It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown

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It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown
Genre Animation/live-action TV special
Format Cartoon/live action
Created by Charles M. Schulz
Written by Charles M. Schulz
Monte Schulz
Directed by Walter C. Miller
Starring Jill Schulz
Mollie Boice
Greg Deason
Steve Stoliar
Jason Riffle
Bill Melendez
Composer(s) Paul Rodriguez
Country of origin USA
Original language(s) English
Production
Executive producer(s) Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates
Producer(s) Bill Melendez
Lee Mendelson
Running time 50 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel CBS
Original airing September 27, 1988
Chronology
Preceded by Snoopy!!! The Musical
Followed by Why, Charlie Brown, Why?

It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown is the 32nd prime-time animated TV special based upon the popular comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. The special is a hybrid of animation and live action footage, and features Spike instead of the core Peanuts characters. A spin-off focused on Spike's unrequited love for a young woman, it was described as similar to Beauty and the Beast.[1]

Plot[edit]

Spike waves to a young woman driving a red pickup truck through the desert of Needles, California every day; it is the highlight of his day. In this combined animated and live-action special, we meet the young woman, aerobics instructor Jenny, who wants to be a big city jazz dancer. She and Spike drive around, looking at the desert scenery and spending some time at a roller rink. However, when Spike is accidentally thrown out of the rink he runs off, and is pursued by people on a nighttime coyote hunt.

A sub-plot sees Jenny's boyfriend, Jeff, set up an audition for her, which she is angry about because he did it without consulting her.[2]

Production[edit]

It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown is a departure from the usual Peanuts specials. Apart from the animated introduction, the entire show is a mixture of live-action and animation. While most specials include a variety of characters from the comic strip, like Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, to name a few, this program is centered on Spike, Snoopy's brother.[3]

The film starts with a brief animated introduction by Charlie Brown and Snoopy, introducing the character of Spike to audiences. Schulz apparently was against this scene, feeling that fans would already be familiar with the supporting character.

Production of the film took four years, and cost “millions of dollars”.[4] A serious film buff who watched both foreign and art films,[3] Schulz commented, “I wanted this to be my Citizen Kane, but it's not.”[3]

Many cast members were from Schulz's friends, family, or neighbourhood. His daughter Jill was cast in the lead role of “the girl”, while son Monty Schulz helped write the script. Bit player Mollie Boice was discovered by Schulz from a Santa Rosa Little Theatre production of The Oldest Living Graduate.[5]

Director Walter Miller's regular projects include the Academy Awards telecast, and was used to working with name actors. Miller and Schulz had previously worked together, when the director worked on a broadcast of a Peanuts ice show. The movie's music was provided by Paul Rodriguez, who composed for Redwood Empire's ice shows.[5]

As the animation/live-action technique requires, characters were animated later to work with the motions of the live actors. On occasion, Spike would be the only character to appear on screen, meaning only the set would be filmed. Director Miller commented “I never shot so much plain brown dirt in my life.”

Fake saguaro cacti were purchased for a thousand dollars each, as the actual cacti in the desert were not placed right for the action. The truck featured cost just $300, “and looks it”.[5]

Critical reaction[edit]

It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown was not well received upon its initial airing. The special suffered due to its release just weeks after the popular theatrically released feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The next day, This is America, Charlie Brown aired "The Birth of the Constitution". It was originally titled The Girl in the Red Truck, and supposed to air in March.[6]

Numerous production delays caused the program to be aired in 1988, shortly after Who Framed Roger Rabbit.[3] Roger Rabbit is widely considered to have significantly helped heralding in the Disney Renaissance, and the rebirth of American feature animation in general. While films throughout the ages have used a mix of animation and live action (the Alice comedies, Song of the South, Mary Poppins), Schulz worried that viewers would assume he copied the new film's technique. Jill Schulz was instructed by her father to clearly emphasize the program's conception date during interviews.[5] The New York Times decided "the similarities between the two are superficial", describing it as "relatively primitive" and "generally clumsy", the interaction was "not terribly convincing". Of the show's plot, he commented that the "story goes nowhere."[2]

Schulz's daughter had been shouldering most of the blame.[7] John J. O'Connor, critic for The New York Times wrote "Part of the problem may be that this production is a family project, the sort of thing that gets bogged down in good intentions and parental pride... Although Ms. Schulz is perky and likable, and she does a passable dance routine on roller skates, her performance does little or nothing to enliven the spiritless proceedings."[2] Schulz notes his daughter's stated that the director was very strict, often yelling at her.

As of Good Grief being written in 1989, Schulz was still considering further attempts at a “masterpiece”. Johnson suggested it might be “a quiet story about cancer”, inspired by the special Why, Charlie Brown, Why?[7]

So far, the special received mixed reviews. Recently, Metlife used the Peanuts characters in cartoon form for their live-action commercials.[8]

Voice Cast[edit]

  • Jason Riffle- Charlie Brown (voice briefly)
  • Steven Solifar- French Teacher on Cassette (voice briefly)
  • Jill Schulz- Jenny
  • Molly Brice- Molly
  • Greg Deacon- Jeff
  • Bill Melendez- Spike (voice)

Snoopy has brief cameo appearances but is silent.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rheta Grimsley Johnson, Good grief: the story of Charles M. Schulz, New York, NY: Pharos Books, 1989. ISBN 0-88687-553-6. Chapter 17: “My Citizen Kane”, page 197.
  2. ^ a b c O'Connor, John J. (1988-09-27). "Review/Television; Snoopy's Brother Loves A Human, Charlie Brown". The New York Times (New York, New York: The New York Times Company). p. C22. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  3. ^ a b c d Johnson, page 196.
  4. ^ Johnson, page 195.
  5. ^ a b c d Johnson, page 197.
  6. ^ Culhane, John (1987-12-27). "Television; An Animated '88 Awaits On The Drawing Board". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  7. ^ a b Johnson, page 198.
  8. ^ "Metlife - YouTube". 

External links[edit]