By Samantha Ofole-Prince
In just a few months, Charlie Brown, the world’s most beloved underdog, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the “Peanuts” gang will make their big-screen debut like they’ve never been seen before -- in 3D animation.
For the Schulz family, bringing the comic strip to the big screen offered not just an opportunity to reintroduce the character to a new generation, but to also honor Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip who died 15 years ago.
“Before he died, he asked the question ‘Will I be remembered?’ and that was what drove us to do this film,” says son Craig Schulz. “There is a new generation now and we wanted him to be remembered forever.”
Widely regarded as one of the most influential cartoonists of all time, Schulz, who was affectionately known as “Sparky” delighted the world with the adventures and adversities of Charlie Brown, his friends and a dog named Snoopy.
The film, which is still undergoing several finishing touches, is scheduled for release in November.
Finding the delicate balance between the cartoon strip designs and the demands of the theater was initially a tough task for director Steve Martino – an Emmy-winning writer-director with Blue Sky who has worked on the studio’s “Ice Age” franchise.
“Knowing we would be sharing our work with ‘Peanuts’ fans, we knew we had to get it right,” he says. “We are creating a movie for the big screen and are painting on a bigger canvas. I wanted to embrace that, and create an experience for an audience today that felt rich and worthy of the big screen. I wanted the audience to feel that they have been transported into this world that is Charlie Brown’s. I also wanted the film to have the graphic quality and styling that came from his hand the way he drew them in his comic strip.”
Schulz’s characters have evolved throughout the years so deciding which cartoon drawings to model the characters on, manipulating the models to make it feel like it was hand drawn and figuring out the right designs were inherent obstacles. It was down to the “Peanuts” animators who put long months into trying to stay true to the spirit and style of creator Charles M. Schulz.
“We are 2D animating with just 3D parts and it was important for us to get these characters to look like the way they were drawn,” shares Nick Bruno one of the several animators who worked on the film. “We created a style guide for the animators so when they are posing and animating these characters they are staying true to form.”
A feature film in story and structure, “The Peanuts Movie” is certainly not just a loose collection of favorite moments and favorite strips linked together.
“It’s a story that rests on a wonderful thematic idea,” Martino tells Blackflix.com. “We take the simple and make it feel enormous and add humor. Everything in the movie is driven by doing the research and looking at the drawings and having that inform our decision. As a result, the style feels somewhat fresh and new.”
Editor’s Note: On July 31,2015, “Peanuts” celebrated the 47th anniversary of “Franklin,” it’s first African-American character.
Harriet Glickman, a school teacher wrote a letter to the comic strip’s creator Charles M. Schulz following the death of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King. Jr. urging him that an African-American character needed to be added to the popular comic strip. “Franklin Armstrong” was introduced on July 31, 1968, representing the importance of desegregation.
The film is scheduled to hit theaters Nov. 6, 2015
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This article was printed in the October 4, 2015 - October 17, 2015 edition.