Ty Burrell on Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Modern Family stars on clever canines, families and films

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In the fantastically entertaining 3D animated film, MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN which arrives in cinemas March 6th,Ty Burrell, of Modern Family fame, stars as the voice of the most accomplished dog in the world. He speaks to Time Out Kids about clever canines, families and films.

Mr. Peabody is an extraordinary dog. He not only speaks, but there is practically no skill that is beyond his capabilities. He is an acclaimed scientist, inventor, Nobel prize-winner, musician and world-renowned explorer – in short, he is a genius – who is also, incidentally an Olympic athlete and a gourmet chef.

Mr. Peabody’s greatest invention is his amazing time machine, The WABAC. The adventure begins when the mischievous Sherman takes his friend Penny for a trip through history in the WABAC, without his father’s permission. Sherman wants to impress Penny and the pair end up in ancient Egypt. Trouble ensues. Events spiral out of control and they accidentally rip a hole in the universe, resulting in historical chaos. There is a grave danger that the past, present and future of the world could be altered irreparably, with disastrous consequences!

It is up to Mr. Peabody and Sherman to put things right. An exciting race through the centuries follows, and there are fascinating, scary and funny encounters with legendary figures, including King Tut (Tutankhamun), Marie Antoinette, Albert Einstein and American President George Washington.

Q: What is the story of MR PEABODY & SHERMAN all about?
A: It is based on the original short cartoons, which were about five minutes long and essentially consisted of Peabody teaching his son Sherman about history, using his WABAC (time machine). And that was the entire conceit of the shorts: they travel back in time. Along the way Peabody and Sherman affect history. They gave great luminaries of the past little hints about how to fix problems, to make sure that history stays on track.

Q: What can you reveal about the plot?
A: The adventure starts when Sherman’s classmate Penny calls him a dog, teasing him. Sherman is upset and actually bites Penny at school. Then Mr. Peabody invites Penny and her parents over to dinner to try to mend fences, because ‘Child Services’ [The Bureau of Child Safety and Protection] got involved in the incident and Mr. Peabody is worried that Sherman will be taken away from him. So he has to make amends as soon as possible with the parents of the girl. 

Q: What happens next?
A: There is a chase through time because Penny is lost. She has decided to stay in ancient Egypt and become King Tut’s [Tutankhamun] wife. So Mr. Sherman and Peabody have to find her. They are trying to track her down and get her back to the dinner party before her parents realise she is gone. The film is massive fun. I am so thrilled with it and I think it’s going to be great for families to go and see together.

Q: How brainy is this dog and did you identify with him? Are you very clever yourself?
A: No, I am not. I really am not. I wish I were! (laughs) This role has got to be the biggest stretch of my career, to play a genius. But it is fun to play somebody who’s always right. Being wrong 95 percent of the time, it’s great to play someone who has all the answers.
Q: Are you a big dog lover?
A: I am a big dog lover. I grew up way, way out in the country, in Oregon and we had lots of dogs. I don’t have one at the moment and I really miss having a dog. I am holding out on getting one as leverage with my daughters. I am going to wait until they’re old enough. Then when I finally get them a dog they will think I’m the greatest dad ever.

Q: Who are some of the historical figures that Peabody and Sherman and Penny encounter on their adventures?
A: There’s a long list: Marie Antoinette, Maximilien Robespierre, King Tut, Agamemnon, Leonardo Da Vinci, Sigmund Freud makes an appearance and many more.

Q: Mr. Peabody and Sherman have their own kind of family as dog and boy. Do you think in some ways the film serves as a metaphor for acceptance?
A: I do think it’s a metaphor. That was something that resonated with me from the very beginning. I think what’s really cool about the movie is that we actually get to see the arc of this relationship through the movie between Mr. Peabody and his adopted son Sherman. They love each other from the beginning, but you see them really come to the realization that they really are father and son.
Q: What does it say about our love for dogs?
A: It says a lot. So many people have gone through so many hard times with their dogs. When I was a little kid I’m pretty sure I talked to my dog.

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