Easter eggs, the hidden gems within some of our favorite films that we all love to find. Those tiny additions to a scene shows the creativity and ingenuity of the producers, directors and all others involved with a project. The smallest details can have incredible meaning and significance and sometimes these small bits can go way over our heads. Some studios such as Disney and Pixar use these to reference other works such as having a tea set in Tarzan look oddly like Mrs. Potts and Chip from Beauty and the Beast or seeing the Pizza Planet delivery truck from Toy Story in every Pixar movie. Blue Sky Studios and the minds behind The Peanuts Movie managed to use their easter eggs to pay homage to the originator of the Peanuts universe, Charles M. Schulz.
In all fairness, the entire movie was truly a tribute to Schulz and the world he made. From the style of animation to the classic Peanut moments, the movie hit the perfect notes of nostalgia. With every creative decision and bump in the road, director Steve Martino and his team turned to the life of Schulz to guide their choices and give even more respect to his legacy. During my trip to Blue Sky Studios earlier this week, I heard some inside information on their process throughout their journey and some added quirks that give the movie even more meaning. Here are FOUR interesting and clever ways Schulz's life was infused into The Peanuts Movie.
Warning: Some spoilers may follow if you have not seen the movie!
Design and Landscape of Charlie Brown's Neighborhood
There were quite a few challenges the animators faced during the production phase of this movie. One of which being the design of Charlie Brown's neighborhood.
One fun, but painfully challenging thing that we learned was that Sparky (nickname for Schulz) never gave us any establishing shots. The strips were all about the characters and the dialogue and quite often the environment was secondary. So here we are trying to paint on a bigger canvas and we have very limited resources to look at. But luckily we found some of the style of [Charlie Brown's] neighborhood through a great field that Steve (Martino) and Craig Schulz (son of Charles Schulz and producer/writer of The Peanuts Movie) took to St. Paul, Minnesota. They drove through the neighborhood and took lots of snapshots of some of these homes. And lo and behold, the homes that he was drawing in those strips were really the homes from his neighborhood in St. Paul. And from that we figured we could design the neighborhood; we can flesh out [Charlie Brown's] world.
- Nash Dunnigan, Art Director of The Peanuts Movie
Spark Plug Comic Book
Now you may be wondering as to why the crew of The Peanuts Movie refer to Charles Schulz as "Sparky." In the early stages of development, Craig Schulz (son of Charles Schulz and writer/producer of the movie) told Martino:
All of my dad's friends referred to him as Sparky, so if we're going to be on this journey together, that is what you should call him.
In a brilliant way to say thanks for such an honor, Martino decided to included a version of the comic book which highlights the character Schulz was nicknamed after. "Spark Plug" originates from an old comic strip series, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. Schulz was given this nickname as a child by his uncle and the name stuck throughout the years. To most viewers, this portion of the film would not mean much but to others privy to said information, this scene becomes all the more endearing.
Names of Characters
We're all familiar with the names of the Peanuts gang: Linus, Lucy, Sally, Schroeder, Franklin, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, etc. And yet most of us only know a handful of the characters' LAST NAMES (Linus and Lucy Van Pelt and obviously Sally and Charlie Brown). It's been known that Schulz took a lot of inspiration from his personal life when naming, making and modeling these beloved characters. So naturally, the movie included something to that effect.
When they post the test scores, Charlie Brown starts at the bottom, thinking he will be down toward the bottom, and he goes up [the list] and sees his name at the top. If you're a really detailed student of Peanuts, there are certain characters that never really had last names. And for a few of them, we decided that we would [give them] the last name of the person who inspired that character. Almost all the characters in Peanuts came from friends of Charles Schulz. People he grew up with, some of the artists when he worked at the art instruction school, he based them off of them.
- Steve Martino
Easter eggs come in all shapes and sizes but in most cases, the average viewer will notice a visual piece the easiest. Other times, the audience might catch onto a sudden mention of a character or name drop like Steven Strange in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In The Peanuts Movie, subtlety was taken to a whole other level when Martino decided to add specific sound bits to enrich the scenes.
You know there are a lot of easter eggs in the film. There are a bunch of sound details. Craig Schulz (Charles Schulz's Son/Writer and Producer of The Peanuts Movie) is a pilot [and flies his own] biplane. Early on in the process he took me up in his biplane and we did loops and barrel rolls. And he said "If you're up for it, I'll give you the total feeling of what it's like to be in a dog fight." And we did... and we [the guys from Skywalker Sound] recorded Craig flying his plane .
The skating scenes were recorded at the home ice of Sparky. He was a big hockey player and he played hockey until he was in his 70's I think... So we went to that ice rink and recorded that. We also recorded his actual pen. Like in the beginning of the movie, it's a pen line that draws on the first frame, it signs his name at the very end of the movie. We recorded that actual pen nib on the actual bristle board to put into the film.
- Steve Martino
In my opinion, all of the decisions made for this movie were absolutely fantastic! It's really quite amazing how clever the production team was in adding aspects and pieces of Schulz's life into the movie. Never in my wildest imagination would I consider including something as simple as a sound recording or draw so many inspirations from a someone's personal history. And yet in doing so, they added a even more love into an already heartfelt movie. Everything about The Peanuts Movie was done beautifully and truly is the perfect tribute to the legacy of Charles Schulz!