Snoopy fans can do their happy dance because “The Peanuts Movie,” the first animated feature film based on Charles “Sparky” Schulz’s comic strip in 35 years, opens nationwide Nov. 6.
The timing marks the 65th anniversary of “Peanuts” and 50 years since the first television special based on the strip, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” debuted. It’s a holiday gift to “Peanuts” devotees everywhere, especially those who knew Schulz during his years living in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa.
Led by the Schulz family, the film’s creative team labored to come up with a modern, state-of-the-art, 3-D computer-animated film that is also true to Schulz’s iconic, deceptively simple-looking drawing style.
“The characters needed to match what we saw in the comic strip,” said the film’s director, Steve Martino, whose film credits include “Ice Age: Continental Drift” and the film adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who.”
The 85-minute, $150 million film, made by Blue Sky Studios for Twentieth Century Fox, features the “Peanuts” gang, including Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, the mysterious Little Red-Headed Girl and Franklin, the strip’s first African-American character, introduced in 1968.
Instead of recruiting big-name TV and film stars as the vocal cast, “The Peanuts Movie” employs the voices of grade-school children, to give the film an authentic childlike feel.
“It’s my dream movie. I thought it would never happen, but it has,” said Craig Schulz, the cartoonist’s son, who co-produced and co-wrote the film with his own son, Bryan, a recent film school graduate, and Bryan’s writing partner, Cornelius Uliano.
Charles Schulz, who moved from Minnesota to Sebastopol in 1958, died in 2000 in Santa Rosa. At its height, his strip ran in 2,800 newspapers, and reprints still run in approximately 2,000 papers.
“Peanuts” inspired 50 animated TV specials, two brief animated TV series and four previous feature films. The last one, “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back),” was released in 1980.
“Peanuts” buffs should be reassured to know that the Schulz family worked long and hard to keep the movie true to Sparky’s original vision.
“The first line of the contract is that we have control,” said Craig, who started working on the movie idea eight years ago. “We want to protect Dad’s legacy. We picked the team, the director and the studio.”
All photos courtesy Twentieth Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide LLC