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MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN

Like Father, Like Son
Rob Minkoff says that Mr. Peabody and Sherman are a classic movie team, "like Laurel and Hardy, Batman and Robin, Holmes and Watson." That's heady company, but Mr. Peabody isn't your typical beagle: he is nothing less than a business titan, inventor, scientist, Nobel Laureate, gourmet, Olympic medalist, and genius - who just happens to be a dog.

Peabody possesses the genius of Einstein, the wit of Oscar Wilde, the daring of Indiana Jones, the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes, the sartorial style of James Bond, and the culinary skills of Mario Batali. The one thing that challenges Peabody is keeping up with his adopted boy Sherman. Peabody devotes himself to Sherman, from whom he learns the one thing even a genius has to figure out - parenthood.

Ty Burrell, who voices Peabody, brings additional shadings to an already richly conceived character. But initially, says Minkoff, the "Modern Family" star wasn't an obvious choice. "Ty is famous and beloved for playing put-upon dad Phil Dunphy in 'Modern Family,' and Phil isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. But when we put his performance together with the character of Peabody, it really locks into Peabody's personality."

"When you think about it, Mr. Peabody and Sherman were the original 'Modern Family,'" Minkoff jokes. "What could be more modern than a dog as a parent?"

Producer Alex Schwartz ("Journey to the Center of the Earth") notes that Burrell "brings humanity and warmth to Peabody, as well as tremendous humor and a unique vocal cadence."

Burrell certainly had his work cut out for him; after all, he's playing a character that, he describes as "essentially perfect, which is a very interesting kind of character to play because I am so imperfect. Peabody makes almost no mistakes, expect in fatherhood, as all dads do. He can think himself out of any situation or problem, except when it comes to dealing with Sherman."

Burrell prepped for the role by watching the classic television shorts upon which the film is based. "From that, I would find my way back into my own voice," he explains. "Peabody speaks with such precision; his consonants are always very clear."

Burrell's on-screen son is voiced by young actor Max Charles (ABC-TV's "The Neighbors," "The Amazing Spider-Man"), who, says Alex Schwartz, brings an authentic "kid's voice" to Sherman. "Max is very funny, has fantastic timing and an adorable voice that sounds like he's chewing on marbles."

Minkoff adds: "Max performs with emotion, depth, heart and humor. That's not easy to find in a young actor."

Charles' Sherman is open, enthusiastic and over-curious. Growing up with his adoptive dad - the time-traveling super-genius Mr. Peabody - gives Sherman many opportunities for adventure. Like most youngsters, Sherman has a penchant for trouble and sometimes finds himself in over his head, but Sherman always makes certain to fix even the most difficult problems he creates.

"Sherman is a genuine kid," says Minkoff. "He's quite naive at times, but he's actually a terrific student of Mr. Peabody's because one of the special things they do together is travel through history. Peabody has taken the time to introduce Sherman to many of history's greatest events."

"Sherman is a kid through and through," Schwartz elaborates. "He's intelligent and a quick learner, but at the same time, he doesn't always think things through and tends to leap before he looks."

As any parent knows, those kinds of "leaps" can lead to breakage - and for Sherman, breaking the rules of time travel has extraordinary consequences. Says Max Charles: Sherman is "a normal kid who gets to do some unusual stuff, like travel back in time."

Sherman learns a lot about everything from Mr. Peabody, and as Charles sees it the reverse is also true. "Peabody also learns a lot from Sherman, like how to be a little more laid back, and a little more trusting."

"Peabody realizes that Sherman's imperfections are what make him so wonderful," adds Burrell, "and that it's really worth trying to make himself more vulnerable."

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