"Pigpen" is a human soil bank who raises a cloud of dust on a perfectly clean street and passes out gumdrops that are invariably black.
Charles M. Schulz on "Pig-Pen"
"Pig Pen" first appeared on July 13, 1954. In his first appearance, he tells Patty, "I haven't got a name . . . People just call me things . . . Real insulting things." He says he is usually called "Pig-Pen". No real name for "Pig-Pen" was ever subsequently given in later Peanuts strips.
Being constantly dirty is a trait that "Pig-Pen" is best known for. When he takes a deep breath (to sing, for example), the dust rises briefly around him. He sometimes refers to the cloud that surrounds him with pride as the dust of ancient civilizations. He cannot seem to rid himself of the dust for more than the briefest of periods—indeed, in spite of his best efforts, it appears that he cannot stay clean. He can even get dirty by walking in a rainstorm. In the strip from July 23, 1955, he cleans himself up for a party, but the other Peanuts characters don't let him in because they can't recognize him.
In the strip from November 25, 1959, after bathing and dressing in clean clothes, "Pig-Pen" steps outside his house and instantly becomes dirty and disheveled, whereupon he declares to Charlie Brown, "You know what I am? I'm a dust magnet!" Dirt is similarly shown instantly becoming attracted to a recently cleaned "Pig-Pen" in the episode "The NASA Space Station" from the series This Is America, Charlie Brown. The strip from June 19, 1956 shows "Pig-Pen" trying and failing to wash his hands, after failing to wash them effectively, he realizes that he has "reached a point of no return."
"Pig-Pen's" parents are highly mentioned by him. It rarely appears that they care about their son's filthiness. On July 17, 1954, Charlie Brown tells "Pig-Pen" that his mother wants him home to take a bath. In another strip on June 19, 1956 shows "Pig-Pen" talking to his mother that he has reached the point of no return after failing to wash off the dirt from his hands. On March 8, 1989, after consulting Lucy at her psychiatry booth, "Pig-Pen" claims that his father is named "Pig-Pen Senior".
"Pig-Pen" is also mocked for being dirty in the TV specials, such as A Charlie Brown Christmas. In It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, "Pig-Pen" disguises himself as a ghost, but his true identity is easily revealed because of the trail of dust that follows him.
Charles M. Schulz admitted that he came to regret "Pig-Pen's" popularity, given the character's essentially one-joke nature; he utilized the character very rarely in the later years of the strip's run.
"Pig-Pen" is also known to eat rotten food. A running gag is "Pig-Pen" giving Charlie Brown black gumdrops from his pocket, much to Charlie Brown's disgust. On May 25, 1957, Charlie Brown walks to "Pig-Pen", who is chewing on something. He swallows and explains that he just finished the Easter eggs. Another example is on May 26, 1992, where "Pig-Pen" explains to his teacher (who asks why there is ketchup and mustard on his homework) that his father took him to a baseball game and bought him three hot-dogs. He claims he found one left in his pocket, much to Charlie Brown's dismay.
"Pig-Pen" last appeared in the Peanuts comic strip on September 8, 1999. That strip is unusual in that it shows him embarrassed to the point of shame by his dirtiness, with none of the pride or sense of destiny that he had expressed in earlier strips.
"Pig-Pen" also appears in The Peanuts Movie. In the scene at the school dance, when the sprinklers go off, he is briefly "cleaned" when water falls on him, prompting Patty (who he is dancing with) to ask "Do I know you?"
Charlie Brown is "Pig-Pen"'s friend, but he initially did not appreciate the cloud of dirt that follows him. He sometimes used to reprove "Pig-Pen" for his constant messiness. He is usually impressed by how "Pig-Pen" manages to stay messy, even in a rainstorm. In one strip, "Pig Pen" is embarrassed when Charlie Brown deduces - simply from the dirt on his clothes - where he has been playing for the past three days.
However, Charlie Brown is the only person to accept "Pig-Pen" for who he is, In one strip he even defended "Pig-Pen"s uncleanliness "Don't think of it as dust. Just think of it as the dirt and dust of far-off lands blowing over here and settling on "Pig-Pen!" It staggers the imagination! He may be carrying the soil that was trod upon by Solomon or Nebuchadnezzar or Genghis Khan!"
Lucy van Pelt
Lucy treats "Pig-Pen" like a patient, often telling him how to get clean. In March 1989, he consults Lucy at her booth. In one particular comic on April 17, 1994, Lucy tells "Pig-Pen" to go home and get clean. When he does, as Lucy is talking, Pig-Pen quickly becomes dirty once again, much to Lucy's dismay.
Patty and Violet
Patty and Violet always mock and insult "Pig-Pen" for being messy. In one strip, Patty is about to pour a bucket of water on "Pig-Pen", realizing afterwards that he is already clean. Patty turns around, but, as the reader can see, "Pig-Pen" is only half clean and his dirty side is facing away from Patty. In another strip, Violet attempts to shame "Pig-Pen" by making him look in a mirror. She asks him, "Aren't you ashamed?" to which "Pig-Pen" replies, "On the contrary. I didn't think I looked this good." He has also told Violet "I forgot to rake my hair".
In the Peanuts computer game, It's the Big Game, Charlie Brown, "Pig-Pen" says that he is in love with Violet, due to her habit of making mud pies. However, this has never been stated in the comic strip, and therefore cannot be considered canon. It is hinted in September 26, 1954, where "Pig-Pen" cleans himself for Violet, but is rejected by her.
In The Peanuts Movie, Patty is shown with a different opinion on "Pig-Pen", as she is shown with a crush on him and even states, "A little dirt never hurt anyone." Violet, however, has the same opinion of him as in the comics and is disgusted by Patty's crush.
Snoopy, like most of the other characters, is disgusted by "Pig-Pen's" dirtiness. Almost immediately after "Pig-Pen's" intro, Snoopy is revolted when the child pets him and leaves a giant dirt print on his forehead. On one occasion, he is shown running away from a muddy ball thrown by "Pig-Pen". Snoopy even refuses to take food from "Pig-Pen", because the food is too dirty. (Which is considered unusual since Snoopy will stop at nothing to take food from someone.)
Unlike most of the other characters, Peppermint Patty does not mind "Pig-Pen's" dirtiness. Their first initial appearance together (where Charlie Brown puts him up to go with Peppermint Patty to a dance), "Pig-Pen" kisses her on the cheek, much to Peppermint Patty's excitement. A running gag was Peppermint Patty constantly bothering other characters as she constantly talked about the dirty child. However, she soon wondered if she could change "Pig-Pen", which then led to her reverting to chasing after Charlie Brown. It is unknown why Schulz decided to break up the couple.
TV and film appearances of "Pig-Pen"
As with traditional animation, making Pigpen’s cloud move realistically involved some very creative thinking. Steve Martino, the film’s director, said that the team chose to use Schulz’s own graphic style to create the Pigpen character. The animators realized that since the dirt and dust was always in motion and mirroring Pigpen’s movements, the individual particles making up the dust cloud were really an extension of Pigpen himself.
To bring the concept to life, they created a half-sphere which encircled the character, and split up dust particles’ design into four components which then filled the sphere. As it expanded and contracted with Pigpen’s actions, the cloud moved seamlessly with him.
—Plaque about Pig-Pen at the display from the Charles M. Schulz Museum, 2017
Like most of Schulz's characters, "Pig-Pen" has appeared in many of the animated Peanuts television specials and all five movies beginning in the 1960s. Geoffrey Ornstein first voiced "Pig-Pen" in the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, he also later played the role in A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Various actors have voiced him since.
The TV specials and films in which "Pig-Pen" appears are as follows:
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
- Charlie Brown's All-Stars (1966)
- It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
- You're in Love, Charlie Brown (1967) [silent]
- It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown (1969)
- A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)
- Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971)
- Snoopy, Come Home (1972) [silent]
- You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972) [silent]
- It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown (1974)
- Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975 [silent]
- It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown (1976)
- Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977) [silent]
- It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown (1977) [silent]
- You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown (1979) [silent]
- Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back!!) (1980) [silent]
- Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown? (1983) [silent]
- It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984)
- The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show (1985)
- Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown (1985)
- Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! (1986) [silent]
- This Is America, Charlie Brown (1988-1989) [silent]
- It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown (1992) [silent]
- You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown (1994) [silent]
- It Was My Best Birthday Ever, Charlie Brown (1997)
- It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown (2000)
- A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002)
- Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown (2003) [silent]
- I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (2003)
- He's a Bully, Charlie Brown (2006) [silent]
- Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown (2011)
- The Peanuts Movie (2015)
- In the TV specials A Charlie Brown Christmas and Happy New Year, Charlie Brown, "Pig-Pen" is shown playing a double bass. In the special Play It Again, Charlie Brown, he is shown to be a skilled drummer as well (while Snoopy plays double bass).
- "Pig-Pen" is one of the many Peanuts characters to appear in the game Snoopy's Street Fair, in which, he owns a flea circus.
- "Pig-Pen" appears in a commercial for Regina Steamer Carpet Cleaner, boasting the slogan "Powerful enough to clean up after 'Pig-Pen.'" The character also figures prominently in commercials for the laundry detergent All.
- Schulz once gave "Pig-Pen" the talent of tennis, as seen in February 1978, where he tells Charlie Brown that he had just won the "Clay Court Championship".
- "Pig-Pen" is one of the only main characters to not have a special focusing on him the others are Franklin, Violet, Patty, Marice, Lucy, Sally, Shermy, Woodstock, Eudora, Frieda, and Lydia.