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Peter Robbins, original voice of Charlie Brown in 'Great Pumpkin' and 'Christmas,' dies at 65

Robbins voiced Charlie Brown in several beloved Peanuts specials in the 1960s.

By Matthew Jackson
Peter Robbins Charlie Brown GETTY

Peter Robbins, the former child actor best known for being the first kid to voice Charles Schulz's beloved character Charlie Brown, died earlier this month at the age of 65. His family announced this week in a statement to Fox 5 San Diego that Robbins took his own life last week. 

Though he long ago moved on from acting, and struggled with mental health issues and legal troubles in his adult life, Robbins' voice was immortalized in pop culture as the definitive version of Charlie Brown, Schulz's everyman little boy who seemed to face constant obstacles in the process of growing up. Though other voice actors have since taken over the character, Robbins is the best known version of Charlie Brown thanks to his presence in the two most beloved specials to feature the character: A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965 and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, in 1966. 

Though most viewers wouldn't actually hear him play the character until A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965, Robbins actually began voicing the star of Schulz's Peanuts comic strip at the age of nine, in 1963, for the TV documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown. The documentary featured animated sequences starring the Peanuts characters, and was an instrumental first step in later getting the first holiday special produced. Made quickly for the 1965 holiday season, A Charlie Brown Christmas famously featured real children as the Peanuts gang, rather than adult voice actors playing children. Robbins was able to embody Charlie Brown with an ability to pivot quickly between unbridled joy and crushing disappointment, as the character tried to navigate a Christmas in which he couldn't seem to get into the holiday spirit. 

Robbins returned for several more specials as Charlie Brown throughout the 1960s, while also appearing in live-action TV series like The Donna Reed ShowRawhideThe Munsters, and more. You've heard his voice as good ol' Charlie Brown in It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, You're in Love, Charlie BrownHe's Your Dog, Charlie BrownIt Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown, and A Boy Named Charlie Brown. He played the role into his teenage years before he was replaced with another child actor. According to Fox 5, though, the character never left him, as he later got a Charlie Brown tattoo on his arm.

Robbins moved away from acting in the 1970s, but continued to appear in specials commemorating various Charlie Brown anniversaries. He also struggled as an adult with bipolar disorder, and in the 2010s was briefly imprisoned after making criminal threats. In a 2019 interview with the Providence Journal, when he began making convention appearances again after his release from prison, Robbins reflected on the importance of A Charlie Brown Christmas' message of seeking help from others. 

“Linus said that all it needs is a little love,” Robbins said, referring to the scrawny Christmas tree Charlie Brown selects in the special. “Maybe that’s what we all need. Even though we are quirky. Even though we are depressed. That is what Charlie Brown represents, but at the end of the day ... love.”

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