“Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin” Namesake & Co-Writer Robb Armstrong on His Peanuts Immortality

Robb Armstrong’s JumpStart is the most widely syndicated daily comic strip by an African American in the world. He was inspired to his career as a cartoonist, in part, by reading the Peanuts comics by Charles Schulz and started drawing images from the famed strip as a child. Of course, one major influence was Franklin, the first Black character in Peanuts, who was introduced in 1968. Early in his career, he was able to meet Schulz, and they became friends. In the mid-nineties, a new special necessitated Schulz, or Sparky, as he was known to his friends and family, giving Franklin a last name. Schulz went to Armstrong, his then-longtime friend, and asked if he could name him Franklin Armstrong. 

Now Robb Armstrong has collaborated with the Peanuts production team, which includes Charles Schulz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan Schulz, to write the 51st Peanuts special, Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin. It is Franklin’s first starring role as part of Peanuts animation and explores the character more in-depth. In the special, Franklin is learning how to make new friends based on a notebook from his grandfather. When, after having trouble fitting in, he winds up one of two kids without a partner for the neighborhood Soap Box Derby race, he and Charlie Brown team up, learning how to be better friends in the process. 

The Credits discussed Franklin’s first featured special with Robb Armstrong, including the ways he and Franklin are similar. He also shared how he and his co-writers approached that now infamous table scene from the 1973 Thanksgiving special, in which Franklin sits alone across from the Peanuts gang, reframing the storytelling to be positive and joyful, as they believe Schulz and the 1973 filmmakers originally intended. 


Welcome Home, Franklin is the 51st Peanuts special. How did you come to be part of it with Craig and Bryan Schulz and the other members of the team? 

What tends to happen in life sometimes that there are many ideas floating around in the zeitgeist simultaneously, because Charles Schultz as a creator had been under fire for few years because of how Franklin was portrayed, specifically in the Thanksgiving special eating on one side of the table, and it’s an unfavorable moment. The reaction to it was over-the-top harsh, accusatory, and inaccurate. 

Fans of Schulz, and you in particular, know he was the least racist person in the world. 

Exactly. He was the least racist guy in the world. I was just furious about it. Friends of mine suggested I approach the Schulz family on the subject of doing something about it. I had no way of knowing at the time that Sparky’s son Craig and his grandson Brian felt the same way. We’re grown, college-educated men. It’s one scene. Can’t we figure out how to address this? I approached Sparky’s wife, Jeannie, and she said, “Oh my goodness, Craig is also talking about this and looking to do something.” So it was kismet. By the time I got a call from the team, I was strangely expecting it. 


What happened from there? 

It all fell together very quickly from there. Craig and Bryan have a history of writing really good specials for Peanuts together. They did The Peanuts Movie, so I was coming into an existing world. I felt exactly like Franklin, coming from the outside into their world and thinking, “I hope I’m a winner.” So that helped, writing for Franklin, because I felt like him. Franklin’s not like a character in JumpStart. I’m very different from those characters. Even after doing it for 34 years, no one has turned to me or expressed my opinion about things. But Franklin, in some ways, is exactly like me. 

Charlie Brown and Franklin Armstrong in “Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin,” premiering February 16, 2024 on Apple TV+.

What are some examples of how you are the same? 

There’s a scene where he’s talking about his uncle being a Negro League baseball player. That’s true. My real-life uncle Eugene Benson played in the Negro Leagues, and it was a thrill to have a scene giving a spotlight to this man who never got any fame or recognition when he played baseball. He mentored Jackie Robinson, the guy deserves a spotlight, and he never really got it. Getting it into the screenplay meant describing this moment to this team, and I’m talking about my real life uncle, and everyone is confused. At one point, Craig said, “Robb, who are we talking about right now, Franklin or you?”

Franklin Armstrong and Charlie Brown in “Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin,” premiering February 16, 2024 on Apple TV+.

What other elements are from your own life? 

Well, Franklin’s plight is from my own life. He’s going through something that I went through when I was 12 years old. I went from an all-Black public school to a private school. It was 98% white and a private school, originally an all-girls school. They boarded and lived there. I really struggled to connect with those kids, but I did. Strangely, my biggest problem was that I had to go home after school. All the boys were day students, so I had to go back home to my neighborhood, which was all Black. It was going back that was the problem. It was being ostracized by the kids I had grown up with. There’s no nice way to put it. They accused me of betrayal. That was really, really difficult. Franklin isn’t going through that same thing, but he feels like a permanent outlier. Wherever he goes is just temporary. His family travels, and he’s never made a real friend. I was able to tap into lots of feelings of marginalization. 

Franklin Armstrong and Linus in “Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin,” premiering February 16, 2024 on Apple TV+.

In his way, he’s like Charlie Brown. 

Yes. It was interesting working with a team that’s been expressing Charlie Brown’s feelings for so long, someone who is also an outlier. He’s from that neighborhood but still feels like an outsider. So they’re both isolated but get thrown together because neither of them gets picked, so they end up together. 

The music in this special is so wonderful. It includes John Coltrane, which is such a nod to Vince Guaraldi. 

I thought it would be great to have a Black version of Guaraldi. Guaraldi’s contributions to animation are unique. He stands alone. If you hear his music for Peanuts specials in the mall or the barbershop or walking down the street, it’s like a pneumonic device. You think Charlie Brown. So I thought Coltrane has the same really cool, meaningful, smoky jazz club vibe. I wanted a Black Vince Guaraldi-type song that you’d hear every time you’d see Franklin. 


And there are other great Black musicians represented. 

I made a list with Stevie Wonder, Billy Preston, and James Brown, thinking about representing an era. The list was massive, and what we ended up with was a really beautiful representation of a kind of feeling that is accurate to the Peanuts universe for Franklin. 

The Stevie Wonder song “Happier Than the Morning Sun” was perfect at capturing Franklin’s optimism. How did you choose that out of all his great songs? 

Other Stevie Wonder songs are too popular. Peanuts is not supposed to have something where you turn on the radio, and it already has its own space and separate legacy. You want something that’s familiar but not part of your life already. Peanuts taps into originality and uniqueness. There’s something unique and special to all the specials, and we wanted Welcome Home, Franklin, to have that, too. 

What is one thing about Franklin that everyone should know after seeing this special?

Franklin is a very, very good kid, but like a lot of kids, he’s misguided sometimes. He’s not perfect, but he sincerely values friendship. Anyone who sincerely values friendship, and I think that’s all of us, we all want a good friend. We all want to have the benefits that come from having a good friend, but we often don’t know, and sometimes I don’t know; it’s more important to be that friend. Just be that sacrificing person. Be that person who thinks about someone else first, and then the friendship you’re looking for will come your way. The first move is up to us. That’s what Franklin represents.


Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin is now streaminig on Apple TV+

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Featured image: The Peanuts Gang in “Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin,” premiering February 16, 2024 on Apple TV+.






Leslie Combemale

Leslie Combemale is lead contributor for the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, where she writes reviews and spotlights focused on female filmmakers and women in film. You can find her work on the site at She has owned ArtInsights, an art gallery dedicated to film art, for over 25 years, which has resulted in expertise in the history of animation and film concept art.  She is in her eighth year as producer and moderator of the "Women Rocking Hollywood" panel at San Diego Comic-Con. 

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