When we think about The Peanuts, so many different characters, and their experiences pop into our minds: Linus and his blanket, Lucy and her constant attitude, Snoopy resting on top of his dog house, and poor, Charlie Brown, getting into some crazy situation! But then, there’s Franklin, who showed up one day, on a beach, to return Charlie Brown’s beach ball, and help make castles together. Franklin was a revolutionary when he was first introduced 47 years ago, and his story is just as relevant today, as it was then. With the help of a school teacher, and the power of the pen, he first came to life on the comic pages, and has been a good friend to Chuck all these years.
How did Franklin come into being?
School teacher, Harriett Glickman, realized that no major comic strips featured an African American character, so she took it upon herself to write to several major illustrators, to see if she could convince them that it was time. This came when Martin Luther King, and so many other people were trying to break down race barriers in the country. Fortunately, Charles Schulz agreed, while other illustrators feared that their series would be cut from newspapers across the country. She was inspired to write because she felt that “if you see something that needs to be fixed, you have to speak up.”
Before Mar Mar Walker was case as the voice of Franklin, he was already a fan.
Mar Mar was excited to be a part of the cast, because, link so many other kids, he grew up a fan of the Peanuts, right down to his Peanuts sheets when he was little! He worked to bring Franklin more into the present with his take on Franklin’s voice – he gave him a unique flair, which helped to bring his character to life on the big screen.
Franklin’s story is very different that his Peanuts friends. As the voice of Franklin, were you aware of his “history?”
At a recent NCAAP event, Mar Mar heard Mrs. Glickman’s story behind Franklin, and decided to research the whole history. The original cartoons introduces Franklin to Charlie Brown, as just any other kid on the beach, playing in the sand. His backstory includes that Franklin’s fathers is in Vietnam, because he was first introduced in 1968, and the news of the day was woven into his character.
What feelings did you have about the other Peanuts characters?
It’s funny to think that our opinions of each Peanuts character is fairly universal. Lucy is cranky, Linus is a bit of a baby, Charlie Brown is a klutz. But deep down, we love each of them for what they offer to us, as individuals, and as a whole gang as well.
What kind of character do you think Charles Schulz intended Franklin to be? How would you describe him?
Franklin is “a friend, kind, smart,” according to Mrs. Glickman, while Mar Mar calls him a “jack of all trades, amazing, and kind.” He truly is one of those unique characters who, by nature, is just there for all of his friends.
What was is like to be in the studio, recording Franklin’s voice for The Peanuts Movie?
With casts in NY and LA, it was rare to see other kids recording at the same time. The kids weren’t all in one room, recording together. They would be in the studio individually, with a stand, the lines, and the mic. This way they could record different variations of the lines, and select the ones that matched best with the scene.
In the end, do you like the character of Franklin, the way that Charles Schulz created him?
Bases on the negative feedback, and more importantly on the positive feedback, Mrs. Glickman feels that Schulz was able to create a character who helped to break down boundaries that were found in society, and give kids a way to see that it was going to be okay. He had to introduce Franklin as a nice kid, who got along well with others, so almost lessen the blow. If he had Lucy’s cranky attitude, or Charlie Brown’s clumsiness, it could have detracted from the character that Franklin was to become.
What is it about the Peanuts that still has us loving these characters after 50 years?
Aside from having numerous comic strips, cartoons, and products, there is so much more to the Peanuts Gang. We’ve spent our entire lives loving each of the characters for their individuality, but their power together. In summing up the Peanuts, Mrs. Glickman put it perfectly: “They are scared of things and they have insecurities. And they have smart friends and strong friends, and that’s why I think it lasted.”