4. Hot Pepper
Sorry for wedging this song into your ears for the rest of the day/month/decade, but I had to share this commercial for Japan’s Hot Pepper (a Zagat-like restaurant guide for Japan). The 女子会 on the cover signifies a “girls night out” type guide, which explains why Jpop star Kaela Kimura is singing that catchy tune with Peanuts’ female contingent (plus Snoopy, who is a megastar in Japan). This aired back in 2009, and it’s merely one of the oddest examples of how huge Snoopy is in Japan.
Having visited Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka a few times, I can confirm that Snoopy is about as big in Japan as any other western cartoon character. Beyond this Hot Pepper ad, he appears on countless toys, shirts, handkerchiefs, and other merch. Even stranger is that while the human characters aren’t all that big there, Snoopy’s extended family is huge. Most Americans couldn’t pick other Peanuts canines like Spike, Molly, or Belle from a lineup, but you’ll have an easier time finding them in Tokyo than you will Linus and Lucy. Given that background, seeing Sally and Marcie hang out in Hot Pepper’s wacky commercial is even more special. (Additional research by Daniel Feit)
3. Some of Nintendo’s first handheld games
Nintendo spent the ’60s and ’70s as one of Japan’s top toy makers, and by 1985 they were the country’s biggest video game creator. Still, it took a few years to make that transition, and the Game & Watch LCD handelds were part of the bridge between those two eras. As Nintendo slowly grew its list of popular characters from Mario and Donkey Kong, it depended on established mascots at first. While many remember Popeye and his arcade exploits, Nintendo also relied on Snoopy, who starred in one of their earliest games.
Built using essentially calculator parts, Game & Watch titles have less animation (and only slightly more gameplay) than a flip book, but they were damn impressive at the time. Watching Snoopy lob tennis balls back at Chuck and Lucy can be hypnotic, and you always knew what time of day it was thanks to the on-screen clock (we didn’t have iPhones to check in 1983). Though there would be later Snoopy games of varying quality put out by other publishers, Nintendo’s direct partnership with the characters basically ended here. It’s kind of a shame as we’d love to see Snoopy as a tennis slinging assist trophy in Super Smash Bros.
2. You’re In The Super Bowl, Charlie Brown
The Super Bowl is basically a massive money party that corporations throw once a year, showing socially-trendings ads and lavish halftime shows for people to tweet about all day long. Sometimes a game of football also happens, but that’s kinda secondary to the proceedings, which have even been known to include Peanuts characters. In fact, they once starred in a half-hour special dedicated to The Big Game, though it’s one of the most rarely seen Peanuts properties there is.
Charlie Brown starred in dozens of specials, but You’re In The Super Bowl, Charlie Brown had fewer repeat airings than most of their holiday fare. It aired on NBC around Super Bowl weekend 1994, breaking Snoopy’s long CBS-only streak. The special is cute enough, though the biggest surprise is seeing all of the official NFL logos and team names, which the NFL rarely licenses. To rerelease it on DVD would likely involve paying the NFL a shitload of money for logo rights, so this special never saw a physical release beyond a VHS sold at Shell gas stations. An ignoble end for the last special to air on TV in Charles Schultz’s lifetime – worthy of Charlie Brown’s loser rep.
1. Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron – The Hit Pop Songs
An early running gag in Peanuts was Snoopy’s overactive imagination, which included dreaming of being a World War I flying ace who was forever battling The Red Baron. It was an oddly cute way of remembering one of Germany’s deadliest pilots during one of the grisliest times in human history, and it proved to be too popular to stay on the page. In 1966, pop band The Royal Guardsmen made a musical tribute to air combat with hit novelty song Snoopy Vs. Red Baron. To give you some idea of how huge it was, it even garnered a crappier Christmas version the next year, which also did great.
While I was ready to leave you with the idea that an amusing Peanuts gag could inspire one of the top-selling songs of the 1960s, I found The Royal Guardsmen had a brutally patriotic side as well. In 2006 the remaining Guardsmen decided to insert a Snoopy song into a more recent tragedy. Listen to the I-can’t-believe-this-really-happened glory that is Snoopy Vs. Osama. Spoiler: The song ends with Snoopy shooting bin Laden in the face.
Now, this is hardly official or authorized, but it was recorded by two of the original Royal Guardsmen, who obviously are based in Florida. God bless America.
See, now you know this beagle like Linus knows bible quotes. If there’s other weird Peanuts merch and media you remember post about more obscure and official examples in the comments!