Prompted by my friend Todd‘s exhortation to download a Star Wars fan film, last night I downloaded “Beagle,” a two-minute long animated short following Snoopy and Woodstock in the Rebel attack on the original Death Star over Yavin IV.
I’ve watched it five times now, and each time I’ve been disappointed.
First, “Beagle” doesn’t recreate in any way the animation style Bill Melendez used in the Charlie Brown cartoons. Someone watching “Beagle” would know instantly that it’s not at all the same as watching, say, “Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown!” “Beagle” looks like a three-dimensional cel-shaded video game rather than an animated short in the Charlie Brown mould.
Second, the failure to use any recognizable Vince Guaraldi or Dave Grusin piano-based Charlie Brown theme lessens the connection between “Beagle” and the Charlie Brown cartoons. In “Beagle”‘s defence there is a piano being used, but there’s no melody to the background music, nor is the underscore particularly catchy or memorable.
Third, “Beagle” simply recreates the Death Star run from Star Wars without really adding anything new. Pull out Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing, drop in Snoopy’s doghouse, and that’s exactly what you get. The cartoon really looks like the filmmaker took the frames from Star Wars, processed them to give each frame a cel-shaded look, and checked his creativity at the door.
Fourth, the final scene in the short–of Charlie Brown appearing with the food dish–simply feels wrong, as if the filmmakers completely misunderstood the whole Charlie Brown mythos. The scene of Snoopy in space dissolves and suddenly Charlie Brown stands there holding the food dish, breaking the fantasy world in a way more akin to Calvin & Hobbes rather than the Peanuts ethos.
The one thing “Beagle” gets right is the muffled voice of Obi-Wan, recreating the “Wah, wah, wah” adult voices used in the Charlie Brown cartoons. That would have been the only moment, out of Beagle’s two-plus minutes, where I felt that the filmmakers understood anything about the world of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
Sorry, Todd, but “Beagle” is not recommended.