The Peanuts Movie

Year: 2015
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Steve Martino
Writer: Cornelius Uliano/Craig Schulz/Bryan Schulz
Cast: Noah Schnapp

This is far from the kind of movie I'd normally bother with, and it's quite a mystery why 20th Century Fox would pick a time like the late 2010s to make and release such an anachronistic property, but in an era where Pixar and its many also-rans are cleaning up at the box office I suppose anything made for kids anytime in the last century is fair game.

The only reason I was interested was because I attended a press event back when I still lived in America where the animators were talking about how they bought the characters to the screen and I found their challenge really fascinating.

You've probably never noticed this, but Charles Schulz only ever drew the Peanuts characters from one of six angles. Not only that, but the elements of their faces (the position of ears and eyes relative to the rest of the head, etc) changed between those angles. As the people talking that day explained, it's no problem when you're going from one comic strip panel to the next, but when you're animating characters for movement, you can't have their ears and eyes jumping all over their faces between frames.

I presume the animators and directors behind those old Peanuts TV specials had the same problem, but these guys talked about some very fascinating workarounds to stay true to the character design and make their lifelike movement cohesive at 24 frames per second.

Other than that the story is as familiar as your memories of the old comics and TV shows. Charlie Brown is in love with the new kid in class, the little red haired girl, Snoopy is battling The Red Baron along with his best friend Woodstock the bird, and screenwriters Cornelius Uliano, Craig Schulz and Bryan Schulz weave all the motifs and hallmarks (Lucy's psychiatry booth, the ice skating, the adults' voices being indistinct horns etc) together into a compact 90 minute romp.

The difference here is that if you always watched Peanuts feeling sorry Charlie Brown never got his due after getting tangled up in a tree with the string of his kite, having Lucy pull the football away at the last second every time or doing something stupid and embarrassing while trying to impress the little red haired girl, he finally gets all the vindication that he always deserved in a plot turn that surprised and (I have to admit, as a slightly invested Gen Xer) kind of delighted me.

The voices by child actors of today are all great and – although I don't remember them from the old cartoons to the letter – seem to evoke what you remember from the the characters, and the overall design in bringing together the design legacy with just the right amount of modern slickness is flawless. Whatever those animation guys did in those workarounds, it worked.

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