Created 03/13/2000 - 00:00
files/pictures/picture-35.jpg"They'll end up being like SOUTH PARK or something like that," said Charles Schulz's son Monte regarding the future of his father's PEANUTS comic strip, in an Associated Press article by Mary Ann Lickteig. Before Schulz's death, he strictly left instructions that nobody else could draw THE PEANUTS strip and the animated shows must end. In regards to honoring their father's wishes, Schulz's children's concern centers around United Media, who holds the copyrights on the PEANUTS characters. United Media earned 61% of its US$84.9 million in 1998 revenues from the Charlie Brown comics, TV shows and licensing deals. In 1950 when Schulz began drawing PEANUTS, comics distributors called for the copyrights to protect their investments. Schulz never was able to regain the rights back. Commenting on the future of animated specials, Bill Melendez, 84, who served as chief animator on the PEANUT animated shows, said, "I've never seen a money-making machine like this [PEANUTS] just let die, especially by the people who own it," he said. Schulz was involved in two more PEANUTS shows that will appear this year, a home video called, IT'S THE PIED PIPER, CHARLIE BROWN, and a 50th anniversary TV special scheduled to air on CBS in May. The TV special, HERE'S TO YOU, CHARLIE BROWN: 50 GREAT YEARS, features highlights from past shows, 10 minutes of new animation and interaction between real people and members of the PEANUTS gang. PEANUTS fans accustomed to the "wah-wah" speech of never-seen grownups might be surprised that adults make appearances in the PIED PIPER video. Schulz personally signed off on this Melendez said: "We had to animate them. The city council and the mayor had to be adults. He said, 'Fine. Let's have adults, no problem.' But you never know how people will react." Just before he died, Schulz also sent Melendez an outline for another show -- a story involving a game of marbles. "I have a name for it, 'It's only marbles, Charlie Brown'," Melendez said. "He gave me the notes. And I've been working on a storyboard. I was going to show it to him." Schulz's two closest collaborators on the TV shows were producer Lee Mendelson, 66, and Melendez. Along with Schulz's children, Melendez worries the company will hire other animators who never worked with Schulz. "As long as they want me to make these shows, I'll do them. And if they don't want me to do them, they're going to run into a real nest of hornets. Because I'm the only one that can do them," Melendez said. About the future of the show, Mendelson said, "It's not my decision; it's the decision of the children and United Media." Schulz's daughter, Amy Johnson, thinks her father's work -- which includes 62 animated shows and four feature-length movies -- should be left to stand on its own. "Certainly we can look at those things over and over. You read great books over and over. You look at great paintings over and over. And that's what you want to pass down to your children." At present, United Media hasn't met with the family or Schulz's collaborators to discuss the making of more shows, or elaborated on its plans.