Friday, February 16, 2024

Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin, on Apple TV+

Charles M. Schulz’s introduction of the black character Franklin in his beloved Peanuts comic strip eleven days after the assassination of Martin Luther King is widely considered an important statement on behalf of racial integration. Yet, Franklin was even more culturally significant, because he was the son of a Vietnam veteran (at least as I see it, as a fellow son of a Vietnam vet myself). Franklin’s arrival is adapted (and somewhat updated) in the latest Peanuts special, Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin, which premieres today on Apple TV+.

To reflect current times, Franklin’s dad is still a vet, but the details of his service are kept vague. Of course, like most military brats, he has had to move constantly to each new duty station. This time, they have relocated to wherever Charlie Brown lives. Always a little shy, Franklin has a particularly hard time fitting in, because he is thrown by Lucy’s grouchiness and Linus’s weird “Great Pumpkin” babble.
 And then there’s Pigpen.

The only one who talks to him is the round-headed kid, Charlie Brown. Both could use a friend, so they enter the local soapbox derby together, but like in
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, the dangerous competition puts them under stress, before bringing them back together.

Although Franklin never had a surname in the comic strip, Schulz dubbed him Franklin Armstrong in one of the specials, as a tribute to cartoonist Robb Armstrong, who co-wrote this special. In most respects, it stays faithful to Franklin’s debut in the strip. However, it follows a trend in some of the new Apple
Peanuts specials that moderates Charlie Brown’s born loser blockheadedness. Poor Charlie Brown just isn’t supposed to kick the football—ever.

Welcome Home, Franklin is incredibly sweet and a refreshingly nostalgic throwback to the anticipation of new Charlie Brown specials we all felt in our youth. In fact, this is probably some of the hippest, jazziest music Jeff Morrow has yet composed for the Apple specials, especially Jordan Siegel’s electric piano jams that evoke the vibe of some of the 1970’s specials Vince Guaraldi scored, like It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown. Appropriately so, considering Franklin turns Charlie Brown onto John Coltrane, which is definitely cool.

The music is good and the characters are reassuring old friends (even though they are meeting for the first time). Highly recommended for
Peanuts fans and former military brats, Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin starts streaming today (2/16) on Apple TV+.