SANTA ROSA, Calif. -- Charles Schulz left strict instructions that nobody else could draw ''Peanuts,'' and, days before he died, told one of his daughters that animated shows featuring Charlie Brown and the gang must end as well.
Still, the cartoonist's children are worried that the company that owns the ''Peanuts'' franchise will turn out new programs that stray too far from Schulz's legacy.
''They'll end up being like ''South Park'' or something like that,'' says Schulz's son Monte.
The problem for the family is that, although Schulz earned more than $30 million a year from his creations, he didn't actually own the copyright to the ''Peanuts'' characters.
That remains firmly in the hands of United Media, which got 61 percent of its $84.9 million in 1998 revenues from the comics, TV shows and licensing deals that put the strip's characters on everything from lunch boxes to life insurance ads.
When Schulz began drawing Peanuts in 1950, comics distributors often demanded the copyrights to protect their investments. Schulz was never able to get his back.
United Media hasn't met with the family or Schulz's collaborators to discuss making more shows, and wouldn't elaborate about its plans.
Schulz had two or three more TV shows in the works at the time of his death last month, including a Snoopy-as-Pied Piper story to be released on home video later this year.
His five children have no problem with continued merchandising of Peanuts goods, as long as they can reject products they don't like.
But they feel that creating new ''Peanuts'' content without his input is unacceptable -- especially after Schulz told to his daughter Jill Transki that he expected the shows to end with his death.
It was the children who insisted that Schulz's contract stipulate no one else would draw the strip after his death. The contract also said he had to approve all ''creative projects,'' a right that now belongs to his widow, Jean, and his children, according to the family's lawyer, Barbara Gallagher.
Gallagher believes creative projects includes animated shows -- and that she trusts United Media to heed the family's wishes. ''I don't believe that they're going to try to pursue anything that the family doesn't want,'' she said.
Nonetheless, Monte Schulz got worried after a United Media representative hinted that the company will want to create new shows to help maintain the franchise's value.
''But forget it,'' he said. ''At the expense of the integrity of the strip? The characters themselves? Dad's legacy? Not a chance. We'll have to live with fewer dollars in our pockets,'' he said.
The only way the family might accept new shows is if the story line and dialog were pulled directly from existing strips, said Monte Schulz, who doesn't favor the idea.
New animated shows would keep the franchise fresh, stimulating demand for related products, said securities analysts.
''I was under the impression the strips would stop but everything else would kind of continue business as usual,'' said James Marsh, an analyst with Prudential Securities.
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