“There’s something unique to THE PEANUTS and you don’t want to lose that.” – Director: Steve Martino
When it was first announced that Blue Sky Studios (ICE AGE) would be taking Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters and making a major motion picture centered around them, I immediately groaned in disapproval. Remembering what Hollywood had already done to so many of my childhood favorites, from Scooby Doo to Underdog, I got a little worried. Fortunately, I was invited to a special press event where director Steve Martino (HORTON HEARS A WHO!), animator Nick Bruno, Charles M. Schulz’s wife Jean Schulz and son Craig Schulz were on hand to discuss the new film, as well as the respect given to the cherished characters on their journey to the big screen. While talking about the film, everyone involved seemed to be so passionate about bringing a quality project to theaters that by the end of the junket I had changed from a begrudged naysayer to a fan who now sees an incredible amount of potential in the film and is eagerly awaiting the November 6, 2015 release date.
***Note: As the Press Junket progressed everyone involved chose to refer to Charles M. Schulz by his respected nickname SPARKY (named after the horse Spark Plug in the BARNEY GOOGLE comic strip) and this will be evident from this point forward in the following article.***
As the film’s director Steve Martino began to speak about his involvement with the project, he explained why there was so much importance behind delivering a quality film. “I shared with my family and friends that we were going to be making a Peanuts movie and the response was almost exactly the same. It was like ‘Oh, Peanuts, I love Peanuts…’ There was great enthusiasm and great excitement, but it also always ended with the same response… ‘Don’t Screw it up.’” Feeling a close relationship with the material and an obvious respect for his father, Craig Schulz added, “My main goal was obviously to make this be a tribute to my dad’s fifty years of work… continue with the legacy and make it as true as we can.”
Honoring the characters and their creator wasn’t all that was important though. After all, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang are cherished by millions of people worldwide and Martino’s obligation seemed to be motivated by this fact. “A lot of our motivation was driven out of the fear, responsibility and knowing that we were going to share our work with a lot of people around the world who are fans of the Peanuts and we wanted to do it right… I was actually honored to work with these characters. I loved the Peanuts… I was seven years old when the Christmas specials came on. It was a big part of my life growing up. I felt like those characters and that life was reflective of the life that I was living, so I’m a fan first and foremost.”
A lot of movies based on other material fail because they are generally the result of filmmakers that have no true understanding of what made the original characters so great. Part of getting to the truth of the Peanuts came from the filmmakers’ dedication to studying the source material and trying to recreate its feel as closely as possible. Martino explained, “I look at the body of work and I think what Sparky did was that he connected to the human experience. He connected to those thoughts that we often have in our head, but are afraid to actually express, like ‘Do people like me?’… and our interactions with friends and the people around us. He found the core of these ideas and then he had us laugh at them… and this is what I love about what Craig and Bryan (the writers of the film) did, they looked at the fifty years of the comic strip and said ‘Lets hold up the qualities that Charlie Brown has and lets celebrate that.’” Jean Schulz added, “We just love talking about the depth behind the comic strips… so we talked about Sparky… How he could sustain a creation all by himself for fifty years, which is pretty amazing in itself.”
The actual animators themselves also had to learn to respect the design of everything that Charles M. Schulz created. Animator Nick Bruno stated, “A big part of what you (The Animators) had to realize was that it was not just honoring the comics, but also the man behind the comics. Because in that respect it (the comic strip) was a diary. We had always been told, ‘to get to know Sparky, is to read the comics.’”
Part of the animation process also had to do with the overall production design in the film. Martino described the process for THE PEANUTS MOVIE by saying, “With every film that we work on, we have a production designer… Sparky was the production designer on this movie and anytime a designer had a question, I said ‘Go to the strip.’ Everything was driven by doing the research, looking at the drawings and have that inform our decisions.”
At the junket, the press was also given a taste of what the film was going to look and feel like when the studio showcased a number of clips from the upcoming movie. Although I cannot give a review of the film from these clips, as they had no context with the scenes that will eventually surround them, what we were shown had the feel of the old Peanuts Holiday Specials and proved to me that with the creative talent over at Blue Sky Studios the film had real potential.
With the respect that the filmmakers seem to have for the creator of the PEANUTS, Charles M. Schulz, as well as the characters themselves, the upcoming release of THE PEANUTS MOVIE looks very promising. The film’s director stressed that his hope was to create something that the fans, as well as those unfamiliar with the characters, will be able to enjoy. Martino concluded that he wanted to… “create an experience for an audience today that felt rich, felt big and felt worthy of the big screen and yet still felt exactly the same as we’ve always known. We didn’t want to recreate who these characters are… We want the audience to feel like they’ve been transported into this world that is Charlie Brown with all of the graphics and styling that came from his (Charles M. Schulz) hand and the way he drew them for over fifty years in the comic strip.” Craig Schulz agreed. “It’s been fifteen years since his (Charles M. Schulz) passing and before he died he asked the question ‘would I be remembered?’ and that was kind of what drove me to do this film. I think that we want to remember him and we want to remember his work… All of us kind of grew up and we read The Peanuts and we wanted the new generation to say yeah he will be remembered and he will be remembered forever.”
Make sure to check out THE PEANUTS MOVIE when it is released in theaters across the country on November 6, 2015. For more family movie news, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.