This is the part two of a two-part series when thatsITmommy visited the dynamic DreamWorks Animation campus in Glendale, Calif.
Because I usually draw stick figures, it was comical taking a crack at sketching Mr. Peabody. As production designers, James says their job is to maintain the “genetic code” of “Peabody’s Improbable History,” which ran from 1959 – 1964 on both ABC and NBC. Jay Ward (producer/creator) and Ted Key (creator) were the brains behind the original segments that appeared during the extremely popular “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.”
While costumed as Leonardo da Vinci, animator Jason Spengal elaborated on how the 2D look transforms into 3D motion. Spengal says it’s imperative to create exaggerated features when producing animated caricatures. “Sometimes, we really stretch the character like crazy to see what sticks,” says Spengal. By showing step-by-step illustrations of a charismatic scene with the film’s animated Leonardo da Vinci (Stanley Tucci), I learned how designers often videotape one another performing dialogue to match a caricature’s facial and physical gestures. “Sherman is loose, soft and frantic, while Mr. Peabody is much more controlled,” the animator explains. Numerous designers also studied how the updated version of Mr. Peabody would appear more human. “We saw him (Mr. Peabody) as bipedal versus a quadruped to show his non-association as a dog. “We had both Mr. Peabody and Sherman’s glasses matching to show their connection,” Spengal emphasizes.
All questions were answered regarding why it takes more than a year to shoot animated films. On this project alone, there were 15 production departments reporting to Minkoff, according to producer Denise Cascino from the studio’s sister team, Pacific Data Images (PDI) located in Palo Alto, Calif. “Every single one of them needs feedback from Rob [Minkoff]. So, it’s from morning ‘til evening. It’s meeting after meeting,” Cascino explains. “And yet, most importantly, reserving time for story and development as well,” she says. Minkoff elaborates, “So, you’ll look at the character design. You’ll look at the animation. You’ll look at the way the layout is being done, the backgrounds.” He says, “So, it’s just a lot of individual meetings to get it done over a year and a half.”
Minkoff says, “Casting the voice is maybe the most critical single decision that you make in realizing the character.” He adds,” You could draw thousands of drawings and you can get the character to look a certain way. But it’s not until you find that voice that the character comes to life.” Ward agrees. “In an animated film, that appeal comes partly obviously from the animation, but it also has to come from the voice,” she says. “And something that Ty (Burrell as Mr. Peabody) specifically brought. I think, that we really needed in this character was this incredible warmth in his voice.”
During the press junket, I was also fortunate to meet the youth actors who portrayed Sherman, Max Charles (“The Amazing Spider-Man”) and Ariel Winter (“Modern Family”) played the sassy Penny Peterson. Winter says playing an animated character is a no-brainer. “I’ve been doing animation for 12 years. So, for me, it’s kind of just second nature for me to change my voice,” the teenage actor says. However, Charles, a 10-year-old who began the role when he was 8, had difficulties with his character. “I had to make my voice a little bit higher than it normally is,” he says. Nevertheless, the youth says he enjoyed portraying Sherman.
At this behind-the-scenes excursion at DreamWorks, you could sense the honest enthusiasm of everyone associated with the “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” project. In fact, it’s refreshing to see an updated Mr. Peabody who’s still loveable and relatable to today’s families. I’m certain “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” will be another heartwarming blockbuster!
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” opens nationwide, March 7, 2014.
Read Part 1 of this series on MomsLA.com.
Time: 92 minutes
Visit the official website: www.mrpeabodyandsherman.com
Like Mr. Peabody & Sherman on Facebook: facebook.com/MrPeabodyandSherman
Follow @DWAnimation on Twitter: #MrPeabody
Here’s a sneak peek at the film:
Penny Scott attended a press junket and screening of Mr. Peabody & Sherman for this article. She also received a goody bag for attending.