With Christmas around the corner (yes, it really is!), you may well be making your movie-going plans already. You’ve probably pencilled in a certain space opera for December, but we’re REALLY excited about the big screen version of an all-time favourite comic strip.

We were lucky enough to watch some extended footage from Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie recently, and caught up with the films director Steve Martino to get the full lowdown.

Why did the team choose to move away from the traditional look of the characters that many will already be familiar with?

We have the history of Peanuts and studied what was done on the early specials. I wanted to be true to the way Charles Schulz originally drew the characters. I thought it was interesting, in the broader context of animated films today, to do something different.”

I worry if we continue to animate in the same way with multiple movies coming out year after year from studios that there will be a “sameness” to it all. I worry audiences won’t find them fresh. We embraced the snappier style of animation to what I did on the last Ice Age movie.

When I started the project, I wondered how the animators would feel about that. They were actually lining up at my door wanting to work on it just for that reason. They wanted to work on something that would look and feel different. It can look beautiful and feel rich in the cinema.

In terms of the contemporary audience, its fascinating that you have voices that sound so similar to the original characters. Did you have to update how the kids actually sound?

One thing we realised that our memory of those voices comes through the technology on which we heard them. The TV’s of years ago and speakers back in those days, meant a different sound. We recorded with an old style microphone.

I didn’t want an audience to be bumped out of the film. As a storyteller that would be the worst thing possible. I want people to be with these characters and have fun. They had to have a certain sound. It’s amazing the natural quality kids have with the lines. They are free and natural. They live it.

And how about the dialogue?

Its been an interesting journey. Craig Schulz and Brian Schulz (son and grandson of Charles), are producers and writers. They know the cadence and and language better than anybody. Charlie Brown would never say “Booyah!” or anything like that. We wanted a timeless story, so nothing to place it in any particular time. Same with the design of the rooms.

It was a constant reminder that some of the audience won’t know Peanuts. Its a great opportunity. We don’t want a purely nostalgic piece that only appeals to the adults. We had the same decisions with the pacing. Its not as fast as some other animations out now, but its also not paced like some of the Peanuts originals from decades ago. It feels right, but is a 2015 movie.

steve martinoHow did the conversation go in terms of making it a 3D movie, and also in adding new characters?

I let Craig take the lead in terms of characters. The little redhead girl in the film has actually been in one comic strip before. When we designed her I studied that strip really well. Charlie Brown’s story is the spine of the film, but Snoopy is along all the way. He takes journey’s into his world of fantasy. We brought in Fifi with Snoopy, again from the comics but we brought her to life here.

The tools we use at Blue Sky result in this computer drawn style. We knew we would be true to the original style but slightly different. The characters will move like the characters you know. They perform in a way you already know. In 2015 you are painting on a bigger canvas. Charles Schulz drew on a small piece of paper for the format of newspapers. When they did the TV specials he was part of that format. He embraced the idea of painting on a bigger canvas. We just had to keep in mind the characters.

Snoopy looks different from the other characters even within this film…

It was tradition with him. He was the most elastic character. He’s broad and a big thinker. We looked at that and noticed he is a pantomime character. Its all from the way he has behaved in the past. All the poses are from what we’ve seen in the past.

His voice is from the originals and we sent the clips to get slowed down and get that full range. You can hear little utterances that are big and deep and then recorded on tape. Woodstock is then speeded up even more afterwards.

Did you learn anything new about the characters while making this movie?

I was a big fan, so I knew a lot of the idiosyncrasies. One thing I learned is that Snoopy’s doghouse would never ever get shown from below. You would never see the underneath of it, even when he was flying around. He was flying in his imagination, but we would never see from below because the sense of that would be broken.

When we started the movie, when I told the animators and storyboarders about these wild sequences of Snoopy flying and then said there was the rule about not showing the base of the doghouse, they said “no way!” We embraced the limitation. The test, two years ago, worked out well. The limits to creativity can sometimes work out better. You’ll never see the bottom of the doghouse.

Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie opens in the UK on December 21st