In 1950, United Feature Syndicate decided to gamble with an unknown Minneapolis born cartoonist named Charles Monroe Schulz, and his premiere comic strip “Li’l Folks.” They changed the name to “Peanuts”, much to the chagrin of Schulz, and debuted the four panel strip in seven news papers on 2 October. The rest, needless to say, is history. Peanuts would eventually become one of the most popular and widely read comic strips in the world.
Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown was the last feature length movie of the Pea-nuts gang, released in 1980. After 35 years, it’s apparent another one has been long overdue. Blue Sky Studios, still riding high on the “Ice Age” series, excites our nostalgic passions by returning to the delightful world of Charlie and the gang in The Peanuts Movie, combining state of the art with the classic Peanuts animation.
After Scrat, that ridiculously lovable prehistoric squirrel, gets through “re-arranging” our solar system to it’s correct configuration in the Blue Sky short “Scratastrophe”, the pic kicks off on a much appreciated school snow day. No classes. So the kids are naturally exuberant and eager to play out-side. And in true Charlie Brown tradition, our main character decides to do something other than build snowmen, or go ice skating. He’d rather race across the snow trying to fly, a certain item he’s always had trouble with.
Amidst all the wintry spirit, our main attraction arrives in the form a moving van, prompting all to drop everything to see who’s new on the block. Right across the street from him, Charlie Brown’s eternal heart throb, the little Red Haired Girl, and family, set up house and home. Naturally Charlie’s completely unnerved. So unnerved, that while he’s daydreaming about a new start with a new neighbor he manages to make his first bad impression.
It has always been so amazing that when Charlie Brown has a problem (in this case, getting a girl’s attention) that he turns to the one person who has consistently believed him to be a hopeless failure in everything. Lucy Van Pelt. Therefore, it’s extremely ironic when she advises Charlie to project self confidence so he can win his dream girl’s heart, despite the fact she dislikes our round headed hero and is also jealous of the girl. Guess she can’t resist those nickel charges for services rendered at her famous psychiatry booth.
No self respecting Peanuts Movie would be complete without Snoopy’s World War 1 flying ace in his eternal pursuit of shooting down the Red Baron. But Snoopy, like his master, is also pursuing a love interest of his own, besides trying to bring down the infamous German fighter pilot, Manfred Von Richthofen. High flying aerial thrills over WWI Paris with our ace’s Sopwith Camel chasing the baron and trying to win the heart of the lovely Fifi, creates first rate, old fashion chivalry and determinism. Even in a dog.
They may have limited screen time, but the rest of the Peanuts gang get to shine at various times in the pic. Plucky Peppermint Patty and her totally serious minded friend Marcie share a funny moment in class; Sally Brown is still irresistibly drawn to Linus, as is Lucy to Schroeder; Franklin, Peanuts’ first African-American to appear in the classic strip, plays a key role in the school’s talent show; and Snoopy’s faithful bird buddy Woodstock flies just as crazily as ever.
You may notice throughout the movie, that there are no cell phones, computers, laptops, or any other types of modern technology. It’s a major nostalgic feature the Schulz family insisted on to retain the true spirit of of the comic strip, before director Steve Martino could touch it. Chuck Schulz’s sons Bryan and and Craig fashioned a scenario that clearly honors their father’s legacy, and it works, despite the apparent absence of tablets or i-pods.
Sixty-five years ago, a legend was born who has captured minds and hearts the world over through comic panels, paper back books, toys, Vince Guaraldi’s impeccable themes, movies, and popular tv specials. A legend named Charlie Brown. He is someone we can all relate to in one way or another, because no matter how many times Lucy tricks him into trying to kick that football, he always gets back up, trying to live life to the fullest. It’s great to have him back.