Ever since news broke that “they” would be making a new, full-length, animated film featuring Peanuts, fans around the world began crying “good grief!” as if the venture would mean certain death the beloved characters and shatter our childhood memories to boot. Everyone knows the Charles M. Schulz wasn’t just the illustrator of the classic TV specials, but he was also the heart and wit of them as well. Who could possibly do the comic strip any justice without him?
20th Century Fox was smart to quickly churn out a teaser trailer for the upcoming film way, way in advance to calm people’s nerves. It worked to point. Fans were now convinced that the characters could be drawn in 3D and still look like Peanuts. The preview even featured the iconic “Linus and Lucy,” the signature “Peanuts” song. But they also featured music from The Who and Flo Rida that was distinctly NOT Peanuts, which didn’t calm fan’s nerves.
Now, finally, the red velvet curtains have been pulled back and we get to see the “new” Peanuts. And you know what? They are exactly like the old ones – maybe even better. Everything you love about the Peanuts specials are in here and what you didn’t like, isn’t. Just about every character that has graced the comic pages in the newspaper or the small screen is in this movie including characters that many didn’t even knew existed like Shermy, the original Patty (Peppermint Patty came later) and all of Snoopy’s relatives (but look quickly because they only make a cameo appearance). Diehard fans like myself really appreciate that they included all of them in this production.
The Peanuts Movie also brings back many bits and pieces that fans like so much about the specials. Lucy hasn’t raised her therapy advice and still loves the sounds on nickels in her tin can. Frieda is still obsessed about her naturally curly hair. All of the characters dance just like they did in the Christmas special. Even the bullets that spray against Snoopy’s doghouse during one of his battles with the Red Baron is exactly like what was shown in the Halloween special. The filmmakers didn’t bother making Charlie Brown and his friends “more relevant” or “edgy.” They still use phones with long cords and Snoopy still types on a typewriter. The filmmakers auditioned hundreds of children to voice the roles so that they would sound the same. In short, this film is a treasure for old audiences and a whole new world for new ones to explore. And for the music? They did a masterful job of combining classic Peanuts music with the Flo Rida song, “What I Like About You” and Meghan Trainor’s “Better When I’m Dancin’.” The Who song is nowhere to be found.
Unlike many of the later Peanuts TV specials which featured very little if any plot, The Peanuts Movie features two distinct storylines. The main one is about the “little red-haired girl” who moves in across the street from Charlie Brown. He is immediately smitten and thrilled that she chews on her pencils just like he does. “She’s human!” he says. His story shows his struggle over months to get the courage to actually talk to her and improve his “loser” image.
One thing that IS different about this Charlie Brown in this movie, and is something that fans can get behind. That while bad things still happen to Charlie Brown, we get to see his heart and how he sacrifices his dignity for the sake of others. For Christians out there who are wondering, no scripture is read (like in A Charlie Brown Christmas) and the message isn’t heavy, but it makes a statement that even young ones can understand. In addition, some of Charlie Brown’s foibles are a matter of perspective. In the past, we’ve always seen his perspective on how others treated him, but this time, we get to see the bigger picture and realize that not everything he does is his fault and not everyone see’s him like he see’s himself. Still, of all the Charlie Brown’s in the world, he is still the Charlie Browniest.
The second story line is Snoopy’s multi-chapter on defeating the Red Baron and saving his own girl – Fifi (voiced by Kristen Chenoweth – although you would never know it.) It’s pretty much played out just for fun and doesn’t drag on.
The Peanuts Movie is directed by Steve Martino who directed the animated Horton Hears a Who and the less successful but still popular Ice Age: Continental Drift. And perhaps the biggest reason that the film stays so closely to the original vision of Charles M. Schulz is that not only is much of the story taken from his original comic strips, but that film’s script was also written by his two sons, Bryan and Craig Schulz along with Cornelius Uliano.
(Main Image: 20th Century Fox)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.