It’s 3D Animation, Charlie Brown!
When I first got wind of this classic animated series originated by the great Charles Schultz in 1950 going to 3D animation … I was mortified.
If there were ever a comic strip/ 2D animated series that was born of pen and ink and live it’s entire life that way … it was Schultz’s Peanuts. Still, with the great onslaught of remakes, rehashes, re-envisioning, repeats, re-dos, and reboots, I suppose it was only a matter of time before the great, Hollywood machine got a hold of this beloved property. I did have secret hopes that Chuck, Woodstock, Shroeder, et al would someone be spared this fate.
So it was with a great deal of remorse that I learned that in 2015 we will get a feature-length animated film of the Peanuts gang from Blue Sky Studios, the fine folks who brought us the ICE AGE franchise, HORTON HEARS A WHO, RIO and the upcoming sequel, RIO 2. This isn’t to say that I’m concerned with the quality from Blue Sky Studios. I find some of their work in the ICE AGE series easy to compare with some of Pixar and Dreamworks Animation’s projects. It’s the thought of seeing all of the charm and personality drained from Schultz’s unforgettable characters in the name of modernization … or perhaps ease of development that bothers me so much.
Reboots like Garfield and The Smurfs have proven that they might be able to make a few bucks but definitely tarnish their respective legacies … and neither of these franchises is nowhere near as beloved as Peanuts. I fear that the young will grow up thinking that 2D, hand-drawn animation is as archaic as cave paintings; possibly dismissing the medium as a whole and missing warm, personable, beauty that most 3D animated projects fail to deliver.
Clicking the “play” button on the trailer above was one of the most difficult decisions of my week (It’s early yet…only Tuesday morning). Still, it was pretty tough. Would this Peanuts trailer be one of those things “you can’t unsee?” Would it appear to be just a mediocre re-imaged, cash-grab? Or worse?
I clicked it.
I watched it.
I loved it.
What immediately jumped out to me was the visual style employed. Blue Sky did not go for a full, 3D, world as I was expecting, but, to my pleasant surprise, have managed to stay as close to Schultz’s original style as one might dare to hope for. It’s as if Schultz’s handiwork was given the puffy, Colorform, treatment (Does anyone remember Colorforms? I had a number of Peanuts Colorform play sets in my youth, where you could stick and unstick the characters wherever you desired in the given scene. See below.)
After the rather cliche use of Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” the music of the trailer moves right into Vince Guaraldi’s iconic “Linus and Lucy.” Even more amazingly, what shines through in the balance of the one-minute long trailer is the sort of simple heart that Schultz infused into all of his comic strips and holiday specials. Without one word spoken, we are shown that the fun-loving mischief of Snoopy is in tact, while Charlie Brown remains the center of misaligned-attention. And in the end, the two staple characters of the franchise end up in a huge embrace! (I dare anyone not to feel a big, “Awwww.” when they see this.)
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that happen in any of the previous strips or specials. Whether it has or not, I was left with a wonderful, nostalgic dose of the warm fuzzies. In a matter of a single minute, Blue Sky Studios (and their marketing team) moved me from my expected new Peanut-allergy to being Peanut-butter in their hands.
I can only hope that the rest of the film keeps this simple tone and continues to use Vince Guaraldi’s established works. If you want to give the Peanuts gang a bit more depth, that’s fine, but they’ll need to remain sparse on the dialogue and keep Guaraldi’s music or, at the very least, a jazz-trio in his image, in tact.
As it stands now, Blue Sky, I’m on board!