On Snoopy and the Death Star Run

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.

4 thoughts on “On Snoopy and the Death Star Run

  1. See, everything you say is what I liked…Yes, I would have liked Vince Guaraldi’s music, but it was remenicint…so I assume it was an intentional thing. (Though copyrighted music is rarely a barier in fan films).

    The Three D Cell shading is the medium the cartoonist is working in. I liked it.

    It was remenisent of..maybe the Halloween special, but I think it was one of the shorts…of Snoopy in a WW1 Battle, with the footage being desaturated and different than he was on his dog house.

    i do think that Snoopy’s ears should have hung below the helmet, rather than being tucked up.

  2. Hi there, I’m the guy who made Beagle. I Google myself occasionally to see if anyone’s linking to me, and I found this. I think it’s the first really in depth negative review I’ve gotten. It’s an interesting experience, and I feel honored, in a weird way, that someone cares enough to write this much about my movie.

    I’ll try to explain the reasons for some of the things you didn’t like.

    First of all, the animation style. Yes, it’s not at all like that of the real Peanuts movies. I’m a 3D animator, I animated it in 3D. Of course somebody watching it would know it’s not the same. It’s not supposed to be a direct copy of the style of either Peanuts or Star Wars, it’s a hybrid of both of them plus my own style, which is of course different.

    The music would have been better if it was the real Peanuts music, yeah. The thing is, I made this intending to enter it in the official Atomfilms Star Wars fanfilm contest, which requires everything to be totally legal, so no copyrighted music. Maybe I should have changed it after it didn’t get accepted, but since it’s already, like the animation, a hybrid of the Peanuts and Star Wars styles, I’m not sure exactly how that could be dealt with.

    Everything but the doghouse remains the same, but that’s the *point*. This is the sort of thing a little kid reenacting Star Wars would do. It’s Star Wars through Snoopy’s eyes. He’s in the same situation that Luke was in, but reacts in his own way.

    The transition in the last shot, well, it was just supposed to be a joke about Charlie Brown’s head being round (of which there are many in Peanuts). There are a few other ways it could be interpreted, but I don’t think any of them are inherently unlike Peanuts. It certainly wasn’t intended to be “breaking” the fantasy world – Snoopy wasn’t interrupted (like Calvin often is), he finished his mission and came back.

  3. Jacob, thank you for coming by. I appreciate having you post your comments on my review of “Beagle,” and I trust that you saw that my comments on your film were meant in a constructive manner.

    Rereading what I wrote a few days ago I see that many of my comments boil down to, “It’s not Peanuts.” There’s a reason for that–the Peanuts comic strip means a great deal to me.

    I took a look at your webpage, followed the links from there to a review thread at TheForce.net. It surprised me to see other viewers saying that they laughed at it–despite my disappointment in the film I found “Beagle” to have a melancholic air about it, partly because of the dischordant piano, and partly because of the way I interpreted the final scene. Not, perhaps, the reaction you’d expect.

    Once again, Jacob, I want to thank you for coming by. Despite my criticisms of the film I appreciate the time that went into making “Beagle” and I applaud you for the effort.

    Best wishes!

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