January 11, 2015 – In 1979, Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang briefly invaded the Star Wars universe with the release of “Star Snoopy Colorforms”. Except Snoopy & Co. never bothered to get the permission or licensing rights from Lucasfilm, Ltd., and nobody seemed to care.
Colorforms were invented in 1951. They are thin vinyl sheet images and shapes which are applied to a laminated board, much like placing paper dolls against a paper backdrop. The vinyl cut-outs stick to the background by non-permanent adhesion. The Colorforms vinyl pieces can be repositioned against graphic backgrounds to create endless designs and scenarios at a child’s whim.
There were over a dozen Snoopy and Peanuts Colorforms releases, including the “Snoopy’s Beagle Scouts” stand-up play set (pictured here) and the “Snoopy You’re a Pal”. However, only one Star Wars cross-over set was released.
So how did the late Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000) skirt licensing fees and trade-mark and copyright laws? If you look closely at the packaging, no Star Wars characters, names, or logo are referenced. The narrative on the box cover states:
SNOOPY is star of this space-fantasy Colorforms set. Create many spectacular space adventures with Colorforms. Plastic pieces stick like magic. No scissors or paste needed.”
There are quite a few Star Wars-inspired forms in this 1979 Star Snoopy playset, however, to leave little doubt that Colorforms was freely borrowing from somebody else’s “space-fantasy”. For example, the cover art features the “Star Snoopy” title printed in the same stylized font and crawl as the original Star Wars movie. Snoopy’s vehicle is labeled “X-7” – in case you missed the obvious X-wings configuration. And the vinyl cut-outs include several lightsabers, a friendly robot that vaguely resembles C-3PO, and Lucy is crouched and reaching out to another cut-out labeled “PLANS” (Death Star, anyone?). If that’s not enough, how about a couple helmets that look suspiciously like a Stormtrooper helmet and an X-Wing pilot’s helmet. Several ceremonial medals are thrown in for good measure.
To date, over a billion Colorform sets have been sold worldwide. It’s not clear whether Lucasfilm ever sued Schulz or the Colorforms Corporation, sent them a cease-and-desist letter, or whether George Lucas simply shrugged his shoulders and looked the other way. It’s an interesting footnote in Star Wars history, nonetheless, to see that once upon a time, a plucky beagle invaded someone else’s “space-fantasy” and got away with it.