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I am so excited to have been chosen as a Peanuts Brand Ambassador for a second year in a row. I grew up with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and friends – and my young daughters are too. I have many fond memories of watching the movies with my family when I was a little girl, and I love being able to instill that love for Snoopy & friends in my girls now. Recently the Snoopy & Belle in Fashion tour kicked off in LA and as part of this ambassadorship, we were lucky enough to be able to chat with non other than Jill Schulz, the daughter of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and Melissa Menta, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Peanuts Worldwide LLC, and the producer of the Snoopy and Belle In Fashion Exhibit.
Melissa, can you tell us about the exhibits and how they came to be?
Melissa: Sure! We’re really proud of this exhibit. It’s a reimagination of an exhibit that first premiered in 1984. A woman who was in charge of spearheading Peanuts merchandise in Japan went to Charles Schulz, or Sparky as he was called, and asked if she could do this exhibit. He said “yes” and she pulled off this amazing feat of getting all the major designers in the world to design outfits for Snoopy and his sister Belle. The original exhibit was called “Snoopy in Fashion.” They were plush dolls dressed by famous designers like Chanel, Betsey Johnson and everyone you could possibly imagine. Those dolls have been travelling the world ever since. In 2014 we decided to reimagine the exhibit and got all new designers plus some from the original exhibit. Since then, we’ve been showing the exhibit around the world, and adding new designers. There were 25 designers in 2014, but the current exhibit on display at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles has close to 50 sets of dolls representing almost 50 designers. The new dolls in LA come from designers like Rachel Zoe and Academy Award winner Colleen Atwood. I’m actually standing at the exhibit right now and it’s absolutely beautiful, so I hope whoever is local can come see it.
How did you pick the designers?
Melissa: Some of the designers like Betsey Johnson and Diane Von Furstenberg were part of the original exhibit. Other designers we knew had an affinity for Peanuts. We went about it in a really fun way by inviting the designers to participate via an interactive iPad.
What’s the overall goal of the exhibit?
Melissa: What’s interesting about Peanuts is that it speaks to people in different ways. Whether you go to an amusement park or see the Peanuts movie, but it’s also a fashion brand. If you talk to people in Europe, they see Peanuts as a fashion brand so this is a new way of showing Peanuts to be fashion forward and allowing people to enjoy the characters.
Jill, What would Sparky think of this?
Jill: I know he would love it. My Dad never liked to travel. He always said, “I’ll go anywhere as long as I can be home by noon.” So it was a great feat when he traveled to Paris to see the original exhibit at the Louvre in 1984. It was a testament to his interest and respect to what these designers were doing with their talents in relationship to his characters. There were many other times when he was going to be traveling overseas and would change his mind within 24 hours of leaving and not go. But the 1984 trip was one he looked forward to. He always had a great respect for all people, their art, and entertainment.
Would he consider himself fashion forward, or fashionable?
Jill: *laughs* My Dad? No, not at all actually. He was a slacks and sweater guy. He wasn’t one to have a celebrity lifestyle. He wasn’t even a fancy restaurant person. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t interested in fashion. He produced an ice show at the local ice arena for 30 or more years, and always supported the costume designer and took a great interested in making the show look good.
He wasn’t into the fashion himself, but if he did go to a special event or awards show he always dressed well. He would come out in his suit, stand extra tall and say, “What do you think Jill? How does this look?” He was probably a closet fashion guy, and loved dressing up when he had the chance, but there wasn’t much need for it in his day to day lifestyle.
Melissa, you’ve said that a lot of the designers have infused themselves into their designs. Can you elaborate on that a bit?
Melissa: Yeah, several of the dolls actually look like the designers themselves. J. Mendel came to the exhibit in 2014 and we took a photo of him next to his Snoopy doll. It’s kind of amazing that the same doll can be given such a unique look and personality as to match the designer. Betsey Johnson’s doll oozes her personality. The designers Costello Tagliapietra are a team of two men and look exactly like their dolls. It’s been a lot of fun to see how much fun the designers are having. They get so excited to see the finished product, especially alongside the other designs.
What is the process when the designer signs on?
Melissa: They’re allowed to do whatever they’d like. The only rule is that they can’t use real animal fur. They then sketch something and design the looks from there.
There’s an interesting story behind Colleen Atwood’s design, could you share that?
Melissa: Colleen is an Academy Award winning costume designer who did Alice in Wonderland. Her doll looks exactly like Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter from that film. The cloth used on Snoopy is from Depp’s original costume. For Belle, Colleen created a dress reminiscent of Memoirs of a Geisha.
Jill, do you have a favorite?
Jill: There are so many great ones and I like them all for different reasons. Out of the memories of the 80s, living in LA and wearing Betsey Johnson all the time, I gravitate towards her designs more. So I would say Betsey Johnson just out of loyalty, but they’re all so great. It’s hard to have a particular favorite.
Melissa: Jill makes a really good point about Betsey. She was part of the exhibit in 1984 and 2014, and when Twentieth Century Fox was preparing for the premiere of the Peanuts film, they asked me who would be good to create a look for Lucy that they could animate for the red carpet. Like Jill, I said “Betsey Johnson.” It was a no-brainer. She’s a special friend to Peanuts.
In Sebastopol, there are large, hand painted statues of Peanuts characters, do you see a similar type of work being done to complement the fashion exhibit?
Jill: I’m sure it could be possible, but right now all those statues are sponsored by people who bought them at auctions. I’m not sure if people would let them go given the expense of moving such large pieces. I don’t know if there’s anything in the works right now unless Melissa knows something I don’t.
Melissa: Anything is possible. Jill’s right, though, statues like that are very expensive to make and ship so something like that would have to be a reimagining of the original pieces.
Jill: It would be possible if someone came along to spearhead it, but it would probably have to be an original work rather than using the original statues.
What happens to the dolls after the exhibit is over?
Melissa: The 1984 dolls are housed in Japan and Italy. The 2014 dolls don’t have a home yet because they’re traveling so much. After the US tour, we’ll be taking the exhibit abroad again. All the 2014 designers have their own set of dolls as well.
About the Snoopy & Belle in Fashion Tour
The 2017 U.S. tour will see the premiere of all new one-of-a-kind creations in every city, displayed via on-trend vinyl Snoopy and Belle dolls, by designers who ingeniously capture the unique style of their region. The exhibition will visit the following cities:
- Los Angeles/Beverly Center: February 14-March 12
- Denver/Cherry Creek: March 17-April 11
- Sarasota/The Mall at University Town Center: April 17-May 13
- Nashville/The Mall at Green Hills: May 17–June 11
- Fairfax/Fair Oaks Mall: June 23-July 18
- New York/Brookfield Place: September 7-October 1