You better be careful when you take on a classic. For more than one generation, Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman were must-see television, as were the other denizens of the Jay Ward animation world, which includes Rocky, Bullwinkle, and Dudley Do-Right. Other adaptations for the big screen of Ward’s work have not been successful, but it is with great relief and delight that I report that this is not the case with the feature film produced by Dreamworks, and directed by Rob Minkoff. When I spoke with the director of THE LION KING, and Ward’s daughter, and keeper of the flame, Tiffany Ward on February 21, 2014 the right place to start was with a thank you for getting it right.
The 12-year journey from great idea to final film was the first topic covered before moving on to historical accuracy, artistic license, and why, as the film establishes, the cantaloupe is the lowest of the fruit. Minkoff and Ward were funny, thoughtful, punctuating their answers with ready, and hearty, laughs.
MR PEABODY & SHERMAN is a revisit to the classic animated character created by Ward’s father, Jay. Leaping fearlessly from the original seven-minute format to feature length glory, the film fills in the backstory of the first dog to adopt a boy, sends Sherman to his first day of school, and, courtesy of Peabody’s WABAC time machine, plunges them both into a series of historical and emotional adventures, including but not limited to the French Revolution, the science of comedy, and working out the nuances of the father-son relationship. Along the way Sherman becomes the first boy aloft, Mona Lisa smiles, and the cantaloupe is established as the lowest fruit of them all. The film stars the voices of Ty Burrell, Alison Janney, Patrick Warburton, Stephen Colbert Leslie Mann, Ariel Winter, Max Charles as Sherman and Minkoff himself as Creepy Baby. Minkoff’s previous work includes making his feature film directorial debut co-directing Disney’s THE LION KING, STUART LITTLE 1 and 2, and spending 12 years bringing Peabody and Sherman to the big screen. Ward is the President of Ward Productions, Inc, managing the legacy created by Jay Ward and protecting it for the legions of fans who grew up with Rocky and Bullwinkle, and some of whom have never outgrown them.