Apple TV+'s Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin, launching on Feb. 16, focuses on how Franklin Armstrong came to be one of the Peanuts gang.
Co-writers for the special are Robb Armstrong — the creator of the JumpStart comics, who inspired Franklin’s surname — in collaboration with Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan, and The Peanuts Movie executive producer Cornelius Uliano.
So, how did Franklin become a part of the world of Peanuts? From The Washington Post:
Franklin was introduced into the “Peanuts” comic universe in 1968, after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spurred retired teacher Harriet Glickman to ask Charles Schulz and other prominent comic artists to racially integrate their work.
Schulz initially told Glickman in a letter he was hesitant because he didn’t want to come off as patronizing to Black people. But after support from Glickman’s friends, who were Black parents, and after Schulz stood his ground when questioned by the syndicate, Franklin was printed in papers. In his first appearance, which is also re-created in the “Welcome Home, Franklin” trailer, he hands Charlie Brown’s beach ball back to him.
Franklin's New Backstory
Franklin’s father is in the military, and the family is always being reassigned. This makes it difficult for little Franklin, an only child who longs for a best friend.
Unfortunately, because they are always moving from one city to another, Franklin never gets the chance to really connect with other kids, which is an important element in childhood.
He does try, though. But the other kids don’t get too friendly with him because they realize he won’t be there very long. What’s a guy to do?
Starting From Scratch
Then, the Armstrongs move to a new city, where the adorable and friendly Peanuts gang lives. But are they really that friendly?
Each one of the gang has his or her own quirks. Linus is devoted to the Great Pumpkin. Lucy delves into her psychiatric enterprise. And so on.
And, they all have long-term friendships and “sweethearts.” Lucy adores Schroeder and Sally is in love with Linus, her “sweet Baboo.” Violet and Patty are buddies, Peppermint Patty and Marcie are best pals, etc.
So, for a new kid in town, it’s a difficult situation. But Franklin is armed with a little notebook his grandfather gave him, filled with ways to make friends.
Franklin always refers to the wisdom in the book, but he always manages to make things worse for himself. He desperately wants to fit in and have friends, as all kids do.
When the soapbox derby comes to town, it just might be the big break the little guy is looking for. But first, he needs to get a teammate. Charlie Brown volunteers to join Franklin in their quest to build and race a soapbox car. Teamwork is the operative word.
As Charlie Brown and Franklin Armstrong build their car, Franklin teaches Charlie all about jazz, the Negro League, and other new things.
And Charlie Brown offers his own bits of wisdom about life. He tells his new friend all about his baseball team and imparts the lesson that they “don’t need to win to finish first.”
Oh, the wisdom of Charlie Brown. He has a great heart, a big capacity to see good, and the desire to befriend anyone who is lonely, and Franklin is lonely.
Persistence and Empathy
Fitting in is not an easy task for a newcomer. And making friends without stepping on anyone’s toes proves to be a difficult task for this little fellow. But he persists.
Franklin is determined to gain friends and be a good friend as well. He has a good heart and is willing to help everyone.
This new show is touching, as viewers feel empathy for the little boy who is desperate to be part of a group and have friends to talk to and play with. His perseverance is heartening.
Once again, the Peanuts creators have come up with a beautiful story filled with the fun of the Peanuts gang as well as a touching tribute to friendship.
Image: Franklin Armstrong and Charlie Brown in "Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin," premiering February 16, 2024 on Apple TV+.