It's the art world, Charlie Brown.
When Scott Minerd began compiling "Peanuts" memorabilia a decade ago, he did it on a small scale. By the time he prepared his collection for its first-ever public showing, which will open Wednesday at the Laguna College of Art + Design, an appropriate response to it might have been, "Good grief!"
The Marina del Rey resident, who works for a financial services firm, had packed his guest room so tightly with artifacts of Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, et al that he had to move the bed out to gain more space. His office had turned into a similar shrine, and the house had run out of wall space.
"I never started out with the plan that I was going to acquire all this much stuff," Minerd said. "But then you see something from 'The Great Pumpkin' and you think, 'Oh, I don't have anything from 'The Great Pumpkin.'"
Original cels and drawings from that 1966 animated classic — formally titled "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" — will be on display in Laguna, along with story boards from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and other artifacts. "The Art of Charles Schulz and Peanuts — The Minerd Collection" will run through Feb. 14 in the campus gallery and has a reception scheduled during First Thursdays Art Walk on Feb. 7.
And if anyone craves a followup show, there's plenty of material left; Minerd estimates that the items on display comprise less than a fifth of his ownings.
That collection started modestly shortly after Schulz died in 2000, when Minerd was reading Barron's magazine and found an ad for a Florida-based company that had "Peanuts" artwork for sale. A lifelong fan of the strip, Minerd called the company and negotiated a price over the phone for 20 pieces.
Over the next decade, those 20 grew to 50, then 100, then 200 and beyond, as Minerd's fame as a "Peanuts" collector spread and friends contacted him to let him know of available works. Finally, Dave Pruiksma, the co-chair of LCAD's animation department, met Minerd through a mutual friend and invited him to compile an exhibit.
The eclectic offerings had a particular resonance for LCAD, which teaches many of the disciplines — drawing, animation, advertising — in which Schulz worked. And it helped that Pruiksma is a huge "Peanuts" fan himself; one of his prized photos is a shot of himself on his 12th birthday, reading the comics on his bed while surrounded by character memorabilia.
"He was a complex man," Pruiksma said of Schulz. "He had a lot of insight, and I think he was able to give insight in a very simple and accessible way. I think that's why the strip is so popular with kids as well as adults."
So what were Schulz's great insights? For both Pruiskma and Minerd, they came down to a central one: that childhood is merely adulthood played out on a small scale, and that the hopes, dreams and anxieties of grownups take root in those formative years.
Unlike another comic strip that meshed grownup and childhood issues, Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes," Schulz's creation didn't hold out from merchandising. After decades of Camp Snoopy, greeting cards, animated specials and other tie-ins, the strip, at a distance, can look simply like an innocuous product targeted at kids.
But look at it closer and its deeper themes emerge: failure, self-esteem, unrequited love, social conformity. Shortly before Schulz's death in 2000, the reclusive Watterson himself wrote a syndicated tribute to him, praising his "vividly tragic characters" and his willingness to depict a "pretty dark world" in a strip intended for a broad commercial audience.
Minerd, who gravitated most to Snoopy as a child, said he came to appreciate Schulz's deeper subjects later in life.
"Because he dealt with children and animals, he was able to get under the radar screen," he said. "He was able to deal with some serious life issues in a way that was not threatening."
Minerd may have another kindred spirit in Laguna: Karen Johnson, director of the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, said the cartoonist's widow, Jean Schulz, hopes to attend the show along with others from the museum.
"We're very excited," Johnson said. "We're thrilled that someone loves 'Peanuts' so much that they're sharing their entire collection at a school that teaches animation and cartooning. What could be better?"
A date with the Little Red-Haired Girl aside, maybe not much.
If You Go
What: "The Art of Charles Schulz and Peanuts — The Minerd Collection"
Where: Laguna College of Art + Design, 2222 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 7
Information: (949) 376-6000 or http://www.lcad.edu