The Peaunts Movie releases into theaters on November 6, 2015. If you are counting, this also marks the 65th anniversary of Charles Schultz's revered comic and the 50th anniversary of the beloved TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Here is a list of 7 things I'm hoping to see in the new film (along with some fears of what I'm hoping it is not).
1. PACING: I hope it takes a slow pace and contains many quiet moments for contemplation and visual storytelling with long sequences having no dialogue at all. In other words, my fear is it will be a fast-paced, ADD fueled hype-fest, more in line with a modern day superhero film than a classic Peanuts film or TV special.
2. MUSIC: I hope it will contain a jazz score similar in feel to Vince Guaraldi's original work and aim for a "timeless" feel. In other words, my fear is it will pander to modern tastes and include some of the bland dance pop music "the kids" go for these days, as the trailer for the film indicates it will. (According to the film's Wikipedia article it would seem both my hopes and fears will be realized. Hopefully though the songs in the trailer will play no part in the actual film.)
3. MELANCHOLY INNOCENCE: I hope it retains the wide-eyed, naive, and yet world wearied innocence of the original films and television shows. In other words, my fear is it will be a conventional, modern day, animated film containing ironic, innuendo-laced adult humor a la the Shrek films (and most of the Dreamworks animated films).
4. DIALOGUE: I hope the dialogue will retain the classic Schultzian rhythms and cadences. In other words, my fear is they will have paid no attention to Schultz's original use of language both in the comics and specials/films but will instead try to capture "the spirit" or "heart" of Schultz's world through more modern dialogue, as if Peanuts isn't modern enough as it is.
5. VISUAL STYLE: I hope the film plays around with genre and visual styles, that it is a dream-like pastiche of different scenes. In the original Charlie Brown films/specials the animation could go almost anywhere. I hope the filmmakers are more interested in creating great visuals and not merely trying to impress us with expensive CGI tricks. I hope it will be faithful to original Charlie Brown director Bill Melendez's cinematic vision who created an idiosyncratic visual style, cleverly utilizing the built-in limitations of flat 2D animation. His visual compositions seemed to be intentionally minimalistic and were often framed like a work of fine art*. In other words, my fear is they will give into the temptation 3D animation provides them, which is to create a more frenetically paced film with busier, cluttered frames. My fear is they will have made this film out of the fear that modern day audiences will be bored with the pacing and visuals of the originals and thus make a film according to what they perceive those audiences are "used to" and not according to how make a work of art with lasting significance. On top of all this my fear is it will pander to us with the iconic imagery we already know and love (e.g., Charlie Brown getting his clothes knocked off by a baseball, Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace, the children skating on ice, and of course the Lucy/Charlie Brown football gag), rather than take the risk of attempting to create new iconic images or at least draw from images originating in the comic strips that haven't found their way onto the screen yet.
*Some examples, taken only from the first film A Boy Named Charlie Brown could include the scenes where a multitude of Charlie Browns chase after a kite, the pure visual experimentation when the Star Spangled Banner is played during the baseball game, the baseball game montage that is interspersed with cuts of multi-colored boxes, the Snoopy dream and daydream sequences, the "I before E" spelling song, the intricate red and gold wallpaper motif taking up nearly half of the screen in one scene, the Schroeder Beethoven Sonata scene, and the spelling bee scene featuring only the contestants heads suspended in an empty background
6. PAINFUL HUMOR: I hope the film is cruel to Charlie Brown, that it feels like the whole world is truly against him, that he as a character is truly filled with sorrow and at times hopelessness, and that he is forced to do some true soul-searching. In other words, my fear is they will play Charlie Brown's failures and pain for mere slapstick-like laughs and not because we are meant to actually empathize with him or realize how dire his world really is. My fear is it will be more concerned with making jokes rather than making a point. That the jokes will not come from out of The Point. Which leads to my next point:
7. THE "MESSAGE": I hope The Point of the film stays faithful to Schultz's principles, which could be summed up as follows: no matter how hard you try or how long you wait for something you might not ever succeed. If you actually do succeed please realize you still might not ever be happy. If you happen to find happiness it will only be through years of pain and hardship. And besides, whether you find glorious success or pitiful failure in your life you are still not the center of the universe and the world will go on without you. In other words, my fear is The Point (or The Message) of the film will be some bland neutered version of the pop psychology that infects nearly every recent children's or "inspirational" film, which are found in some form of these unbelievably tired cliches: 1.) "just be yourself," 2.) "I just want someone to love me the way I am," 3.)"follow your dreams and you can do anything," 4.) "you can do anything if you put your mind to it." Ugh. What kind of blockhead would make a movie with that kind of message?!
With all that said, I am still definitely going to see the new film and I can almost guarantee my sons will love it. Nonetheless, it is worth noting kids are still falling in love with all the old Charlie Brown shows and a lot of them are pretty cheap on Amazon.
Here is a follow up article: Making a Case For Dark Comedy #4: Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang.
Here is the trailer for the film, which will either get your hopes up or send you into a cynical depression:
The Healing Power of Comedy
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