INTERVIEW: ‘Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin’ Creative Team Talk New Special and Charles Schulz's Legacy

Franklin Armstrong is front and center in this latest special from Peanuts which you can now stream with the whole family on Apple TV+!

Still Image of Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin Courtesy of AppleTV+
Still Image of Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin Courtesy of AppleTV+ /
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Peanuts is one of the most beloved comic book and filmed media franchises to date. The perennially-beloved characters have been friends to audiences and readers for generations. While we're used to seeing the yellow shirt-wearing youngster Charlie Brown as the lead of most of the franchise's storylines, in this latest special on Apple TV+, Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin, the origin story of Franklin, the first black character in the original Peanuts strip is being told for the first time.

In the special, we're introduced to Franklin and his family, who are always on the move with his dad’s military job, and, unfortunately, everywhere he goes, he doesn't fit in. Now he has to navigate new friendships, which starts out rough for him until he finds out about the neighborhood Soap Box Derby race. After befriending Charlie Brown, they team up to build a car in order to enter into the race and attempt to win. Though, the process isn't without its challenges, this special showcases how this new friendship can signal positive messaging surrounding teamwork and learning to appreciate other people's differences while finding similarities. In addition, if you're curious about what happens at the race, you're going to have to tune in to the special with the whole family to find out!

The Parent Watch chats with the special's executive producer and co-writer Craig Schulz, Emmy-winning director Raymond S. Persi, and Jump Start comic creator and cartoonist Robb Armstrong, who served as a co-writer. The trio talk about collaborating to showcase the evolution of Franklin and how this special continues the legacy of the Peanuts comic strip creator Charles 'Sparky Schulz'. Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin is produced by WildBrain Studios and distributed by Apple TV+. Well, what are you waiting for? Read on to find out more!

TPW: I'm so excited to be talking with the creative team of Apple TV+'s Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin. My first question is directed towards Craig Schulz. Franklin is such an iconic character. As the EP (Executive Producer) and co-writer, I wanted to know how this special is set apart from the other Snoopy specials that you've done in the past?

Craig Schulz: Well, I think it's special because you're dealing with two characters that are coming together. It basically tells the story of Franklin leaving the city life. His dad's in the military and comes to a small town and meets Charlie Brown. It's one of the few specials where you really have two characters relating one on one to each other. Other characters [are] around, but most of the other ones [Peanuts specials] we did, they kind of deal with other kind of subject matter. This special, in its own right just because of that, not because he's black or brown or whatever. It's mainly just because you're dealing with a relationship between two small children and how they're going to interact with each other and how they discover each other's culture [and] background, because Franklin is unique to the Peanuts neighborhood. For example, Linus and Lucy have never dealt with somebody that's come from the outer world. So that was just really fun to explore that and that's why we really wanted to do this one, because Franklin, we really wanted to highlight. We knew we'd want to treat it with kid gloves and spend a lot of time to get it right.

CS (CONT'D): That's why we brought Robb on board and obviously, we had Raymond as our great director. He did all the other ones, too.

TPW: Raymond, you directed It's the Small Things Charlie Brown, also with Apple TV+. With Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin, what did you learn from that previous experience that you incorporated into directing this special?

Raymond S. Persi: Well, for me, I kind of treat each one as its own thing. I really look at the theme of what we're trying to say with each special to try to figure out, 'What do the backgrounds need to look like? What sort of lighting do we need? What [specific] kind of music?". We're looking to really capture the tone. So that one [It's the Small Things Charlie Brown] was like a bigger idea and it was about the world, was the main character of the story, really. In this one [Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin], the main characters are Charlie Brown and Franklin.

RS.P (CONT'D): Maybe at some points, [the special] feels more intimate and quieter and that the environment is a background to help showcase what the characters are feeling at different times, so really capturing specific feelings, like, 'What did it feel like when you're in your garage working?' What I'm hoping is when people see that scene, when they're working on the cart, they can actually smell that smell, that dusty old smell of a garage that we're used to or in the scenes where it's raining and dark, that you can feel that dampness and how it relates to feeling alone, or just like the joy of being in the bright sunlight and having fun with your friends. That's what I tried to bring to this special.

TPW: That's awesome. [It] captures all of the senses.

TPW: (CONT'D): Robb, I'm sure our readers will be happy to know that Franklin's surname, Armstrong, is the same as yours and as the special centers on Franklin and you being a co-writer, Were there any memorable moments or experiences that you had that helped you to craft the storyline of this special?

Robb Armstrong: The storyline had to continue something that was started by Sparky Schulz; Number one. That's the mandate. We're not trying to invent. I'm not trying to invent anything new. The original introduction of Franklin was impactful in 1968 [and] it's impactful now. Our mandate now is different. We have to also be addressing a troubled world. He [Franklin] came into a troubled world. That was the reason for his existence. We're in a different time now. It's troubled again. So now we have a different opportunity in front of us. With Apple TV+, we have an opportunity to make a big global statement and a very intimate, special story at the same time. My role in it is to just bring an authentic flesh and blood feeling to him. At times, because I relate so strongly to him, it was tricky to do it because I relate so well to Franklin, who is coming into an existing crew. I'm coming into an existing crew. He's a black person entering [a] mostly white world like I am. I went through the same thing when I was his age, by the way. I went from an all-black school to an all-white school. I went through all these same things.

RA (CONT'D): There were times when I related so well, I couldn't distinguish myself from the character, but thank God for Craig, because he would remind me of that and say, 'Who are we talking about right now? You or him?' and I'd say, 'I don't know. I have no idea. I don't know who we're talking about.' I think the final product is clear, touching, and it's going to be very impactful to people and to kids.

TPW: I definitely can resonate with that as well. I think everybody is going to enjoy the special and I'm so excited it for it to be seen by so many people.

Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin is available to stream on Apple TV+

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