I don’t often think about it these days, but Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang were some of my great loves of childhood. I owned a huge amount of merchandise – t-shirts, books, stuffed toys. I was even bought an exceptionally nice Snoopy watch from America around the age of 8. His arms were the hands of the clock, and it was far too expensive a watch for a kid to wear during day-to-day life – so much so that I think I only wore it two or three times before the battery eventually conked out, years later. It was one of the great treasures of my childhood.
When I've read Peanuts in more recent years, it tends to make me sad, more than anything else. This is at least in part to do with Charles Schulz’s passing in 2000. It was a big moment for me; I have not had many relatives or friends die, and this though a beloved member of the family was now gone. 2000 was not a good year for many reasons, and in hindsight this was pretty close to the top of the list of those reasons.
But there’s more to it than that. I remember reading Charles Schulz saying that he had never intended Peanuts to be for children; it was for adults who remembered what childhood was like. I dismissed this when I was a child myself. Surely he could see the joy that Charlie Brown and the gang brought to millions of children all around the world? I’m sure he did. But filled as it is with surprisingly adult themes – religion, unrequited love, absent parents, inadequacy, disappointment, just to name a few of them – the strip has taken on a new poignancy for me as I too have grown older. There was very little "closure" in Peanuts, and I think nowadays it pushes some buttons that I didn’t even know I had. Schulz was a deep thinker -- this strip from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal may not have been too far off the mark.
But we have digressed – we were here today look at a car based on Snoopy. Hot Wheels, in fact. I don’t really “do” toy cars anymore, unless it’s a Transformer, a Batmobile or otherwise DC-related. But when I came across this guy, I felt a stir of the old fondness and decided that I’d plonk down $2.25 (AUD) to own it. How does he come across?
Well, I wouldn’t have opened him had it not been for the fact that his packaging was already a little torn. It’s pretty standard stuff Hot Wheels – a CG-rendering of the “car” with Snoopy sitting atop the doghouse. It’s kind of a shame they didn’t deviate a little more from the traditional packaging style; I think a proper Peanuts illustration would have been a much better option. Maybe they’re testing the waters for a deluxe series in future? I could get behind that.
The doghouse portion of the car is a little weird, but what we’ve/I’ve come to expect from Hot Wheels. A red doghouse that looks like it’s straight out of the strip sits atop a thin green chassis, presumably representing grass. Some of the red paint of mine was chipped in the packet, so keep an eye out for that.
We now move into more stereotypical Hot Wheels territory with a massively oversized hotrod engine with funnels that are surely too big to be practical. Massive rear wheels, and small front wheels. I don’t know enough about cars to offer more thoughts than that, save to say that I don’t think this would be road legal if it were a real car.
Onto Snoopy himself! Cast in softer plastic, and attached to the doghouse roof by a small post, he is the main drawcard of the toy for me. Even in the box I could see this was going to be questionable though; he’s got paint apps for his eyes, ears and nose but none for his mouth or collar. He looks a little half-finished, and this is worsened by the mould flash that’s left on the crown of his head. He also sits a couple of mm above the roof of the doghouse, rather than flush, so that’s a mark against it too.
Speaking of paint apps, Snoopy’s ears tend to be a problem for merchandisers. Ostensibly, Snoopy is a beagle, but his markings don’t match up all that well with a real Beagle. Schulz tended to draw Snoopy with partially coloured ears, even across his different appearances over the decades. Merch manufacturers tend to give him solid black ears (which is technically wrong) or partially colour the ears black and leave the rest white, which usually looks worse in 3 dimensions. This one tries to split the difference and colours the exterior of his ears black while leaving the interiors white. It’s not great, and I think they should have just made them all-black.
This car is a great concept, but lacking in execution. While the doghouse portion is well-executed, Snoopy himself is definitely lacking. I’d much prefer to see Peanuts deluxe releases, with nicer card art and “real” cars, to make for a nice desk display. Perhaps with the movie on its way next year, we’ll get that.