Star Apps: 'Mr. Peabody & Sherman' cast

by Josh Rotter

March 7, 2014 2:56 PM PST

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DreamWorks' "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is based on the "Peabody's Improbable History" segment that appeared in the classic "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" cartoon. The movie follows dog father Mr. Peabody and his biped boy Sherman in a race through time to repair a hole in the universe that jeopardizes the entire space-time continuum. "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" features the voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Stephen Colbert, and Allison Janney; state-of-the-art CG animation and 3D; a great score by Danny Elfman; and a smart storyline that should charm children and parents alike.

I interviewed executive producer Tiffany Ward ("George of the Jungle," "Dudley Do-Right," and "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle") and director Rob Minkoff ("The Lion King," "Stuart Little," and "The Forbidden Kingdom") about the beloved characters, Jay Ward, the challenges of directing animated films, and their favorite apps.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman flying through time in the WABAC machine.

Tiffany Ward

Tiffany, your father, Jay Ward, co-created the Peabody and Sherman characters along with Crusader Rabbit, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Hoppity Hooper, George of the Jungle, Tom Slick, and Super Chicken. Out of all of them, which is your favorite?
I look at them as my brothers and sisters, so it would be really hurtful to look at one as your favorite. I love them all.

I've read that your dad's nickname was Chairman of the Board. Is that true?
Yes, that's true. I had two brothers and a mother and a father, and my father called himself Chairman of the Board. So if all four of us voted against him, he still had the tie-breaking vote. So we never won.

If a biopic were made about your father like "Saving Mr. Banks," what would that movie look like?
That movie would be very a funny movie. My dad was the great promotions man. He created so many amazing promotions from 1959 to 1965. Even if you just spotlit those, it would be hysterical.

Why is the Mr. Peabody and Sherman story so enduring?
I think it introduced a lot of kids to time travel and historical nodes, and I think it made history more interesting to kids. We have the dog as the father, so there was that reversal, and the great puns at the end, and the humor. The writing was the key to it.

If "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" was set in the future and the characters time traveled back to 2014, what would be most impressive to them about contemporary culture?
I think technology: the Internet, cell phones, and computers.

What are your favorite apps?
I would have to say the Mr. Peabody & Sherman game that just came out and the DreamWorks app for putting the Peabody glasses on, Get Your Peabody On. Those are my favorites.

Rob Minkoff

Rob, how did growing up in Palo Alto inform your relationship to software?
I actually remember going as a class field trip to Stanford Research Institute and getting to play the original video game, the prototype for Pong. This was before it was commercially available, so they had a giant TV set and these two giant metal boxes, and they had Space Invaders. I got to play those when I was in the fourth grade.

You've directed so many animated movies. What are the unique challenges of directing an animated film like "Mr. Peabody & Sherman"?
When people think of a director, they think of someone with a megaphone and director's chair, and they're yelling "action" and "cut," all things that never happen when doing an animated movie. Being a director of live action is like being the circus ringmaster, where you have the whole group of people out there working at the same time, trying to come together to create this unified vision. In animation, it's taking all those same processes and doing them at different times with different people. It's much more deliberate and more calculated. It's much more like making a movie in a laboratory rather than out in the jungle.

You have some wonderful actors associated with this film. What makes a good voice actor?
For me, a lot of it is what their voice sounds like when it's recorded. There is something about being able to project a feeling just through your voice. Some of the best voices I've worked with are ones that can make it better than what it is on the page. When they deliver it, it really works.

Mr. Peabody, Sherman, and Penny racing through history.

You worked at Disney for 12 years. How would you describe Disney's work culture?
I started very early, before Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg took it over, so I saw it in its very sleepy early days and got to experience the whole trajectory and change in animation throughout the '90s. Animation was its own world. Animators tend to be very creative and outside the box. They tend to be iconoclastic, so the energy was very playful, very fun, almost like a big sandbox. People would decorate their cubicles and bring their toys to work and make it a very creative environment.

Let's get personal for a moment. I've read that your wife, Crystal Kung, is a descendant of Confucius. That must be a fun topic of conversation at cocktail parties.
True story. In Confucius's time, he prescribed over 80 names for every generation, so my wife is part of the 76th generation -- you know by their name which generation they're in. They have kept records of every descendant, so my wife is in a published book that tracks the various descendants.

What are your favorite apps?
I would say Twitter, Dropbox, Candy Crush Saga, Starbucks (I used that this morning), and LinkedIn.

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