Sunday, June 29, 2014

“Peanuts” interview: Christopher deFaria (Peppermint Patty in Thanksgiving)

Introduction to the Peanuts interview series (including the list of interviewees).


How old were you when you portrayed Peppermint Patty in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving?

When was that?


I was 13. But it was recorded when I was 11.

Where were you living at the time?

San Mateo, on the way to moving to San Francisco.

Were you a Peanuts fan? Had you seen any of the previous animated
Peanuts specials? 

I’d been in a couple of them before. I started as Pig-Pen [in A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)]. I had one line, I think. I think when Lee Mendelson starting making these, he used kids of friends. It was a small family of voices who were working there. None of the big stars ever did other roles.

Did you read

Sure, who didn’t then? There was a [1978 TV series] called the Fabulous Funnies [which presented animated versions of popular comic strips]. The funnies were so relevant back then.

How were you hired? 

I was friends with the Mendelson family. I have two sisters and my dad had worked with Lee—not in animation, other stuff. One of my other sisters, Gabrielle [credited as Gail], was Peppermint Patty first. I took over and did it for six shows, including the movie [Snoopy, Come Home]. I think my sister went to record one of the shows—the one before, You’re in Love, Charlie Brown, I think—and her voice had changed. I was on a playground and we got a phone call for me to go over to see if this would work.

What other shows had you appeared in? 

I had been an extra in TV shows produced in Northern California. Nothing really big. Small business up there at the time.

Any funny stories from the experience? 

I kept it a secret the entire time. I had a nickname at the time, Kip. Everyone knew me as Kip, so I wanted them to credit me as Chris so people wouldn’t know I was playing a girl. Lee did direct line readings [with the young voice actors]. We’d get through the material that way. Most memorable was the first time we heard the Vince Guaraldi music. Even at that age I knew it was something special.

Was anything hard about the process? 

No. It was so novel. All my dad kept saying is “This is going to pay for college, kid.”

I assume it didn’t?

It did for a fair amount!

Did you record in the same room at the same time as the other actors? 

The only time they did that was for photo shoots. I think there was a famous one for TV Guide. Everyone was really young so the prospect of being in same room with everyone else would be embarrassing. We didn’t really get to know each other. Charlie Brown and Linus were the stars, of course.

You were the star of the Thanksgiving show.

I rocked the Thanksgiving show. (laughs) You’re in Love was the most embarrassing one. [In that one,] Peppermint Patty has a crush on Charlie Brown.

Peppermint Patty vs. Pig-Pen [AKA PP vs. PP]: did you like playing one character more than the other?

I liked Pig-Pen much better. Peppermint Patty had more personality and more lines and they were fun, but Pig-Pen was every little boy’s dream.

What did you think of the finished show? 

I loved it. What I loved most about it is Snoopy. His cooking montage. Isn’t it great to see the patient pacing?

What did your parents think? 

My family was around the business so it seemed kind of natural. My dad was in advertising and they would do advertisements by grabbing the people they knew.

What did your friends think? Or were you able to really keep the secret from them?

Everyone figured it out and they still bug me about it today.

Did any kids give you any [good] grief for voicing a girl?

I had deep fear and embarrassment that I was playing a girl. Never got beat up for it, though.

What did you say when first heard you’d be playing a girl?

I didn’t have a say. I wasn’t an artiste. (laughs) You know how it is when you’re a kid—you just do what is asked of you. Maybe it’s not that way anymore!

Peanuts special you worked on is your favorite, and why?

It’s a Long Summer, Charlie Brown. I got to go rafting and play baseball, which I was good at (in real life). I think I had more scenes with Snoopy. At that age, it’s hard to feel part of [shows like that]. When they’re done, you’re outside of it. You wouldn’t see a rough cut. You’d go record one afternoon and then maybe a year later you’d watch it on TV with everyone else.

Did you stay in touch with anyone else from the cast? 

I did run into some of them at Comic-Con [2008]. In some cases, it was the first time we met other.

Have you had any fun
Peanuts moments since (a reaction when someone you meet discovers you had a role in it, Halloween costume, etc.)? 

When you get older you can trot that cart out when you need it for credibility. It’s not beyond me to gain some credibility in [a business meeting] by letting that slip. There’s no person who wouldn’t smile.

What are you doing these days?

I’m an executive and producer at Warner Bros. I also oversee animation at WB. I did The LEGO Movie—different from the [2015]
Peanuts movie. I’m disappointed that there’s nothing I can do on it—it’s at another studio.

[he asked me what I thought of the trailer]

What has been your career highlight so far? 

I’ve had a very fortunate career. It’s hard [not to name] the most recent thing that worked, Gravity and The LEGO Movie. In some respects those were the culmination of years of work. Gravity marks [a new] intersection of storytelling and technology. LEGO seems like an extension of what I did as a kid with

Where do you live? 

L.A. area.

If you’re married, what was your future wife’s reaction when she learned you were part of this cultural institution? 

She’s the least impressed of anyone I know. (laughs)
Peanuts wasn’t a great pickup line in bars.

How many kids do you have? What do they think of your
Peanuts connection? 

Three: ages 10, 16, 18. With my oldest son, I waited to see if he would discover
Peanuts on his own. I had collection of softcover books and anthologies from my childhood. He would rummage through my stuff and he found them and read them. When he got toward the end, I told him [my connection]—but he didn’t understand it because he didn’t know there were TV shows. At that time, you couldn’t get the shows on DVD, so we waited till Halloween. He was not impressed. He would say what all kids say—do the voice.” But I never did a voice, I just talked.

What did you think when you first heard from me? 

I thought it was going to be related to the [upcoming] feature film.

Did you ever meet Charles Schulz?

Oh yeah. At his ice rink several times and later in life. He had a workshop and studio up there. He was very casual. He would take most of his meetings sitting down on picnic tables near the ice. He wouldn’t give guidance [to me as a voice actor]—he thought movies and TV shows were someone else’s domain.

Has anyone else ever interviewed about this?

At Comic-Con [2008].

Do you still have any ongoing connection (professionally or personally) to

That’s an interesting question. Only to my children. And I always look at the strip reprints in the morning.

Have you considered putting your 10-year-old daughter in the running to voice Peppermint Patty in the upcoming movie?

(laughs) No. That’s a funny idea.

How do you look back on the experience? 

It was one of those things that I knew I was fortunate to be part of when it was happening. I knew it was neat—even though I was a girl. To be a part of something that is that high quality, that feels like it could be a classic—it’s extraordinary the value that carries.


Audrey said...

I loved reading this. Thanks!

Unknown said...

I'm reading this because my wife and I are watching CB Thanksgiving. I heard Peppermint Patty and said "That's a boy doing her voice!" Wife said No it's not! Guess I win this one ; )

Golfulus Shampoo said...

I'm uh... I'm from the future.

Unknown said...

Kip, so glad you didn’t get beat up about the fact you’re a boy and your voice played as a girl. The voice came out as quite masculine, so don’t worry. You did a great job, and that’s all that matters. I’d love to do voiceover work; think it would be a lot of fun. Really nice work on The Lego Movie! My 30-something-year-old kids love that movie!