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Blue Sky Studios has the OK from Charles Schulz’s family to make a computer-generated “Peanuts” movie.

Computer-generated ‘Peanuts’ a nutty idea

Does every understated thing have to be subjected to the blockbuster treatment?

If it’s a wildly successful understatement, the answer is usually “Yes.”

I imagine there weren’t too many long-standing fans of Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” characters who were overjoyed when they heard the recent news that Blue Sky, the animation house behind the “Ice Age” series and the big-screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who!” had reached an agreement with the descendants of the late Schulz to do to Charlie Brown what major Hollywood studios have been doing to Seuss’ characters in recent years.

That’s no knock on Blue Sky Studios.

Blue Sky Studios makes enjoyable computer-animated films that give the contemporary audiences everything they expect, and everything the major studios assume they expect, from such films.

Computer-animated films are typically overstuffed cinematic piñatas bursting with noise, sight gags, wisecracks and slapstick. There is never a dull moment in these films because studios fear dull moments.

Studios fear dull moments the way acrophobic moviegoers fear heights, bathophobic moviegoers fear depths and peladophobic moviegoers fear bald heads.

The movies based on Seuss’ work have ranged from abominable to endure-able, but all of them jettisoned the quiet charms of the source material in favor of flashier gimcracks.

The Peanuts strips and specials are everything most computer-animated films are not: gentle, unpretentious and wry.

Up to now, all Peanuts-related animation has been strategically simplistic – it has eschewed the cutting-edge in favor of the freedoms afforded by showing less not more.

And yet, if you listen to Schulz’s son Craig, the only reason we haven’t seen a computer-animated Peanuts movie before now is that Hollywood wasn’t sophisticated enough to make one.

“We finally felt the time was right,” Craig Schulz said in a press release, “and the technology is where we need it to be to create this film.”

This, I find difficult to comprehend.

What technology could he possibly be referring to? We can only hope that there have been some new advances in the computer-animation of giant heads.

I am certainly not the first person to wonder how Blue Sky is going to go about computer-animating a three-dimensional version of Charlie Brown.

A line drawing of a giant head with negligible eye and mouth openings can be charming in one dimension. In three dimensions, it could be absolutely terrifying.

It’s the sort of well-intentioned blunder that could make peladophobic moviegoers of us all.

Steve Penhollow is an arts and entertainment writer for The Journal Gazette. His column appears Sundays. He appears Fridays on WPTA-TV, Channel 21, WISE-TV, Channel 33, and WBYR, 98.9 FM to talk about area happenings. Email him at spen@jg.net. A Facebook page for “Rants & Raves” can be accessed at www.facebook.com/pages

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