Charlie Brown in animation is a subject that's always fascinated me. Almost 50 prime time animated specials, 4 theatrically released features films, an 8-episode mini-series, and a Saturday morning cartoon. Can you think of any other comic strip that's had as successful a career in animation? I'm pretty certain, thanks to the cartoons, I was fully aware of Charlie Brown and Snoopy long before I knew it was a comic strip.
When I was a kid, Fisher Price made this toy. You'd get these 1-minute long movies on these big yellow cartridges. You'd plug the cartridge into the special movie viewer, turn the crank, and watch the movie. I got it for Christmas when I was 4 or 5 years old, and it was my favourite toy, and no doubt started my path to movie geekdom. And one of the cartridges I had was a Snoopy one. Woodstock was on a raft in stormy seas, but it was eventually revealed he was just daydreaming in his bird bath. Snoopy pulls him out and dries him off with a blow dryer. That was it. My first exposure to Charlie Brown in animation.
And then there were the TV specials, which I'd watch occasionally. It wasn't until college that I really started appreciating the pathos in A Charlie Brown Christmas. And when I was a kid, I did have a friend who had A Boy Named Charlie Brown on VHS, and wound up watching it a lot over at his place. I caught a bit of it on TV a few months ago. Since it was made in the 1960s, I forgot how the animation got a little...psychedelic in places.
So, as you can see, nothing but heaping waves of nostalgia when I learned that this new, CGI movie is in development.
Apparently, Charles Schutlz's son and grandson came up with the story idea back in 2006 and began shopping it around Hollywood. They eventually found a home at Blue Sky Studios, the animation studio responsible for the Ice Age and Rio franchises. Steve Martino directs, and he gave us the Blue Sky films Ice Age: Continental Drift (aka the fourth one) and their adaptation of Horton Hears a Who. In fact, it was Martino's adaptation of Horton Hears a Who that won him the gig, as the Schultz estate was impressed with his faithfulness to the original book. I should mention that the Schultz estate does have complete creative control over the project, to maintain faithfulness to the characters.
And faithfulness does seem to be a key word in the production. The producers have also acquired the rights to Vince Guaraldi legendary jazz scores to the various TV specials to be used in the film. Bill Melendez, who directed the vast majority of TV specials and original animated films until his death in 2006, will once again be voicing Snoopy and Woodstock thanks to archival recordings. And the voice cast was announced last week, too. Following the tradition of the franchise, all the voice actor are age-appropriate kids.
I just can't get over the animation in this trailer. Even though it's modern-day, 3D, computer animation, the pains they've gone through to make it look like Charles Schultz's original 2D art is astounding. The music, the voices of Snoopy and Woodstock, everything works great to successfully pull on the nostalgic heart strings.
Then the present day pop song strikes up and we get some 3D Snoopy vs. the Red Baron action and something about it starts feeling a little bit off.
But it leaves me feeling cautiously optimistic.
The Peanuts Movie hits theaters on November 6, 2015.