Francesca Capaldi is used to working with animals as the youngest cast member of Disney Channel’s Dog with a Blog, a show about a canine who’s the most tech-savvy member of the family.
In The Peanuts Movie, in theaters, the 11-year-old actress got to interact with another dog with personality — and an old-school typewriter — the one and only Snoopy. Francesca voices The Little Red-Haired Girl, the object of Charlie Brown’s affection in Charles Schulz’s comic-strip classic brought to the big screen.
“I wish Snoopy were real!” Francesca said last week from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Miami. “I love him and how he dresses up.”
Director Steve Martino (Horton Hears a Who!) does not concur.
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“If Snoopy would have been in our recording sessions we’d still be working on the movie,” he said of the famed daydreaming beagle, laughing. “We would never have gotten anything done.”
The fact that Francesca is also a little red-haired girl was pure coincidence.
“It was just happenstance,” swore Martino. “I cast her purely on her voice. Then when she walked into the studio, I said ‘Omigosh! She is perfect.’”
Francesca, who played a young Alyson Hannigan in How I Met Your Mother, found voice-over work a nice change from acting in the flesh.
“It was so much fun to be able to go in and record and not really worry about what you look like or what you’re wearing!”
Being part of The Peanuts Movie, which follows the old gang including Peppermint Patty, Lucy, Linus, Pig Pen and Woodstock, was an education.
“I didn’t know the previous history,” Francesca said of the 65-year-old characters. “I know my parents loved it, but I didn’t realize how popular it was. Now I know why. The characters are so lovable, and I love how Charlie Brown is not perfect.”
Fifty-something Martino (Ice Age: Continental Drift) grew up with the comic strip and the TV specials but knew turning Peanuts into a full-scale production would require a special effort.
“That’s what motivated all of us — the artists, the animators —we felt this was our opportunity to stay true to the legacy and show our kids, as well as a new generation, a film to see the characters we grew up with.”
Especially Charlie Brown. After all, the lovable loser is the unlikely star.
“The wonderful thing about him is that he kind of represents the human condition,” says Martino. “He’s that voice for those feelings and thoughts we have inside but don’t share, wondering, ‘Will people like me? Will I succeed?’ He puts it all out there in a funny way. That’s timeless.”