The Peanuts Gang Performs Pink Floyd’s Classic Rock Opera in the Mashup “Charlie Brown vs. The Wall

YouTu­ber Gar­ren Lazar has hit upon a bril­liant idea—take clips from Charles M. Schulz’s uni­ver­sal­ly beloved Peanuts car­toons and cut them togeth­er with uni­ver­sal­ly beloved (more or less) pop­u­lar anthems like “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody,” “Don’t Stop Believ­ing,” “Free­bird,” and “Stayin’ Alive.”

The huge emo­tions of these songs suit the over­sized feel­ings of the comic’s char­ac­ters, who were, all of them, vari­a­tions of Schulz him­self. As Jeff Kin­ney writes in his intro­duc­tion to Chip Kidd’s book, Only What’s Nec­es­sary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts, the strip and its many ani­mat­ed spin-offs con­sti­tute “per­haps the most rich­ly lay­ered auto­bi­og­ra­phy of all time.”

It’s fit­ting then that one of Lazar’s ear­li­er Peanuts mashups involved anoth­er such rich­ly auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal work, Pink Floyd’s rock opera The Wall, an album full of per­son­al and col­lec­tive pain, deep fear, alien­ation, inse­cu­ri­ty, and obser­va­tions about just how oppres­sive child­hood can be. Just like… well, just like Peanuts.

Schulz’s work has always tran­scend­ed the expec­ta­tions of his form, becom­ing what might even be called com­ic strip opera. His fifty years of draw­ing and writ­ing Peanuts make it “the longest sto­ry ever told by one human being,” says cul­tur­al his­to­ri­an Robert Thomp­son.

The cre­ator him­self had great ambi­tions for his col­lec­tions of “lit­tle inci­dents,” as he called the strips. He hat­ed the name Peanuts, which was forced upon him by Unit­ed Fea­ture Syn­di­cate in the 50s. Schulz pre­ferred his orig­i­nal title Li’l Folks, which he said imbued the strip “with dig­ni­ty and sig­nif­i­cance. ‘Peanuts’ made it sound too insignif­i­cant.”

This was essen­tial human dra­ma, writ small, and it amount­ed to a whole lot more than “peanuts.” Claire Cat­ter­all, cura­tor of a Schulz exhib­it in Lon­don, insists she’s “not being iron­ic” in call­ing the strip “Great Art.” Schulz “intro­duced children—and adults alike—to some of the biggest philo­soph­i­cal ideas.” His “influ­ence on cul­ture and soci­ety is noth­ing short of seis­mic.”

Peanuts’ rich­ness emerges in grand themes that took shape over decades. Bruce Handy writes of the Peanuts’ char­ac­ters’ “nihilism,” call­ing Schulz’s world a “the­ater of cru­el­ty.” (Their unhap­pi­ness only seems to lift dur­ing musi­cal num­bers.)  Jonathan Mer­ritt describes the strip’s reli­gious mis­sion, Maria Popo­va writes of its brave Civ­il Rights stand and its cul­tur­al evo­lu­tion, and Cameron Laux com­piles a list of Peanuts philoso­phies, from Exis­ten­tial­ism to the impor­tance of friend­ship and self-reflec­tion.

Nor does Schulz escape com­par­isons to writ­ers of great literature—including sev­er­al whose names may have popped up as ref­er­ences in the strip, like­ly in the word bub­bles of the pre­co­cious­ly eru­dite Schroed­er or Linus. Kin­ney com­pares Peanuts to Shake­speare, Laux com­pares it to Sartre and Beck­ett, and Stu­art Jef­fries at The Guardian writes, “Cer­tain­ly, Ibsen and Strind­berg made a lot of sense to me as an adult because I was raised on Peanuts.”

If Schulz’s com­ic strip and car­toons can evoke these august lit­er­ary names, then why not the names Roger Waters and David Gilmour? If any­one has ever felt like just anoth­er brick in the wall, it’s Char­lie Brown. Mar­vel at Lazar’s edit­ing skills in “Char­lie Brown vs. The Wall.” The Peanuts gang, and Schulz, may have pre­ferred jazz, but one can see in their exis­ten­tial angst and fre­quent bouts of despair the same kind of dis­il­lu­sion­ment Roger Waters ham­mers home in his mas­ter­piece. Only, the for­mer “Li’l Folks” and their cre­ator had a much bet­ter sense of humor about it all.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Peanuts Rock: Watch the Peanuts Gang Play Clas­sic Rock Songs by Queen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jour­ney & More

The Vel­vet Under­ground as Peanuts Char­ac­ters: Snoopy Morphs Into Lou Reed, Char­lie Brown Into Andy Warhol

Umber­to Eco Explains the Poet­ic Pow­er of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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