NEWINGTON — Newington native Cornelius Uliano grew up loving Charles M. Schulz's classic comic strip, "Peanuts." Now, more than 20 years later, Uliano has given voice to the characters he adored.
The 30-year-old Hollywood screenwriter co-wrote "The Peanuts Movie," which opens in theaters Nov. 6, with Craig and Bryan Schulz, Schulz's son and grandson, respectively.
Uliano has written and sold numerous screenplays, but "The Peanuts Movie" will be the first film of one of his scripts to be theatrically released.
"This is definitely a very exciting time," Uliano said. "We're very excited to finally share [the movie] with the world. We've been working on it for three years."
Uliano, who has lived in California since college, might have hit the big time, but he has not forgotten his roots. He arranged a special screening of the film for Newington residents on Nov. 6, with the proceeds going to support Extravaganza, the town's annual summertime bash.
"I grew up going to that every summer," Uliano said. "I still go every year. I think it's a really special thing, and I want to make sure it's there year after year for people to enjoy."
Parks and Recreation Superintendent Bill DeMaio said that the screening, which is Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Bow Tie Cinemas in Hartford, sold out all 400-plus tickets in just two days. The event, which Uliano will attend, will include a Linus blanket contest and Charlie Brown and Snoopy look-alike contests, DeMaio said.
"I think this is going to bring the community together," he said. "We'll all be able to congregate at the movie theater. We'll all be able to celebrate successful people from Newington as well as have fun activities."
Uliano said one of the greatest challenges of writing the screenplay was staying true to the language of Schulz's beloved characters. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the gang all spoke differently than kids today, he said.
"You can't just write modern-day language for these guys," Uliano said. "It took a lot of thought to make sure we used the right language, the right humor, the right cadence."
Uliano said he has been struck by how beloved the "Peanuts" comic strip is around the world. "Getting it right" was therefore very important to him and others involved in the project, he said.
"The legacy that Charles Schulz created with 'Peanuts' is monumental across the globe," Uliano said. "It's been a big undertaking to be part of this project, but that's what's so exciting to me. We wanted to make sure that people who love the comic strip will go to the movie and love it like the first time they read it."
That effort to assure continuity with Schulz's vision extended to the animation, Uliano said. Making the movie look like the comic strip's classic 1960s TV specials wasn't easy, he said. That modern animators work digitally, while the original Peanuts was drawn, added to the challenge.
"Those animators had to do a lot of research to get it right," Uliano said. "There were a lot of challenges. It took many years to do this."
So are there more "Peanuts" movies in the offing? Uliano isn't saying for now.
"For us, it was a matter of putting all of our resources into this one and putting our best foot forward," he said. "We'll see what's to come later."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct that Bryan Schulz is Charles Schulz's grandson.