Well, judging by the release of the first full “Peanuts” trailer today, we can be absolutely assuaged on Concern No. 1, and considerably comforted as to Concern No. 2.
The two-minute peek offered by 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios is – like the teaser trailer before it – another balm for the diehard “Peanuts” brain. With each release of footage, my skeptical side keeps expecting the cinematic football to be pulled away at some point (blame the big-screen “Garfield”). Instead, though, my hopes are raised – and with the new trailer, we achieve serious elevation.
The “Peanuts” film is being advertised as a work of true Schulzian imagination, and no running scenario in the strip let Sparky go on higher flights of fancy than Snoopy’s doghouse missions. So it’s a wise choice by the filmmakers to play to that strength and let us ride along with the soaring Sopwith Camel. We get the sensation free of gravity or spoken word.
And still, when we do get dialogue, there’s something uncanny: The kids’ voices are very aptly cast. Any lost suspension of disbelief can be near-fatal when jarring voices are chosen. Given that the Schulz/Melendez/Mendelson franchise of classic TV specials is so imprinted upon at least several generations, a wrong vocal would register like a long, flat note from a tuba. But somehow, our new Charlie Brown sounds, well…just right.
Then there are the visuals, which require paying homage to Schulz’s supple kinetic line while giving subtle dimensional shape and shadow to the iconic characters. Somehow, the filmmakers have solved the riddle of how to avoid the clinical, too-cool feel of much CGI – a trick that is so much more essential when the characters are imbued with true psychological dimensions (as opposed to, say, the intentional stock-comedy shallowness of Yogi Bear and Scooby-Doo).
Assuaged, I became curious whether Team Peanuts was as satisfied with the results as I was. Comic Riffs reached out to both coasts involved in this creative high-wire act. They both echoed my sentiments.
“I was talking to the director [Steve Martino] yesterday and I was complimenting him on the renderings of the characters,” Paige Braddock, creative director at the Schulz Studio in Santa Rosa, Calif., tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “In terms of Charlie Brown, Steve took a character that already had a lot of depth and gave him even more. The lighting on his simple features, the nuances in movement of his simple eye shapes. Steve’s interpretation of Charlie Brown is completely endearing, and I think it will make fans fall in love with him all over again.
“I know Snoopy is a fan favorite,” Braddock added, “but I really think Charlie Brown is going to steal some scenes of his own in this movie.”
Meanwhile, from the East Coast, I got reaction from Neil Cole, the CEO of Iconix Brand Group, which owns 80-percent of Peanuts Worldwide.
“It’s great to see the incredible animation from Blue Sky Studios and Twentieth Century Fox come to life in today’s all-new ‘Peanuts’ movie trailer,” Cole told Comic Riffs via e-mail. “The look is fresh and new, but at the same time, it’s clearly the ‘Peanuts’ characters that Charles Schulz created.
“Next year is sure to be a banner year for ‘Peanuts,’ which will also be celebrating its 65th year.”
Judging by the latest footage, next November, for “Peanuts’ fans, might well be a time for giving thanks, indeed.