NEW YORK — Everyone knows that Charlie Brown’s nemesis is a kite-eating tree. But the “Peanuts” hero is hoping to cool that kind of rivalry as we head into Earth Day and Arbor Day.
A new “Peanuts” special debuting on Apple TV+ on Friday celebrates the environment and highlights that even tiny changes can help the Earth. “It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown” also has an original new song by Ben Folds. Earth Day is on April 22.
In the 40-minute film, Charlie Brown's hope to finally win the neighborhood championship baseball game is derailed when his little sister, Sally, tries to protect a dandelion growing on the pitcher's mound. Soon everyone is cleaning up the ballfield.
“Charlie Brown kind of represents probably 90% of the population and doesn’t really want to take on any challenges with the world. And here's Sally, representing the new generation that really does care about the small things and realizes that small things can make a difference,” said Craig Schulz, son of the late “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz, and who co-wrote the teleplay and helped executive produce the new film.
It's one of several ways the cartoon gang is celebrating the Earth this year. “Peanuts” is also opening its vault to release one of its classic cartoons, 1976's “It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown,” on Apple TV+ on April 29 — Arbor Day. And a new original short video, “We Need Our Trees,” is at Peanuts’ YouTube channels in the U.S. and abroad, and GoNoodle.com.
“The ‘Peanuts’ universe can integrate with what’s going on in the world,” Schulz said. “There’s obviously more to come and more great stories to tell. This cast is so rich and diverse that the stories almost seem endless.”
The project is a part of Peanuts Worldwide’s recent “Take Care With Peanuts" initiative, which encourages global citizenship through three key efforts: Take care of yourself, take care of each other and take care of the Earth.
The company is also continuing with its global tree-planting project, which includes everything from a community-based urban garden in Chicago to restoring forests around Nepal’s Chitwan National Park. Lesson plans for K–2 and 3–6 students that explore the importance of trees are available for free download on Peanuts.com.
All of the “Peanuts” content springs from the 18,000 strips that Charles M. Schulz left behind, which Melissa Menta, head of marketing for Peanuts Worldwide, calls “the Bible of the brand.” In it are stories of failure and frustration but also friendship and kindness, both to people and the planet.
“It’s just very genuine, so you don’t get hit over the head — well, maybe one of the characters hits somebody on the head — but the messages are really subtle and clever,” Menta said. "I always say every generation should feel like ‘Peanuts’ is their generation."
In the new special, Charlie Brown will be voiced by Tyler Nathan, who provided the character's voice in several other Apple TV+ titles.
Other TV and streaming programing that honors Earth Day includes two documentaries from Disney+/National Geographic: “Explorer: The Last Tepui,” featuring climbers ascending a 1,000 foot (304 meter) sheer cliff, and “The Biggest Little Farm: The Return,” which revisits John and Molly Chester on their 10-year journey to breathe life back into a dried up farm. (Both on Disney+ April 22.)
Paramount+ is launching a special new carousel titled “Earth Through Different Lenses” on its homepage on Monday filled with documentaries highlighting the work being done by environmentalists around the world.
And discovery+ has a documentary narrated by Ryan Reynolds that outlines 10 things we can do right now to cut carbon dioxide from our lives, including eating less meat, planting more trees and washing fewer clothes. “Curb Your Carbon” is available on the streaming site April 21.
Val Lick contributed to this report.