Peanuts Creator's Widow Jean Schulz Addresses Franklin Controversy in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Every year without fail the A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving animated special draws some controversy when it airs on television, and it's something worth pointing out for those that haven't noticed it. As you may recall, the sequence in the special where the Peanuts gang all gather together to actually have their holiday meal, the places are set around the table and Franklin (the only major black character in the series at the time) is found alone on one side of the meal with no one near him. It draws criticism every year, and now, Jean Schulz, the widow of the late Charles Schulz, has issued a statement on the matter in a new interview.

"The scene would not have had nothing to do with Sparky (a nickname for her husband), because it was purely the animators and the directors working on it," Jean told Yahoo. "The director parcels out the scenes to the animators, and the animators who drew that scene aren't alive anymore or we don't know how to find them. The [controversy] first popped up a couple of years ago. I've probably watched the special a dozen times, and I hadn't noticed it. But I wouldn't notice it: It's to be noticed now."

In a blog post previously published on the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center website, Jean offered a little more context to what likely happened back in the 1970s, writing: "While it can't be known now which animator drew that particular scene, you can be sure there was no ulterior motive. I fall back on Peppermint Patty's apology to Charlie Brown explaining she meant no harm when she criticized his poor Thanksgiving offering, which goes something like: 'There are enough problems in the world already without these misunderstandings.' To suggest the show had any other messages than the importance of family, sharing and gratitude is to look for an issue where there is none."

Even with that perspective on the special, viewers still find discomfort from how it's seen in the special. This year one user on Twitter wrote "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is on. Time for our annual love and disappointment that Franklin is sitting on one side of the table all by himself," with another adding "I still don't understand why Franklin had to sit at the dinner table on a side all by himself on a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving."

4comments

The above explanation might offer some context to confused viewers, but doesn't paint a squeaky clean picture of the intentions or lack thereof. In any event, Schulz' message referring to Peppermint Patty's apology is a powerful one. We'll likely be having this conversation again next year though.