Sneak peek: A new time for 'Mr. Peabody & Sherman'
05:00 AM, Oct 16, 2013
They might have been absent for a few decades, but the time-traveling duo of Mr. Peabody & Sherman are back for their greatest adventure big-screen domination.
DreamWorks Animation is reviving the tale of the genius dog known as Mr. Peabody and his adopted human son, Sherman, an animated staple from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in the late ’50s and early ’60s. It will be released in 3-D on March 7.
“These are timeless characters,” says director Rob Minkoff, “The nature of this relationship and Mr. Peabody’s classic character that has never gone out of style.”
Nor does time travel go out of vogue, even if the Peabody-invented WABAC (pronounced “way back”) machine has been updated for the iPad generation. It still allows the duo to visit any time period for Sherman’s ultimate history lessons.
“The latest technology is that Mr. Peabody has combined time travel with flight,” Minkoff says. “You can you actually fly through a wormhole into your historical destination, then fly the craft around once you are there. It’s a little 2.0.”
Emmy winner Ty Burrell gives voice to the self-assured, bespectacled canine father in the relationship, which gives a new meaning to Modern Family. But Burrell says his first animated part stretched him he had to play it straight.
“I’m so used to trying to make stupid jokes,” he says. “But the jokes are around this character. We did make Peabody less aware that his frequent puns are terrible. That’s his Achilles’ heel. Mr. Peabody does everything well except be funny.”
Burrell also had to voice a supremely smart dog with frequent uses of multi-syllable words such as “synchronistic fundibilator.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever even played a genius human,” he says. “This is the greatest stretch of my career, and it has nothing to do with playing a dog.”
Minkoff says Burrell pulls off not only the brains, but also the much-needed heart, which was not explored in the original cartoon.
“Ty has the kind of warmth that we wanted to bring in to balance out Mr. Peabody’s intellect,” Minkoff says.
Sherman, voiced by 10-year-old Max Charles (The Amazing Spider-Man), tests his unorthodox family as he heads off to school and tangles with fellow student Penny Peterson, voiced by Modern Family’s Ariel Winter. (Minkoff assures that’s the end of the Modern Family connection: “Sofia Vergara is not in the movie.”)
The budding adolescent relationship causes a puzzle for the dog who has an answer for everything: Mr. Peabody has to learn to be a parent.
“For years, they have been happy together, and everything is going great, and suddenly Sherman has to go to school, where girls are starting to influence him,” Minkoff says. “And it starts to change him.”
The venue allows for a solid supporting cast, including Stephen Colbert (voicing Penny’s father, Paul Peterson) and Leslie Mann (Patty Peterson), along with the school counselor voiced by Allison Janney.
It’s Sherman and Penny’s own WABAC time travels that set the adventure in motion. The two try Leonardo da Vinci’s (Stanley Tucci) flying machine and visit Mona Lisa herself (Lake Bell). But Penny falls for ancient Egypt and refuses to leave, threatening a reversal of history. Mr. Peabody has to step in to try to save the day. It’s the kind of brain work that impresses even someone like da Vinci, who sees the dog as a mental peer.
“I would say Mr. Peabody gives the greatest minds in history a run for the money,” Minkoff says.