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I’ve been a Peanuts fan for years. It is a part of my childhood that I will always look back on fondly. It is also one of the few properties without any black marks or blemishes. When it was announced a big-budget Peanuts film was in the works about a year or so ago, there was a quiet concern with it being such a beloved comic strip with its protective creator long passed. When it was announced that it was going to a computer animated feature (as opposed to all the previous TV specials being hand-drawn), there was some skepticism. However, the Schulz family was heavily involved (in both producing and writing aspects) giving a film adaptation a sense of legitimacy.
A few days ago, the first trailer for 2015’s Peanuts was released. And it looks fantastic! Take a look below.
Who here didn’t tear up just a little by the end of that?
Okay, let me get a few things out of the way. I know saying something will look “fantastic” this early on (and based on a minute-long trailer) can suggest hyperbole or fanboyism. I realize that, but let me explain why I was thoroughly impressed with this preview and why I am optimistic about the film.
Let’s first discuss the animation. Yes, it is computer animated, but the classic look of the characters is still there, but there is a new element of depth to the picture that couldn’t be done with hand drawn animation. This is the way computer animation needs to be used. Too many times, computer animated films just come off as hallow and a bit too sterile. Plus, I almost feel at times that filmmakers have just gotten lazy when it comes to the use of computer animation. It doesn’t have any sense of “wow” factor to it the way it might have ten years or so ago. While the technology is always improving, many times it just looks a bit bland. Yes, I am even referring to the efforts of the Disney-Pixar films.
The animation in Peanuts looks like it will pick up on what we all have come to know from Peanuts, but with a modern overview. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard the movie was going to be computer animated, but I am very impressed with the results so far. I guess one of the reasons I think it works is that the original designs are simple enough that when you just lightly douse it with a three dimensional feel, it gives it that larger-than-life fee.
What I also was impressed with was how the trailer immediately picked up on the classic Peanuts feel. There were no shoe-horned modern pop-culture references or no attempts to make Charlie Brown and Snoopy seem hip. Just Charlie Brown being Charlie Brown and Snoopy being Snoopy. They gave us the classic “Linus and Lucy” theme (no hip-hop remix) and the voices sounded perfect (in fact, I’ve read that the filmmakers pulled sound bits of Bill Melendez for the voice of Snoopy – probably a smart move).
Too many movies that try to adapt classic comic strip characters (such as Garfield, Marmaduke, or Alvin and the Chipmunks) just try too hard to be ultra-modern. I guess those filmmakers think kids these days are just too stupid to enjoy what made those characters popular in the first place. And those films all fail critically because of it. Peanuts seems to be going the opposite route by staying closer to the source material.
Now, I know what you are thinking: Nick, how could you possibly pick up on that from a 60 second trailer? That’s a fair point. I have little to go on. Let’s just say the trailer is reassuring the film isn’t going to be another Smurfs. To make a comparison, look at this tease trailer and compare it to the tease trailer for The Smurfs. Which one suggests a “we’re in trouble” movie?
Finally, why I am optimistic is the pedigree behind the film. While director Steve Martino has a 50/50 track record, the Schulz family is heavily involved (as mentioned above) and has been known to be extremely protective of the Peanuts property. They want to preserve the integrity of Charlie Brown and his cohorts. I would be very surprised that they waited all this time to make a film that would tarnish the comic strip’s reputation. And we have Paul Feig (of Bridesmaids and The Heat fame) on as a producer. While his previous movies may not have been my cup of tea, he is still a talented and smart filmmaker. I doubt he would try to dumb something down. Plus, he recently gave an interview where he openly stated that the film will be avoiding those pit falls of so many other classic properties to film have.
Apparently, I am not the only one who got pumped after seeing the trailer. Outside of a snarky Yahoo News article I read (which, let’s face it, Yahoo has just become a blog calling itself a news site), many are enthusiastic about the upcoming movie. Can this film be a total disaster when released in theaters next year? Of course it could. But right now, after initial impressions, I am remaining optimistic and that teaser trailer really sold me on the film. I have it in my gut that Peanuts will pull a Muppets instead of a Smurfs.