Woodstock (Peanuts)

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Woodstock
Peanuts character
Woodstock.png
First appearance March 17, 1966 (Comic Strip) (unnamed until June 22, 1970)
Snoopy, Come Home (1972 Feature Film) [1][2]
Last appearance January 16, 2000 (Comic Strip)
Voiced by Bill Melendez (1972-2006)
Jason Victor Serinus (1980)
Andy Beall (2011-present)
Information
Gender Male
Occupation Secretary to Snoopy
Family Mom, Grandpa

Woodstock is a fictional character in Charles M. Schulz's comic strip Peanuts.

History[edit]

Snoopy began befriending birds in the early 1960s, when they started using his doghouse for various purposes: a rest stop during migrations, a nesting site, or a place to play cards. None of these birds were ever given names, or even used speech balloons; they simply looked at Snoopy and he understood them. What set Woodstock apart from all these earlier birds was the fact that he attached himself to Snoopy and assumed the role of Snoopy's sidekick and assistant. There had been no recurring relationships between Snoopy and the earlier birds who visited the yard of the Brown family, and Snoopy was as often as not more hostile than friendly toward those birds. But, in the March 17, 1966, Peanuts daily comic strip, a single bird flew in after a long flight while Snoopy was lying on top of his dog house. He chose Snoopy's nose as a good place to rest, and Snoopy uncharacteristically accepted this intrusion. Over the next two days, Charles Schulz began to establish character traits for Snoopy's new friend by revealing that he could talk (more accurately that he could complain, in the form of repetitive sounds in word form—"gripe, gripe, gripe, gripe", "complain, complain, ..."), that, unlike normal birds, he didn't like to fly south every winter, and that his flying skills were not quite up to snuff. By the end of this four-strip sequence, Snoopy, in character as the World War I Flying Ace, learns that the bird is his new mechanic — Woodstock's first supporting role. After this introduction, the unnamed Woodstock is seen with Snoopy on occasion, and other birds continue to appear as they had for years. But Woodstock is singled out as the bird who befriended Snoopy, in part by continuing references to him as the Flying Ace's mechanic (July 12, 1967; June 12–14, 1968). Finally, on June 14, 1968, fourteen months after his first landing on Snoopy and after a second appearance as a supporting character for Snoopy (his wrist wrestling partner on April 25, 1968), the most important aspect of Woodstock's relationship with Snoopy is made clear—Snoopy first refers to this bird as his buddy. That identification was more than enough for readers to know, if they hadn't already figured it out, that this little bird, name or no name, had assumed the role of a regular character in the Peanuts cast.[3]

Schulz did not give him a name until June 22, 1970. Schulz acknowledged in several print and TV interviews in the mid-1970s that he took Woodstock’s name from the rock festival. (The festival’s logo showed a bird perched on a guitar.)

Character[edit]

Woodstock quickly became Snoopy’s best friend. The only non-avian character who can understand Woodstock’s speech is Snoopy. When depicted in the comic strip, his speech is rendered almost entirely in "chicken scratch" marks, with Snoopy either directly translating or allowing the reader to deduce Woodstock's meaning in the context of Snoopy's replies. Woodstock does make nonverbal noises such as yawns (November 23, 1972), laughter, sighs (November 22, 1972) and "Z"s or snores to indicate sleep. He also uses punctuation marks like "!" or "??" to indicate emotions. In the movies and television specials, the chicken scratches are rendered audibly as a staccato series of high-pitched honks and squawks by Snoopy's voice actor, Bill Melendez. Woodstock often works as Snoopy's secretary (most notably when the latter was appointed "Head Beagle"), and caddies for him when he plays golf (usually with some difficulty). Woodstock also plays American football with Snoopy, usually attempting to catch the ball but, due to his size, he is simply hit by it; sometimes getting embedded into the ground a short distance. Woodstock also claims to have contact lenses (June 8, 1995).

Woodstock is a small but scrappy yellow bird. He resourcefully wins the river rafting race in Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown after all other contestants have been eliminated. He routinely takes Snoopy's gentle verbal digs and practical jokes in stride, though he does not hesitate to stand up to Snoopy if his friend goes too far. Once, he and Snoopy stopped speaking to each other because of Snoopy's practice of reading War and Peace one word per day. When told that Woodstock was being attacked by the cat next door, Snoopy immediately rushed to his aid, getting clobbered in the process (what the cat was attacking ended up being actually a yellow glove). He also hates being mistaken for the wrong species of bird (though we are never told what species he actually is), and he is reluctant to eat thrown bread crumbs because he doesn't want anyone to think he's on welfare, and when asked about his net income by Snoopy in his 'census-taker' persona, he replied "four worms a day". He's a whiz at playing "trivia" too, and almost always manages to stump Snoopy.

Woodstock is also a skilled whistler. In the TV special, She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown, when Peppermint Patty's music for a skating competition fails to play due to a malfunction that cannot be repaired expediently, Woodstock steps up to the microphone and whistles a flawless O Mio Babbino Caro, to which Peppermint Patty performs her routine. He also whistles his part in the song "Me And You" in the feature film Snoopy Come Home.

For all of Woodstock's acumen and talent, he is physically a very poor flyer, which has been a character trait since he first appeared. He flutters around in erratic fashion, often upside down, and frequently crashes into things. He usually manages to get where he wants to go as long as he doesn't have to fly too high. He is prone to beak-bleeds if he goes over ten feet in the air. Despite his difficulty in flying as a bird, he is skilled in piloting Snoopy as a canine helicopter, or "whirlydog." When asked where he learned to pilot, Woodstock replied (in his usual apostrophes, and translating as), "Nam." This gag appeared in the strip several times, as well as in It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown.

During the winter he relaxes by either skating or playing ice hockey on top of the birdbath, complete with his own Zamboni machine to keep the surface clean (except one year where Woodstock asks Snoopy to migrate with him, and the duo take the trip on foot). His one goal throughout the comic is to track down his mother so he can send her a Mother's Day card.

In the TV special It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, Snoopy buys Woodstock a birdhouse to replace his nest after a cold early spring rain. At first Woodstock refused to use it, so Snoopy forced the issue. Checking up later on Woodstock, Snoopy peers into the birdhouse to find Woodstock has converted it into a 70s-style leisure room (complete with a quadraphonic stereo system) that appears much larger on the inside than from outside (much like Snoopy's own doghouse). Unfortunately, Snoopy gets his nose stuck in the door and demolishes the house, so he buys Woodstock a second birdhouse, which Woodstock accepts.

Woodstock and his fellow yellow birds (named Bill, Harriet, Olivier, Raymond, Fred, Roy and Conrad) often join Snoopy for group activities, with Snoopy as the de facto leader. Most frequently they embark on Beagle Scout expeditions with Snoopy as Scoutmaster - or as a patrol of the French Foreign Legion on their march for Fort Zinderneuf, led by Snoopy as their sergeant. They have also formed football and ice hockey teams (on one occasion a football team composed of Snoopy and the birds defeated a human football team led by Peppermint Patty). The birds and Snoopy are also occasionally shown playing bridge. Although all but Raymond (who is darker) look alike, Snoopy seems to be able to tell them apart.

Both Snoopy and Woodstock were voiced by Bill Melendez from 1963 to 2008.

Gender[edit]

Schulz originally considered the bird to be a female—but after the naming on June 22, 1970, it incidentally changed to be a male. As he explained in an interview in 1987:

"I had been reading the Life magazine article about the Woodstock Festival and I had the little bird in the strip. It was a she and she was Snoopy's secretary and I was doing secretary jokes quite often so then I thought Woodstock would be a good name for this bird and also, it will get the attention of these people that liked that kind of thing. Suddenly she was not a secretary; she became Woodstock, the boy. It just happened. But that's what's good about a comic strip—you can just do it."

In the Norwegian translation of Peanuts, the bird is named “Fredrikke”—a female name—and is always referred to as female. Finnish translation uses the name “Kaustinen“, without a specified gender and Spain translations uses the name "Emilio"- a male name.

Species[edit]

Snoopy has often wondered what type of bird Woodstock is. At one point Snoopy attempts to identify him with the aid of a field guide, asking Woodstock to attempt to imitate various birds: Crow, American Bittern, Carolina Wren, Rufous-sided Towhee, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Canada Goose, Warbler and Mourning Warbler. Snoopy finally gives up trying to figure it out, and hurts Woodstock's feelings by saying, "For all I know, you're a duck". Snoopy takes it back with a quick hug, at which point it becomes clear that it does not matter what type of bird Woodstock is; the only important fact is that he is Snoopy's best friend.

Schulz never definitively answered the question of what type of bird Woodstock was supposed to be.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ http://schulzmuseum.org/about-the-man/frequently-asked-questions/
  2. ^ Charles M. Schulz, Celebrating Peanuts: 60 Years, 2009, Lionheart Books Ltd., p. 177.
  3. ^ Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts, 1967-1968, New York, Fantagraphic Books, pp. 41-42, 83, 207, 227-228.