Everyone knows I am the Queen of Christmas. In fact, even though it is barely the first week of November I have already watched 2 dozen new Christmas movies. You can find my thoughts on all of these films over at The Hallmarkies Podcast where we cover all things Christmas!
The only problem with this podcast is I don’t have much time to watch the classic Christmas movies like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story. There just isn’t enough time in the day to watch everything I want to.
However, one program I always make time for is the Peanuts Holiday Specials– particularly A Charlie Brown Christmas. Not only is this short animated, which gives it an edge in my book, but it’s quite possibly the perfect treatise on the value of Christmas. Poor Charlie Brown worries about the commercialization of Christmas and what changes his mind? Well, finding a little tree that only he believes in and Linus reciting Luke 2 from the Bible. It doesn’t get much better than that if you ask me.
Recently it was announced the specials would not be airing on ABC for the first time since their creation in 1965. Instead you have to see them on the streaming service Apple+. While they are offering them for free for anyone who wants to view them, I can’t help but feeling this is a loss for all of us Christmas movie fans.
Hearing Linus recite Luke 2 is one of the last remaining vestiges of faith left on network television. It was an event every year that brought us together to celebrate Christ and His birth. Now everyone will be watching in their own time and space, which is great, but particularly in 2020 I am lonesome for shared experiences of faith. If we can’t go to church surely they could have left us Linus and Luke 2?
Hopefully we can still gather with our family and friends and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas together this holiday season. It may not be a world-wide broadcast but at least it will be a gathering sharing the importance of the season. I’m up for it and I hope you will be too!
What do you think? Is the loss of the Peanuts Specials to Apple+ a loss or just a sign of the times? Let me know in the comments section
I unabashedly loved The Peanuts Movie last year. And it wasn’t just nostalgia for Peanuts, which I do have but I genuinely thought it was a sweet, charming little film. And I’ve always said that the artistry didn’t get enough credit. Just because it was a familiar property I think people missed the hybrid animation trailblazing the film did. So naturally when I saw they had a Peanuts art book I had to jump right on that!
The Art of the Peanuts Movie starts with a forward from director Steve Martino where he talks about how he related to the entire Peanuts gang growing up. “Growing up in the Midwest, Charlie Brown’s neighborhood felt like my own…the gang were like friends that I visited on a daily baiss through the ‘funny pages'” He then talks about the specials and even a Charlie Brown sign on his coffee table growing up that read “Happiness is a Warm Puppy”. He is then honest about the huge pressure he felt in adapting this work that is beloved to many including himself. “It felt like I was carrying Schroeder’s piano, only it had grown to a grand piano”
Finally he was able to overcome his fears by a quote from Charles Schulz himself”One of the solutions is, as Charlie Brown does, just to keep on trying. He never gives up. And if anybody should give up, he should”. I’m not going to lie I teared up a bit reading his essay. I love when artists admit their fear of the art.
Next is another forward by Vanessa Morrison president of 20th Century Fox Animation. This is a little more corporate although she does express her love growing up on the series and reading it with her mother.
Then we get 2 articles about the legacy and new direction of Peanuts as well as early concept ideas. With all that done, we get into the main meat of the book where they dive into the process of making CG characters. It’s really cool. You see the mold making process and how the characters are designed.
They also have this neat graphic showing the comic to 3D transitioning for the entire gang.
Next we get several pages on each character describing the design and attributes.
Next is a cool article about how you keep characters on model and moving in a natural way. This is something they achieved in spades especially in the skating scenes.
It’s really cool as well to learn about the animation and how the computer uses pin points to bring them alive.
We get an entire section on backgrounds and how they created the pop friendly feel of the Peanuts neighborhood.
The last section is mostly about the story and goes into incredible detail about how every facet was created and designed down to the posters and flags on Charlie Brown’s wall. That is so cool to learn about!
And we get storyboards and anything else you could want to know about the process of bringing this movie to screen.
The Art of the Peanuts Movie is a great book because it is so rich. It covers the incredibly difficult task of adapting the strip to a movie, the design process of characters, and the story development and boarding process. You can learn about all sides of animation through this book and it will warm your heart to see such love going into a work of art. I think it might even give some people more respect for what they accomplished than the film is given. At least it does for me but I already loved it.
But definitely if you love the Peanuts and thought The Peanuts Movie was great you should pick up this art book. It’s fantastic!
I tell you guys I am happy, happy, happy right now! I just got back from seeing The Peanuts Movie and I LOVED it!
I went into Peanuts a little skeptical. I love the comics and the shorts that have come out over the years especially Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown Christmas Special. The thing I love most is the character of Charlie Brown and how he is thoughtful and even depressed at times. There’s something about that which makes him very relatable and easy to root for.
I guess he is the classic underdog who we all like and a lot of the times he speaks the truth whether it is about materialism at Christmas or the difficulty making friends. I was worried this quality of Peanuts would get lost. I was particularly worried when Blue Sky was the studio involved and when they decided to go the CG route instead of the hand drawn of the shorts. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the trailer so I was nervous walking into the theater.
But I’m telling you they pulled it off. This film is a complete delight. I can’t say enough good things about it.
Let’s talk about the animation first. It feels like a hybrid animation like we got in Paperman or Feast. I saw it in 3D and it looked multi-dimensional but also paper thin, so it had both a 2D and CG look to it. Mostly it felt like layers and bold colors to the characters we know and love.
It’s so pleasant to look at and the character design down to the squiggly lines of the smiles was perfect while still having it’s own new look. The scenes with Snoopy, Woodstock and the Red Baron looked bright and wistful, like right out of a comic strip or book.
They also got the voice work perfectly without any of the celebrity voices that can be distracting in films like Home. These are the voices we know from the original shorts.
The story is very simple. It is basically about how Charlie Brown wants to win the attention of a new red-headed girl but he lacks the confidence he needs to even talk to her. He gets some advice from Lucy and decides he wants to be a winner.
On the way he experiences some really sincere and lovely moments of both triumph and success. They got the tone just right in this movie and I was always hopeful and filled with joy even as Charlie Brown was struggling.
The jokes all worked and the kids in my audience were cracking up (and I was too!). There is absolutely nothing offensive in this film. It is G rated and deserves a G rating. You can take any age of kids and I think they will be entertained even small toddlers I think will like it.
I loved the world of the characters. These are no cell phones or laptops. These are kids that have to go to the library to look something up, go skating on snow days and participate in school talent shows for fun. It all felt so innocent and charming. You can tell they had the influence of producers and screenwriters Craig and Bryan Schulz (Charles Schulz’s son and grandson) involved creating a story that will satisfy new viewers and longtime fans.
They have a few songs from Flo Rida, Meghan Trainor but you also get the classic Vince Guaraldi numbers from Charlie Brown Christmas Special and the Christophe Beck score uses Guaraldi as an influence. Jazz pianist David Benoit helps add to the authentic feel of the score.
Over all, I was completely delighted by this film. I really don’t have anything negative to say. I guess if you are looking for something new and challenging than this isn’t the film for you. We got that in Inside Out, which I still think is the better film, but I really did love this film. They had such a tough task in front of them and congrats Blue Sky! You pulled it off!
It looks interesting although I worry they are making the characters too old. I don’t picture Peanuts characters going to school dances and things like that. What makes Peanuts funny is they are little kids thinking these deep contemplative thoughts. That said, I like the style, voicework and I think it looks like a cute movie.
Then we got a new trailer for Hotel Transylvania 2
Adam Sandler is one of my least favorite people in entertainment but I enjoyed the first Hotel Transylvania. It’s not that original but a cute fish out of water kind of story with some good jokes. I think this new one looks even better with Mavis’ baby not being a monster and them having to move. This makes Dracula upset and doing anything to keep them there. It probably won’t be a masterpiece but I think it will be fun.
Finally we had a trailer for one that hadn’t been on my radar called The Secret Life of Pets.
This one does not look like my cup of tea. It feels a little Toy Storyish but instead of toys its animals and those copycats have been terrible (need I remind you of last year’s Hero of Color City…). And I think the whole pets are alive usually is a bad idea (think Cats and Dogs which is awful). It could be like Over the Hedge which I thought was strong for first 20 minutes and then loses its way. The voice performances look solid but the project looks tired, so I’m not looking forward to this one. This is also really long for a teaser trailer.
So which out of the 3 are you looking forward to most? I would rank them 1. Hotel Transylvania 2, 2. Peanuts, 3. Secret Life of Pets
When I saw the trailer to Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day I was very annoyed. The reason is I love the book by Judith Viorst it is based on so much.
What’s special about the book is it validates a child’s feelings. That Alexander can have a bad day full of negative emotions and that’s ok. I feel like too often we silence children and want them to stop pouting or crying instead of listening to their concerns and feelings. It’s the same reason I love Charlie Brown because Shultz allowed his child character to be down and depressed on occasion.
The book Alexander ends saying “Today has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My Mom says some days are like that…even in Australia”
What a perfect and lovely message for kids.
The trailer for the movie version of Alex seemed to forget the message by promising silly slapstick and a family having a ‘cursed’ day instead of an ordinary child having an ordinary bad day.
Now I have seen the movie and I have to give it some props. It is not as bad as I thought it would be. (If you’ve been reading the blog it is a total Shoney’s moment). In fact, I can even admit it is a decent live action family comedy- something not made all that often any more.
Alexander has his terrible day where everything is going wrong- nobody is going to come to his birthday because a cool kid is throwing a party, he gets gum in his hair, doesn’t get to work on Australia for the big report and more.
Alexander is played by the likable child actor Ed Oxenbould. The whole cast is very likable including Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner as Alexander’s parents. It feels like a real family and they have a lovely chemistry together.
While Alexander’s day is rotten and nobody seems to understand him (that did call back to the book), everything is going great for the rest of the family. Frustrated Alexander wishes on a candle that his family would know what it feels like to have a terrible day.
Then the next day comes and it is a horrible day for the family and of course everything seems to be happening on that day including a book unveiling involving Dick Van Dyke that goes wrong, a job interview for Carrel, prom for the oldest boy, a play for the girl and Alexander’s birthday. That’s a lot for one day but you go with it.
I guess what makes all of hijinks on day 2 palatable is they do feel semi-realistic- Carell can’t find a sitter, baby eats a marker, girl gets sick, boy fails driving test ect. And like I said there is a chemistry and love between the cast which forgives a lot of silly slapstick.
The funniest scene is by far Jennifer Coolidge as a driver inspector who gives Alexander’s brother Anthony his driving test. It reminded me of the scene in Clueless when Dion goes on the freeway for the first time.
The movie ends with a sincere and sweet moment for the family which feels earned and not as sentimental as you might think.
I wish they had been bolder like Where the Wild Things Are and really told the darker tale hidden in the book. It would have been so refreshing and exciting but as a pleasant family comedy it’s not half bad.
They are smart to not have a villain which would have dragged the whole thing down. (I was worried Garner’s boss played by Megan Mullally was going to be the villain but she’s just part of the overall bad day). The bad day is the villain with perhaps a bratty high school prom girl thrown in for laughs.
If you are wondering the humor is kind of juvenile but aside from a kangaroo scene it is all grounded in reality and not painful to watch like a Home Alone movie. I chuckled on a number of occasions and I think kids will really find it funny. There aren’t that many comedies outside of animation you can go to as a family and Alexander is such a film.
There is some cartoon style violence but not much and some vomit and other gross scenes. The Thunder from Down Under dancers appear as a joke but do not strip which is a little strange for a Disney film. The word penis is also used 4 times in a scene but aside from that it is a pretty tame PG.
So, I have to give them some credit. A movie I was sure I would hate I enjoyed. It’s not as funny or as clever as Spongebob or Penguins but it’s still entertaining and worth a rental. I’m not trying to oversell it but it was just better than I expected it to be.
I’d say give it a shot especially if you are having one of those days…
And remember “some days are just like that. Even in Australia”
That said the book is better. I recommend all parents have it and read it regularly to their kids.
I just thought you might be wondering what my opinion is on non-Disney animated films. I’m not talking Pixar,Studio Ghibli or other Disney wings because they should get their own list. I’m talking about other studios like Dreamworks, which while not as consistently my favorites like Disney, they have made some great animated films.
So here we go in no particular order.
1. The Adventures of Tintin- underrated action adventure movie. Yes, it is motion capture not traditional animation but I figure if it looks, feels, acts like an animated film it is an animated film. More people should have seen this movie. It was so entertaining!
2. The Lego Movie- one of the most visually inventive movies I’ve ever seen. The effects with the legos blew me away. Great voice work by whole cast, and the script is so well written. Every joke got a laugh from me and then there’s moments that were surprisingly tender. It is the best movie I’ve seen at capturing how a child plays with their toys and how incapable adults are at understanding that play.
3. Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2- both films are very entertaining with a likable lead character, fun action, beautiful visuals, and great villains.
4. Secret of Nimh- wonderful movie featuring one of the toughest Moms in movies. She doesn’t want to be a hero but will do anything for her son. There’s humor, adventure and most importantly real heart.
5. Anastasia- one of the best animated romantic comedies put onto film. Great chemistry, a fun villain, and decent music. The story is silly but I still find it very entertaining.
6. How to Train Your Dragon- haven’t seen sequel but want to. Original was very entertaining. It’s a predictable story but told very well. Great voice cast and a great heart to the story of Hiccup and his desire to please his demanding father. The relationship between him and the dragon is very absorbing. Beautiful flying visuals.
7. Prince of Egypt- some people have problems with the changes from the Biblical story but not me. I am mad for the music, just love it and the scene where Moses communes with the burning bush is breathtaking. I’m a huge fan of biblical epics and this stands with the best.
8. Arthur Christmas- A movie I thought looked really stupid and then totally surprised me. Santa’s youngest son Arthur believes in bringing Christmas to every child and when he finds a girl has been missed will do anything to make it right. I love the idea that even the North Pole has become over-commercialized for Christmas. I love Christmas movies so this is a big win. Great voice cast. Real heart.
9. Chicken Run- An homage to Dirty Dozen and other prison escape movies from the 50s. Great writing and voice work. Terrific villain and the stop motion animation is fabulous.
10. Transformers 1986- Michael Bay should be strapped down and forced to watch this movie for a week straight to understand how it should be done. Those bloated, obnoxious mess of movies don’t have 1/10th the heart of this animated film. Orson Wells is Optimus Prime and he is great. It’s got action and fun characters and with every Michael Bay monstrosity it looks better and better (Transformers 2 and 3 are 2 of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I just can’t see 4. It’s too much.) Boys deserve better transformers movies and this animated film gives it to them. .
11. Charlotte’s Web- One of the best non-Disney animated musicals. Sweet songs with great vocal performances by Debbie Reynolds and Paul Lynde. It’s actually pretty sad but in a way that will teach kids about friendship and sacrifice.
12. Iron Giant- If you haven’t seen this film, stop what you are doing, go out and watch it. The animation is stunning. The story has real heart and lovely characters. It is a total winner!
13. Paranorman- everyone who thinks I’m a total softy when it comes to darker movies will probably be surprised to find this on my list. I like a good ghost story and this definitely fits the bill. It’s more for teens than children. Some of the images are pretty scary and the humor, like the jock actually being gay, is probably more for teens than little kids. It looks amazing. Has some genuine scares and the story surprised me. Very well done.
14. Simpsons Movie- Everyone is always shocked to find out I love the Simpsons. My favorite show of all time. My brother and sister and I would watch it every week and 26 seasons later still do. The movie is overwritten and could have been better but I still really enjoy it. I love the characters and the HD colors add a nice touch to the movie over the TV show. Simpsons has given me so many laughs I love it. Lisa is my particular favorite.
15. Pirates: Band of Misfits- A movie nobody saw but I really enjoyed. It’s funny with Charles Darwin as our unlikely hero. The stop motion looks great and voice work is engaging. A hidden gem!
16. Curious George- So few movies are made well for children under 5. Curious George is one of those movies. It is sweet and engaging with lovely songs from Jack Johnson. One that is unabashadly for the smallest of children and yet adults won’t be miserable.
17. Lord of the Rings (Bakshi)- It’s not as good as the Peter Jackson movies but it is also a different take on an epic story. To me there is room for multiple retellings of the Lord of the Rings and Bakshi crams a lot of story into this film. Maybe not a masterpiece but I enjoy it. The music is wonderful and characters engrossing. If you like the story of Lord of the Rings give this animated version a chance. I think this is what the Black Cauldron was trying to be and it isn’t near as successful.
18. Batman Mask of the Phantasm- Still my favorite Batman movie (yes, you read right). Intense without being too violent. Batman is interesting without being over-the-top. I hate in the live action movies how the villains are always more interesting than Batman. Not the case here. Great animation. Great voice work. If you haven’t seen it and love the Nolan films give it a shot.
19. Happy Feet- A flawed film but I love the music and it is so unabashedly cheerful I enjoy it. It’s the kind of movie I put in when I’m sick and it brightens my day. Huge talented cast and serviceable story.
20. Charlie Brown Christmas Special- I realize this was for TV but I couldn’t not include it. One of the best Christmas movies ever made. Perfect soundtrack. Lovely message and delightful characters. It focuses on the Christ message of Christmas in a way that is powerful without being overbearing.