Thursday, January 21, 2016

I was passed  the Telegraph magazine 
for the 5th of December. 



I just could not resist. I felt compelled to scan it; It took over 20 text files saved as Paint Shop pro and then run through ABBY 10. What a job that was ! !  Plus a few of the pictures that were there as well.
Wish I could have scanned all the pix but there was no way I could do it. I also altered the cover to give it a real Snoopy touch; even included Woodstock and young Charlie in the title. Lucky him. If the Curzon ever gets the film I feel I will have to go to the cinema no matter what the cost.

Among institutions that retain an unshakeable hold on America's collective affections, Charles M Schulz's comic strip Peanuts takes pride of place. lt remains a genuine pop-culture phenomenon: it first appeared in 1950, in seven newspapers, but its popularity grew rapidly. By the time Schulz called it a day 50 years later, it was syndicated on the comic pages of an astounding 2,600 papers around the world. The strip would be published in 25 different languages; by 1989 Peanuts-related merchandise was topping $1 billion a year.
The strip has an appeal that captivates people aged from eight to 80. It has two natural co-stars. The fretful Charlie Brown, a decent, well-meaning boy, is often thwarted by life (he can't fly a kite; he's hopeless at baseball), but never gives up trying to get things right. His daydreaming dog Snoopy, a beagle with a vivid fantasy life, composes stories about himself (most famously as a First World War fighter ace) on a typewriter atop his kennel.
Both are iconic characters. Their gang of friends includes Charlie's scourge Lucy van Pelt, bossy, opinionated, but nicer than she seems; her brother Linus, the dreamy, intellectual philosopher who sucks his thumb and hugs his com­fort blanket; Schroeder, the Beethoven-loving piano virtuoso; the noble Pigpen, perpetually covered in mud or dirt; and Woodstock, a little yellow bird.
Schulz's characters had already triumphed in animation. The Peanuts gang featured in dozens of successful half-hour 'Charlie Brown specials' on television; in America the two best-known, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973), have been broadcast on network TV every year since they were first shown. Between 1969 and1980, four Peanuts feature films made it into cinemas, but these were modestly budgeted, low-key efforts, with scripts by Schulz himself.
During his lifetime, Schulz voiced strong opinions about how he wanted his characters portrayed in animation: true in spirit and execution to the strip. The late John Hughes (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) was hired to write a Peanuts movie but, Schulz's son Craig tells me, 'It never worked. And a lot of people got gun-shy about the idea of a movie.' After Charles's death (in 2000, the day before his final strip appeared), 'The family would never [consider doing] a movie. We thought the risk of doing one badly was not worth the reward.'
Still, things can change and, it would seem, spectacularly so. Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie, with an estimated $100 million budget, opened in America and 10 other countries in early November; in the US, it enjoyed a healthy opening weekend gross of $44 million and positive reviews.
The new film has Hollywood written all over it: 20th Century Fox is distributing, and the animation company Blue Sky Studios produced it, having made the four wildly successful Ice Age movies for Fox. This is a thoroughly modern Peanuts, in 3D, with plenty of computer-generated imagery.
It may sound like a radical departure for the Peanuts gang; yet a glance at the film's credits suggests a different story. Craig Schulz, 62, is listed as both a writer and producer, as is his screenwriter son Bryan Schulz, along with Bryan's writing partner Cornelius Uliano. Charles M Schulz himself is credited posthumously as the creator of the strip. In creative terms, the Schulzes hold the whip hand.
But they aren't blas6 about it. The main aim was to make sure we didn't screw this movie up Bryan says. 'It would have been so easy to do. Every choice we made had to pass our "Peanuts filter": was it right for the story? Did it fit within the universe Grandpa cre­ated? If not, it wasn't used, no matter how funny or perfect it may have seemed. Making sure this movie was true to the Peanuts strips was paramount to us.'
Craig echoes his son's sentiments. 'We wanted to honour his work and respect his legacy, not just knock out something that's going to be forgotten in a year. We want this movie to have 20 years of life. That's one of the main reasons we did it ourselves. A lot of [studios] wanted to push a movie on us, but the property was doing well as it was. We didn't need a movie to propel the strip any further. We all wanted to preserve my dad's legacy.' As he tells it, the stars aligned during a period when he found himself work­ing on two Charlie Brown TV specials, while Bryan graduated from film school and, with Uliano, started successfully pitching script ideas to Hollywood.
After 50 years of the strip being syndicated by United Feature Syndicate, ownership rights of Peanuts passed to Iconix, a New York brand management company. Craig, who had assumed the mantle of looking after the Schulz estate's broader interests, felt this was the time to act: he sent the film script that had been jointly written by himself, Bryan and Uliano to family members. 'I said: in all likelihood, at some point someone's going to make a movie of Peanuts and do whatever they want. We'll have no say in it So why don’t we do one movie, and do it the right way before anyone else gets hold of it and does something we wouldn't approve of?* He won the argument, and the family fell in behind the new film.
The film-makers' insistence on keeping long-standing Peanuts fans happy never wavered. They're the best in the world,' notes Bryan, 'extremely knowledgeable and loyal, but fact- oriented. If we do anything wrong, no matter how small, we'll hear about it guaranteed.'
In fact, the movie probably won't ruffle too many feathers. Charlie Brown and Snoopy's friends are back, and the story doesn't venture far from what Peanuts fans already know: it tracks Charlie Brown through a school year, and the progress of his crush on the elusive Little Red-Haired Girl. His attempts to impress her - at a school dance, during assembly - always fall flat. Snoopy, meanwhile, is typing up a First World War novel in which he saves a French poodle pilot from the dastardly Red Baron.
Crucially, the movie keeps the characters in their oddly timeless, American suburban world. Its innocence survives: the edgiest it gets is Charlie's use of the mild oath "good grief!' Any modernity is kept at bay. Craig recalls, 'The conversation on day one was no cell phones, fart jokes or computer stuff
I met Craig on my visit to the grandly named Charles M Schulz museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, a peaceful city of some 170,000 people, in wine country 50 miles north of San Francisco. To say Schulz was a big man in this town is to understate: even the local airport bears his name.
The museum itself (which opened in 2002) is both eccentric and extraordinary, a study in contrasts. It's as playful as you'd expect of any place honouring child-friendly cartoon characters. It isn't shy of merchandising: its sizable gift shop contains more plush Snoopy than you'll ever see in one place. And it may be the only museum anywhere with a first-rate ice rink: the Redwood Empire Ice Arena. Schulz was passionate about ice hockey - a subject, his widow Jeannie tells me, that has appeared in 60 Peanuts strips over the years. Next to the rink is the 1970s- style Warm Puppy Cafe, named after Schulz's best- selling book of 'Happiness Is...' strips, Happiness Is A Warm Puppy. He breakfasted there each day.
Yet the museum exists primarily to underline the eminence of Charles M Schulz as an artist; its research centre has a library of 4,000 books about him and the Peanuts phenomenon. Its guides and employees speak reverently about the purity of his 'pen line'. An earnest young archivist named Cesar dons white gloves as he opens a narrow box containing unfinished early Peanuts strips, handling them as if they were holy relics.
Schulz's work studio has been lovingly recreated, including his actual drawing board. It's intriguing how many artists and designers have been drawn to the world of Peanuts. Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Rodarte and Vivienne Westwood are among the fashion icons who have designed outfits for Snoopy (displayed at the museum). The environmental artist Christo, famed for wrapping huge public monuments such as Berlin's Reichstag and the Pont Neuf in Paris, has also 'wrapped' Snoopy's kennel.
The museum's hall is dominated by two monumental works by the artist Yoshiteru Otani. One is a 22ft-high mural comprising 3,500 ceramic tiles, each depicting a Peanuts strip. Put together, they form a huge image of Lucy holding a football on the ground for Charlie Brown to run up and kick (the running joke is that she always snatches it away at the last moment). Otani also designed a massive three-ton wooden sculpture depicting Snoopy's evolution over the years, going back to when he was based on Schulz's own dog Spike.
Schulz remains a beloved figure in Santa Rosa, where he and Jeannie lived together for the last 27 years of his life. There he is still remembered as a cheerful member of the community, the sort of man who on his morning walk would throw local dogs the biscuits he kept in his pockets for just those occasions. He is still widely referred to as Sparky, a nickname from infancy about his alleged resemblance to the rickety racehorse Spark Plug in the old Barney Google comic strip.
Yet he was a contradictory figure. As a younger man, he was shy, withdrawn and not given to self- disclosure. The son of a German-born barber (who denied his nationality until late in his life) and a mother from a rural Norwegian family, he grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the Midwest. Schulz was an awkward young man who hated his looks, was clumsy around girls and suffered from low self-esteem.
He was aware of his talent, though, and claimed he knew he would draw a daily comic strip from the time he was six years old. He was fanatical (his word) in pursuing that ambition. Over half a century he would draw all 17,897 Peanuts comic strips, without assistance. He always insisted all anyone needed to know about him was in the strip.
Famously, Schulz hated the title 'Peanuts', which was foisted on him from the outset by United Features. 'Isn't that an awful name for a strip?' he grumbled to associates. 'It's a degrading title.'
After that early setback, the content of Peanuts was something he guarded jealously. Similarly, he always denied that his own children had remotely inspired any of the characters; they were his alone. Yet he was at a loss to explain his gift for creating those child characters. In1992, as a guest on Whoopi Goldberg's television talk show, he made a startling admission: 'I don't know much about children. I'm not even sure I like kids.'
Almost a continent away from Santa Rosa, in a modern, impersonal building on a leafy street in Connecticut, director Steve Martino and his team are putting the final touches to Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie. The project is still at a hush-hush stage, so the animators' creative work is going on behind closed doors. But Martino seems as relaxed as anyone could be at this crucial period of production. 'We create computer animation, so it's not lost on me that I'm looking at [Schulz's] drawings and seeing these wonderful pen strokes,' he says. That's what led me to our mantra: "How do you find his pen line in everything we create?"
Bryan had taken the script to several studios, and had effectively auditioned them to see who might be suitable. He and his father eventually settled on Blue Sky: it helped that Martino had directed the animated film of the Dr Seuss story Horton Hears a Who!. 'So he had respect for a legacy property/ says Craig. In our film, each character has their traits directly based on the comic strip. Blue Sky took the trouble to get [Charles's] pen strokes on every frame of the movie. Not just characters, but trees, pencils, phones.'
The characters' voices, too, were hugely important.' [Casting director] Christian Kaplan listened to thousands of audition tapes says Martino. 'My directive was, "I want to find the timbre and voice quality from the original specials." I didn't want the kids to sound like trained actors. I wanted them natural.' The voice of legendary animator Bill Melendez (who died in2008) can be heard posthumously as Snoopy and Woodstock. There was no way to recreate anything as charming notes Martino.

But since Schulz's original comic strips came to an end, is there still the same level of awareness of the Peanuts world? 'Kids may know of it today through a Snoopy plush toy or a T-shirt concedes Martino. 'Things that are there in the culture, rather than stories in the comic strip. So, in the movie, we've needed to introduce the characters a little.
'You look at the character of Charlie Brown and say, let's just take who he is, and that'll be one of the anchors of the story. He's a guy who never gives up, he tries, he fails. But he has these qualities we've seen over 50 years; let's celebrate who he's been.'
'I can't help but believe my father would love the look and feel of this film,' says Craig. 'I just wanted to live up to what my dad had created, not let someone else come in and ruin what he had done. No one's going to touch his world.'



Had a visit Friday from a man from the Curzon. He gave me a free ticket to see the show. They had it running from the weekend to Tuesday as a children's performance. I went on the Sunday afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Extract from Daily Telegraph Magazine (Thank You)
Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is in UK cinemas on December 21






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