Snoopy's in love

Snoopy's in love
A screen capture from The Peanuts Movie. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Snoopy has a date-and a girlfriend!

The good-natured beagle, the world's most famous comic-strip dog, will move on from his 65-year-long bachelor life in the upcoming animated feature film The Peanuts Movie.

The 20th Century Fox title will be released in 3-D and DMax versions in mainland cinemas on Nov 6, the same day as its global release.

Following two storylines, the tale narrates Snoopy's imaginary-world heroic rescue of the adorable puppy Fifi, and his best human pal Charlie Brown's too-shy-to-speak-out love of a red-haired new classmate.

"The new character, Fifi, who was mentioned many times in the comic strip but never drawn, is a big part of Snoopy's adventure," says director Steve Martino, who is known for Ice Age: Continental Drift, during a media event in Beijing on Oct 14.

To attract more Chinese, Martino reveals that the crew has designed many 3-D effects for the world's second-largest market, which has an overwhelming number of 3-D screens in the nation's 5,800 theaters.

Since the American cartoonist Charles M. Schulz created Snoopy in 1950, the naughty boy-like dog has influenced several generations and has become a cultural icon in the United States.

At the peak of its popularity, the Peanuts' strips were serialized in more than 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries.

On April 9, 1965, Time magazine selected Snoopy and his human friends-Charlie Brown, Linus, Schroeder and Lucy-to feature on the cover.

Then in 1969, the Apollo 10 crew named the lunar module "'Snoopy" and labeled the Apollo command module "Charlie Brown".

For most Chinese adults, the earliest memory of the black-and-white beagle may be traced back to early 1980.

Though the last cinematic adaptation was released around 35 years ago, Snoopy still commands high recognition thanks to his image's wide use on spin-off products, such as toys, costumes and school stationery.

Snoopy's micro blog is followed by nearly 350,000 fans on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. On the country's largest online platform, Baidu Tieba, up to 77,200 comments can been traced on a forum named after the puppy.

To stay faithful to Snoopy and the Peanuts gang was a big challenge to Martino and his team.

"When I first talked with the Schulz family, one of their main intentions was to keep Schulz' legacy alive for a new generation," Martino tells China Daily.

"I always wanted to look around Charlie Brown and Snoopy's world when I was a kid ... and I really hope Chinese audiences will go into Charlie Brown and his dog's world and take it as real," says the director, who received his first Snoopy-related gift when he was 6.

According to Western media reports, the Schulz family owns 20 percent of licensing rights of the Peanuts gang, and has the final say on the cinematic adaptations. In recent years, they have been hesitant to revisit the classic roles on the big screen.

Martino, 56, and his main assistants, who led a team of around 100 animators, studied nearly 18,000 Peanuts strips and analyzed the lead characters' facial and body characteristics through different decades.

Computer analysis showed that a slew of minor parts, such as Snoopy's nose and Charlie Brown's hairstyle, had evolved during the 50 years from 1950 to 2000. The final Snoopy model is built on a composite of the 1980s and 1990s drawings.

When asked about Snoopy's cultural significance, Martino notes that the dog is one of the oldest and largest balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

"Snoopy is a very simple and appealing design with a beautiful shape. Schulz put humanity into him and he said Snoopy was everything that he wanted to be," says Martino, who believes Snoopy in some sense represents the US spirit of optimism and bravery.

Some critics who attended a sneak preview of the film by 20th Century Fox in its Beijing office in October told China Daily that it was a "heart-warming, happy" production.

"It could be defined as an old-school tale with stereotyped Hollywood humor. For the booming Chinese mainland market, it may not be attractive and charming enough to generate big box office," says one viewer who prefers to be anonymous.

"But it's worth buying tickets for nostalgia. After so many years, Snoopy is still a sincere and inspiring dog, a friend dreamed of by every child."