Charles Schulz’s universally beloved comic strip Peanuts is faithfully brought to life in the new animated series The Snoopy Show. The new series stars the whole Peanuts gang with Snoopy and Woodstock at the helm. Launching on Apple TV+, the series revisits classic moments in the franchise’s history and crafts new stories with the iconic characters.
In an exclusive interview with CBR, series showrunner and executive producer Mark Evestaff discussed working directly with the Schulz estate to deliver a faithful adaptation of the comic strip, what makes the franchise so timeless and enduring for over 70 years and what the new show brings to the classic characters.
I love that The Snoopy Show takes familiar moments from past animated specials and puts your own take on them. What was your mission statement with that approach?
Mark Evestaff: That’s a good question and a good observation. Every one of these shows originated from a strip, whether it’s a nugget or an idea or a line directly taken, they all served as the inspiration for the show and that was the mission statement to try to stay faithful to that. And, of course, as storytellers and creatives, we want to put our own spin on it but, really, it had to come from that original nugget that was the strip.
Who’s your favorite Peanuts character and what’s your favorite past special?
Evestaff: I would say Snoopy or Woodstock, just because we were working so close to them and just being a big fan of the strip. In terms of specials, The Great Pumpkin, just in terms of the artistry and the idea that they pulled that off when they did and how they did is pretty remarkable.
Peanuts has been around since Charles Schulz launched it in 1950. As someone that’s worked on the characters and with the Schulz estate, what’s the secret sauce that keeps it going?
Evestaff: I think it’s that Charles Schulz did a lot of heavy lifting for us. [Laughs] That’s not to say it’s been easy for us, any show or endeavor like this is a big one; it takes a lot of time. But having this legacy to lean on and pull from and get inspiration from really does keep you going. It’s been the opportunity of a lifetime and dream come true to work on these characters with the crew that we have, it’s just been wonderful.
How has it been working with the Schulz family on this show?
Evestaff: It’s been good! They’ve been very supportive and so informative if I miss a step or don’t get something quite right. We try to get it right and honor the tradition and legacy and follow some of the rules step up by Mr. Schulz and try to get the posing right and the characters right and still try to tell good stories in seven minutes, with some emotional weight along with it.
Why are Snoopy and Woodstock your favorite?
Evestaff: It all kind of blends together now but it’s funny because as much as Snoopy wins when he’s put up against Charlie Brown — he’s the world’s best fighter pilot or all these other successful personas — he still can’t get a book published, it would get rejected. My through-line was him not getting to win.
Did that sort of through-line inform your approach?
Evestaff: It was more a point that it did show character depth. For our main characters, that kind of depth where they’re fully fleshed out [is also there], of course, Charlie Brown — that lovable loser-type — and then it’s hard not to bring up Lucy; the gang as a whole. When we first knew we wanted to do The Snoopy Show, that was certainly one of the ideas and one that everyone sort of gleaned on to but we didn’t want to lose sight of the neighborhood or the kids. We feature a focus on Snoopy but it wouldn’t be the show without the rest of the gang.
The last we saw Snoopy, he was in space! Was it there from the beginning to bring him back down to Earth?
Evestaff: It was. [Snoopy in Space] was a separate, educational initiative with NASA and Apple TV+. From my point of view, it was an opportunity to work with these iconic characters. They’re totally different but the idea with Snoopy in Space was to have an educational component. They were very, very different in that respect. Same animal but they were unrelated in that sense.
How was it working with the creative real estate and pacing for self-contained, seven-minute shorts?
Evestaff: Yeah, I’ve worked with 22 and eleven-minute [stories] before but we initially pitched this as seven minutes because we knew we wanted to pull these ideas from the strip. And so the idea of a comic strip just being a tasty morsel and translating it into something shorter so we couldn’t overstep it, we simplified the kind of stories we wanted to tell. And it felt like seven minutes was a real, nice length to do that.
While this is definitely faithful and timeless to the strip and original animated specials, what was something you wanted to bring with your own voice to this?
Evestaff: I think it was more about making sure we were just not messing up, it really was! I don’t want to take away from the tremendous work we did but we really did want to be faithful to the world that Charles Schulz created. The idea is not to put a stamp on it and still tell these stories. [Laughs] We want this to be an extension of Charles Schulz’s world. It took many very, very talented artists to create that vision with that in mind.
How is working with the Apple TV+ platform and is there room for more?
Evestaff: Hard for me to speculate on that but I guess we’ll see. They seem very excited about it, we’re very excited about it, we can’t wait to see what’s beyond it!
What are you especially proud of with this series?
Evestaff: Trying to be faithful to the world Mister Schulz created and, at the same time, set up these universal themes and tell these stories for the audience. It’s been said before but if you were to pitch these characters today, there’s a good chance people might not sign off on it; it might be a harder sell. For us as storytellers and artists, it was important to continue that tradition.
The Snoopy Show stars Ethan Pugiotto, Terry McGurrin, Rob Tinkler, Wyatt White, Isabella Leo, Hattie Kragten, Isis Moore and Holly Gorski and Jonathan Philip Martin. The series premieres February 5 on Apple TV+.
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