The project is inspired by Franklin!
Peanuts Worldwide has announced a new $100,000 endowment project to support Black animators at HBCUs, Black Enterprise reports.
The Peanuts comic strip has been a staple for generations, providing some of the best and most influential cartoon moments for five decades straight. In 1968, creator Charles M. Schulz introduced the first Black character into the comic strip, Franklin Armstrong.
Franklin not only became a lasting figure, but he also became a symbol of what could be in an industry where as of 2019, Black animators still made up only 3.9%. Franklin was the prototype and now 54 years after his introduction, a new project has been launched in his honor.
Recently, the company announced the creation of “The Armstrong Project,” an initiative by Peanuts Worldwide to support aspiring Black animators at HBCUs that coincides with what would have been the centennial year of creator Charles Schulz. The project, which takes its name from Franklin the character and cartoonist and longtime friend of Schulz Robb Armstrong, was announced at Comic-Con in San Diego last week. Armstrong joined the panel, speaking about the importance of Schulz’s work in his own journey as a child and how honored he was for Franklin and the project to carry his last name.
“When ‘Sparky’ (Schulz) told me he wanted to use my last name for Franklin, it was a life-changing moment. This was someone who had inspired me, and I was truly honored,” said Armstrong.
The Proud Family creator Bruce W. Smith was also alongside Armstrong at the event and is an avid supporter of the project. He also spoke about how the creation of Franklin impacted his career as an animator.
“Seeing Franklin was sort of like a revelation, ‘cause here’s a character that represents you. The first time I saw him on a special, he’s dancing. That meant something to a lot of us and certainly inspired my path as an artist,” said Smith.
The Armstrong Project has created a $100,000 endowment to support Black animators at HBCUs. Two recipients have already been selected from Hampton University and Howard University. The students have been awarded a $10,000 “non-renewable scholarship, corporate mentorship, and possible internship opportunity in animation and related fields.”
21-year-old Hampton recipient Promise Robinson is already taking Armstrong’s advice in the development of a project using the funds from the endowment.
“Mr. Armstrong says to start with dynamic characters. So I just want to start there and see where it takes me. I’m definitely looking to be very inclusive in my stories,” said Robinson.
Smith also advised the students to use their own voices, calling now the “perfect time.” The students will use this upcoming school year to create positive change in the industry using their awards. 19-year-old Howard recipient Hailey Cartwright is also working on a project, speaking openly about the importance of Franklin’s character and the feeling of gratitude having now been a part of that legacy.
“If Franklin had never been introduced to the Peanuts series, I can’t fathom how different my life would be. If he wasn’t there, in the direction I want to take my career in animation, would I even have a chance? I just wonder,” said Cartwright.
To learn more about The Armstrong Project, visit the website here.
Photo Courtesy of The Armstrong Project