[INTERVIEW] Charlie Brown’s Melanie Kohn Reflects On Her Time As Lucy

Voice actress Melanie Kohn, a Texas resident, has played a role that has influenced generations children and adults alike. Kohn is best known for voicing Lucy Van Pelt in many of the Charlie Brown animated shows and movies, including It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! Kohn's sister voiced the character before she assumed the role from 1974-1977, giving Melanie Kohn the distinction of having one of the longest running stints voicing a Peanuts character.

 Kohn will be a guest at the Dallas Comic Show later this week. However, we had the privilege of speaking with her prior to her appearance to get an insight into what it was like to voice one of Charles Schulz's most memorable characters. Take a look below to see what Kohn had to say about her time as Lucy!

So, first and foremost, your sister voiced Lucy prior to you taking over in 1974. How did you end up assuming the role?

The Peanuts characters have all been done by kids and kids retire. Since girls' voices  change at about twelve years old, my sister's voice got too low for the role. I don't know how it works now, but they didn't let us know when we retired back then. They just stopped calling us. So, one day the phone rang and they wanted me to come in, not my sister. They wanted me to audition for Sally and Lucy. When I did, they said, "Well, your voice is too low for Sally and too high for Lucy but we're going to let you assume the role of Lucy because your voice quality is similar to your sisters." That's how I got started. I had one of the longest runs, if not the longest run for the girls since I was in four shows in a movie.

Did you feel any pressure performing since your sister had already successfully played the part?

No, I didn't because I think that we did sound similar, even though she was two years older than I was. Our voices were similar, and I could hear it even at that age.

Did you ever have the opportunity to meet Charles Schultz?

I didn't personally. My sister did, but I worked with Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson, the director and producer.

What do you remember about your time in the studio?

We did it separately, so we never recorded with the other kids. Bill Melendez would speak the part of whoever we were supposed to be talking to. Back then, they did the animation afterwards, so everything was drawn according to the voices since the speaking part came first. Being a kid between nine and twelve years old, it was just fun. I didn't think anything beyond it being fun. It was cool hearing it when it came finally came out on TV.

I was just about to ask what was it like actually seeing the final product for the first time since you only saw a one side conversation.

I would definitely critique myself like the way I pronounced certain words, even back then. I think it was as much fun to see my name in the credits at the end as hearing my voice. 

Who is your favorite Peanuts character? 

Oh, that's a tough one. I have to say that I'm biased; Lucy is my favorite. I've definitely been called crabby and I raised three kids who would constantly do the "wah wah wah wah" voice to me.

I could see how raising kids who've grown up watching Peanuts would be interesting in your household. So, which is your favorite Charlie Brown movie?

My favorite was It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! Not just because I voiced it, but because I love the music. And I loved the one Snoopy went into the sugar egg and danced with all the bunnies. It was just fun. It was cute and fun.

Why did you decide to leave acting after voicing Lucy?

I don't really think that it was a decision as much as I just wasn't guided in that direction. I didn't have stage parents. I started stage acting when I was very young and it was something that I was into but my parents weren't pushing for it. So, as a child, I didn't really know which way to turn to pursue acting. 

I understand but I can also see why since it is a tough industry for the children and parents involved.

Incidentally, all my kids work in visual effects in Vancouver, BC. My youngest son actually works for Brainchild Studios, which do the Peanuts shows. It was just coincidence that he ended up working for that studio, so it is kind of cool.

Since we are on the topic of family, Charlie Brown was released in 1950 as a comic strip but it's still so popular today that it got revived on the big screen in 2015. Why do you think Peanuts is still such a large part of pop culture?

I think that when people grow up, they have a sentimental feeling about it and watch it with their kids. Then, the kids are left with a sentimental feeling, having the memory of watching it with their parents. It just goes from generation to generation. That's typically the response I've gotten when I meet Peanuts fans in public; that's what I hear the most. I hear kids in their 20s and 30s saying, "My parents raised me on this. We watched the specials every year!"

Speaking of which, there is a scene in the Easter special where Snoopy licks Lucy on the face and she lets out her iconic yell. How difficult was it for you to come up with the sound?

[Laughs] Not difficult at all. I can still do it!

And finally, since you are essentially Lucy and she is a world renown psychologist, what expert advice would you give our audience?

If it is coming from Lucy: "I can't help thinking that this would be a better world if everyone would listen to me." However, if it's coming from me: "Be gracious to everyone. You never know what they might be going through and it's not your job to judge."

Luckily, those in DFW will be able to meet Melanie Kohn later this week at the Dallas Comic Show in Lewisville. It will be held at the Music City Mall on November 6th and 7th. For tickets or more information head on over to Dallas Comic Show's website.