Behind the Scenes of 'Mr. Peabody and Sherman;' What Other Movies About History Should Your Kids See?
"What better way for a boy to learn history than with the forefathers themselves!" -- Mr. Peabody and Sherman
Before Milo & Otis' unlikely friendship, Chloe's mishaps in Mexico (Beverly Hills Chihuahua, if you don't remember), and three household pets on a Homeward Bound journey to find their owners, canine genius Mr. Peabody and his adopted boy Sherman were traveling back in time making history.
The beloved duo, made famous during The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, will make their dynamic debut on the big screen next spring when a feature-length film opens nationwide and around the globe.
The five- to six-minute episodes that aired in the '50s and '60s depicted Mr. Peabody and Sherman traveling back in time using the infamous WABAC machine to discover the real story behind important historical events. More than 50 years later, the filmmakers are introducing Mr. Peabody and Sherman to a new generation with 3D computer-animated graphics, an exciting, pun-filled storyline and a talented voice cast, including Ty Burrell (the Modern Family dad) as the voice of Mr. Peabody.
In the film, Sherman's desire to impress his friend Penny results in a reckless journey back in time, threatening the most significant events in history. The canine/boy duo will have to travel back in time to ensure those events that shaped our world go down in history.
The idea for a feature film originated more than 10 years ago. Executive producer Tiffany Ward (daughter of Jay Ward, one of the series' creators) played an important role in preserving the integrity of the characters and the satirical spirit of her father's shorts. An integral part of that process involved finding the right actors to voice these iconic characters.
Acclaimed actor Bill Scott voiced Mr. Peabody during the show's run, but rather than find an actor who could imitate Scott, the filmmakers explored who this character was 50 years ago and who he is today.
"We wanted to make sure that we really brought him to life in the right way," said director Rob Minkoff.
They found that Burrell embodied all of Mr. Peabody's traits, including his intellect and suave personality. With his self-proclaimed "disturbingly low voice," Burrell said he sought to make Peabody's voice his own and enjoyed "playing someone who he isn't, which is somebody who is actually sophisticated."
No stranger to the Modern family, Burrell readily identified with Mr. Peabody's role as an adoptive father and felt a strong connection to the beloved canine, whose bond with Sherman is unwavering.
"We adopted, so I felt from the minute I read the script, a very strong connection to somebody developing a really strong bond with an adopted child," he said.
Despite Mr. Peabody's seemingly boundless intellect, he must learn the one thing that can't be taught… how to be a father.
"Over time, he realizes that he loves Sherman and his weakness is trying to figure out how to be a good dad."
The film's poignant father-son themes are strong, a celebration of the modern father who is present and involved.
In the original shorts, each episode focused on a single historical moment or figure in time. For the movie, the filmmakers expanded the concept to include a variety of historical figures, carefully selecting which figures and events to revisit and "looking for sequences that helped… tell the story in a metaphorical way," said Minkoff. Parents, don't be surprised if your kids come away from the film asking to take an art lesson or study aviation.
Mr. Peabody and Sherman debuts in theaters March 7, 2014.
For additional cinematic lessons in history, check out the following films:
The Adventures of Huck Finn: Based on Mark Twain's classic novel, the film follows the story of Huckleberry Finn and his adventures down the Mississippi River with escaped slave Jim. The story teaches children about early prejudice in American history and the more important moral lesson of doing the right thing in the midst of societal pressure.
Newsies: The film, now a popular Broadway musical, takes a song-and-dance approach to the 1899 newsboys strike in New York City. The story highlights issues of workers' rights, including the right to fair wages.
Remember the Titans: When a court order forces the integration of three Virginia high schools, newly appointed black football coach Herman Boone must overcome racial tensions and prejudice to lead his team to victory or risk losing his job. Racial integration, discrimination and athletics are weaved into this award-winning film based on actual historical events.
The Sound of Music: This five-time Academy Award-winning film follows the story of a young woman who leaves her Austrian convent to become governess to the children of a naval officer. Based on the true story of the von Trapp family who fled the Nazis before World War II, the film provides children with background history regarding the events leading up to the war.
Fiddler on the Roof: In the small Russian town of Anatevka, a Jewish family must overcome the challenges of poverty and growing anti-Semitism as they make their way to the United States. The film teaches children about tolerance as it relates to persecution and tradition.
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Caryn BaileyThe Blogger Bunch
Caryn Bailey authors the site Rockin' Mama, a lifestyle blog that focuses on everything from food and travel to film and fashion.