Last month while I was in LA for the movie Mr. Peabody & Sherman Director Rob Minkoff sat down with my friend Crystal and I. We were both very honored that he sat down with us and we picked his brain about his new movie Mr. Peabody & Sherman. He was very excited to tell us all the details as this has been a project on his mind for about 15 years.
First I have to say is that Rob Minkoff is very very passionate about Mr. Peabody and keeping it as true to the original series that aired on TV years ago.He said that the first conversation that he had about this was in 2002. And he had just finished the film Stuart Little and his producing partner, Jason Clark, had a meeting with someone who worked for Classic Media; his name was Bob Higgins. Bob Higgins later went to work for Cartoon Network. And he showed up after lunch and he said, “what do you think of Mr. Peabody and Sherman?” And Rob’s response was, “I love Mr. Peabody and Sherman.” And Bob said, “what about making a feature film out of it?” And that was the beginning..
Then they met with the people from Classic Media, and with Tiffany. And the first conversation was about making it as a live action film. But it wasn’t very long after that they decided it would be better if it was an animation, that it would make more sense. And it was taken into consideration that there were a lot of live action adaptations of Jay Ward movies; George of the Jungle and Dudley Do-Right. There was also a question about a talking dog.
“But I started to feel like the whole notion of a talking dog and a boy would be better in the kind of a fantasy world where you can accept a talking dog much more easily than if it’s a live action world. Because suddenly, there are a lot of questions about why does the dog talk. How does he talk? Is it weird? Do people think it’s normal?……… The sensibility was that it’s an amazing character. He happens to be a dog, but nobody cares. Nobody bats an eye about it.”
Then he talked a lot about how the movie was at one studio and went to another. He talked about
And the very first place that we took the project to is a company called Walden Media, which is owned by a guy named Phil Anschutz, who’s very much dedicated to making family entertainment. And we met with couple of people, including Alex Schwartz, who was an executive at the company. And it was one of those storybook meetings that happens very rarely, but it’s very exciting when it does.
We went into the meeting and we pitched the project and they said yes in the room. They were excited about it. They said, we love Mr. Peabody and Sherman. We want to make a movie in animation. Even though they didn’t have an animation studio, the idea would be that we would somehow figure out how we would put together the animators to do it.
A year later, when it did get resolved, we went back to Walden and Walden said, well, things are a little different at our company right now. We were originally wanting to be 100 percent investor in the movie, but now, things have changed slightly because a couple of movies they made hadn’t performed as well as they’d hoped. They wanted to back us 50% though and we were all for it.
I got suggested in 2005 to go have a meeting at DreamWorks Animation because they were interested and they might even being interested in doing it as a satellite production. And they’d worked with Aardman Studios on Wallace and Gromit, they made a film with them in London. And they’ve worked with maybe other satellites and they said they might be willing to do that.
So, me, Alex and Jason Clark came for a meeting with Jeffrey Katzenberg, if you didn’t know. I’m sure you do. But I had not worked with him since his days at Disney. I spent my whole career at Disney, starting in 1983, I got hired, which was a year before Michael Eisner started. And so, Jeffrey wasn’t there.
And then I was there for 12 years all the way up and through The Lion King, which was the movie that I directed. So, everything I’d done up to that point, I had done with Jeffrey and had since gone out and done other movies like Stuart Little. And this was actually a chance for us to kind of work together again.
We were both enthusiastic about it. Jeffrey was very excited. He said, if you’re directing the movie, I’m in. I’m going to make the movie. And then he turned to Alex and said, what are you doing here? And she said, well, I’m with Walden and we’re going to be your 50 percent partner. And Jeffrey said, well, my business model does not account or allow for partners, he said. So I can’t do it with you. If you guys want to do it, great. But if you don’t want to do it, I’ll do it.
And so, Walden very graciously backed out.
Very graciously backed out of the project. So that was in 2005. And so we started on this development trek. And then a couple of years later, having written a draft of the script that the studio said wasn’t quite what they were hoping to do, I showed up for a meeting, a development meeting, and I saw Alex Schwartz was working at DreamWorks Animation. I was very surprised. I asked, what are you doing here? She said, well, I’m the new head of development.
So, we were suddenly repatriated. We were now working together on Mr. Peabody and Sherman again after many, many years had gone by. And worked until 2011 when the studio decided they were ready to make the movie. And I got a call from Bill Damaschke, who’s the creative director here at DreamWorks and he said, we’re going to make the movie. And that is when I met Denise who was working up at PDI, which is the studio that was really responsible for the creation of the film.
Anyway, that’s how the team came together and the film sort of came together on that incredibly long arduous trek.
He had so much to say about the movie, I just loved how passionate he was about the movie and it shows in the movie he produced.
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