Peanuts images courtesy of Blue Sky Animation
The film’s computer-generated animation is true to Schulz’s drawing style, right down to his pen strokes.
Good grief, it’s been more than 15 years since Charles Schulz inked a line of Peanuts. If that seems like a long time, consider this: Prior to that last broken-pen stroke, Schulz inked every single line of the comic strip in its 50-year history. During that time, he took only one true vacation (to celebrate his 75th birthday), and wrote what some say is arguably the longest story ever told on paper. As his son, Craig, puts it, “Given the choice of [drawing Peanuts] or doing anything else in life, he would’ve absolutely rather been in that room drawing comics.” So, to say the legacy of the preeminent tale of adulthood through a child’s eyes is a delicate one is an understatement.
With more than 45 films and TV specials—It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas are just the tip of the iceberg—and 17,897 strips, the Peanuts machine runs deep and strong. Craig and Schulz’s estate conservancy have had many offers to turn the Peanuts story into a feature-length movie ever since Schulz died in 2000 (he died from colon cancer complications), but they’ve shied away for fear of marring the patriarch’s hand-drawn legacy. That is until eight years ago, when Craig and his son, Bryan, thought of their own idea for how to bring Schulz’s characters to life on the biggest screen.
Co-writers on the script with Cornelius Uliano, the junior Schulzs were adamant about having final say and finding people who understood that the essence of Peanuts was, as Craig says, its ability to filter complex nuances of the human condition through a child’s eyes. Nearly a decade later, the result is an all-star team including producer Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Knocked Up), director Steve Martino (Ice Age, Horton Hears a Who!), and Christophe Beck (Frozen) orchestrating the film’s original score and adaptations of the classic Vince Guaraldi diddies of yesteryear teaming up to produce what Craig thinks is something close to perfect: “It’s a beautiful looking film. It’s everything I hoped for and more. I only wish my dad was here to see it.”
The Twin Cities Connection
Although Charles Schulz lived most of his adult life—and drew most of Peanuts—in Santa Rosa, California, he was born in Minneapolis. He grew up near St. Paul’s Maddux Park, and lived mostly in the Twin Cities until the time Craig was 5. Puck was just one of the Minnesota touch points of Schulz’s youth that led him to create an over-75 hockey tournament in Northern California. “I remember him talking to me about hockey and how, when he was a young child, they used to have to take newspapers and magazines and strap them around their shins to play hockey with,” Craig says. Beyond hockey, the foundation of Schulz’s life’s work is linked to his homeland: “Minneapolis and St. Paul obviously run very deep in the strip.” Deeper, he says, than just the seasons. “In the drawings, you see my dad draw those three-step porches coming off of every single house and the hand rails, so I sent those to Steve [Martino] and he was so fascinated. He took a trip back [to St. Paul] himself, drove around, and took pictures of the houses and the architecture. And as the animators were studying the landscape, they took pictures of the trees, how the hills rolled, and how big they were. And all that got put into the movie.” The Peanuts Movie hits theaters Nov. 6.