Full Review transcript:
THE PEANUTS MOVIE Review: Charlie Brown and Snoopy for the 21st Century?
People have been after the film rights to Charlie Brown and the rest of Charles Schulz’s comic strip creations for years. For the first time in 35 years, and at great artistic risk, Blue Sky Studios has completed a 3D computer animation version for Peanuts fans all over the world to see. With the 50th anniversary of the traditionally animated A Charlie Brown Christmas Special around the corner on December 9th, will those of us who cherish Linus’s philosophizing, Snoopy’s barnstorming, and Pigpen’s dust clouding, feel they’ve captured the Peanuts spirit?
Most children can relate to feeling like a grown up in a kid’s body. That balance of growing up too fast and staying optimistic and hopeful is what has made Peanuts such a favorite since Charles Schulz introduced the comic strip in 1950. Now Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang are back, this time in 3D, to play out in feature film many of the scenes made famous by Schulz’s strip and subsequently Bill Melendez’s cartoon specials.
While this story centers around Charlie Brown’s crush, the little red-haired girl, moving into the neighborhood, and how it changes him, most of the movie’s focus is on showcasing the many situations and interactions we’ve all grown to love from the history of Peanuts. From skating in winter and school dances to Red Baron dogfights, there are references and revisits to many favorite Peanuts moments. It’s impressive how perfectly they captured the spirit of both the comic strip and the cartoon specials. Though the 3D animation takes some getting used to and isn’t for everyone, the partnership at Blue Sky of director and Peanuts fan Steve Martino, (Horton Hears a Who) and co-screenwriters Craig Schultz, Bryan Schulz, and Cornelius Uliano,(Charles Schulz’s son, grandson, and his grandson’s writing partner) The Peanuts Movie is so sweet, charming, and painfully truthful, even Charles Schulz (or Sparky, as his friends called him) would heartily approve.
Director Martino said supervising animators Nick Bruno and Scott Carroll and lead animator Jeff Gabor turned to the animation specials to figure out how to move and capture the emotions of the comic strip characters successfully. They spent countless hours pouring over recordings of Bill Melendez talking about his work to learn how he animated the cartoon specials. The best part of the screenplay is it really feels true to the characters. That’s no surprise. Who else better to protect the integrity of the characters than the son and grandson of their creator?
Audience members in-the-know can tell there was great respect and attention given to both the original source material and the subsequent cartoons. A few insider jokes to aficionados include the little red-haired girl’s moving truck being called Mendelson and Melendez, after two men important to the Peanuts legacy: Mendelson produced all the specials and penned “Christmas Time is Here”, and Melendez was the animator whose studio brought Schulz’s comic strips to life in animation in over 40 specials. There is also a moment when Lucy gets splattered with something that makes her look for a frozen moment like the paintings of Tom Everhart, who was the only interpretive artist Schulz gave the official authority to use his characters. Everhart also served as consultant on the Peanuts movie.
The voice cast of The Peanuts Movie, found through over 1000 auditions, adds immeasurably to giving it a place amongst the best cartoon specials. While they all capture what fans expect of the Peanuts gang (for the animated specials the voices were re-cast about every two years) Alex Garfin as Linus is the most reminiscent of 1965’s Chris Shea from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, who for most is the quintessential Linus. I only wish there was more of the simplicity of the original Vince Guaraldi jazz combo incorporated into the score to balance against the larger orchestral recording from composer Christophe Beck.
What is most telling of the seriousness and commitment of The Peanuts Movie director Steve is his insistence of maintaining the sound style of the cartoon specials, and using recordings of Bill Melendez, who was the original voice for Snoopy and Woodstock, for this film. How wonderful to know they wanted his part in creating over 40 cartoon specials to be recognized in that way. All in all, i’d say it’s time for Peanuts fans, and Blue Sky, to join Snoopy in a happy dance.
If you want to see an interview with Lee Mendelson, producer of the Peanuts cartoon specials and writer of “Christmas Time is Here”, HERE YOU GO!