When the idea of doing a new Peanuts movie in CGI came up, plenty of people raised an eyebrow. “Early on,” says Craig Schulz, son of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and a writer and producer on The Peanuts Movie, “we had a lot of skeptics, even from the family members—and even from myself.”
But as the project came together, he was moved by the results. “When I see it,” he says, “there’s attachment to the characters like I’ve never felt before—they seem more alive, they seem more real, you see the texture on the shoes, the clothing … Personally, I want to know more about them—even characters that were sort of B-characters I didn’t really care about in the comic strip. When you see them in the film, it’s like, ‘Oh, I’d like to go in the classroom and talk to them.’ It’s totally different to see that in the CG world.”
The film, which opens in theaters Nov. 6, will focus on two storylines: Snoopy’s face-off with the Red Baron and Charlie Brown’s attempt to woo the cute little red-haired girl. Much to purists’ chagrin, we’ll actually get to see that red-haired girl in the new movie, a decision Schulz defends as necessary and not-unprecedented in the TV specials. “People wanted to know more about her,” he says, “and she needed to have more of a personality, because the climax really ends with her speech, and within that speech we really learn a lot about ourselves.”
As for whether kids today will respond to the film the way his father’s original audience did, Schulz acknowledges “there’s a huge difference” in how kids are consuming media. The fact that they can now watch A Charlie Brown Christmas “anytime, anywhere on any device” takes away part of the magic of waiting around the TV with your family for its annual broadcast, he says. Still, with or without iPads, every generation has its Charlies trying to kick the football and Lucys pulling it away at the last minute. That’s life, Snoopy.