The Loch Ness Monster gives The Great Pumpkin a run for his money in Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown.
Can a new Peanuts special ever stack up to the originals? Given that there’s been no shortage of Peanuts stories over the years, companies seem committed to trying. What Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown has that the others don’t is a fascinating backstory.
While it ended up never being produced, Charles Shultz and Bill Melendez did pursue a Peanuts special set in Scotland. It would’ve been called ‘Will Ye No Come Back Again, Charlie Brown?’ Melendez’s storyboards for the film were even found at Schultz Studios and a few of them are included in the backmatter of Jason Cooper and Rob Pope’s graphic novel adaptation.
While Schultz and Melendez are the inspiration for this version, what these storyboards also show is how much Cooper and Pope have put their own mark on this story and didn’t just follow Schultz and Melendez’s lead. In Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown is pen pals with a young girl from Scotland, who writes to him about an international arts and music festival that’s coming up. When Charlie Brown decides he wants to go, he doesn’t consider how long it will take for Morag to get his letter and her response back doesn’t arrive until he’s on the plane.
Charlie Brown’s trip to Scotland has its hiccups, but what stands out about Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown is how happy Charlie Brown gets to be. Lucy tells him at one point, “…you haven’t come by the booth in weeks!” [as in her advice booth] and it’s so refreshing to see a Charlie Brown story where it’s not a constant deluge of footballs being pulled away and kites getting stuck in trees. Morag isn’t Charlie Brown’s first crush, but whereas the Little Red-Haired Girl brought out his insecurities, Charlie Brown gets to put himself out there with Morag. Things go wrong (because it’s still the Peanuts) but it’s not all gloom and doom. Rather letterers, Donna Almendrala and Bryan Stone, get to show how mushy Charlie Brown is by having the speech bubbles reflect how he’s feeling.
Pope’s art feels very true to Schultz’s style, while Hannah White’s colors (with color assists by Jewel Jackson) add an infectious energy. In an interview that’s included as part of the backmatter Pope touches on using familiar settings, like the brick wall where Linus and Charlie Brown have conversations. Meanwhile for the different cities in Scotland, there’s usually an establishing shot at the top of the page with a busier background that signals a new location.
While the storyboards show more of the Peanuts gang tagging along, Cooper and Pope limit Charlie Brown’s travel companions to Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, and Snoopy. This ends up being great, because it allows all of the characters to have their own storylines and reasons for going to Scotland. They’re not just there to follow Charlie Brown around and some of the payoff scenes are series long, like Lucy getting acknowledged by Schroeder (you’ll have to read to find out how). There are also some scenes by Cooper that feel very sympatico with what other Peanuts specials have done, like Sally insisting Charlie Brown bring her back souvenirs, which feels akin to her Christmas list in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown is on sale now from Boom! Studios.