You know I am all-in for full disclosure and so before I even dig into this post, I have to tell you that this interview with the animator of the new Peanuts film was a little awkward. For no other reason other than the animator was my brother. He has been working for Blue Sky Animation Studio since 2009 or since the second Ice Age film to put it in movie terms. While you think interviewing your brother would be an easy thing to do, having prior knowledge of a film, a public relations professional staff the meeting and digging around for a story can be a little hard.
That being said, I think I did well! So let’s dig in.
The Peanuts film hits theaters Friday, November 6th and brings our favorite characters – Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and more – to life in 3-D. Taking a beloved two-dimensional character out of a comic strip was a bit more challenging than you would think. Matthew Doble, co-lead animator of Charlie Brown (and my aforementioned brother), had the task of figuring out the details. And while it may of taken two years and over 100 animators, the results are spectacular.
Let’s jump into the interview:
Q: What kind of research did you have to do to bring the Peanuts characters to life?
A: Early on, it was like being an archeologist. We were reading comic strips, studying footage of Charles Schulz drawing the characters and paying attention to where he started his strokes, how he ended them and what he did to develop every feature of the characters. We took all of the knowledge and turned it into a style guide for the entire team.
Q: What kind of descriptions went into the Peanuts style guide?
A: Our style guide serves as an outline for all animators to follow when working on the characters. Because it is important for a style guide to be easily understandable to all, we used a lot of food references. For example, we describe the characters arms as “turkey arms” because they look like drumsticks, when the character is facing you their shoes look like eggs, when the character is facing away from you their shoes look like baguettes.
Q: It sounds like turning these 2-D Peanuts characters into 3-D ones was pretty challenging. Would you agree with that statement?
A: Early on the decision was made to make these characters three-dimensional but keep the two-dimension feel and stay true to the way Schulz drew these characters. For example, Charlie Brown’s head only moves into two angles. While it was challenging to stay within these constraints, it also dictated our style. Most importantly, it honored Charles Schulz.
Q: Who was the hardest Peanuts character to animate and why?
A: Charlie and Snoopy were the most challenging. The difficulty in animating Charlie Brown was making him seem sincere with limited posing and dot eyes. The hardest part about animating Snoopy is that he is a much freer character. He can move in almost any direction but the question becomes how far can you push his animation before it becomes disingenuous.
Q: What scene stands out the most to you?
A: The climax of the film was the hardest and most rewarding scene to create. There were a lot of emotions that need to be conveyed but the animation style limited what could be done. It became a riddle and we really liked what it ended up becoming.