I try to make it a rule to not watch movie previews. This has nothing to do with some sort of ethical oath or anything, I just find that movie previews are giving so much away that they are more and more ruining the film going experience. When you have a preview that shows two characters getting together, dying (maybe), the revel of a new villain, or anything past the first twenty five minutes of a film, then you have a major problem. At this point the movie has been spelled out in three minutes and going to see it in theaters will just be less enjoyable. I make rare exceptions though for movies that I’m particularly interested in seeing a sample of, which in this case is the upcoming “Peanuts” movie from Blue Sky Studios (the “Ice Age” people).
When I heard about the project last year I groaned a little. I loved Charlie Brown and Snoopy growing up, but I did not need to see a 3D reboot of the characters. Esspecially when the film is pretty much a Schulz family project (with his sons and grandsons working on the script as well as the concept of the film) and the family says the goal is to introduce kids of a new generation to the characters. With the Charlie Brown Christmas and Halloween specials still airing every year after almost fifty years I have to question this answer, but they will do what they are going to do I suppose. They promised that even though the film would be CGI and in 3D the film would still look like the classic Peanuts characters. Now we have the teaser for this thing and…holy molly, it actually looks like Peanuts!
I’m not even saying that sarcastically, it really does look like comic strip. The character designs have not been touched or updated at all, the movements of the characters actually look like the old cartoons, and there appears to even be squiggly lines for certain movements to make it look like the comic strip. Yeah, Snoopy has had real fur added to him, but for the most part this is what Peanuts is supposed to look like. It’s really faithful looking. However, maybe it’s TOO faithful looking! Watching the teaser several times and studying it more, I’m starting to realize that it looks a little canny. Adding fur does not make these characters look any more modern, and watching CGI that moves like cheap hand drawn animation looks far weirder than I originally realized.
It’s trying so hard to look like the old stuff that it looks strained at times. This begs the question of why the movie wasn’t hand drawn in the first place. I know the studio executives would cite kids as not wanting to watch a 2D film, but in this case I think they are doing themselves a disservice. As mentioned before there is no need to “reintroduce” these characters to a younger generation as the cartoons still plays every year, so when kids see this movie they are going to see something that looks stylistically close to what they know but is just a little off is how it all works. Certainly making a 2D animated Peanuts film wouldn’t cost that much money, and at the very least parents would take kids for nostalgic value. As it stands now though the animation looks worse the more I look at it.
If this is the case with a two minute clip I shudder at the thought of what the effect is going to look like at ninety minutes. I also question why the teaser trailer has to call this “Peanuts by Schulz,” as if they are trying to justify to us that this is still Charles Schulz’s creation (despite the painstaking effort to keep the look the same it’s not). We still have a year before we see this movie so things could get better. Maybe the style will work and none of this will matter in a year. For all we know there could be bigger problems with the movie rather than the look (if “Peanuts” gets a PG rating then it will be clear the spirit of Schulz’s legacy is not being well preserved). For now this is an interesting (if not questionable) start.