Good grief! New Peanuts videos released online

NEW YORK (AP) -- Barack Obama, John McCain ... or Linus?

In a batch of 20 new webisodes, Charlie Brown and the gang have been brought back to animated life, much in the style of their classic holiday TV specials. But Lucy, Snoopy and others have been remade for the Web in 3- to 4-minute videos taken directly from classic 1964 comic strips.

In one of them, Linus runs for class president, only to be bedeviled by a controversial skeleton from his past: his strident belief in his Halloween hero, the Great Pumpkin.

Linus pleads: "In my administration, children will be children and adults will be adults!"

The videos are all new, made with Flash animation and new voices for the characters. But even though it's new technology, attention has been paid to maintaining the integrity of both the strip and its beloved animation specials.

"You're not trying to change it," said Jeannie Schulz, widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. "You're trying to keep it the same and freshen it."

The score, for example, is reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi's famous jazz that accompanied the "Peanuts" television specials.

Beginning Monday, for only a limited time, fans will be able to download two episodes of the series for free on Apple's iTunes. Otherwise, two bundled episodes are available for 99 cents each, or the full season for $7.99.

The videos were made by Warner Bros.' Motion Comics, which has previously brought strips of Batman, Superman and Watchmen to animated life. The Peanuts project was done with the involvement of the Schulz family and estate, which monitored the adaptation.

"Our interest was in keeping the integrity of the Peanuts strip," said Jeannie Schulz. "They've done a very cute job of making it really look like the old animation, but better. Better in that it's brighter, the voices are still cute and charming."

She adds, though, that too much animation technology - like CG animation - wouldn't be fitting for the simplistic style of the Peanuts strip and cartoons.

"CG doesn't quite look right with them," said Schulz. "I still love that funny way they walk along."

But what would the Peanuts creator - who died in 2000 at the age of 77 - think of his old strips showing up decades later, fully animated on laptops and cell phones?

"I'm sort of glad that Sparky - Mr. Schulz - isn't alive (to see it)" laughs his wife. "But even though he would not understand why people wanted to look at things on their telephone, he understood stories and telling stories."


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