Updated Feb 15, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Apple TV+ special tells story of Franklin from "Peanuts"

Charlie Brown and Franklin Armstrong in "Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin," premiering Friday on Apple TV+.

Charlie Brown and Franklin Armstrong in "Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin," premiering Friday on Apple TV+. Photo: Courtesy of Apple.

A new Apple TV+ special gives a background to Franklin Armstrong, the first Black character in the long-running cartoon strip "Peanuts."

The big story: "Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin," debuting on Apple TV+ on Friday, follows Franklin Armstrong as he moves into the neighborhood of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

Background: "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz created Franklin in 1968, but he's never been the center of the story until now.

Details: The special follows Franklin as he moves to a new town and navigates new friendships.

  • According to the 40-minute animated show, Franklin's family always moves because of his dad's military job.
  • Everywhere he goes, Franklin finds support in a notebook filled with his grandfather's advice on friendship. But when Franklin tries his usual strategies with the Peanuts gang, he has trouble fitting in.
  • It's not until there's a chance to win free pizza for a year that he joins fellow outcast Charles Brown to make a homemade race car to win over the town that Franklin finally sees a chance to get noticed.
Franklin Armstrong in "Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin," premiering February 16, 2024 on Apple TV+.
Franklin Armstrong in "Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin," arriving at his new home. Photo: Courtesy of Apple.

Zoom in: The special's creators connected Franklin deeply to Black culture and subtly tackled race.

  • He tells Charlie Brown that his great uncle played in the Negro Baseball League, and he has a love for Jazz great John Coltrane and soul star Stevie Wonder.

Background: Franklin was introduced to the "Peanuts" strip after a school teacher from Sherman Oaks, California, wrote Schulz asking him to integrate it, Cesar Gallegos, archivist for the Charles M. Schulz Museum, told KQED in 2015.

  • "It occurs to me today that the introduction of Negro children into the group of Schulz characters could happen with the minimum of impact. The gentleness of the kids, even Lucy, is the perfect setting," the teacher wrote.
  • Schulz initially hesitated because he didn't want to seem condescending, but he decided to do it.

Yes, but: A few newspapers, especially in the American South, informed Schulz they wouldn't run his cartoon any more if he continued to have a Black character.

  • Schulz refused to back down, and Franklin became part of the gang forever.

But, but, but: Franklin's origins were largely unknown until now.

Fun fact: The Apple TV+ special is co-written by Black American cartoonist Robb Armstrong, a protegé and a lifelong friend of Schulz, on whom Franklin was based.

  • "Incredibly, we now find ourselves in 2024, in a similar state of racial and social unrest and political uncertainty," Armstrong said. ""Franklin" once again emerges to remind us that friendship still matters, and hope is not lost."

Further reading: ¡Feliz Navidad, Charlie Brown!

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