Commentary
January 30, 2014 posted by Jerry Beck

The Art of Dreamworks Mr. Peabody and Sherman

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Today, a small preview of some of the cool pre-production art created for the upcoming Dreamworks feature Mr. Peabody and Sherman. I was asked to write the text for the “Art of” book and was delighted do so. The book goes on sale next month, but of course you can pre-order it now on Amazon.

The book begins with this incredible wrap-around painting created by artist Tim Lamb – click the image below to enlarge.

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I’ve said this often before – whether you like the final film or not, its undeniable that the talent at Dreamworks is first rate. And the “art of” books are always well worth owning because visuals are so much fun and display such incredible craft.

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Below: A cast photo of the “Art-of” book – Left to Right, Jerry Beck (Written by), actor Ty Burrell (Forward by), director Rob Minkoff (Afterword by) and Jay’s daughter, Tiffany Ward (Preface by).

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Teoh Yi Chie in Singapore got an advance copy of the book – and liked it so much, he blogged about it, posted pictures from it and made this video (embed below).

What else can I say. The Art Of Dreamworks Mr. Peabody and Sherman is being released on February 11th via Insight Editions. I’m a bit biased, but please buy the book.


Now – I’d like to address an issue that comes up every time a new version of a classic cartoon property is revived. From The Looney Tunes Show to Yogi Bear, Alvin and the Chipmunks and How The Grinch Stole Christmas

For the record, I’m in favor of revivals of classic cartoon characters. “Classic Cartoon Characters”, in my opinion, is any character created over 20 years ago. Just as I feel its a crime when classic theatrical cartoon shorts are held “hostage” by their copyright owners who let their libraries rot in the vaults, with no restoration nor access by the general public to view them – I feel its equally criminal for once-famous “star” characters to become forgotten due to the neglect of their corporate owners.

The Fox and Crow, Little Lulu, and Tom Terrific (to name a few) are virtually unknown to most people today. That shouldn’t be. Also on the “endangered species” list is Universal’s Woody Woodpecker (and Lantz library), Viacom’s Mighty Mouse (and the Terrytoon library), Paramount’s Fleischer cartoons and MGM’s Harman-Ising and Tex Avery cartoons (these last two have a chance, thanks to Warner Archives).

There are right ways and wrong ways to keep classic characters alive. Sometimes its right to slavishly try to mimic the original character design and style (Get A Horse!), sometimes its right to “reinvent” the character for today’s tastes (Bakshi/John K’s “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures“).

There are some who cannot accept a new film, show or program with a revived character because it doesn’t live up to original show, the original creators style or your selective memory of how its supposed to be. I get that. That new Yogi Bear sucked no matter how you slice it. Those Alvin and the Chipmunk revivals are an insult to the intelligence – and that Underdog movie was just plain crap.

But as far as I’m concerned, anything to keep these characters alive is a relatively good thing. No CG remake is going to negate the genius of the original cartoons. And that’s why I’m incredibly optimistic about Dreamworks’ acquisition of Classic Media. They have the talent in-house – and an enthusiasm – to be true to the characters they now own, which include Mr. Magoo, Casper, Gumby, and hundreds more. Mr. Peabody and Sherman is their first go at such a revival – and, as you’ll see in the book, there was a passion to get it right. I ask the nay-sayers to give it chance. No one can replace Jay Ward and Bill Scott – but I want their work to live forever. And believe me Dreamworks (now that they have a stake in it), and all the creatives at the studio, want that too.

13 Comments

  • What little I’ve seen of “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” doesn’t look like it quite captures the spirit of the original shorts, but it looks like it’ll get as close as any major studio would dare to go in this day and age. I’m certainly willing to give it a shot.

    And yes, this “Art of” book looks terrific as usual, though it’s once again making me wish they could’ve made the movie in traditional cel animation.

  • Wow this art is so well executed and alive!! Kudos all.

  • The bar has been set so low on these sorts of revivals, that Peabody and Sherman movie doesn’t look too bad in comparison…yet. As long as it isn’t a complete insult to the audience’s intelligence in terms of humor it should be okay.

    Also, I hope the filmmakers manage to restrain themselves from making an overblown CGI action-fest every 5 minutes or make Peabody into some sort of James Bond-like action hero that knows every form of martial art and some crazy assortment of gadgets. The time machine itself should be enough to suffice, Peabody is only an intellectual educator after all.

  • Just as long as they don’t continue to mine the same well over and over again like the upcoming How The Grinch Stole Christmas CGI film. Why not just place the character in an all new story? Is Hollywood stuck with just adapting the books?

    • Hollywood is stuck with adapting and re-adapting everything.

  • Those drawings you posted are amazing, but I don’t have high expectations for this film. As for Studios not releasing those classic cartoons on DVD and Blu-Ray: it’s a very bad case of poor judgment, simple mindedness, cowardice, and ignorance.
    One more example of a revival done right are the Gumby cartoons made during the ’80s and ’90s.

  • I’m always interested in character revivals or series restarts, if such a thing were ever given a chance. I was kinda curious as to what the folks at Warner Brothers had in store for Marvin the Martian; just a film around this character might have been interesting, especially since so many films of all types have been done around alien space invasions that could have also acted as inspiration…couple that with the energy inherent in Bob Clampett cartoons like “FALLING HARE” and maybe, just maybe, this idea could have been a stroke of genius. I also have hoped that something resembling the HAPPY HARMONIES series for MGM might come back, perhaps using jazz scores or bits of classical music telling stories, drawn with alarming detail like the original hand-drawn series for MGM which still can amaze and astound in different ways if the originals are restored properly and seen in their original glory.

    I also hold out a slight flicker of hope for new fruit to be borne out of Classic Media, even without the “PEABODY AND SHERMAN” movie. I’m interested in seeing this one, just to see where its humor lies.

  • Hopefully if this movie is a success they will make a Hoppity Hooper movie and release all the episodes on DVD . Corey Burton does a great Hans Conried. Most people aren’t familiar with Hoppity and might give seeing a feature length version because of their familiarity with Dreamworks. I am curious to see how the cg Bullwinkle short turned out.

    • There’s wishful thinking there!

  • “…and MGM’s Harman-Ising and Tex Avery cartoons (these last two have a chance, thanks to Warner Archives).”

    Since we’re talking about the Warner Archives, I guess they don’t have a chance of being properly restored, then. Or do they?.. I’m still baffled that Tex Avery’s MGM cartoons haven’t received a deluxe DVD/Blu-ray edition in the U.S. ages ago.

  • While the cheerfully absurd and historically reckless nature of the cartoons don’t lend themselves to a movie, the trailer suggests they worked out a coherent (if possibly predictable) story.

    Outside of the origin episode, the cartoons never addressed or showed Peabody’s life as a talking dog who was also a self-made millionaire, respected diplomat and all-around genius. While Rocky and Bullwinkle ambled through a human world without comment, Peabody walked on all fours and was — in the origin, at least — recognized as a dog who needed to go to court to adopt Sherman (reversing the traditional boy-and-his-dog relationship). I hope the movie has some fun with that.

    Years ago I toyed with a live-action version of Peabody and Sherman. My best joke:
    BULLY (confronted by a growling Peabody): Does he bite?
    PEABODY (with dignity): Of course not. I have lawyers for that. (attorneys with briefcases promptly appear behind him)

  • We’ve already seen what “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” looks like in 2D cartoon animation. Now let’s see what 3D CGI can do for it. The original cartoons established, but did not do much with, Mr. Peabody being a genius dog who was a millionaire, respected diplomat, etc. If this CGI feature makes that an important plot point — the previews show that he is a licensed chiropractor, among other things — it looks to me like the movie is already more than a bland imitation of the 1960s TV episodes.

    As for making the movie in cartoon animation, does anyone mean in 1960s-style TV limited animation? Would anyone sit through a feature of that? It would be interesting to see what Mr. Peabody and Sherman would look like in a world of rich full-cartoon animation like a Disney feature of the 1990s, but that would be almost as jarring as DreamWorks’ 3D CGI animation.

  • I must say, I’m in 100% agreement with Jerry. And he made a great point once on a radio show interview (STU’S SHOW, correct?) a little while back, where he said that revivals, good or bad, bring more exposure to the old works, even get them released on DVD, Blu-Ray or some such! Jerry even said to Ruth Clampett, with all due respect, that the reason that her dad’s BEANY & CECIL is utterly unknown to today’s generation is because she “let them die” by languishing in obscurity (as noble as her intentions are).

    That said, I believe in *good* revivals. I was impressed at how MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN actually remained true to the original series. Only a 100% animated film, hand-drawn or CG, can do that, IMHO, as opposed to a cynical live-action film with CGI FX tacked on. I was getting really fed up with those. Finally, I get a Mr. Peabody and Sherman who *look* and *act* like Mr. Peabody and Sherman (even with an updated look)! DreamWorks really pulled it off! Which is why I’m eager to see this film.

    Now, if UNDERDOG and other bad remakes were like this, I think that would’ve been different. But these were movies by cynical Hollywood executives. I’m glad DreamWorks has the rights to Classic Media’s characters. I even hope that, among their cartoon properties, they’ll give them a much better treatment. Yes, even UNDERDOG. The 2007 film was a cute dog movie, but it was *NOT* Underdog. Just like the 1998 GODZILLA, which fans (myself included) call GINO. The new GODZILLA film by Legendary promises to make up for that. I believe in second chances.

    Even PEANUTS promises to get a good treatment by Blue Sky! I sincerely hope it will be good, even as a CG film. Because if properties like these are doomed to be relics strictly for aging Baby Boomers (which cynical studios doing bad remakes dismiss them as), they will truly die out. As a Generation X-er who loves these classic cartoons, it’s a better option than nothing. Let MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN be an example of how to do it right in any animation medium.

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