Tuna, a Chiweenie with an overbite and more than 700,000 followers on Instagram, was there. So were Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Beethoven, Marley, Toto and several other dogs of renown.
The canine A-list had gathered in Hollywood in February to celebrate one of their own. Yes, they had also come because their trainers were tossing bits of hot dog onto the red carpet, but really, the main attraction was Mr. Peabody, the hyper-intelligent, time-traveling beagle from the 1960s cartoon shorts "Peabody's Improbable History," who was getting his paw prints enshrined at the TCL Chinese Theatre.
Mr. Peabody, who first attained fame in the series of wryly humorous, six-minute shorts wedged between Rocky and Bullwinkle and Dudley Do-Right cartoons, is staging a career comeback in the new
As with many aging stars, Mr. Peabody's second act has come with some cosmetic changes as well as personal growth. That it's happening at all is thanks largely to the persistence of his two-legged collaborators, notably director
In the original cartoon as well as the new film, which opens Friday, Mr. Peabody is a Nobel laureate, a master inventor and a fabulous dinner party host. But Minkoff and writer Craig Wright have added some emotional depth to Peabody's relationship with Sherman, his adopted human son.
Voiced by "Modern Family's"
With stops in ancient Greece, Renaissance Italy and revolutionary France, the film preserves many of the chief conventions of the series, including Peabody's reliance on verbal humor.
"The adventurous thing was always going to be a part of it," said Minkoff, who directed
Moose and squirrel
In 1958, Jay Ward, an entrepreneurial California real estate agent with a creative itch, persuaded
"They were thinking all they'd need was five minutes or so," Tiffany Ward said in an interview with Minkoff before the paw prints ceremony. "After they signed the deal, they realized it's a half-hour show." To fill out the time, Jay Ward and Scott would have to add other serials, and cartoonist Ted Key suggested one about a boy with a time travel belt and a dog.
"Dad switched it around," Tiffany Ward said, "and said, 'Let's make the genius the dog.'"
The various iterations of "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show," which aired on
For many kids of the 1960s and '70s, including Minkoff, 51, "Peabody's Improbable History" was an entertaining entry point to the social sciences.
"I loved the fact that Peabody was a teacher and that he would take Sherman on these incredible adventures to meet these crazy characters," Minkoff said. "And I got introduced to these historical figures. As a kid, you're like, 'This must be important.' And you can laugh at the silliness of it. And then, of course, later you're learning about those figures in class, and it was good to have a little connection to it. History turned out to be my favorite subject."
As part of "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show," Peabody and Sherman have lived on in syndication on cable. Since her father's death in 1989, Tiffany Ward has developed his characters on behalf of Jay Ward Productions in other media with uneven results. There was the 1997 live-action box office hit "George of the Jungle" for Disney and the 2000 dud "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" for Universal.
"I've always looked at everything from his perspective or how he would handle it," Ward said. "Dad wanted theatrical movies, but he was very reclusive and wasn't out there marketing. One of his rules was that his characters could never be seen with other characters, but one of my visions was to be in theme parks. You have to get it down to the next generation and have the interactive part. I haven't done anything he wouldn't be really proud of, but there were a few changes."
Over the years, Ward said, she has also fended off 21 separate lawsuits over rights to her father's characters. "Every musician who'd ever worked on it came out of the woodwork, every artist came out of the woodwork," Ward said.
In 2002, she and Minkoff met for the first time, finding a shared passion for her father's work and beginning a more-than decade-long effort to bring Peabody and Sherman to the big screen. Ward and Minkoff outlasted a rotating cast of production partners, and they recovered from the revelation late in the scripting process that the 2010 animated film
In 2011, DreamWorks Animation greenlighted the film, and Minkoff and Wright, whose credits include
Artists at the Glendale-based animation studio toyed with changing Peabody's appearance, but largely preserved his upright, graphically spare design, bow-tie and glasses.
"This idea that Sherman would be going to school for the first time, that's a seminal moment for parents," said Minkoff, who has an 18-month old. "Even though he's a dog, that's not what it's about. He's a father who has a son and the relationship is going through a change."
(Ward has dogs; Minkoff, who "does not currently," said, almost sheepishly, "We're building a house and we have a 11/2 -year-old.")
In 2012, DreamWorks bought Classic Media, the company that had managed the rights to Peabody and Sherman in a joint venture with Jay Ward Productions as well as owning more than 400 other nostalgic brands including Lassie and Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Early reviews for "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" have praised its sophisticated wit, and the film has grossed $39 million so far in the international territories where it opened last month.
DreamWorks and its distribution partner,