Friday, April 12, 2024

Apple TV+ welcomes Franklin home

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Featured photo by Apple TV+

Story by Victoria Stone

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Since their introduction to comic strips in 1950, “Peanuts” characters have been cultural icons. They’ve been the stars of parades, commercials, holiday specials and a theatrical movie. However, the franchise saw a big change in 2020, and I don’t just mean Covid-19.

Apple purchased the exclusive rights to “Peanuts” in 2018, and all specials moved to the streaming service Apple TV+ in 2020. The public was outraged that their comfort holiday specials live behind a paywall or a 7-day free trial. However, the multi-billion dollar company isn’t completely heartless. Each holiday special can be streamed for free for two days in a specific month. For example, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” can be viewed for free on Dec. 16 and Dec. 17. For die-hard fans, physical media is definitely the way to go.

The streaming service wasn’t content with only streaming previously made “Peanuts” specials; they wanted to make their own. In 2021, Apple TV+ premiered “Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne,” a New Year’s holiday special. The “Snoopy Presents” is featured in all of the Apple TV+ specials so as not to associate them with the classics. “Snoopy Presents” often puts one of the supporting characters in a starring role. So far, those characters have been Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Marcie and now Franklin. 

Franklin’s special has been a long time coming, especially considering his origins.

Following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a white school teacher and suburban housewife, Harriet Glickman, wrote to Charles Shultz asking him to include a black character in his comic strip. Though Shultz had been considering it, he was hesitant due to not wanting to be patronizing. However, Shultz wrote one anyway, and Franklin’s first appearance rescuing Charlie Brown’s beach ball debuted in newspapers in 1968. 

Many southern state governments and educators strongly opposed Franklin’s character. One educator wrote Shultz saying he didn’t mind the inclusion of Franklin but didn’t like him in the classroom with the rest of the characters.

Fast forward 55 years: “Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home Franklin” premiered on Apple TV+ on Feb. 16. 

The special follows Franklin as he struggles to make lasting friendships despite moving around a lot. The TV special highlights struggles faced by not only African American kids but also military kids, trying to make friends and feeling different than others. 

While the special makes a point to reference famous African American musicians and athletes, it doesn’t try to be a Black History Month special, just a special about Franklin.

The art style feels like a comic strip coming alive in front of your eyes. Everything from how the characters move to how the sound effects jump onto the screen gives a warm, nostalgic feeling. Jeff Morrow is no Vincent Guaraldi, but the music is pleasant. The voice acting from all the actors was incredible, specifically Caleb Bellavance (Franklin) and Etienne Kellici (Charlie Brown). The two capture the essence of young boys becoming friends. What caught my eye was the lighting and how beautifully the animators captured the late summer, early fall look.

The special features tons of Easter eggs and references to other specials. Fans of the classics will be pleased to know that Linus is tending to his pumpkin patch in preparation for the Great Pumpkin, and Lucy is earning those nickels at her psychiatrist stand. Most impressively, Franklin and Charlie Brown’s first meeting is the same as his comic debut. His first line to Charlie Brown is, “Is this your beach ball?” like in the comic. All the characters remain true to their characterizations, and it feels like we see them in their little world. Craig Shultz–son of Charles Shultz–cowriting the special helps it feel like an authentic “Peanuts” special.

“Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home Franklin” isn’t anything exceptionally groundbreaking. It doesn’t break any boundaries in animation, representation or children’s media. If I had to describe the special in one word, it would be nice. It’s a very nice way to spend 38 minutes of your life. With so many overstimulating films and TV programs, it’s refreshing to just sit down with something wholesome and charming.

You can watch “Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home Franklin” exclusively on Apple TV+.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell and Assistant Lifestyles Editor Shamani Salahuddin, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com. For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Instagram at MTSUSidelines or on X at @MTSUSidelines.

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