In 2011, Snoopy and Woodstock sold “Beagle Scout Christmas Trees” at a fundraiser. In 2015, Snoopy’s little feathered friends were Pinewood Derby passengers as they sped down the track atop red, green and blue cars. And this year, we find Scoutmaster Snoopy portaging a canoe while the members of his troop enjoy a free ride.
With its Beagle Scout ornament series, released every year since 2007, Hallmark has found a charming way to showcase the kind of unforgettable adventures families enjoy in Scouting.
It was 12 years ago that I first received one of these keepsakes under the tree. In 2008, my then-fiancée’s parents gave me that year’s ornament, which showed Snoopy paddling a canoe alongside Woodstock and two of his winged pals.
My Beagle Scout ornament collection grew by one each year, thanks to my in-laws. And each year I wondered who was behind these miniature pieces of art. How did this artist come up with their ideas? What’s their process for creating an ornament design? And do they have some connection to Scouting?
This year, I decided to find out. I contacted Hallmark, and they put me in touch with Tracy Larsen, lead designer for the Peanuts collection in the company’s Keepsake Ornaments division.
Larsen is, in fact, a Scouting alumnus. He was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout in Utah, and he has two Eagle Scout sons.
“The ideas really come from personal experience from Scouting,” Larsen says. “There are so many activities that Scouts participate in that there seems to be a never-ending supply of ideas to use. It is then just a matter of fitting Snoopy and his Woodstock patrollers into the situation in a fun and clever way.”
From two dimensions to three
Larsen started his career with Hallmark as a greeting card designer. His first card featured Snoopy doing his classic “happy dance.”
While his art training had been purely two-dimensional, Larsen started dabbling in sculpting. He took classes and workshops and even created a Snoopy sculpture that was given to Peanuts creator Charles Schulz for his birthday.
Larsen showed a few of his sculpted pieces to a trusted friend at Hallmark, and that friend encouraged Larsen to apply to be a Keepsakes artist. It turned out to be good advice as Larsen has now been in Keepsakes for 25 years.
The best kind of research
For Larsen, every ornament design — be it Star Wars or Spider-Man, Barbie or Peanuts — starts with research.
For the annual ornaments depicting Snoopy and Woodstock as Beagle Scouts, this research sounds like a ton of fun: reading comic strips.
“We do research and sketch out ideas that we then submit to the product team,” he says. “For the Peanuts line, the research would include looking at Charles Schulz’s comic strips to see what situations he put his characters in.”
Schulz first introduced the Beagle Scouts on June 9, 1974, according to the Charles M. Schulz Museum. The adventures (and misadventures) of Snoopy, Woodstock and their yellow feathered friends form a recurring theme in Schulz’s work.
And Larsen’s work, too. As lead designer for the Peanuts collection, he has created many of the 14 Beagle Scout ornaments from 2007 to 2020.
“I have had the opportunity to design many of the Beagle Scout ornaments, though not all,” he says. “Others have contributed a great deal to the Beagle Scout collection and have done a wonderful job with them over the years.”
It started in Scouting
Choosing which Beagle Scout adventure to immortalize in plastic takes Larsen back to his days as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout in northern Utah.
“I was fortunate to live in the mountains, so many of my fondest memories of Scouting took place camping and taking hikes in the mountains,” he says. “My first Boy Scout camp included a several-mile hike in the Uinta Mountains to a beautiful lake where we fished, swam and canoed. It was a great experience.”
Larsen says his favorite Beagle Scout ornament is one he didn’t design himself: the 2015 edition featuring the Pinewood Derby race.
“It brings up memories of my own Scouting experience with Pinewood Derbies,” he says, “and especially of participating in them with my own two sons.”
He’s proudest of an ornament called “Holiday En-tree-preneurs,” where Snoopy and Woodstock sell Christmas trees.
“Can’t have Scouting without fundraising!” Larsen says.
It’s for the families
When Larsen designs an ornament, he isn’t thinking of how many boxes Hallmark will sell. He’s thinking much smaller, picturing someone seeing the design and wanting to display it proudly on their tree for years to come.
With the Beagle Scout ornaments, Larsen knows they’re popular with Scouting families and hopes the designs “bring back their own fond memories of Scouting in their own lives and their children’s lives.”
“Hopefully they can renew their appreciation of what a significant contribution Scouting can make in a young person’s life and how much fun it has been — and can be,” he says.
The ‘Portaging Pals’
The 2020 edition of the Beagle Scout ornament series, called “Portaging Pals,” features Snoopy carrying a canoe with two Woodstocks hanging from the canoe thwarts and another riding on top.
Though you can’t tell from the image, the hanging Woodstocks aren’t static. They actually swing back and forth if you move the ornament. The swinging Woodstocks was Larsen’s addition but the idea to depict a canoe portage came from Kurt Gaulke, product development manager for the Peanuts line.
So far, the reviews on Hallmark’s website show that Larsen and his team have another hit.
“As a mother of an Eagle Scout, I have collected all the Snoopy Scout ornaments,” a reviewer named Carol writes. “My son used to go to a high-adventure camp where they did a 50-mile canoe trip. I bought this as a memento for him of his adventures.”
“This is my annual gift to a family that have become friends thanks to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts,” a reviewer named Brenda writes. “The ‘boys’ who are now young men still look forward to what the new ornament will be and the memories it will bring.”
Larsen has a message for Scouting families like those referenced in the reviews. While he didn’t become an Eagle Scout himself, he saw what Scouting did for his two sons as they earned Scouting’s highest honor.
“I very much appreciate all the leaders and parents who provide their time and sacrifice to help young people learn important skills and become the best version of themselves that they can be,” he says. “It has been a joy to be able to portray and honor that in a small part through the Beagle Scout ornament collection.”
All images courtesy of Hallmark Cards Inc. and used with permission.