SPECIAL Face-Off – Peanuts vs Garfield
I have decided to settle once and for all who were the better characters. Were they the Peanuts gang, or Garfield and co who have been going strong for 35 years! This is a grudge match of epic proportions!
As you may guess I am using the format of my sitcom face-off’s, with some tweaks of course. I have confessed my love for Garfield before but promise this will be fair.
Peanuts was created by Charles Shulz in 1950. Garfield was created by Jim Davis and premiered in comics in 1972. Both have been enormous successes with a long lasting and enduring appeal. But which is truly better?
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Let’s start with the big one:
1Â Snoopy vs Garfield
Both of these characters are almost humans, they both walk on two feet and do things people would normally do. Another trait in common is they both like to aggravate people. Snoopy picks on Lucy, Garfield picks on Odie. Snoopy makes fun of Charlie Brown, Garfield reallyÂ makes fun of Jon. I loved Snoopy as a kid, I had little figures I played with and a stuffed animal I cherished. who didn’t? He is just the epitome of cool! He has a fantastic attitude and love for life. I grew up with Garfield also but he had a different personality. He loved….himself. He enjoys being lazy, eating, and picking on Odie. He does have an imagination but nothing compared to Snoopy. From the WW2 Flying Ace to countless others, Snoopy really knows how to pretend. However, that pretty much is it for Snoopy. I mean he really doesn’t have anything besides being cool. Garfield is lazy but there are other sides to him. He really does care for people he just hides it. He hates things, like Mondays, diets, chasing mice, and mornings. He loves things, like coffee, Christmas, and his teddy bear Pooky. You could argue Snoopy does not like being a dog, which is the reason for all those fantasies. I think it’s safe to say Garfield likes being a cat, the lazier he can be the better! Now I said I was going to be fair, so yes Snoopy does have some defining characteristics. He is very loyal, misses his family, and does have some passions including root beer. His doghouse seems to also be a freaking Tardis! But still the character is not as strong IMO and I think not having his thoughts heard in the specials hurts more than it helps. As I will discuss later I didn’t grow up with the strip so for many years I never knew Snoopy “spoke” in the strip. I am not sure why they didn’t do that, maybe they couldn’t settle on a voice actor or something, but it really hurts his character. They did a great job with what they had, no argument, but Garfield can not only show but tell and that can really make a difference. Bottom line, snoopy is a lot of fun but Garfield is just a better character.
Charlie Brown vs Jon Arbuckle
You know I could really believe that Charlie Brown would grow up and become Jon Arbuckle. I mean, when you think about it they have a lot in common. And most of it bad. Insecure, neuritoc, no confidence. But who is the better character? Well for everything these two have in common they have one major difference. The big difference between the two is that Charlie seems fully aware that he has problems. Oh he may not have a clue how to solve them, but he is aware of them and doesÂ try to do better. You gotta admire how often he tries to kick that ball, pitch in the game, or try to understand life. He usually fails, true. Jon is the opposite, he seems to live in a world all his own, blissfully unaware of how pitiful he is. There is a reason “Garfield Minus Garfield” was such a success. If you’ve never heard of it, look it up. It’s fascinating. Beyond that I think Charlie Brown has more heart. He really cares for people and tries to be a good friend. He is a good older brother to Sally and, of course, owner to Snoopy. Jon tends to be a little to into himself, just look at the way he chases after Liz. He seems totally clueless to the fact she us not interested him. But when it all comes down to it, Charlie Brown is determined to do better and be happy, and that is what makes him so much more enduring than Jon who lives in his own little world. We laugh at Jon when he fails, but feel sorry for good old Charlie Brown.
So if Snoopy isn’t interesting than what is it about Peanuts that has people coming back for 60 years? The other characters. One thing you gotta say about Peanuts, all of the characters are given their own personalities and quirks. I am sure that it is a big reason for the appeal. Don’t like one character you may like another. Linus is smart but he has a flaw, he needs his security blanket. Lucy is crabby and kind of mean, and yet she operates a Psychiatric booth to help people. Peppermint Patty is pushy and a little dense, but she will admit when she has gone to far and apologize. Sally is like any little girl, just trying to understand things. She gets things mixed up once and awhile but she always tries. Heck even Woodstock is interesting, he is a little bird who struggles with the fact he is a little bird. Good thing he has a pal like Snoopy to watch his back. But for the most, these characters feel like real kids and they all have different personalities that real kids have. As for Garfield, the supporting cast are all their for laughs. Odie is a stupid dog, and we feel sorry for him. Nermal is the eternally cute kitten who Garfield hates. And of course Liz, the only girl Jon ever really had an eye for. These characters are never really developed, everyone is seen through Garfield’s eyes. It’s like that old saying, it’s Garfield’s world and they are all just living in it. And so the winner is easy, the Peanuts characters are the reason we come back again and again. We relate to them, we cheer for them, and we feel for them when things don’t go their way. That’s why there are twice as many Charlie Brown cartoons and specials than Garfield.
I decided to use this category to single out the holiday specials and decide which are better. First, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown vs. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure. The Great Pumpkin is a classic, I have loved it since I was a kid. The Garfield special, is weak. The story is lame despite some good lines. Point to Peanuts. charlie Brown Thanksgiving is horrible. The plot is flimsy, full of padding, and the story full of holes. A Garfield Thanksgiving is a near perfect Garfield special. He just feels totally in character in this one. So we have a tie, what about the Christmas specials? The Charlie Brown Christmas is a classic, on since 1965. But…is it really good? I mean the plot has Charlie Brown moping, and while the end is very uplifting the whole show just feels pointless. The whole setup about a play that goes nowhere. It’s all padding until Charlie gets that little tree. A Garfield Christmas is a great show, they did a really good job of capturing Christmas on the farm. The characters are funny and the songs pretty decent. They even managed to get a little heart in there. So tough call, but I am going to say that the Garfield specials are stronger. Of course they have teh advantage of being made more than twenty years later, and the attempts to make new Christmas specials for Peanuts have never really been very good. Oh, and yes I know Peanuts had many specials including one’s for New Year’s, Valentines Day, Easter, and Arbor Day (really?) but I was not counting them. But real quick, The New Year’s special was a terrible idea (Charlie Brown has to read War and Peace??) that was badly executed, the Valentines Day special was ok, and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown was decent with some funny moments…and a lot of padding!!!! I could be here listing all the specials they did. Some better than others.
Yeah, I admit it. This one is sort of a giveaway. But let’s discuss romance. Garfield was to in love with himself to love anyone else. That includes Arlene, who has eyes for him. Jon was in love with Liz but that was always unrequited. Unless you read the comic strip where they are dating. I understand why fans don’t care for that especially when it was so rushed. She has been turning him down for ages, why is she suddenly into him? But it did open the strip up for new jokes and ideas so who am I to have a problem with that? It was better when the love was unrequited. Speaking of unrequited love, what is up with all the affection in Peanuts? Charlie Brown loves the little red haired girl. Peppermint Patty and Marcy love Charlie Brown. Lucy loves Schroeder. Sally loves Linus, who has eyes for his blanket that he can’t be without. Snoopy loves….well, he loves himself I guess. But when you think about it, don’t kids go thru stuff like that? Little crushes and innocent love afairs mainly because they are to young to know what real love is. So what about the music in these specials? Lou Rawls and Desiree Goyette do a nice job on the vocals but music just didn’t work in the Garfield shows. The songs were often lame and stopped the story cold. They were all over the place in the first few specials but got phased out with time. The TV series had very little music which was good. Peanuts did a much better job with their soft jaz mixes which complimented what was going without outright taking over the story. Of course the primary example is Vince Guaraldi’s Linus & Lucy, a standard that is heard in every Peanuts show, and at Christmas, and is a piece of music I simply adore. “Christmastime is Here” is a soft tune at the start of A Charlie Brown Christmas which is simply one of my all time favorites, it’s so simple and effective!!
So Who was funnier? What a tough questions, but let’s see what we come up with. Of course it’s almost easy to forget with all the TV specials and merchandise that these characters started in comic strips. I grew up with Garfield because my father did not get the paper that carried Peanuts locally. I loved that strip, and still read it today. I have many books collecting strips, and even enjoy the Garfield Daily app on my Iphone. True it may not be as funny as it was but I maintane that tt is still a funny and clever strip, despite what certain internet critics say. Peanuts, on the other hand…I just never found as appealing. It’s not bad or anything but My love for these characters are more for the specials. Of course I have read the strip and even have a few collections, but it seems like teh strips more often insist on waxing philosophy than telling jokes. Reading Garfield puts a smile on my face, and once in awhile even laugh out loud. I love it. How about the TV shows?Â I think it’s safe to say that The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show can’t hold a candle to Garfield & Friends. Everything on that show was done great, and of course the late/great Lorenzo Music was the perfect Garfield. It was as if he had been born to play that role. Snoopy’s show wasn’t even a consistent narrative just shorts culled from newspaper strips. I think that Garfield is just funnier, and some say that Peanuts had more heart. Ok that’s fair but Watch the scene from the special “Here Comes Garfield” where Odie is being dragged (literally) to be put down and all Garfield can do is watch while the saddest song “So Long Old Friend” by Desiree Goyette plays! That scene is so sad it’s beyond belief! Why? Because we know that Odie and Garfield really do care for each other. There is heart in there. Finally, the other problem with the strip and the shows as far as Peanuts goes is having the same thing over and over. A few months ago a Charlie Brown show was on and they did the gag with Lucy and the football, and my mother was surprised to see it again since it wasn’t teh Thanksgiving special. I explained they did that many time, and that sums up my main problem with Peanuts. How many times do we have to see Linus cry about his blanket? Lucy beg Schroeder for some attention? Charlie Brown fail like some loser? Ok, yes Garfield can do that to. Even I am sick of the “watching TV” gag in the strip. But at the same time, I think Garfield just took more risks, the strip had story lines that spanned weeks. The series introduced new characters to spice things up. And the specials were very unique with a coherent and even original story and was not just the same stuff again and again. Imagine if every show had Garfield kicking Odie off the table. That would be boring, but it’s what Peanuts did.
Normally the final category is jumping the shark, of course that doesn’t apply here. So instead I will discuss the legacy of these characters. These characters are everywhere from greeting cards to stuffed animals to balloons at the Macy’s Parade. But how have these characters endured over the years? As for Garfield, Garfield and Friends was a high point and sorry to say it’s been down from there. The new series is sub par, it’s not even made in this country! Garfield has had two horrible CGI movies that totally missed what the character is. I saw the first and it just sucked. The second I missed but at least it had a plot. Yeah the books are still being made every few months, but there hasn’t been a special since 1991. On the other hand we still get new Snoopy specials. And many complain the Garfield strip is just not funny anymore.Â Honestly I have to say Garfield has faded a bit over the years. What about Snoopy and co? We can forgive the strip for being in reruns since Charles Shulz passed away, but When it comes down to it, Snoopy and company have more endurance. We still watch the Charlie Brown specials every year, while Garfield’s is nowhere to be seen. It seems that every time a Garfield show is made it never really works. But even when not up to par it seems Charlie Brown always works. Peanuts has been made into decent movies, TV specials, comic strip, and need I mention the play? You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is a fun little show that I have seen a few times and always enjoyed. There is also a new CGI movie in the works! Also, while Garfield was a marketing bonanza (didn’t you have on your car once?) it really can’t compare to Peanuts merchandise which is all over the place. Snoopy can be found everywhere, including the amusement park Knott’s Berry Farm in CA where the Peanuts characters reside to this day in the Camp Snoopy section. I was there in 1987 and it is worth the trip! (a park for Garfield was planned but has not developed). Heck there was even a sno-cone machine for kids in the 80’s (who remembers that?). So, while I love Garfield I have to be fair. Charlie Brown and Snoopy have just a little more legacy behind them. It helps of course that they have been around much longer. But I also think the characters are a little more relatable. You watch as a child and can sympathize with what is going on. Then you watch as an adult and stir up fond memories from when you were a kid. That is the magic that has kept Snoopy and the entire gang around for nearly 65 years! So while Garfield runs strong in newspapers, I’m afraid he can’t match Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang for the pure appeal they seem to create. They are iconic and will probably be around forever.
Final Though-Of course this was all in good fun. Garfield and Peanuts are amazing characters and I cherish both of them in different ways