‘Welcome Home, Franklin:’ Review


The 1960s was a wild time for Black folks in the US. While the needle was starting to bend toward justice and equality in courtrooms across the country, that progress was paid for with the lives of many. History always recalls Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated four years apart and in the wake of the passing of the Voting Rights Act. These United States were anything but, with racist segregationists beefing on all fronts to keep things separate. During this tumultuous cultural upheaval, a teacher living in suburban Los Angeles writes a letter to one Mr. Charles Schultz. She suggested Schultz add a Black character to his hit comic Peanuts to address the tension subtly. Comic strips were forever changed as Franklin Armstrong entered the funny pages on July 29th, 1968.

After many more ‘firsts’ but not much justice, Apple TV+ debuts a short film that provides the first-ever filling out of Franklin’s character. Ever. Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin marks the only time we learn anything about this character in their sixty-year publication history. The short wastes no time putting viewers squarely into Franklin’s shoes (voiced by Caleb Bellavance) and looking at the world through his eyes.

Franklin, making his way downtown. Image courtesy of © Apple, WildBrain Studio, Peanuts Worldwide LLC

Franklin has been Black in a white town for sixty years and has never uttered a Black word. Right out the gate, we learn that Franklin comes from a military family that moves so often he has grown accustomed to living out of a suitcase. So accustomed to living out of a suitcase that he rarely unpacks it. It’s here, early on in the story that we are shown the core of this story, the adaptive capability of Black resilience. The moment Franklin moves into this new town, he makes a mental note about the lack of diversity, and we are treated to a slew of childish microaggressions (entirely from Lucy). It was like experiencing a condensed microcosm of what Franklin’s life would have been had he existed as a real Black boy in the 60s.

Some things change, but Lucy (Isabella Leo) remains a jerk. Image courtesy of © Apple, WildBrain Studio, Peanuts Worldwide LLC

Hijinks ensue as the kids ramp up to a soapbox derby, but the film’s most impactful moments are the simple, cultural expositions. Charlie Brown and Franklin pair up for the derby and are in the Armstrong garage where a conversation around music sparks up. Franklin shows Charlie some of his favorite vinyls. James Brown and John Coltrane (his fave!) have now entered the chat in the Peanuts universe. Just like that, Black history is intertwined with the mainstream 60s zeitgeist. Do you remember the amorphous ‘womp-womp-womp’ sound associated with adult speech in Peanuts? Well, Franklins’ folks have a slightly different, deeper horn to display their speech pattern. More jazzy. But it’s those little changes that bring the fact that Franklin is different from the rest of the cast but still just a kid making his way.

(l to r.) Sally (Hattie Kragten), Linus (Wyatt White), Franklin, and Charlie Brown (Etienne Kellici) drank drinks, they drunk them, not drunk. Image courtesy of © Apple, WildBrain Studio, Peanuts Worldwide LLC

Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin is a wholesome and well-designed short film that centers the celebration of our differences by focusing on the moments we all share. As we fall headfirst into an election year that looks to split the country into more and more pieces, I’m glad Charles Schultz left us with a piece of this allyship behind. Even a few of Schultz’s friends make up the writing and producing team. You can find Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin on Apple TV+.

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  • Poet, MC, Nerd, All-Around Problem. Lover of words, verse, and geek media from The Bronx, NYC.

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