Jill Schulz, Daughter of Late 'Peanuts' Creator Charles Schulz Says No One Will Ever Continue Strip
Filed under: Celeb Parents
Jill Schulz, daughter of "Peanuts" creator Charles M. Schulz, is a busy woman.
She helps manage the massive "Peanuts" empire, especially Woodstock Ice Productions, drawing on her career as a professional ice skater. She also directs and choreographs the "All Wheels Xtreme" sports entertainment shows and still finds time for her husband, Aaron, and their two children, Kylie, 11, and Tyler, 7. She took time out of her day to chat with ParentDish about her dad, his legacy and the Peanuts 60th Anniversary Photo Look-A-Like contest.
ParentDish: I'm sure you've been asked this 100 times, but what's it like to be the daughter of a legend?
Jill Schulz: I always say that he's the only dad I grew up with, so to me he was always a dad first. I learned a lot from my dad. His philosophy on working hard and enjoying what you do, and enjoying the process. We grew up in Northern California, so we didn't grow up in a sort of celebrity Beverly Hills-esque lifestyle. My parents were from Minnesota, so we were all fairly "Plain Jane." We just grew up in a regular "Brady Bunch"-style house in the country.
PD: Is there a point when you realized how special your dad is to other people?
JS: Throughout the years, just seeing the effect he had on different people, all the way from your average fan to when he had his heart surgery and President Reagan [called] him in the hospital. I think he himself was oftentimes impressed with how famous the entire "Peanuts" empire had become.
I remember we were at a cartoonists' convention, and he [said], this entire room full of people, all of their jobs and their livelihoods are based on his job. He really felt honored, a responsibility to all these people that were making their living and putting their energies into products that were related to this strip that he had started.
People used to say [to him], 'You have all the money you want, why don't you just retire.' My dad would always say, 'Why would I be fortunate enough to have a job that I love to do, the only thing I ever wanted to do [and] not do it?' To him that made no sense. He always taught me the real joy is in the process of finding something you do and in the doing of what it is you have a passion and an interest in, not where you're going to end up.
PD: Do you feel a responsibility to keep the Peanuts legacy safe and special?
JS: Yes. [My family is] very adamant about that. Years ago, before my dad passed away, there were renewals on contracts, and there was a question -- do we someday allow anyone else to write the strip, to continue it. A lot of people [said] you've got to get someone else to draw it, to keep the product out there. They were looking at it from purely a business standpoint.
[My dad] took great pride in the fact that he had never let anybody else letter or draw a single piece of any strip. And we said no, we don't care if it ends up being a less financially beneficial decision. Our first and foremost concern is the integrity of our dad's work, and the legend behind his work.
The new TV specials, we've allowed them to take comic strips and string them together, and you have to write enough to turn it into a half-hour TV special. But there will never be anyone writing a cartoon strip. That will never ever happen. Because we know that's something my dad never wanted.
PD: Why do you think Peanuts continues to resonate with people?
JS: [The strip] is based on emotions and situations in life that nobody escapes. My dad was always a great observer, and he was always a good listener. His own childhood memories were so strong that what was in the strip, all of the things we go through -- the Little Red Haired girl, the rejection, the brothers and sisters fighting, Lucy and Linus...it's nothing that will ever go away. It was happening back when he started to write the strip, and it's still happening now. And I think that's why it continues.
PD: Comic strips, since they appear in the newspaper, are targeted at adults, not kids, right?
JS: You're right. My dad used to say, people don't understand that my cartoon strip is for adults. But a kid can still enjoy looking at the physical gags, the drawings, Snoopy jumping off the dog house, or dancing, because it's really clean and simple. That was one thing my dad intentionally did. He used to point out some strips that had too much going on in the picture, they added too much in the background. Even though the subject matter is definitely written for adults, kids like looking at it.
PD: The TV specials -- were they made for all ages?
JS: Those are definitely for all ages. The Halloween special is really identifiable to kids -- the trick or treating, "I got a rock," the Great Pumpkin. You probably have to be an adult to get to the next layer of what the meaning is in those specials, [but] I think the entertainment is for all ages.
PD: Tell me about the Peanuts Look Alike contest.
JS: It's just a fun thing to start the year for all the special events that will happen for the 60th anniversary. All the celebrities that agreed to represent themselves as that character, it's all fun. You're always seeing people saying, "Oh, you're so Charlie Brown," "My sister is just like Lucy, she's always yelling at me," things like that. It gives people a chance to send pictures, either people whose personalities are just like these characters or somebody who just looks like them.
PD: Your daughter was in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"?
JS: Yes, she played Sally and sang "My Philosophy" with the local theater club here.
PD: What was that like?
JS: It was neat to see her do it. The director gave her the last line of the play, where Lucy says, "You're a good man, Charlie Brown." Normally it would have gone to Lucy, but he gave it to her. I know it was really special for her. Now my son is starting to do plays. He'll probably be Linus because he has a blue blanket, like I'm sure hundreds of other people do.
PD: Would you mind if your kids went into show business?
JS: No. I want them to do whatever it is they want to do. I continually stress the lesson that my dad always taught me. The most important thing is just to enjoy the process of what you're doing. Understand the difference between wanting to be in the business and working at your craft, or wanting to be in the business because you want to end up on "Entertainment Tonight."
The Peanuts 60th Anniversary Photo Look-A-Like contest kicks off a year-long series of events celebrating Peanuts' 60th Anniversary in 2010. For details about the contest, visit www.peanutsphotocontest.com.
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