Tagged: Charlie Brown

Box Office Democracy: “The Peanuts Movie”

I was a huge fan of Peanuts when I was a kid. I can vividly remember staying up late in bed reading collections of the comic strip until I could barely keep my eyes open. This should make me the ideal audience for The Peanuts Movie, but instead it just serves as a reminder of how far this franchise has fallen. I have this hipster-esque longing for a time before Peanuts became so damn commercial (a time that never existed in my lifetime, mind you) and back before the Schulz estate seemed locked in a nefarious race with Jim Davis of Garfield to see who can make the most money with the least amount of artistic effort. The Peanuts Movie is a soulless movie stitched together from the corpse of a very soulful comic strip.

The script for The Peanuts Movie feels like it was stitched together from three episodes of an abandoned TV show. There are definite segments (Charlie Brown wants to learn to dance, Charlie Brown is a genius, Charlie Brown prepares for a talent show) and these segments build to a conclusion, are broken up by a Snoopy vignette and are then largely forgotten about by the rest of the movie. It never feels like a story worthy of a feature film, and the story doesn’t feel unique to the Peanuts characters or universe. I also despise how much they’ve sanded down the characters so that they barely feel evocative of the characters from the comic strip. There’s no philosophy or nuance; every character is just the first two adjectives you would use to describe them at the very best. These were characters with a rich history, and to see them basically reduced to catchphrases and rote characterization is sad. (Also, and this is an incredibly nerdy nitpick, having Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Marcy, and Peppermint Patty in the same classroom is a flagrant violation of canon and it makes the world feel smaller. This is not a complaint worth seriously considering.)

I didn’t much care for the visual style either. The 3D models look ok and the characters are unmistakable but the trademark narrow eyes tended to bleed on to the noses and looked weird. The hair was textured a little too realistically for the cartoonish feel of the rest of the world. I don’t know how easy any of these problems are to fix, but they both led to moments where instead of focusing on what was going on in the film I was taken with how disturbing this character or that looked in the moment. Like the script, the animation feels like it would have been good enough for TV and just never got the upscaled treatment for the silver screen— except that’s not the origin of this movie and it just looks cheap for no discernable reason.

Ultimately, I don’t think the goal of The Peanuts Movie is to entertain children so much as it is to appeal to the nostalgia of their parents. Between It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas mid-November is peak awareness of the Peanuts characters, assuming we aren’t getting a blitz of MetLife ads. This is a movie designed to bring up warm fuzzy feelings in parents while pacifying their children for 90 minutes, but there’s no artistry in this film… just a simple boring regurgitation for the sake of a quick buck. This would be antithetical to the comic strip as it was in the 1960s, but seems par for the course for the latter-day commercialism and exploitation of the brand that dominated Schulz’s later life and his heirs. I’m not always fond of Bill Watterson being so inflexible with people wanting to let Calvin and Hobbes branch out in to merchandise or other media, but if it means I’ll never have to watch anything as dreadful as The Peanuts Movie starring those characters I’ll have to accept it.

Mike Gold: Hipsters, Inkwell Divers, and Misfits at MoCCA!

Last weekend I was with my fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash and Martha Thomases at the annual MoCCA independent comics convention. And by “independent,” I mean web comics, self-published comics, small press comics, and what Ms. Nash refers to as “I’d rather be hand-stapled” comics. It’s one of my favorite shows for one simple reason: the enthusiasm in the room is tremendous.

Gold Art 140409

I’d say that the average age of the creators who weren’t paying for one of the few corporate booths (Fantagraphics, Yoe Books, Abrams, etc.) was about 25 years old. Which means there was a lot of dyed hair and hipster hats in Manhattan’s Beaux-Arts 69th Regiment Armory. These are folks who, by and large, couldn’t care less about capes and masks and thought Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a fun movie but not necessarily a justification for one’s choice of vocation. They probably aren’t making a living off of their comics work, and they might very well be losing money. They are in the medium for the love of the medium, and they are taking the medium down roads undreamt by the folks at Disney and Time Warner.

The Armory was built in 1904 and is a grand place. It was built to house and train the 69th Regiment, which traces its roots back to America’s Civil War. I’m sure the idea of filling the space with many thousand young inkwell divers underneath a gigantic helium-filled Charlie Brown balloon eluded architect Richard Howland Hunt (1862 – 1931). Then again, Hunt probably couldn’t conceive his masterwork would also house the first Roller Derby television broadcasts or the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

I truly love the contradiction.

The prestigious Society of Illustrators acquired MoCCA several years ago, and we-all were worried they’d try to make it all frou-frou. And maybe they did try to appeal to their artsy-fartsy crowd a bit. Nope. No way that was going to work. These kids have their own artsy-fartsy crowd, thank you, and they’re very, very comfortable doing the types of stories they want to tell, in the manner they want to tell them.

To my ancient and besotted brain, this is wonderful. It was wonderful back when it started, attracting the likes of then-newbies such as Jessica Abel, Alison Bechdel and Dean Haspiel. These days, Jessica, Alison and Dean are getting comparatively ancient, but they remain lot less ancienter than I am. I’m sure their work inspired many of the young folks at this weekend’s show. Being a mentor is fun, but becoming an icon can be painful.

MoCCA got its start in 2002 and I attended the second show at the urging of Ms. Thomases. That enthusiasm I talked about was there back in 2003, and it revitalized my desire to work in the medium once again. One quick walk through the room and it was clear to me that the American comics medium had a future, one that was far beyond the traditional publishers, the traditional comics shops, and the traditional ways of thinking.

I am glad to say this enthusiasm has grown in the ensuing 12 years. When the Society of Illustrators picked up the show, I was afraid it was going to go on the legit.

Silly, silly me. Comics will never be truly legitimate. There are way too many gifted weirdoes slaving away at their drawing boards and kitchen tables. Some might be trustafarians, some might be downright freaks, and some might not be able to communicate in any other manner. More power to them.

As long as the comics art medium has a large pool of industrious misfits, we will have a wonderful future.

Weekend Window Closing Wrap Up: December 22, 2013

Closing them on my desktop so you can open them on yours. Here we go:

What else? Consider this an open thread.

MINDY NEWELL: O, Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum!

The Christmas tree. Big, small, authentic or fake, the object of worship at Rockefeller Center for New Yorkers and tourists, the spindly little tree that Charlie Brown adopts, and always, always, beautiful, I do hope you know that the evergreen tree (fir, spruce, or pine) didn’t grow in the hot, dry, climate of Bethlehem and Nazareth. (But the Egyptians did have a midwinter rite – see below.)

Courtesy of The History Channel and my fascination with pre-Judeo-Christian religions – I’ve delved a little bit into Wicca – here’s a brief history of our favorite symbol of the season, the Christmas tree.

For centuries in Europe and England, before the introduction of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people. To ward off the ghosts, witches, and evil spirits, they made wreaths of, and hung branches from, the fir trees that were “ever green.” During the winter months, as the days shortened and the world became dark and cold, it was believed that the sun god had turned their face from them. On the winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, the people would celebrate the return of the sun god, dancing in a sacred circle around a chosen evergreen tree (fir, spruce, pine) and light fires to bring back the light.

By the way, fellow comic geeks, in the Germanic and Scandinavian regions, the tree was called Thor’s Oak. Hey, Marvel, how about a Christmas Special featuring the tree and the Asgaardian?

Another origin has been proposed for our favorite Christmas image, that of the “Tree of Paradise,” which was used in the medieval plays performed on Christmas Eve to tell the story of Adam and Eve. It was decorated with apples – some say pomegranates – to represent the forbidden fruit, and Eucharist wafers to represent God’s deliverance; later on, in the 16th century, the Germans began placing the trees inside their homes, and the apples were replaced by shiny red balls.

So what were they doing at this time of year in the Fertile Crescent of the Mediterranean? Well, the Egyptians prayed to the Sun god, Ra, who would annually come near to death as the winter progressed. On the day of the solstice, when the sun – Ra – began to strengthen, the Egyptians would bring the green leaves of the palm trees into their homes, which symbolized Ra’s victory over death. (Hmm…palm leaves. Eternally green. Symbols of another resurrection one that is central to the Christian faith.)

The Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the winter solstice, in honor of Saturn, the god of farming and agriculture, because they knew the shortest day also marked the return of spring and summer, when the land would be fertile once again.  The Saturnalia, by the way, was converted to Christmas, to mark the birth of Jesus by the Emperor Constantine, after he experienced a vision and ordered the conversion of all Roman citizens to Christianity. (And did you know that Biblical forensic astronomers believe that Jesus was actually born in the spring, according to the position of the stars at that time?) Anyway, the Romans also marked the Saturnalia by adorning Saturn’s temples and their own homes with branches of the evergreen trees that grew in that region.

The Celts of England, Ireland, and areas of northern Europe also celebrated the winter solstice with evergreen trees, to them also a symbol of eternal life. They would select a tree about which they danced, and lit bonfires to encourage the dark gods to leave.

When did the Christmas tree as we know first appear in America? Well, the Puritans – of Thanksgiving fame – felt that Christian worship had become frivolous and full of pagan rites. They believed that Christmas was a sacred, awesome – not as in “Awesome, bro!” but in its original meaning of “God-fearing and awe-inspiring” – outlawed the celebration of Christmas with trees, and even carols; those who dared were put in the stocks or worse!

The Germans, especially those who settled mostly in Pennsylvania, are credited with bringing the Christmas tree to America in the mid-19th century, but most Americans of the time were still heavily influenced by their Puritan roots, and believed the tree was a pagan symbol and refused to raise one either in their communities or their homes

Then, in 1846, Queen Victoria of Great Britain and her German-born consort, Prince Albert, appeared in the Illustrated London News celebrating Christmas with a tree. Like Anglophiles today who faithfully follow the affairs of the Windsors – and comic fans who believe that only the Brits know how to write comics – anything that came from across the pond was immediately declared fashionable and de rigueur.

O, Tannenbaum, O, Tannebaum!

And now for my weekly political comment:

If you watch either Jon Stewart on The Daily Show or Bill O’Reilly on The Factor, you know those two are at their annual “The War on Christmas” shenanigans, with Stewart poking fun – and getting pissed off – at one of O’Reilly’s favorite topics, as he rages against the ridiculous, “pinheaded” political correctness of the season.

And you know what? I totally agree with O’Reilly on this one. Oh, not on his overblown rhetoric – although that’s O’Reilly’s raison de guerre – but essentially, I believe he’s absolutely dead on regarding this one. The celebration of Christmas is an American rite of passage, which should be holy and sacred to those of the Christian faiths, but more often, these days, a commemoration of that other American religion – buying on credit and going into debt.

War on Christmas? Who’re you kidding, Mr. O’Reilly?

Next week: My Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanza shopping suggestions.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

JOHN OSTRANDER: Christmas Treasures, Part 2

Last week, I told you about the first Christmas for my late wife Kim Yale, and myself. Now I’ll tell you about our last.

That night Kim really wanted to go to Christmas Eve service at our church. Redeemer held it at 8 PM to enable those who were very young and very old to attend. We got an evening pass from the hospital so Kim could go and the church made arrangements to accommodate her – they had a bed, a screen, and some members of the church who were trained nurses took over. In fact, once I got Kim there, all was taken out of my hands and I only had to sit there.

We left before the service was over; Kim’s energy had flagged and I needed to get her back to her hospital bed. Joe and Mary were there as well and we planned to open presents and then watch A Charlie Brown Christmas together. I had spent a lot of time and thought and some expense trying to get Kim the best gifts I could but about half way through it, Kim abandoned the present opening. She no longer had the energy or interest; it has been expended on the Christmas service.

She wanted to see the cartoon and Mary and Joe took her into the TV room. I told them to start without me.

Truth is, I was angry. That’s not something they tell you about when you’re a cancer patient’s caretaker. Sometimes you get angry – at the situation, at the cancer, and even with the patient. You wind up giving a lot to them and they may not have a lot to give back. Kim took the energy she had and spent it on that Christmas service and had nothing left for me and I was hurt and I was angry and I was exhausted and I, by God, was not going to watch that damn TV special with her. It was mean and petty of me; not my finest moment.

Mary came back to say that they were waiting for me and I gruffly said I was not coming. They were to start without me. Mary carried back the message.

A little later, Kim herself came in, very tentative, very fragile. She said she couldn’t watch the shows without me. “Aren’t you coming?” I looked at her and she was so sweet and scared and brave. The anger melted away. How could I be mad with her? What was I thinking? This was Kimmie, this was my love, this was our last Christmas together, and she wanted to watch Charlie Brown and Grinch with me just as we always did. What the hell was I thinking? How could I be so petty and spiteful and mean? It was Christmas and it was all the Christmas we would ever have together. I put my arm around Kim and we went to watch our Christmas traditions, her head on my shoulder.

We spent Christmas day together as well, the four of us, and around dinner time Joe and Mary and I went out to see what we could find to eat. All that open in downtown Morristown was an Indian restaurant. I thought of the end of A Christmas Story, where the family winds up at a Chinese restaurant for dinner. Like them, we had a very fine Christmas meal of foods that I never had for the holiday before. All was calm, all was bright that evening. I had friends; I still had Kim. It was the worst and sweetest Christmas at the same time.

After the first of the year, I insisted that the doctor give Kim the prognosis himself or I would tell her. She and I never kept secrets like that from each other before and I wasn’t going to start now. He did, she did decline, and by the first week in March, she was gone.

Physically. She was and is still in my heart.

The traditions we make are important. Not simply the ones that are handed down to us, although those are important as well. It’s the ones we choose for ourselves that are the most important and the most memorable, I think. No Christmas, no Holiday season, is more important than the one we have now because now is all we really have – tomorrow is only a hope, not a promise. Whatever the season means to you, celebrate it. Even when it seems dark, there is still something to celebrate.

Io Saturnalia! Happy Hanukah! A Splendid Kwanza!

Merry Christmas. May your days be merry and bright.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

Preview: Peanuts #0

peanuts_0_rev_cvr-292x450-8980152PEANUTS #0
Written by Charles Schulz, Ron Zorman, Vicki Scott
Drawn by Paige Braddock, Vicki Scott, Ron Zorman, Lisa Moore
SC, 24pgs, FC, SRP: $1.00
Diamond Code: SEP110913

Happiness is a monthly comic book series, Charlie Brown! PEANUTS came to KABOOM! last spring in their first graphic novel HAPPINESS IS A WARM BLANKET, CHARLIE BROWN. Now Snoopy and the gang are back in monthly comic books! The series kicks off with a special #0 featuring a new original story and supplementary material that will provide a sneak peek at the series launching in January! This is a line drive that’s sure to knock your socks off (along with your shoes, hat, shirt, and mitt)! Don’t miss Charles Schulz’s timeless characters at KABOOM! every month!

Peanuts Happiness is a warm blanket, Charlie Brown

Kaboom! announces new Peanuts graphic novel

Peanuts Happiness is a warm blanket, Charlie BrownThis March, join Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy and all your favorite Peanuts characters as Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown, the very first Peanuts graphic novel ever published, is released by newly-launched all-ages imprint kaboom! Based on the work by Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz himself, this graphic novel is sure to delight a whole new generation of Peanuts fans!

“We’re honored to publish such a beloved property,” BOOM! Studios Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ross Richie said. “I can think of no better way to kick-off our new all-ages imprint kaboom! than with the first Peanuts graphic novel ever published!”

Adapted from the brand new animated special from Warner Home Video, Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown features Charlie Brown’s kite-flying woes, Linus’ insecurities, Lucy’s unrequited love for Schroeder and everyone’s favorite beagle, Snoopy, in a lively and colorful spin through Charles Schulz’s imagination. The 80 page, 7×10, hardcover graphic novel ships this March at the suggested retail price of $19.99 in conjunction with the all-new Peanuts animated feature of the same name available on DVD from Warner Home Video March 29, 2011.

Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown is written by original creator Charles M. Schulz and adapted by Craig Schulz and Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) with art by Bob Scott, Vicki Scott and Ron Zorman.

“New original Peanuts comic book content is a tradition that goes pretty far back in comic book publishing,” said BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief, Matt Gagnon. “Dell Comics published ‘Tip Top Comics’ which featured new Peanuts comic book content created under the guidance of Charles Schulz. ‘Tip Top’ ran from 1936 until 1961, creating well over 40 original Peanuts stories and countless covers. It’s exciting to be a part of the return of Peanuts to the comic book format.”

The Happiness is a Warm Blanket graphic novel and DVD dovetails into a larger campaign launched in January when Peanuts proclaimed 2011 as “The Year of ‘Happiness Is…”. Throughout the year, the classic Peanuts concept, which cartoonist Charles M. Schulz coined in 1960 with “Happiness is a Warm Puppy,” will be celebrated with special-themed products, cross-branding partnerships, social media campaigns and nationwide activities.

Launched last week, KABOOM! is the brand new name for BOOM! Studios’ three year old all-ages imprint previously known as BOOM Kids!

Review: ‘He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown’

Review: ‘He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown’

When Charles Schulz created [[[Peanuts]]] sixty years ago, he never imagined that Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s beagle, would steal the spotlight and overshadow the strip in future years. Much as Snoopy overran the comic strip and merchandising, so did he loom large in many of the animated specials which ran for decades on CBS. Warner Home Entertainment has collected two of those dog-centric specials in the just released[[[He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown]]].

The disc contains not only the title special, which first aired on February 14, 1968, and was last collected in 2009’s Peanuts 1960s Collection, but also [[[Life is a Circus, Charlie Brown]]], a 1980 special that has not been remastered before. The latter was the 20th special and is making its DVD debut here, and it was clear the energy and creative spark was long since gone.

The first story focuses on Snoopy being terribly disobedient and a general pain in the neck to the gang. Charlie Brown calls the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm , the obedience school that failed to do its job, notifying them the dog is being sent back for remedial lessons. Then, he sends Snoopy across town, asking Peppermint Patty to let the “shortstop with a big nose” stay over one night. Snoopy stays and never leaves until Patty complains. Charlie collects the dog, who promptly escapes but this time Patty makes the dog work to earn his keep. He comes to miss the cushy life he had and returns home. Meantime, the gang has come to miss the annoying pet.

I suppose Snoopy learns his lesson, at least for a little while, but none of the other characters, even Patty, get to do much of anything except complain so its not one of the better uses of the ensemble cast. Neither is the second feature from October 24, 1980. Here, Snoopy accidentally winds up joining a trained dog act when the circus comes to town.  He’s infatuated with Fifi, the star poodle so let Polly the trainer take him in and turn him into a performing star.

Charlie Brown is somewhat distraught to see Snoopy leaving with the circus en route to Omaha but does nothing to get him back. Instead, we see Polly getting orders from the Colonel, the circus’ owner, and slowly it becomes clear the life of a star attraction is not all its cracked up to be and he breaks free, taking Fifi with him. In the end, though, she decides the return to the only home she knew, as Snoopy parts heading for home.

Watching the two back to back, you see the quality of the animation and voice casting clearly deteriorate along with the cleverness of the humor and storytelling. While the strip stopped being interesting years before, the television specials were finally matching that creative drought. The remastering job, though, makes them look terrific so Peanuts fans will be pleased.

The sole special feature is the 22 minute “Snoopy’s Home Ice: The Story of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena”, an extended look at the arena Schulz and family saved from ruin and how it has maintained that special Peanuts legacy as a testament to the creator. Animation guru Lee Mendelson, Kevin McCool (operations manager), Craig Schulz, Skippy Baxter (professional skater/director), Jean Schulz (Charles’ widow), Lisa Illsley-Navarro (skating professor), and Jim Doe (general manager) all appear on camera.