Christian movie-goers are likely to spot again the inclusion of Christianity's principles in the new "The Peanuts Movie" that debuted this month. This new movie uses digital animation to bring the beloved Peanuts' cartoon characters to life, continuing the tradition and legacy of comic strip creator Charles Schulz. The underdog character, Charlie Brown, in the new movie, says, as he's peering up at the night sky, "One of those stars is my star. And I know that my star will always be there for me, like a comforting voice saying 'don't give up, kid.'"
In a later scene, Brown says, "It's not often that you get the opportunity to start over with a clean slate."
Written by the son and grandson of Charles Schulz, Bryan Schulz, The Peanuts Movie has been referred to as two stories flawlessly woven into one movie - one that's positioned in the "real world" with Charlie Brown and his friends, and a second, fantastical alternate reality where Snoopy is once again facing off against his alter-ego, the Flying Ace.
Crosswalk contributor Christa Banister reviewed the new movie and stated: "Like the best films, the viewer is never beaten over the head with the underlying themes and messages, but you can always count on the Peanuts' characters having something valuable to say about kindness and friendship all the same. And that's something that hopefully will never go out of style, fingers crossed, anyway."
She also shared, "It's rare and refreshing to have a film like this to take your family to. Schultz's boldness for the gospel will continue to live on through his animated creation."
One fan, Latoya McHenry, from Kentucky, posted in social media, "I can't wait to see the Peanuts movie. I have all their cartoons they made and my kids watch them now. Just reminds us that we all got a Charlie Brown in us, too."
It isn't the first time people have seen glimmers of Biblical teachings in the Peanuts' creations, especially in the perennial television special from 1965 "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Jesse Carey, editor of Relevant Magazine, in an article titled "How 'Peanuts' Took Faith to Culture," stated: "Even when the Christmas special first aired in the mid-1960s, the decision to include the Bible passage was controversial. But Schulz's adamance and non-compromising creative vision paid off. That year, nearly half of the country tuned in to watch."
Carey states this about Schulz: "Schulz once explained, "'You can't create humor out of happiness.' I'm astonished at the number of people who write to me saying, 'Why can't you create happy stories for us? Why does Charlie Brown always have to lose? Why can't you let him kick the football?' Well, there is nothing funny about the person who gets to kick the football.''
It was an idea that was closely tied to faith, reasoned Carey: "Once you accept Jesus, it doesn't mean that all your problems are automatically solved," Schulz was quoted as saying. "God's grace never changes. It doesn't matter if we ever do kick the football, or if we fall down every time we try. He's always going to be there."
Some people list the Charlie Brown Christmas special with the season's soulful, iconic movies, such as "It's A Wonderful Life" - all works of art designed to remind that the meaning of Christmas is that there's always something more to the universe.
According to a 2015 "spiritual biography," Schulz's faith was complex and personal. Online sources state he often touched on religious themes in his work, particularly in the Christmas special when the character Linus van Pelt quoted the King James Version of the Bible Luke 2:8-14 to explain "what Christmas is all about." In personal interviews, Schulz mentioned that Linus represented his spiritual side, but the spiritual biography points out a much wider array of religious references from Schulz than just what Linus spoke.
Schulz, reportedly reared in a nominally Lutheran family, had been active in the Church of God as a young adult, and then later taught Sunday school at a United Methodist Church.
The Charlie Brown Christmas special airs Nov. 30 and Dec. 24 on ABC at 9 p.m. EST.