BLOG-O-RAMA: Occasional musing on all things comic, animation and or Hawaii related!
Revelations may be a little strong. Surprising facts, clarifications or changes made to the Peanuts gang may be a little more accurate.
10. Peanuts invented “mean girls”. Violet was the leader. Frieda was the narcissistic one. Patty was a little more neutral, perhaps that is why in the Peanuts movie she gets a little character arc being attracted to Pig Pen (or maybe she likes bad boys). Lucy was kind of a little too crabby to be a full part of the clique, but she did hang with them. She could get her own blog with how mean she has been to Charlie Brown over the years (particularly in IT’S YOUR FIRST KISS, CHARLIE BROWN - that was just wrong on multiple levels.)
9. The movie is a long form remake of YOU’RE IN LOVE CHARLIE BROWN (although with a major twist see number 1). There seems to have been some sort of moratoria m on anyone writing new Peanuts material (or creating new characters) since the end of the comic strip. Most of the animated specials in recent years bear this out, as they have all been loosely tying together runs of the strip, rather than creating a plot that had a full half hour long story to them. I’m not sure if this is a hard and fast rule, but there has been some restrictions. A few years ago, Boom comics created a new graphic novel that sent the Peanuts gang to Tokyo, Japan. Comic Book Resources ran a very insightful interview with the creators, where they mention that even though its placed in a very new (and foreign) place but “as promised, will ‘absolutely not’ contain any new characters.” You can find the article here…http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=40837
8. The Peanuts characters look surprisingly good in 3D CGi. To be honest, I was not as freaked out by seeing Charlie Brown and the gang in 3-D as everyone else seemed to be. The movie handles it very tactfully including india ink thought balloons, and animation that is careful to flip the characters from straight ahead to side view in keeping with the limits the comic strip imposed on the characters through most of it’s run. I attribute my ability to accept the look to the fact that the first time I ever saw Charlie Brown was in a view-master reel featuring miniatures! The characters always naturally leant themselves to this look for me. So much so, that I was a little jarred when I first saw them as black and white drawings.
7. Linus IS the Red Baron. During the film I wondered why Linus was the one to introduce the model airplane of the Red Baron into the story. While he usually the noted historian, the Red Baron seemed an odd (negative) choice of subjects for him. I actually thought the role of model builder might be a better character bit to come from Shermy, who is pretty quiet and non descriptor usually (see point 7). However, as it turns out, the writers really know their history. The first appearance of Snoopy as the World War I flying ace battling the Red Baron appears in a strip and it is LINUS who shoots him down (sneaking up behind him while Snoopy is in full goggles and scarf Flying Ace mode) and shouting “RAT A TAT TAT TAT TAT TAT TAT!”. Perhaps it was a bit of payback for Snoopy’s incessant grabbing of Linus’ blanket (not to mention the swirling and hurling especially on ice) but it was the middle Van Pelt who caused that first Sopwith Camel / doghouse to burst into flames and go down in a hail of bullets. Linus had shown model building acumen as a baby, this is referenced in one of the aforementioned view master reels where he quickly out builds Charlie Brown in a house of cards. Charlie is very frustrated by how easily his simple structures fall, a gag emulated in the film by Sally when Charlie cranks up the music to learn how to dance.
6. Shermy was ironically made to be a mime at the talent show. I’m not sure this was intentional, since he was the first character to speak in the entire Peanuts comic strip. He also encapsulated the rather bitter tone that the kids took in the early years. ( Here comes Charlie Brown. Yup, good old Charlie Brown. How I hate him!”) Shermy also served as the foil for Charlie Brown…i.e. better at most sports like Charlie Brown wanted to be. This aspect of him seems to be completely missing in the new Peanuts movie (then again he, Patty and Violet have been completely missing since the 80’s)
5. Peppermint Patty and Marcie’s school district was re-zoned! Typically they play on a different baseball time at a nearby school (this is very apparent in HE’S YOUR DOG, CHARLIE BROWN and A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING). This time (for simplicity’s sake?) they appear in the class and school as Charlie Brown, and the rest of the kids.
4. Charlie Brown and Snoopy get girlfriends! (kind of) The Little Red-Haired Girl was finally given a canonical name (for real), Heather Wold. She was named“Heather” for IT’S YOUR FIRST KISS, CHARLIE BROWN where Lucy continually yanked the football away from Charlie Brown in the middle of a big homecoming game, causing their team (and school) to lose the game. Incidentally, this is one of the rules of Peanuts, Charlie Brown can never kick the football. The new Peanuts movie not only abides by this rule, but actually uses it in the epilog,much like A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN DID (It seems to be a deliberate homage). Then, she ridicules him for showing up at the homecoming dance and teasing him (like she and Violet did in YOU’RE IN LOVE, CHARLIE BROWN) about what nerve he had showing up and no one would want to dance with him. Lucy even managed to get Peppermint Patty to turn against “Chuck” in this one. That was just all kinds of wrong (fortunately dancing saved the day!). But I digress… In all honesty the only time she got a name (and outside of two other smaller appearances a face) was for that one special. Apparently Charles Schultz did not consider those tv appearances canonical (despite the fact that he wrote them). She was never named or seen in the comics, and in other specials she looked different. The PEANUTS movie is her official unveiling, though her name and appearance seem consistent with IT’S YOUR FIRST KISS, CHARLIE BROWN. Snoopy (in fantasy sequences) also gets to pursue a dashing young female World War I pilot, named Fifi. While she looks suspiciously like Snoopy’s sister, Belle, she appears named after the french poodle Snoopy ran away and joined the circus for in LIFE’S A CIRCUS, CHARLIE BROWN.
3. There has been a bit of hullabaloo made of the songs in THE PEANUTS MOVIE. Mostly about how “pop music” deviates from the classic jazz tunes. This is not the first time that a Peanuts movie changed up the formula to try to appeal to a broader (i.e. kid friendly) audience. SNOOPY COME HOME featured songs by none other than the Sherman Brothers! (you may remember them from such hits as MARY POPPINS and THE JUNGLE BOOK). SNOOPY COME HOME was the first movie I saw (that I can remember) in the theater EVER! It was the first movie soundtrack album I ever bought. I choreographed my first dance number for a talent show to Woodstock’s Samba (it was such a happy tune, and my five year old self though my dance routines were so inspired… it’s probably a good thing my grandmother didn’t have cell phone camera back then…poor kids today get to be instantly immortalized forever on the interwebs). I wholeheartedly agree with Charles Schultz’s comments from the liner notes on the album…which had him commenting on how he would never forget listening to “It Changes” for the first time. It’s such a sad song, but very real for many people, especially a boy about to lose his dog and best friend. I could say more, but seriously, watch the film and listen to those lyrics in context - just when you’re sure, and you’re safe, and secure.that’s when it happens to you…it changes… You may be a little more forgiving of a Peanuts movie diverting from jazz…
2. Snoopy might actually remember that round headed kid’s name (you know, the one that feeds him). As mentioned earlier, most of the Peanuts crew were kind of dysfunctional (depressed, crabby, tunnel visioned or wishy-washy). Before the strip morphed into focussing mostly on the adventures of Snoopy and Woodstock (and Snoopy’s extended family where Spike kind of took over the sad-sack role from Charlie Brown) Snoopy himself was very self serving. Snoopy, like the kids, was also imperfect His constant flights of fancy were probably due to him being so bored by his life. More importantly, his self serving nature actually got him into trouble. Most of the kids found him really annoying (before half of America found him lovable and endearing). This theme was so strong it formed the basis for the fourth animated special HE’S YOUR DOG, CHARLIE BROWN and was greatly expanded upon for the second theatrical film SNOOPY, COME HOME. What do you mean you still haven’t seen it?? Go track it down, it’s still readily available as a double feature with A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
1. You are a good man after all, Charlie Brown. As a child, I didn’t understand the paradox of Charlie Brown. Shermy sums it up quite well in the first Peanuts (featuring good ol Charlie Brown) comic strip ever (see point 6). It was the Broadway musical that really got me confused, however. The entire gang starts off with a rollicking number about what good man he is “You’re a prince and a prince could be king! You have humility, nobility and sense of honor that are very rare indeed!” After the Kite-Eating tree eats his kite (a rule that gets broken in the new film) he finds himself at Lucy’s psychiatrist booth (still only 5 cents in the new film!) wondering why in the whole neighborhood, only Snoopy likes him. Lucy says that doesn’t count, Snoopy only pretends to like him because he feeds him. She names all of his flaws. They are numerous…wishy washy etc…etc…In the comics she sat him down to present him of a slide show of faults she photographed him displaying. Each of the slide carousels was categorized by fault type (inherited.etc…)
Charlie Brown’s ray of hope in the play, (as it is in the new film) is his infatuation with the little red hair’ed girl. In the play it ends with him finding her pencil with teeth marks on it. “She’s HUMAN!” he exclaims in the climactic moments of the play. This is straight from the comic strip. That pencil made it’s way again into the new Peanuts movie. It almost seemed to be the the MacGuffin (All you Hitchcock fans and film studies majors will get that reference). It was this sign of a nervous habit that made Charlie Brown realize that she might have flaws as well (and then they had something in common). The Peanut’s Movie finally tells us (on no uncertain terms) through the Little Red Haired Girl, why Charlie Brown is indeed, a good man.
Now if the powers that be would loosen the restrictions a little bit, and allow a slightly more broader canvas for Chuck and the gang. River rafting, Paris, France (even Tokyo in the Boom comics). There has been a reluctance to move the characters too far away from their roots. However, as shows like This is America, Charlie Brown has shown…the kids can work in a variety of settings, time periods, even interacting with grown ups who’s vocabulary transcends “waa waa waa”. This may be because the Peanuts characters are archetypes of children that for over 65 years have been timeless.
The Peanuts movie is available NOW on digital HD to watch on your iPhone, iPad and Apple TV (and other devices too..probably)!!!
2/15/2016 08:21:55 pm
Well done Kent. Your extensive knowledge about all things Charlie Brown is impressive. I learned a lot. I loved the movie. It was full of heart and warmth. The longer I live the more I appreciate Charlie and what he was able to accomplish.
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