Tuesday, October 12, 2010

May 11, 1953: Snoopy and the realistic bird


This is only the second bird ever seen in the strip; the first was seen early on, and actually looked more like Schulz's adult bird design (which to clarify _doesn't_ look similar to Woodstock) than this one.

This is only the third non-Snoopy animal seen in the strip. (The second was a generic dog who chased a car.) The worm would be the fourth, I guess.


  1. I don't understand why everybody claims that Woodstock made his first appearance in the Peanuts world in 1967. Woodstock first appeared in the strip in 1970, in the role of Snoopy's secretary when the dog became Head Beagle! The bird in the 1967 strip was just a random bird and nothing more, in exactly the same way that the bird in the strip above isn't Woodstock but just a random bird. I'd be interested to know if you agree with me.

  2. Well to my memory....

    A bird built a nest on Snoopy's stomach once when he was laying there, and he couldn't bring himself to move it. He laid there while the bird laid eggs, they hatched, and eventually learned to fly. Eventually the last bird took a tentative wavering flight away and Snoopy snatched the nest away. The bird never learned to fly correctly. Thus began the saga of Woodstock.

    The bird flew around uncertainly for a while then stopped appearing for a while. Eventually he came back though. ("Oh no! It's the return of the native!") The bird hung out for a while before Snoopy learned its name was Woodstock, which he reveals to the reader ("saying" we won't believe what his name is beforehand).

    The Head Beagle story I'm not sure when it happened, but I was under the impression that Snoopy already knew Woodstock for a while when he started in as secretary.

    There is an echo of that distant story every time Woodstock pines away for his mother on Mother's Day. The mother Woodstock remembers, she was a real character (and a lot more realistically drawn than Woodstock, too).

  3. Thank you for your excellent and informative reply! :)

  4. I have a different analysis on the issue of the date on which Woodstock first appeared in Peanuts. Up until a certain point in the strip, none of the birds who interacted with Snoopy had any individual characteristics, and it was impossible to identify one from another. In late 1965, Schulz did a number of strips involving bird's who tormented Snoopy in various bird-like ways. The sequence you describe, which began on March 3, 1966, was just another example of the same use of generic birds. Snoopy is basically hostile to the birds, even to the two young hatchlings -- so much so that in the strip for March 19, 1966, one of the baby bird's blurts out a "bleah!" in response to Snoopy's unkindness. The young bird's hang around in the strip for a while, until they were last seen in the May 22, 1966 Sunday strip. But during that 2 month period, there are other gags involving groups of birds, and it is impossible to identify any one bird as possibly being a young Woodstock. The only way we can identify the hatchlings is by the "flitter flutters" surrounding them as they fly, but the entire sequence was premised on Snoopy's throwing little birds out of their nest before they were able to fly.

    If we look at the short sequence involving Snoopy and a bird which began on April 4, 1967, we see that the relationship between Snoopy and that single bird is much different. When the bird flies in, lands on Snoopy, and then takes a nap on his nose, Snoopy doesn't complain. More importantly, there is no sign that he recognizes this bird. If it were one of those hatchlings seen in the strip a year earlier, the bird could have made no more than trip south for the winter in its young life, yet Snoopy asks in the second strip of this 1967 sequence, "...If he doesn't like it, why does he KEEP FLYING DOWN THERE EVERY YEAR ?" [my emphasis] One trip is not enough to be described as "every year."



  5. Pt. 2

    In the third strip of the 1967 series, which shows this bird having difficulty flying, Snoopy, referring to the bird's problem, says he can't figure this guy out. If this were one of the birds who hatched in 1966, it seems unlikely that Snoopy would question just another example of flitter fluttering.

    But, the most important new development, by far, took place in the fourth strip of the series, which appeared on April 7, 1967. Snoopy, dressed as the WWI Flying Ace, is yelling for his mechanic. This new bird shows up in response. In and of itself, that would not be enough to distinguish the bird in this sequence from all the other birds who had been involved in single gag strips with Snoopy. But Schulz, for the first time, continued to make references to the bird who is the Ace's mechanic - and we have been told that that bird is the one who flew in after repeated trips south on April 4, 1967.

    The primary factor which sets Woodstock apart from all the earlier unnamed birds was his role as Snoopy's friend and sidekick. He was a bit of a complainer and wasn't exemplary in his bird skills either, characteristics shown right from the start in this 1967 sequence. Long before we were told Woodstock's name in 1970, one bird had already assumed these characteristics And other birds continued to appear in the strip and it was not clear if any one was what seemed to be a recurring character, there was one sure way by which a reader could keep track of even a nameless bird - he was the one who kept appearing in various rolls as Snoopy's friend and assistant.

    The fact that the bird who flew into the strip on April 4, 1967 is unquestionably the same bird who became Snoopy's mechanic three days later, links him to the bird who is again shown as the WW1 Flying Ace's partied-out mechanic in the strip for July 12, 1967. When the bird makes a third appearance in the Flying Ace strip for June 12, 1968, we know that it is that same bird, since Snoopy still refers to him as his mechanic. And I suspect that almost anyone who looks at that strip, with Snoopy's approving smile over his little friend pretending to be the Flying Ace, would agree that this bird is unquestionably Woodstock. Two day's later, Snooy refers to him as his buddy, an honor he never bestowed on any of the many other nameless birds, who appeared in Peanuts before or after April 1967.

    ... and that's why I believe that Woodstock first appeared on April 4, 1967.