I think that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of Peanuts when the producers say that there is ‘finally the technology to present Peanuts on film.’ This actually makes me really nervous about the Blue Sky production of the Peanuts scheduled for 2015. I love the Peanuts. I love animation. I really do not have anything against CGI or 3D technology. Granted, I am one of a long line of people that will scream “You murdered my childhood!!!” at almost the drop of a hat, but this one just feels different. In Schultz and Peanuts: A Biography, David Michaelis wrote about Charles Schultz’ desire for his children to take over the franchise when he passed on. Craig Schultz, Charles Schultz’s son, is one of the writers of the new movie. However, the realm of continuance written by relatives (otherwise known as ‘fam-fiction’) has turned out to be a rather mixed bag.
Brian Herbert has done a rather admirable job of continuing on the Dune series. The commissioned ‘official sequel’ to the Godfather still can cause quite a few groans. Its just that technology was not really at the forefront of the idea of Peanuts characters on screen. As a matter of fact, Charles Schultz never really used the name ‘Peanuts.’ He originally wanted the strip to be called ‘Lil Folks’ but there was a copyright infringement issues. Schultz would often say that he did the ‘strip about Charlie Brown and Snoopy.’ There was also the fact that anyone who knew Schultz never even called him Charles. They always referred to him as ‘Sparky.’
Its just hard to imagine that the same man who insisted on actual children doing children’s voices would be that hyped up about the thought of 3D animation. The animation was low tech (even by the standards of 1965) for the Christmas special. The important thing to ‘Sparky’ was that the story was right and that the Biblical story of the Christmas miracle be presented. Charles Schultz was a man who proudly never used any instrument other than his hand and a pencil to draw a circle. You can go through thousands of images of Charlie Brown and never find anything other than a perfect circle for his head. Again, there is no way that I have seen the movie or even a script, it is just a cause for concern.
I will say this for the people doing the movie though. The first Ice Age had the type of touching sentiment that would have been the best of Schultz. Also, I openly wept hearing The Rainbow Connection being sung in The Muppets. I can’t imagine that Schultz’s son would want to mess up anything about the brand or legacy of Peanuts. The latest Winnie the Pooh movie had some very good moments. I am just afraid that they will try and make it about something like Charlie Brown finally kicking the ball.
The whole point was that Charlie Brown would gain faith that he would be able to kick the ball. That is one of the fundamental points that people misunderstand about It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The Great Pumpkin was about the complicated subject of faith as well as belief. Each character in the story represents a different aspect ( such as tactile versus non-tactile ) of belief. Linus is content at the end that there is a Great Pumpkin, but that it was the Great Pumpkin’s will that he not come that night. Sally only saw the candy that she lost by not meeting the Great Pumpkin. Other characters only saw that they were correct about the Great Pumpkin not coming that night. In those simple archetypes, you have covered believers, atheists, as well as agnostics. I am concerned that the 2015 movie will not be able to convey that type of nuanced message.
I am worried that there is a checklist of scenes. I am worried that they will throw in the Psychiatrist, Snoopy as the Red Baron, and other popular aspects of Peanuts without a true understanding of what it was about. When I was in high school, we did a school play of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. For the lead in the role, they picked one of the most handsome popular guys in school. To this day, I would argue that he did a good job, but there seemed something wrong about the guy who played Charlie Brown. Even Craig Schultz was raised in California and not Minnesota. Craig Schultz’s father was a cartoonist and not a barber. There is just a lot of childhood that he may not be able to relate to other than having been around Charlie Brown all of his life.
Don’t get me wrong. I will go see the movie. I will take my kids. I just hope that not only the animation of Peanuts will be captured but somehow the soul as well.
It maybe all comes down to Ian Malcolm. ” Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”