Shirrel Rhoades: Animated ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ takes you way back

By Shirrel Rhoades

The Daily Advance

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My favorite TV cartoon, hands down, was “Rocky & Bullwinkle,” the weekly adventures of one Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose. The 1959-1964 show was ranked as the sixth Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time by TV Guide, but it remains Number One in my book.

Truth is, my interest wasn’t with those silly grads of Whatsamatta U, the squeaky-voiced flying squirrel and his dim-witted partner. At one point the show was titled “Rocky and His Friends.” It was those friends I watched long into reruns; those pompous tales by Commander McBragg, the Fractured Fairy Tales read by Edward Everett Horton, the misadventures of a Canadian Mountie named Dudley Dooright, and the not-so-helpful advice of Mr. Know-It-All.

But my favorite among them all was that talking dog and his “pet boy” Sherman who starred in a segment called Peabody’s Improbable History. You see, Mr. Peabody had invented a WABAC Machine that could send the hapless boy back in time to discover the “true” story behind historical events.

Well, DreamWorks Animation must have invented its own WABAC Machine, because this week it released a Blast From the Past, a movie titled “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.” You can see for yourself.

This 3D computer-animated comic science fiction film is based on those characters created by Jay Ward Productions back in the late '50s.

Actually, the true creator was Theodore Keyser (A/K/A Ted Key, the artist who gave us those “Hazel” cartoons that used to appear in The Saturday Evening Post).

When I worked at the Post, I used to go back to that locked cavernous room that contained all the issues of the magazine going back to 1897 and read those Ted Key cartoons (they ran from 1943 to 1969).

In this new “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” movie, we find that rather than being a pet, Sherman was adopted as an infant. On his first day at school the boy encounters Penny Peterson, who gets him into trouble. You see, to impress his new girlfriend, Sherman cranks up Mr. Peabody’s WABAC Machine and accidentally fractures history. They spend the rest of the movie trying to put the space-time continuum back right.

Shut your eyes and you’ll think it’s a rerun of TV’s “Modern Family.” While Sherman is played by child actor Max Charles, Mr. Peabody is voiced by Ty Burrell of “Modern Family.” And Penny is voiced by Ariel Winter, also of “Modern Family.”

TV pundit Stephen Colbert and Judd Apatow’s actress-wife, Leslie Mann, play Penny’s parents.

 Accompanying “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” on the big screen is “Rocky & Bullwinkle,” a featurette based on the original television show. June Foray reprises the voice of Rocky. It’s a trial balloon for a movie based on the moose and squirrel. Talk about building a WABAC Machine!

srhoades@aol.com