‘Lucy’s School’ Creative Principals Discuss the New Back-to-School Peanuts Special

This Friday, family audiences can click on to Apple TV+ to learn a valuable lesson from Charles Schulz’s iconic Peanuts gang in the new animated special, Lucy’s SchoolFeaturing a new original song by She & Him, the film is described as “a love letter to teachers,” and the perfect balm for the worries of kids starting a new school this fall. The special premieres alongside new episodes of The Snoopy Show and just in time for Snoopy’s birthday this weekend. To celebrate, we received an enlightening lesson on making Lucy’s School from writers & executive producers Craig Schulz and Cornelius Uliano and director Raymond S. Persi (It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown):

Lucy’s School

Animation Magazine: Can you tell us a bit about the genesis of this special?

Craig Schulz: The idea for the special came to me as I was watching a group of kids being home schooled at our ice arena, Snoopy’s Home Ice, in Santa Rosa, California. I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if Lucy decided she could teach better than real teachers, being that she was always a “know it all”? Working with Bryan and Cornelius, we then thematically changed it to the final version to become more of a love letter to teachers, showcasing how difficult it is to be a teacher, and Lucy would learn that in the special.

Cornelius Uliano: We really wanted this to be a love letter to teachers from very early on. It was through Lucy’s naivety — thinking she could have an endless summer by teaching the kids to pass this test and graduate early — that we could show just how difficult it actually is to be a teacher. It is such a selfless job. Teachers spend hours outside the classroom grading homework and creating lesson plans, they even spend their own money to buy supplies for their classroom. We wanted to try to spotlight some of these actions in this story.

As it evolved throughout the development process, we also focused on the theme about being afraid of change, and that it is okay to be afraid of change. And this of course is a really great message for children who are starting school for the first time or transitioning to a new school. Everyone experiences change in their life, and it can be scary, but we can all get through it together.

 

Lucy’s School

 

How long did it take to creat the special?

Craig: From the onset of the idea to the final product, most of these specials take about a year and a half to complete. It involves many steps and many people to complete one.

Cornelius: We had the initial seed of this idea back in 2018. As we started to develop ideas for the initial first group of specials, there were four stories that quickly rose to the top that we knew we wanted to produce first. One of those was Lucy’s School.” Once we hit the ground running and our script was approved by WildBrain and Apple TV+ it was about a year of production until the final product was delivered.

 

Where was the animation produced and which animation tools were used?

Raymond S. Persi: The special was primarily produced in Vancouver at WildBrain Studios. However, like most animation productions over the past few years, we had people working remotely on it all over the world. I’m looking forward to meeting most of my coworkers in person one day!

Both Toon Boom Storyboard Pro and Adobe Photoshop were used by our board artists and the animation was created in Harmony. To aid our pipeline, production used SyncSketch, ShotGrid and Flix.

 

Lucy’s School

 

What do you love best about this special?

Cornelius: What I love most about this special is how we tap into the feelings we all have as children as another summer comes to an end. We don’t want that magic of summer to go away. We don’t want school to start. And we took those emotions to the extreme in this story. But we also make these characters understand the importance of education and going through school and the positive impact it has on your life.

Raymond: It feels like now more than ever, it’s important to remind people of how important teachers are. I’m so happy to have this be the message of the special. I’m also excited that we had the band She & Him perform two great songs for us. Their sound fits perfectly with the tone of this special and Peanuts in general.

[Listen to the track “Back to School” here.]

 

Lucy’s School

 

What was the toughest part of this project?

Cornelius: The toughest part of the process was the early stages of development and writing the script. It was finding the right tone of the story and figuring out the best way to use Lucy’s character and voice to tell that story. The many ways we were going to show how tough it was to be a teacher but also servicing the larger story about fear and change. It’s all a balancing act, and it takes many drafts of a screenplay to discover what works best and find the most efficient way to tell the story.

Raymond: This entire project was tough! What’s great is, no matter how much we pushed to elevate the story or how difficult the animation could be, everyone on the team was up for the challenge. We had the common goal of making this be the best that it could be.

 

What do you love about Lucy’s character, and why do you think she has been so popular over the years?

Craig: Lucy is always fun to write about. In her mind, she is always right, she stands up for whatever she believes is correct, and is both a loving friend to all, yet can pass on tough love to those that come to her for psychiatric advice.

Cornelius: What I love most about Lucy is that she is very confident and strong, and she isn’t afraid to speak her mind when she has a strong opinion about something. And what I truly admire about her is there is more to her personality than you think. A lot of people feel she is very bossy or mean but, in fact, she is so much more than that. There is a lot of heart to her character. She is a good sister and she will always be there for you if you need a helping hand. And hey, she gives out advice for a nickel. You can’t beat that in today’s economy.

 

Lucy’s School

 

What are some of your upcoming plans for the Peanuts franchise?

Craig: Given that there are so many great characters in the Peanuts universe, we are always thinking of new stories to tell and explore other characters with the comic strip. I would say, just stand by, and keep checking the listings in Apple TV+.

 

What’s the most memorable response you’ve had to these new specials for Apple TV+?

Cornelius: One thing I am so happy to hear from the audience is that they love that we are focusing these stories on characters who normally aren’t the main focus in other Peanuts specials in the past. That was one thing we all told ourselves when we had the idea to make these new specials. We wanted to push the envelope emotionally and we wanted to tell stories that highlight other members of the Peanuts Gang.

Lucy’s School premieres Friday, August 12 exclusively on Apple TV+.

From Left, Craig Schulz, Raymond Persi and Cornelius Uliano

 

 

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