‘Peanuts’ Goes Hi-tech With Animated Webisodes

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Peanuts is back!

Eight years after creator Charles Schulz died, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and the gang have been brought back to animated life, much in the style of their classic TV specials. They’ve been remade in three- to four-minute videos taken directly from classic 1964 comic strips.

In one, Linus runs for class president but is bedeviled by a skeleton from his past: his strident belief in his Halloween hero, the Great Pumpkin. Linus pleads: “In my administration, children will be children and adults will be adults!”

The videos are all new, made with Flash animation and new voices. Even though it’s new technology, attention has been paid to maintaining the integrity of the strip and its beloved animation specials.

“You’re not trying to change it,” said Jeannie Schulz, widow of the Peanuts creator. “You’re trying to keep it the same and freshen it.”

The score, for example, is reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi’s famous jazz that accompanied the “Peanuts” television specials.

Starting Monday, for a limited time, fans will be able to download two episodes for free, but only on Apple’s iTunes. Otherwise, two bundled episodes will go for 99 cents each, or the full season for $7.99.

The videos were made by Warner Bros.’ Motion Comics, which has previously brought strips of Batman, Superman and Watchmen to animated life.

The Peanuts project was done with the involvement of the Schulz family and estate, which monitored the adaptation.

“They’ve done a very cute job of making it really look like the old animation, but better,” said Jeannie Schulz. “Better in that it’s brighter, the voices are still cute and charming.”

She adds, though, that too much animation technology, like CG animation, wouldn’t be fitting for the simplistic style of the Peanuts strip and cartoons. “CG doesn’t quite look right with them,” she said. “I still love that funny way they walk along.”

So what would the Peanuts creator, who died in 2000 at age of 77, think of his old strips showing up fully animated on laptops and cell phones?

“I’m sort of glad that Sparky – Mr. Schulz – isn’t alive [to see it]” laughs his wife. “But even though he would not understand why people wanted to look at things on their telephone, he understood stories and telling stories.”

The webisodes can be found at www.tinyurl.com/5eg5ot or on iTunes at www.itunes.com.

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