Peanuts has appeared before in Lost in Translation. The comic strip first debuted October 2, 1950 and ended February 13, 2000 after the retirement and passing away of creator Charles M. Schulz. It was his and his family’s wishes that the strip end with his retirement, but the strip is still going with repeats, with older strips gaining new readers who weren’t born when first published. Peanuts grew beyond the newspaper comics page, leading to a series of televised specials starting in December of 1965 and leading to the 2015’s The Peanuts Movie.
Released sixty-five years after the strip’s debut, The Peanuts Movie was the first to present the classic characters using computer animation. Schulz’s son, Craig, and grandson, Bryan, were involved in the writing and production of the movie. The movie follows the full cast, headed by Charlie Brown and Snoopy, over the course of winter and spring, as a new family movies into the neighbourhood. The new family includes a new classmate, the Little Red-haired Girl. Charlie Brown is smitten by the newcomer. He spends the rest of the movie trying to work up the courage to talk to her, stepping up to write a book report when she has to leave town and isn’t able to co-write the assignment, and learning to dance to impress her.
Snoopy and Woodstock work together to write about the World War I Flying Ace and his fight against his nemesis, the Red Baron. The Ace meets a French beagle who gets taken prisoner by the Red Baron, necessitating a raid deep behind German lines to find her. The Ace’s efforts mirror Charlie Brown’s; both struggle in their quests, but both persevere, overcoming obstacles.
The story is familiar, coming from Schulz’s works, including the comic strip and the TV specials. The take on the story line is fresh, not just through the animation but the writing. Every character who appeared in Peanuts gets a chance to shine, even briefly, on screen. Classic bits appear, including Snoopy as Joe Cool, Charlie Brown versus the kite-eating tree, and even, as an Easter Egg during the end credits, Charlie Brown trying to kick a football held by Lucy. The movie also re-animates some classic scenes from the specials, including skating on the pond and dancing from A Charlie Brown Christmas and the dogfight between Snoopy and the Red Baron from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The musical score is a mix of old and new, bringing in Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” alongside Meaghan Trainor’s “Better When I’m Dancin’“. The movie even uses recordings of Bill Meléndez, who passed away in 2008, of Snoopy and Woodstock to keep the feel. The one adult, teach Ms Othmar, is played by a trombone. The CG animation doesn’t detract from the characters. The facial expressions are straight from the strip, and the characters themselves are accurate in appearance. There is a visible effort to keep the movie true to the comic, to keep the simplicity of Schulz’s work.
The Peanuts Movie is very much a Peanuts movie. Schulz’s son and grandson took great pains to make sure that the film followed naturally from the decades of work already beloved by millions. It would have been easy to create a movie that paid just lip-service, but they went above and beyond, recreating the feel of Peanuts with a newer animation style without losing what made the comic popular.