Source: USA Today
When The Peanuts Movie arrives in theaters next year, producer Paul Feig promises that Charlie Brown won’t twerk, wear a baseball cap backwards or try to “break the Internet” a la Kim Kardashian.
“I don’t think his butt’s big enough,” Feig says with a laugh.
In fact, there won’t be a focus on the old-fashioned or the modern when the late Charles M. Schulz’s characters including Snoopy, Woodstock, Linus and Peppermint Patty come to life in the 3-D computer-animated film (out Nov. 6, 2015). Instead, director Steve Martino (Ice Age: Continental Drift) and the filmmakers focus on the timeless quality of 50-plus years of beloved comic strips and TV specials.
If Feig was going to give the movie a classic Peanuts title, he’d likely call it Don’t Give Up, Charlie Brown!. The story follows the little round-headed boy with the indomitable optimism on a quest to get something he’s sure he needs, even though he discovers he’s pretty OK just as he is.
Martino grew up on the Peanuts holiday specials, but as an adult, he connects with that Charlie Brown attitude of bouncing back from obstacles. “I wake up every day and it’s like, ‘Today’s the day we’re going to win that game! I’m going to kick that football!’ As you have more life experience, those things have more meaning.”
The tale of Charlie’s best friend Snoopy is triggered by what he sees going on in his owner’s life. It involves the wildly imaginative beagle hopping on his doghouse-turned-Sopwith Camel plane and heading to Paris during World War I to engage in a dogfight with sworn enemy the Red Baron.
“We really get to go into his mind and see what this crazy dog is imagining every day of his life,” says producer Craig Schulz, one of the Peanuts creator’s sons.
Schulz even took Martino up in a biplane so he could bring a sense of loop-de-loops, stalls and barrel rolls to the big screen and “give the audience a little bit of that feeling when we’re taking flight with Snoopy,” adds the director.
Because of the deep bench of Peanuts characters, the movie won’t be introducing newcomers. In addition to Charlie Brown’s crush-worthy Little Red Haired Girl and Snoopy’s love Fifi, fans can expect Snoopy’s brother Olaf, as well as a whole group of Beagle Scouts. (Filmmakers are using archival recordings of the late Bill Melendez for the sounds of Snoopy and Woodstock.)
One guy Martino has taken a shine to is Linus. With a lisp and his ubiquitous blanket, he sees something in Charlie Brown that his other friends don’t. “He’s a tried and true friend,” the director says.
Two guiding principles for Martino are making sure Charlie Brown’s world is immersive while also staying true to the look and feel of the comic strips. A major challenge has been creating emotions out of the simple dots for eyes that Schulz gave his characters.
But animators have made the most of subtle details, Martino says. “A little tilt of that eye shape can give you worry. A little stretch and raise of that little dot can give you surprise.”
Watching Peanuts come together has brought on a flood of childhood memories for the team. Martino loved seeing his Snoopy perform the famous dog’s iconic happy dance (“I used to wait for that moment to come on screen”), while Feig reveals that he choked up while watching the first reel of storyboards set to the classic Vince Guaraldi music that was a hallmark of the TV specials.
“You love being back in that world,” Feig says. “And you immediately want to grab every kid you know and go, ‘Oh, my God, you’ve got to watch this!’ ”