Marcie would hate the latest “Peanuts” special.
That’s because she’s front and center in “Snoopy Presents: One-of-a-Kind Marcie,” an uncomfortable role for a youngster who would rather hole up in the public library than attend one of Schroeder’s dance parties.
In the cartoon, which premiered Friday on Apple TV+, Marcie gets appointed class president after the other students discover she’s secretly upgrading their lives in important ways — such as making sure the cafeteria doesn’t run out of pizza.
It’s the kind of attention someone like Marcie dreads. She’d rather be Peppermint Patty’s caddie than swing the club herself. And that’s just fine.
“We really push people to be leaders and be in the spotlight, but you don’t have to do that to make change and do good in the world,” director Raymond S. Persi said earlier this month during a video call that also included executive producer Craig Schulz, son of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz. “It’s nice having a special like that.”
The junior Schulz, who was born in St. Paul in 1953, said the writers were inspired by “Hidden Figures,” the 2016 film about women who played a major role in launching John Glenn into space.
“And then, through my love of golf, I came up with the idea of making her the most disrespected person on the planet, which is the golf caddie,” he said.
“The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz,” a new exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, does a nice job of tracking Marcie’s life story, starting with her 1971 debut in the strip. But to casual fans, she’s been pegged only as Patty’s loyal sidekick. In fact, some have suggested that the pair are gay, a theory that Schulz quickly dismisses.
“One, they are 5 years old. I don’t know if a kid that age even knows what gay is. Then we discover later that both Patty and Marcie are in love with Charlie Brown,” Schulz said. “So I take the gay thing off the table. But if people want to see what they want to see, more power to them.”
Making Marcie come alive on the screen posed challenges for Persi.
How do you show off this character who is kind of soft-spoken and not super-energetic most of the time?” he said. “She doesn’t even really have eyes to express with.”
Persi solved the problem by giving Marcie a vivid imagination so he could animate her fear and hopes. His team also concluded that she’d be more observant than most, giving them the excuse to spend extra care on details like ripples in the pond and leaves floating off trees.
Persi and Schulz are now working at showcasing another fan favorite. “Welcome Home, Franklin,” debuting next year, will focus on the strip’s first Black character.
Schulz vividly remembers his dad going to the closet and pulling out mail from Southern readers who objected to Franklin’s first appearance in 1968.
“Where does all that hate come from that would cause people to write a cartoonist just because he put a Black character in a comic strip?” Schulz said. “That’s why we want to tell his story.”
Persi has one more character he’d like to see get more attention.
“I think it would be really fun to see a Pig-Pen special,” he said. “He’s a little dirty guy that people give the stink-eye to, but he’s the most confident of the kids with the least amount of anxiety and hangups. There’s something really fun about exploring that.”
(Neal Justin covers the entertainment world, primarily TV and radio, for the Star Tribune.)
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