This is a big week for animation fans as DreamWorks Animation rolls out its newest feature length film, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, starring the voices of Ty Burrell (TVs Modern Family) and Max Charles (TVs The Neighbors). The film is a CGI update to the classic Jay Ward shorts that were the “friends” part of the seminal TV series, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends.
The premise follows a genius dog named Peabody, who inexplicably is the guardian of a nine-year-old boy named Sherman. Peabody has a time machine, called the WABAC, and he and Sherman go on adventures throughout time. The original segments, conceived by and written by Ted Key and the legendary Jay Ward himself, were snarky, loose plays on history, riddled with puns and anachronisms, most leading up to a punch line-like ending. It is for this reason that the characters were so beloved.
In addition to the film, which opens in North America on Friday, March 7, publisher Insight Editions has released a new book titled, The Art of Mr. Peabody & Sherman by Jerry Beck. The beautifully designed and constructed art book has a foreword by Mr. Peabody’s voice, Ty Burrell, and an afterword by the new film’s director, Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little), as well as a preface by Tiffany Ward, Jay Ward’s daughter and current head of Bullwinkle Studios.
The Art of Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a perfect segue between the low-budget art styles and animation of the 1960s cartoon shorts and the big budget computer generated art of the new film. Even the gorgeous wrap around cover tackles this transition as the old styled characters are passing through a red door to the more fully realized versions used today.
The lavish, 156-page book shows how the talented artists at DWA transformed the characters for a new generation, all the while retaining the tell-tell style that made them beloved in the first place.
The book is broken into four parts: Main Characters, Peabody’s World, Peabody’s Travels, and Building a Scene, and each section offers a deep insight to how the film evolved from pun-filled four minute shorts into a larger narrative, and was then brought together by the artists and animators at DreamWorks Animation. Beck’s narrative style explains the wonderful art within the pages. Actual artists, like head character animator, Jason Schleifer, and production designer, David James, interject production secrets and frontline comments.
All in all, The Art of Mr. Peabody & Sherman is an incredibly constructed collection of art, a wonderful companion book to the film, and is an excellent addition to the libraries and coffee tables of fans old and new.
Rounding out the new surge of interest in the Mr. Peabody & Sherman property is a new comic series by IDW Publishing. The comic, which began in November, 2013, is written by Sholly Fisch with art by Jorge Monlongo and Matt Kaufenberg. It is set in the film’s universe and uses the art direction from the new film as a guide. A companion comic book featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle and possibly other Jay Ward characters, such as Dudley Do-Right and George of the Jungle, will soon join the comic series.
With a new film, a beautiful new art book, and a well-written comic book series all hitting within the same time frame, Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman are poised to re-enter the public conscience and will hopefully make themselves at home and stay awhile.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman opens in theaters nationwide on March 7, 2014.
The Art of Mr. Peabody & Sherman from Insight Editions is available now from Amazon.
IDW Publishing’s Mr. Peabody & Sherman comics can be found at your local comic shops, and the first collected edition is available online via Comixology.