Peanuts: A Live-Action Adventure is a 2012 American live-action/animated periodical-action-adventure-comedy film based off of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts characters. It was directed by Gillian Armstrong, marking this the first comedy film to be directed by noted director (while Eric Goldberg directed the animation), and written by Bryan Schulz and Mike Millis, with a screenplay by Michael Colleary, and music composed by Michael Giacchino. The movie centers on comic strip-reader Steven Hartman (Bill Hader), Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp), and the other Peanuts characters as they embark on an adventure to stop the Peanuts-hating Michael Jones (Peter Dinklage) from destroying Hartman's favorite comic strip characters.
The film premiered on May 10, 2016, and is the sixth Peanuts feature-length film to be released, after The Peanuts Movie in November 6, 2015.
Set in 2001, Comic Strip Studios boss Adam A. Bruce (Danny McBride) announces to Charlie Brown that the company is facing a slow depletion of money because of the strip's cancellation, and in order to save the studio, the round-headed boy will have to add future strips. This makes Charlie Brown extremely nervous, thinking to himself that he will lose his job at Comic Strip Studios if his new comic strips go wrong. He gets advice from his friend Lucy van Pelt, who has her therapy booth mounted on a grass field outside the studio. Lucy, despite often being a bully, refuses to let her friend get fired from the studio and tells him that he should make some more Peanuts strip that eventually becomes funnier and funnier as it progresses. Charlie takes her advice and conversates to the photographers about the humor-elevating strip. After complex writing and increasing comedy, the strip is then released to the public where lots of people are now reading it and become overjoyed at the strips' style of humor.
Charlie Brown then reports on his idea to Bruce, causing him to do Snoopy's happy dance around the room. He then congratulates Charlie and gives him the next 15 days off, while also continuing the strip with a machine that allows the photographers to pose 2D images of the characters onto the panels.
As Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Sally and Lucy walk to their homes in their neighborhood, a 38 year-old comic strip-reader, Steven Hartman spots them and says to them that he has read all of their brand-new comic strips, including the older ones. He then asks them if he wants to hang out, so the Peanuts kids agree to let him stay at Charlie Brown's house.
Right at home, Charlie Brown gives Hartman a tour of his house, including the doghouse where Snoopy sleeps on top. After the tour is done, Steven then settles on Charlie Brown's couch (seemingly replacing the pillow or bean bag where he sits on to watch TV), while Lucy and Linus gather some popcorn snacks. Hartman then turns on the TV after the Peanuts characters (especially Snoopy who has somehow made up his mind to join Hartman) are accompanying him, booting up a channel showing a clip of the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He then changes to a black and white horror film, which causes Snoopy to leap in fear to the presence of the horror. Hartman then changes the channel one more time to the news, where the anchorman (Albert Brooks) is reporting that evil businessman, Michael Jones, is plotting to destroy the Peanuts due to his sheer hatred of them. The children, Hartman and Snoopy become shocked at this and conversate to each other on what will happen if Jones succeeds in completing his plan. Hartman tells them that they must stop the evil businessman from killing the gang as they are his favorite characters. But not before they get a printed map of Jones' location at the printer store.
Then everyone starts on their journey, but accidentally fall in a manhole infested by evil rats. Lucy tries to fend the rodents off, but the strongest of the rats knocks her out cold on her back, leaving the rest of the gang to do the fighting for her. They successfully defeat all of the rats by methods of tricking and Lucy regains consciousness, allowing everyone to progress on their journey.
They later end up at Michael Jones' office building, which is even taller than a mountain with 99 floors. But after voyaging 25 floors, they later get captured by Jones' businessmen minions, being locked up in a safe. The Peanuts, thinking that they have failed to stop Michael from executing his plan, gradually start to lose their hope, but Hartman lets his stay inside his soul and explains to the gang that they've got an idea to break out of there. He gets his backpack, brings out a big bottle of super glue, gathers some gold inside the safe, and glues the parts together to make a battering ram. Then he, Charlie and Sally Brown, Lucy and Linus van Pelt, Snoopy and Woodstock hold the ram and charge towards the safe's door, causing it to bust open, while also knocking out some men guarding the safe.
When they finally reach floor 99, they are horrified to discover that the door to Michael Jones' office is voice-activated with a secret password. But Hartman gets an idea, gets some business clothes from his backpack, a suitcase, and dresses in the business suit, taking on a disguise of one of Jones' businessmen henchmen. The Peanuts then hide in Hartman's suitcase, apparently uncomfortable by the suitcase's size. Hartman, in disguise, then walks to a businessman and asks for the secret password. The gullible and stupid businessman unable to see through Steven's disguise, asks him why he wants it, from which he gets an answer, ("Because Mr. Jones called me in and he would be very mad at me if I didn't come to his office"). The businessman does give him the password, ("Evil Business"). Now wielded with his key to the office, he presses the button next to the door, and a female computer voice (Amy Poehler) boots up on a speaker located above the door, asking him to say the secret password; ("Evil Business!"). The door then opens and Hartman gets inside.
Hartman then frees his Peanuts friends from the suitcase, now going dizzy for a temporary four seconds before regaining balance. But shortly after that, an elevator-like pillar comed down, with Michael Jones on it. With a maniacal chuckle, he greets Hartman with an evil "Hello", and sees Charlie Brown and his friends, causing him to greet them angrily. He then tells everyone that his hatred of the strip is a mystery and will never be revealed. He then pulls a lever next to him, bringing in an elephant-sized death ray gun called "The De-Peanutizer 9000", and after computing some codes on it's keyboard, he adjusts the dial to "R.I.P." and aims the gun at Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang. But before the ray gun can fire, Charlie Brown tackles Jones, allowing the others to shut down the gun. Charlie Brown pulls out a wooden pole behind his back, so does Michael, and they engage in a sword fight. Charlie Brown manages to break Jones' "sword", but it grows back, revealing itself to be a mechanical wooden pole and leaving Charlie Brown surprised. Jones then breaks Charlie's pole and knocks him out cold with a punch.
When Charlie Brown wakes up, he sees Michael's ray gun turned back on, and looking around he sees himself and his partners tied up to a vertical support beam. The Peanuts begin to lose hope again, getting ready to prepare for their death ray fate. But Hartman, still hope-filled, struggles from the rope until he is free and quickly crawls next to Jones' ray gun without being noticed. The laser energy loading data on the gun's screen the reaches to 100%, but the gun does not activate. Michael Jones, surprised, sees Hartman, having managed to block the death ray with a laser-proof plug. Steven then begins to fight Jones wrestling-style, until he manages to paralyze the evil businessman with the Boston crab move. Then, using a pocket knife kept inside his backpack, he slices the rope, freeing his Peanuts friends, but now they are in an even bigger problem: the death ray gun is beggining to overload because of the plug, and since it will take a long time to escape the building by going down floor-by-floor, the heroes have no other choice but to jump out of a window. As they are falling, the Peanuts children begin to panic because they think they will plummet to their doom, but are commanded by Hartman to hold onto him as he opens a little flap on his backpack, unveiling a parachute. They then glide to safety. Meanwhile, Michael's paralyzation wears off and he gets up, only to see his overloading death ray, which explodes as he is screaming. After reach ground safety, Charlie Brown and his friends then celebrate and walk home, and Jones emerges from the rubble, having managed to survive the destruction of his building, but is later caught by police and thrown into jail for "attempting to murder comic strip characters".
15 days have passed, and the Peanuts gang return to their job at Comic Strip Studios, causing the temporary posing machines to be permanently put out. A comic strip is then pubished to Steven, who as usual enjoys it. But soon he turns sad because he wants to be in a Peanuts strip too. Feeling bad for their adult pal, the children contact to Adam A. that their favorite comic strip-reader is wishing to be in some of their new strips. Their boss accepts and allows Hartman to be in some of the future strips. After the public release of the strips, Steven is happy again and returns home to add his new strips to his Peanuts comics collection book, while the Peanuts children joyfully return to their neighborhood.
In a mid-credits scene, Snoopy, who is sleeping on his doghouse, suddenly wakes up, puts on his aviator cap (assuming the alter-ego of The Flying Ace), and flies away.
The second mid-credits sequence is perfectly the same as the football gag in The Peanuts Movie, with modifications such as animation by Eric Goldberg, the environment being a grassy field outside Comic Strip Studios, and the additional animation of Charlie Brown getting up and walking offscreen to left at the end.
In a post-credits scene, we see Charlie Brown and Lucy being chased in circles around a tree outside the studio by Joe Agate. The two manage to climb up the tree, causing Joe to stop and search for Charlie and Lucy. Lucy pulls out a sack filled with footballs (possibly some footballs that she uses seperately in each football strip) and whistles to Joe. The bully looks up and Charlie Brown and Lucy, holding both sides of the sack, open it and dump the balls on Joe, burying him. Satisfied with their outsmart plan, the two drop from the tree and run away as Joe sticks his head out of the pile looking at them.
- Bill Hader as Steven Hartman, a 38 year-old man who has read all of the Peanuts strips and a friend of good ol' Charlie Brown and his friends. He carries a backpack which contains lots of items, including a parachute, and is most likely named after Charlie Brown's voice actor in It Was My Best Birthday Ever, Charlie Brown.
- Danny McBride as Adam A. Bruce, the short-tempered manager of Comic Strip Studios who rewards Charlie Brown the next 15 days off after the future Peanuts strips go successful.
- Peter Dinklage as Michael Jones, a Peanuts-hating businessman and the main antagonist of the film.
- Amy Poehler as Female Computer Security Door Voice
- Chris Pratt, Robert Downey Jr. and Paul Schneider as Evil Businessmen
- Albert Brooks as News Anchorman
- Noah Schnapp as Charlie Brown
- Hadley Belle Miller as Lucy van Pelt
- Alexander Garfin as Linus van Pelt
- Bill Melendez as Snoopy voice clips before Bill Melendez died
- Mariel Sheets as Sally Brown
- Max Charles as Joe Agate (post-credits scene only)
Scenes in the film were recorded using IMAX 3D cameras, although several other formats such as digital stereo 3D and 70mm were equipped.
Animation director Eric Goldberg explained that "this will be the first time animation of the Peanuts characters is more faster and smoother, matching his animation style".
Unlike other live-action/animated films after Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the animation of the characters followed the same steps as Roger Rabbit:
- The animators and lay-out artists were given black and white printouts of the live action scenes, placed their animation paper on top of them and drew the animated characters in relationship to the live action footage.
- After rough animation was complete, it would run through the normal process of traditional animation until the cels were shot on the rostrum camera with no background.
- The animated footage was then sent to Industrial Light & Magic for compositing, where technicians would animate three lighting layers (shadows, highlights and tone mattes) separately, in order to make the cartoon characters look three-dimensional and give the illusion of the characters being affected by the lighting on set.
- Finally, the lighting effects were optically composited on to the cartoon characters, who were, in turn, composited into the live-action footage.
- The film spent 2 weeks filming in New York City from
Michael Giacchino scored the film's music in most of its scenes, while some jazz music was composed by David Benoit, who was only credited in the "Additional Music by" credit and the special thanks in the credits.