuit of his nemesis, the infamous Red Baron, he sat atop his doghouse, which he imagined to be a real British biplane known as a Sopwith Camel (Schulz once said, “Can you think of a funnier name for an airplane?”). He wandered through parts of Europe that World War I aviators genuinely traversed, stopping in cafés to quaff root beers and flirt with French lasses. In everything he cartooned, Schulz strove for authenticity, a point made especially clear by his Flying Ace storylines.
Beyond the comic strip, Snoopy as the Flying Ace prompted the manufacture of countless memorabilia items, including toys, games, music boxes, and even a root beer float-making kit. Fans dressed up their dogs in flying caps and goggles, and Air Force squadrons adopted Snoopy as a symbol of their patriotism.
This most famous of all Snoopy’s personas continues to bring humor and nostalgic joy to Peanuts fans all over the world. “I don’t think there has been an animal character in a long time that has done the different things that Snoopy has done,” Schulz once reflected. “He’s an attorney. He’s a surgeon. He’s the World War I Flying Ace.”
This exhibition is generously sponsored by Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios,
creators of The Peanuts Movie, which opens November 6 in theaters everywhere.