As a kid growing up, I spent many a sunny afternoon parked in front of the TV, watching cartoons. One of my favorites (aside from “Thundercats”) was “Peanuts.” Granted ol’ Charlie Brown wasn’t on the air on a regular basis, but when he was, it was very exciting, almost like getting a visit from the Great Pumpkin.
While browsing Yahoo! Answers, I came across a question from “The Real Superman.” He wants to know why the adults in Peanuts cartoons speak in such a goofy manner. I set out to find an answer. Well, sort of. Truth be told, I actually answered a very similar question a few years ago for “Ask Yahoo!” But I felt this was important enough to merit another go-round.
The way I see it, there are two parts to this question. First, how are the adult voices made? And second, why do the grownups speak that way? Let’s tackle the how before the why.
According to several sources across the Web, including the Peanuts Video and Animation Page, the adult voices are made with a trombone and a plunger. The composer would direct the trombonist to ‘enunciate’ the teacher’s dialogue “as though it were a trombone riff.” The results were that now familiar “mwa mwa mwa” sound.
That’s the how, but what about the why? Is the fact that the adults speak gibberish a subversive comment on parent-child relationships? Is it a way to keep the focus on the kids, who were the stars of the show? Or is it just a funny gimmick? A page from Wikipedia hypothesizes that Charles Schulz probably intended “the Peanuts universe to be child-centric and child-based, reflecting typical childhood concerns, misconceptions, logic, etc.” That makes sense to me.
One final note: I did a little research and found out that one trombonist provided all the adult voices in the Charlie Brown cartoons. His name is Dean Hubbard and you can read more about him on the aptly named “Trombone Page of the World.”
Mwa mwa mwa mwa,
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