(USA TODAY) Good grief! In fact, very good grief: Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang are taking another crack at the big screen.
The bald, round-headed kid, his dog Snoopy and the rest of the cast of Charles Schulz's beloved comic strip are already the stars of numerous TV specials, including holiday fare such as A Charlie Brown Christmas.
But producer Craig Schulz, one of Charles' sons, believes it's time for a new movie treatment with the animated Peanuts (due out Nov. 6, 2015). The last time Peanuts characters saw feature-length screen time was with 1980'sBon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!).
"It's long overdue," says Schulz. "The fans have been asking for a long time, but we held off until the time was right."
The death of the creator in 2000, after a 50-year career of crafting the strip, further delayed any appearances at the cineplex. Craig Schulz says the family has vigilantly protected the integrity of the characters, leading to a cautious approach in taking on any project.
"I'm way more protective than my father would have been," says Schulz. "Our No. 1 goal was always to be authentic to his work and legacy."
Peanuts, which includes a screenplay from Craig's screenwriter son Bryan and his writing partner Cornelius Uliano, calmed any fears. "With my father's work this is three generation of Shulzes on this film," says Craig.
Also winning approval was director Steve Martino (Ice Age: Continental Drift), who showed he could keep faithful to an iconic story with his 2008 adaptation of Dr. Seuss'sHorton Hears a Who!
The filmmakers are keeping Peanuts' plot details under wraps ("it's about a round-headed kid and his dog, and that's about as far as I'm willing to go," says Craig). But the story will bring together the entire cast from the strips and Bill Melendez's famous television specials, from Pig-Pen to Peppermint Patty.
Additions include the unveiling of Charlie Brown's lifelong crush, known only as "theLittle Red-Haired Girl." Martino is excited about exploring the Peanuts world with detailed animation ("We'll see that Snoopy has soft-white fur") and exploring traditionally imagined realms such as Snoopy's World War I fighter-pilot adventures.
"We're going to fly with Snoopy in his fantasy world," says Martino. "We have a bigger canvas. Bill Melendez got Snoopy off the ground in the TV specials. We're going to take it a step further."
Critics have balked at the notion of a 3-D film with computer-generated imagery for the classic characters. But Craig believes his father would have "embraced the technology."
"It would have been absolutely logical for him to have come onboard," he says. "And it brings you closer into the comic strip."
Producer Paul Feig calls the 3-D "effortless" and says everyone is working to ensure that the "sweet optimism" of the original material remains. "Snoopy will not be rapping, no one will be twerking, we're in good hands," he says.
For Martino, who has memories of reading the Sunday comic strip faithfully, the film and story will remain classic, focusing on Charlie Brown's perpetually positive attitude. He vows to bring this message into a new world, however cynical.
"Charlie Brown is the guy who picks himself up after every fall and tries again. That's what is powerful to me," says Martino. "These characters are known and loved worldwide, and now we have an opportunity to bring them to a new generation."