There were no tricks, only treats for Peanuts fans early Halloween morning at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. The young actors who lend their voices to the iconic characters in “The Peanuts Movie” (opening November 6 nationwide) greeted press and adoring fans. Assembled in the Camp Snoopy section of the park, the cast was accompanied by Director Steve Martino and Craig Schulz (son of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz), who also serves as one of the movie’s writers and producers.
The location of the media event was perfectly chosen, as Camp Snoopy is the Southern California home to Snoopy, Charlie and Sally Brown, Linus and Lucy Van Pelt, Franklin, Woodstock and the rest of the gang. The Peanuts-themed land opened in 1983, and was the first theme park “land” dedicated to children under 12. Today, guests of all ages enjoy the rides, shows and attractions.
Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts” debuted on October 2, 1950. Three characters were introduced in just seven newspapers. The comic strip grew in popularity and ran until 2000, the year of Schulz’s death. The evolving characters grew into a media empire, spawning classic television specials, series, movies, and merchandise. When the strip came to an end in 2000, it had an estimated readership of over 350 million, and appeared in 2,600 newspapers, representing 21 countries around the world. Schulz drew, inked and lettered 17,897 strips.
Charlie Brown and Snoopy have become part of American and global culture. The iconic brand of humor and wit translates worldwide. The story of Charlie Brown being the constant underdog and his group of friends and family, each with their own distinct personality traits win over fans in every country.
“Charlie Brown gets referred to as a loser all the time,” says Craig Schulz. “But in reality, Charlie Brown is a winner because he never gives up. We all lose a lot more than we win, and who better than Charlie Brown to teach us that?”
Schulz incorporated his own personality and the traits of those around him into the characters, making them seem real, even though they were only drawn on paper. Added social commentary made the strip progressive and ahead of its time.
“I always thought of my dad as the great observer,” recalls Craig Schulz. “No matter where he was or what he was doing, he would find a comic strip in the moment. He never missed an opportunity to tell a story.”
While new DVD releases have occurred since Schulz’s death, the family has been extremely protective over the legacy of the characters and the brand. The idea of a major motion picture seemed to only be a dream to fans, who have not seen Charlie Brown and Snoopy on the big screen since 1980, when “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown” opened to lackluster box office receipts.
Now, in 2015, the Peanuts’ 65th Anniversary, 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios are proud to introduce the Peanuts to an entire new generation. But, the film was not an overnight project. Blue Sky Studios contacted the Schulz family more than eight years ago with the prospect of creating a feature film. Like other offers received, the Schulz family denied the request.
Director Steve Martino (“Horton Hears a Who”, “Ice Age: Continental Drift”), along with Blue Sky execs pleaded for an opportunity to show the family early concept material that they had worked on. That plan of action seemed to have worked. “When you looked at the world…the trees, the ice, the snow, I knew then that if you could do it right, it would be spectacular,” recalls Craig Schulz. Over the next several years, the project was carefully nurtured. By 2012, a script was written by Craig, Craig’s son and an additional writing partner. Both Craig Schulz and Charles’ widow Jean agreed to the project.
“Over the years, we had dealt with many people who would come in say they’ve grown up with Peanuts, and that they had a great story. But it’s not easy to step in the world my dad created, and to understand how he drew the strip. Steve Martino got it,” says Craig Schulz.
“What Sparky (Charles Schulz) did so brilliantly for 50 years was to show the world it’s okay to express your emotions, anxieties, hopes and fears, without a filter,” says Martino. “We see a little bit of ourselves in each of the characters, and that is what makes them so relatable. Rather than internalizing the characters’ emotions, Schulz allowed them to be expressed openly.”
When asked at Knott’s Berry Farm what eventually changed the Schulz family’s mind, Martino responded, “Craig was in a place where he had a story to tell, his son was the screenwriter. They want to keep the legacy of their father alive for a new generation.” But of course a task this grand came with a bit of trepidation, “When he (Craig) asked me to work on the film, I was honored, then immediately terrified. We are holding people’s precious memories in our hands. We worked harder on this film than any other picture.”
“We wanted to create a feature film story, not just a collection of moments from the past, or a remake from the past… a new story, based on a thematic spine of Charlie Brown. It will stay true to the source, but deliver an experience… on a much bigger canvas for 2015,” says Martino. “I feel proud of what we made, as a fan myself. Fans will see little nuances and have some laughs and a new generation will be introduced to these characters.”
Standing near Martino at the press event was Mariel Sheets, the young star who is the voice of Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally. “I loved being in ‘The Peanuts Movie.’ I would have been happy with any of the characters, but my dad always said that I was perfect for Sally.”
For more photos from the event, visit theFUNnelCakeBlog.com