Is ‘Peanuts’ Movie a Loyal Take on Schulz’s Legacy?

The upcoming Peanuts movie from the animation house Blue Sky has released its first trailer a full year before the movie is set to come out, but it already has fans of Charles Schulz’s beloved comic divided over whether it will be faithful to the genius cartoonist’s vision or another shameless Hollywood blockbuster out to profit off a popular artist’s work after death.

The movie comes from the same animators who made the Ice Age films and the Dr. Seuss adaptation Horton Hears a Who and is being made in cooperation with the Schulz family. Charles Schulz’s grandson Brian Schulz wrote the script and Charles’s son Craig is producing. “I’m way more protective than my father would have been,” Craig told USA Today in May. “Our No. 1 goal was always to be authentic to his work and legacy.”

Paul Feig is also a producer on the film, and he’s repeatedly assured fans and audiences that the movie will not attempt to take the Peanuts gang into the modern world. “Snoopy will not be rapping, no one will be twerking, we’re in good hands,” Feig told USA Today in that same May profile.

The trailer shows how the artists attempted to stay true to Schulz’s artwork while creating 3D animation. Some detail has been added to things like Snoopy’s fur, but for the most part, the animators tried to make the characters look how they look in the comics. Some fans think that this effort was very successful, while others think that the animation looks awful and is verging on uncanny valley territory.

The filmmakers are staying true to the story by avoiding the temptation to spice things up by introducing a new character, instead sticking with the large cast found in Schulz’s comics. They will also use recordings of the late Bill Melendez, the voice actor who worked on the classic Peanuts cartoons, for the sounds of Snoopy and Woodstock.

Despite all those attempts to stay loyal to Schulz’s vision, not all Peanuts fans are impressed. The Atlantic ripped apart the trailer and the film in an article that says director Steve Martino’s optimistic approach is the exact opposite of what made Peanuts such a powerful work of art.

Martino recently told USA Today that he believes Charlie Brown’s optimistic attitude is inspiring and what he tried to capture in the movie. “I wake up every day and it’s like, ‘Today’s the day we’re going to win that game! I’m going to kick that football!’ As you have more life experience, those things have more meaning,” Martino said.

“The promo material for the new Peanuts 3D film promises empty cheer, the opposite of what made Charles Schulz’s strip so wonderful,” Atlantic writer Noah Berlatsky writes, arguing the opposite of Martino.

The music in the trailer also raises questions. Things start out all right, with the classic piano rendition of the Peanuts theme “Linus and Lucy” by Vince Guaraldi. Then, perhaps predictably, Hollywood skeptics would say, a pop song cuts in to accompany Snoopy’s imagined flight over Paris in a WWI bomber plane. Feig and Martino might say they’re not modernizing the story, but seeing that imagery juxtaposed with an EDM-influenced bit of pop music that could only come from 2014 doesn’t really follow that promise.

We have until next Thanksgiving for fans to truly decide if the first Peanuts feature film is a fine addition to the canon or if it will have Charles Schulz rolling in his grave.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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