Following the previous post where I got to go to a special press screening of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, yesterday was when the director Rob Minkoff and the producers Alex Schwartz and Denise Cascino came to talk about Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Unfortunately I was a few minutes late as I had a last minute meeting so I missed out on getting a drawing from Rob. I feel bad for being late, particularly that now I'm on the board for Tea Time and also they skipped meeting the Dali Lama who was apparently arriving at their hotel to come to give a panel to us. That's dedication! There was some great questions/topics and it was a very enjoyable evening. The process of creating the film The movie was 12 years in the making. Tiffany Ward first brought the concept to Classic Media where it was seen by Jason Clark. Jason and Rob took the idea and pitched it to Walden Media where they bought it and wanted to go forward with the movie. Unfortunately some legal issues arose and a year later Walden Media unfortunately says that they are only able to give 50% of the funding and that another backer and distributor will need to be found. The idea was then pitched to Jeffery Katzenberg at Dreamworks who also gave a resounding yes but didn't want the involvement of Walden Media. Dreamworks wanted to take it all and produce it or none at all. Scripts were written. Initially the story had an antagonist who was a mole named Little Jimmy, and there was going to be the eight wonders of the world be stolen. With the release of Despicable Me, that story line had to be scrapped and it was with a meeting with writers Jeffrey Ventimilia and Joshua Sternin that the movie changed direction. Instead of Little Jimmy, the little girl character named Penny came to be to show and help further the relationship and development of Sherman.
Approach to creating story They really liked the idea of being able to go to multiple time periods and with the promise of what animation can do and offer, they really wanted to showcase that ability. From there, how a movie starts and boils down to is the relationship of the characters with each other or to certain things or ideas. Start with a question and as the plot progresses, always return back to thinking what is the journey of the characters and their relationships and always old on to that core and how the story is told.
If there was any pushback from fans that held up production There weren't any major issues from production, rather as so many people were also fans, everyone felt responsible to get the movie right.
Tiffany Ward's contribution As the daughter of the original creator, Jay Ward, Tiffany was described as the "godmother of production". Not only being the executive producer in ensuring the movie being true to the original, Tiffany made sure everyone was motivated and excited about creating the film.
Ty Burrell as Peabody's voice actor Since Mr. Peabody is already an existing character, when finding a new voice actor to play Mr. Peabody, a particular type of voice and acting is required. A mimic isn't good enough as sounding alike doesn't quite go the distance. Instead life and character needs to be given and not just an impersonation. Initially Steven Colbert and Robert Downey Jr. were considered. Steven Colbert loved Mr. Peabody and Sherman and said he would love to voice any character in the movie except Mr. Peabody as unfortunately he did not time in his schedule to play the main character. RDJ was unfortunately busy making Avengers. Ty Burrell was brought in and after working with him for a couple weeks the voice of Mr. Peabody was found!
Development of the bullying scene The bullying scene is really dark and serious. Even more so now as bullying is an important issue that is occurring in schools today. When the scene was first scripted there was some pushback saying that it was too dark and negative but it was felt and decided that they were on the right side of the issue. A great quote that comes into play by Mr. Peabody and further proves itself further down the plot is "All great relationships start with conflict and then evolves into something greater".
Transition from 2D to 3D The original Peabody and Sherman started back in 1959 and it had very minimal budget. To keep costs low, not only was the show even produced in Mexico but the artists used house paint to paint on cels so that the cels could be erased and reused. Also, part of the influencing style of the original cartoon was that it was created for TV and with the limited technology, the art required to have heavy outlines for things to be visible. The movie sought to approach with the same aesthetic sensibility of being graphic, designed, and flat. There was at one point when Mr. Peabody was designed with square glasses, to make him more modern and trendy and to contrast Sherman's roundness, but that was quickly veto'd as the round glasses were signature of the time back when Peabody and Sherman aired.
Limited animation of original cartoons While some may feel that to be true to the original classic cartoons, the same or similar limited animation is required; also in a way decreasing the appeal of watching a movie with such limitations in theaters. However, the limit was due to the budget and technology back then, not because artists back then wanted the animation to look exactly that way. Back then they had a limited budget so there was limited animation but now with a high budget it would make sense to have high animation. In fact, Jay Ward even wanted better animation if it was possible. Even more so as a movie about time traveling, in a way it makes sense for them to change for the different time periods. The original 2D and the current CG versions are the same but different, like looking at a mirror.
Balance between the adult and children audiences While there may be some lines to be drawn between adult and children audiences in terms of humor, what they sought to do instead is to make the comedy universally funny and able to encompass both age groups. It's not so much of there is this, this, and this to do while there is that, that, and that to not do but rather to just fine what they thought is funny and hope that everyone else will find it funny also. Rob has even asked this same question about comedy to Chuck Jones before and the reply was to find ways to make yourself laugh and others may laugh also. Going to far would probably have been what the original opening to the movie was planned to be. While the movie currently begins, after the prologue, in the midst of Peabody and Sherman's adventures in France with the French Revolution, it was initially script of the two being in Germany dressed up as Nazis, completely with Peabody disguised with a Hitler stache, as they attempt to steal the war plans and change the future.