Friday, May 11, 2012

What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?

Charles Schulz is famous for creating the beloved cartoon, Peanuts. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Linus, Marcy, and of course, Snoopy, have become icons throughout the world.

But what many people might not know is that Charles Schulz served in World War II as a staff sergeant. He was in Europe with the Twentieth Armored Division after D-Day and saw combat.

The war affected him deeply, and it appeared in his cartoon strips in various ways. But in 1983, he created a short cartoon called What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? that was a tribute to the soldiers of World War I and World War II.

In the (too) short cartoon, Charlie Brown, Linus, Marcy, and Peppermint Patty, along with Snoopy, are in France as exchange students. While headed for the coast of Normandy, they take a wrong turn, and end up right near Omaha Beach. When Linus realizes where they are, he recalls the lessons he learned about D-Day and the Allied invasion and shares them with the other children. Real footage is blended within the cartoon to create an intriguing piece of art that manages to show the bold sacrifice and courage of that day without being frightening for the children's audience it was intended for.

As the kids explore the American cemetery, Dwight Eisenhower's voice emerges, discussing the Allies' fight for freedom against the tyranny of the Axis' powers. The next day, the kids end up in a field filled with poppies, and Linus recites the poem "In Flanders Field" by John McRae. Red poppies cover this particular cemetery that is filled with the fallen from World War I, and the words are haunting.

It is at the end of this poem that Linus turns to Charlie Brown and says, "What have we learned, Charlie Brown?"

The question is never answered, and this makes the short film all the more powerful. It is a question for children and adults, and it is one that is open-ended for a reason.

What have we learned?


Ron Scheer said...

Good to see you back. Thanks for this one.

Melissa Marsh said...

Ron - Lots of health issues culminating in a hysterectomy had me sidelined for awhile. I hope to post more often!

"Sound Bytes from the Attic" said...

Bravo! Well said Melissa. I don't know how I missed this offering from Schulz. I've got to get this. I love Peanuts and miss Schulz' brilliance every day. What an American icon and artist. - Scott Lyons

Melissa Marsh said...

I think I remember watching it a long time ago, but to see it again was very heartening and humbling. I actually cried watching it.

happygirl said...

I have a stack of letters and a portfolio of drawings from my MIL's first husband who was killed on his fifth flying mission over Italy. The letters are from his training and time in Europe. My mil was pregnant with their first child. She was 18 and he was 21. I'd love to turn them into a story one day. <3

Melissa Marsh said...

Oh, happygirl, I hope you can do that someday. What precious items you have!