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Snoopy and the Peanuts gang are about to change the Apple Watch (and maybe the world)

Sometime this fall, Apple is releasing adorable Peanuts animations that will play across the screen of its Apple Watch.

If you ask people what pop culture event from the fall they’re most looking forward to, I’m guessing most would name an upcoming movie, video game or TV show. And honestly I would have responded the same until I stumbled upon what genuinely may be the coolest innovation in mobile devices in years.

As of sometime this fall, the update to watchOS 10 for the Apple Watch is going to come with dozens upon dozens of two-to-five second Peanuts animations that play across the surface of the watch’s clock when nothing else is happening. Users of watch0S 10 have already gotten a taste of these animations—Snoopy surfing across the screen, filling the screen with 'ARF's or discovering that Woodstock is hiding behind his ear—his very own 'ear bud.' (Cue rimshot.)

But what is to come is exponentially more, 148 different funny moments, many of them tied to what the watch knows about your circumstances. If it’s raining outside where you are, you’ll get them under umbrellas. If it’s Thanksgiving, or it’s nighttime, or you’re exercising, you’ll get something related to that. In fact some of the animations, like exercise, are so specific that you’ll only see them when you’re doing that activity.

Recently at San Diego Comic-Con, Apple and Peanuts Worldwide held a pnael speaking about several collaborations - including this. TV Guide's Damien Holbrook, who moderated the Peanuts panel, spoke about being a beta tester - saying after a week he’d barely seen any of the animations more than once. He was also stunned to discover that the animations don’t seem to drain the battery.

Tiny animations on a tiny screen might not seem like a revolution, but the crowd at SDCC went crazy for them. And I think with reason: the animations represent a reimagining of what a digital watch can be, an attempt to think about the watch in terms of what it actually is, another kind of screen, that is, a means of telling stories. And both the size of the screen and its location on our arm creates its own unique opportunities, as well—in the animations that have already been released, animators included a clip in which, instead of locating Snoopy and Woodstock at the normal cartoon strip-like distance that you’d expect for something on a small screen, Snoopy’s face suddenly emerges quite close up in the screen. His ears fly up in surprise, too. It’s like we’re on opposites of a little window neither one of us saw coming.

In another animation the notion of the clock itself get played with; the pivot point upon which the arms of the clock rest becomes the base for Woodstock’s nest.

And maybe the most unexpected thing is the way in which such simple animations can still convey the full range of emotions that makes Peanuts such a treasure. Snoopy surfing a wave is gorgeous; him doing the Peanuts dance across the screen is delightful; he and Woodstock looking out at us and smiling is just plain sweet. Holbrook said they’re “like little serotonin shots,” and they really are each a little ray of sunshine, brightening the day.

Once upon a time people waited for the newest sets of emojis with which to decorate their texts; in the months and years to come, I’d expect Apple Watch users will be waiting in anticipation for the latest Peanuts animations, or other pop culture properties that you can choose from. Whether you’d prefer the cast of Seinfeld complaining about having to walk around the hands on the clock face or Buffy the Vampire Slayer wrenching a hand down to take out a horde of undead, the possibilities seem endless. And the joy, too.

As of now Apple has yet to announce when exactly this new update will be released. But the company’s next big event is Tuesday, September 7. So happiness may be here sooner than you think.

There's a new Snoopy float coming to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year (and we just met him!).

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Jim McDermott avatar
Jim McDermott: Jim is a magazine and screenwriter based in New York. He loves the work of Stephen Sondheim and cannot take a decent selfie.
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