Charlie Brown is coming to the big screen

By Geoff Boucher
Updated June 14, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

You’re a good man, Charlie Brown — but good enough to pull off 3-D? The answer is under construction now at Fox’s Blue Sky Studios in Greenwich, Conn., where an ambitious animated feature is taking shape: a 3-D computer-generated adaptation of Peanuts, the most popular comic strip ever. The movie (working title: Peanuts 3D) is set to hit theaters on Nov. 25, 2015, the 65th anniversary of the strip and the 50th anniversary of the first TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. ”A lot of kids know the brand now through the merchandise and the specials, but they don’t read the strip,” says Craig Schulz, son of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz and a producer and writer on the movie. ”That’s why the movie is important to us.”

The challenge is capturing the elusive whimsy of the late Charles Schulz, who for 49 years drew every panel of the newspaper strip about the put-upon Charlie Brown, his beagle Snoopy, and their friends. (At its peak, Peanuts reached 355 million daily readers in 21 languages.) In the weeks before Schulz died in 2000, his family agreed the strip should be retired. But after frequent overtures from Hollywood in the ensuing years, Craig Schulz, his son Bryan Schulz, and a writing partner came up with a pitch of their own and took it to Fox and Blue Sky. After a two-year negotiation, the deal was struck and Ice Age: Continental Drift‘s Steve Martino signed on to direct.

Character design has just been completed but, like the script, is under wraps. Schulz says key components of the TV specials will remain — unpolished child actors will handle voice parts and were cast based on how close they sounded to the 1960s ensemble. ”We’re not going to do anything to change the characters at their heart and we’re not going to introduce any new characters, either, for the sake of political correctness,” he says. ”This is the Peanuts movie we want to do.”