A year ago, when the Peanuts trailer was first released, I wrote some thoughts about what I hoped the filmmakers would do, and what they would avoid. I’m so pleased to hear that we seemed to have been on the same page about what a film like this should be, as the consistent reports about the movie indicate that the movie is a love letter to Charles Schultz, and not simply a crass attempt to cash in on the reboot craze.
The movie open here in China this weekend, so I hope to take my kids to see it, and help the producers bump up their international box office by a few yen. Meanwhile, I thought I’d repost what I wrote a year ago.
November 20, 2014
This one is really, really interesting to me. Like a gazillion other folks out there my age, I amassed stacks of Peanuts books growing up, and read them over and over and over again. As a somewhat shy kid with self-confidence issues, I identified with Charlie Brown and the problems he faced. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if I could have become a part of any children’s literature at the time, I would have grown a round head and jumped into the panels of Charles Schultz’s world.
When Blue Sky Studios (the guys behind the Ice Age and Rio movies) announced that they were going to be making a new Peanuts animated feature, with CGI, I was initially pretty skeptical. You could wallpaper your house with the bad reviews of bad movies that decent filmmakers have made from fantastic properties that I grew up with: Transformers 1,2,3 & 4, Scooby Doo, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Smurfs, Smurfs 2, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, Superman Returns, Knight Rider, The A-Team, Charlie’s Angels, Get Smart, The Pink Panther, Robocop…
…the depressing and continually growing list represents a non-stop assault by lazy Hollywood producers on the pop culture treasures of my childhood.
Given, there have been some successful reboots/reimaginings: Battlestar Galactica, The Muppets (edit: when I wrote this, I meant the Muppet movie reboots – not the current ABC Muppets show, which, while funny, is NOT the Muppets), Star Trek, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, the recent Planet of the Apes movies, James Bond, to name a few. And while they prove that it can be done, they are the exception to the rule.
And now we have Peanuts up next on the horizon. And I have hope that it will be an exception.
The two things that gives me hope about this film are this:
A) The studio
If you go to the Blue Sky Studios website and look at the films they have released, they are almost all good movies. The one exception was the underwhelming Rio 2, which I forgot right after watching it. However, they did well with the Ice Age franchise, and have several other good standalone movies under their belt. Peanuts is in good hands with this studio.
2) The Creative Team
Peanuts has a strong animation-experienced director in Steve Martino (Horton Hears a Who, Ice Age: Continental Drift) and Charles Schultz’s son and grandson are sharing screenwriting credits with newcomer Cornelius Uliano. Also, I was totally stoked to see that Christophe Beck (one of my absolute favorite movie score composers) is doing the soundtrack. Hopefully, this creative team will seek to stay true to the spirit of the original stories, and not try to reimagine Peanuts for a new generation to the point of getting rid of everything that made Peanuts special and timeless in the first place.
That leads me to the message I would communicate to the creative team if I had the opportunity:
PLEASE MAKE PEANUTS THE MOVIE TIMELESS BY KEEPING IT FIRMLY ROOTED IN THE TIME AND SPACE FOR WHICH IT IS KNOWN!
Yes, I’m suggesting that they should keep the film in the 60’s – 70’s era. No cell phones, no internet, no Facebook references, no hip lingo or jokes about celebrities, no setting in modern-looking neighborhoods. Keep the music reminiscent of the jazzy style of Vince Guaraldi, as well as orchestral music – but no pop songs by One Direction or Christina Aguilera or some other teeny bopper music group that would plant the movie firmly in the 2014’s.
Go CGI all you want, and make it fun and funny for the kids! But remember that the setting and the score are characters into themselves, and if they aren’t there, they will be missed as much as Linus or Schroeder.
At least by 40-something guys like me that grew up with Peanuts.
Now, I started all this saying that I was excited to find the release of the new Peanuts trailer, and so, without further ado…