Ariel Winter takes a break from playing brainy Alex Dunphy on TV’s “Modern Family,” to voice Penny Peterson, in the new animation “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.” The film has her and fellow actor, Max Charles, who voices Sherman, traveling back in time with the worlds smartest canine. The duo recently sat down for a quick Q&A session about the film and their characters.
For those who aren’t familiar with Mr. Peabody, the highly evolved and brilliant dog and his boy Sherman, they are characters that first appeared in the 1960s, when they were introduced as part of the cartoon series, “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.” Not surprisingly, neither of the two young stars had seen the cartoon prior to being cast.
While Charles could look for inspiration in the classic cartoon for Sherman, Winter had a bigger challenge since Penny was not part of the original storyline. However, this didn’t seem to bother her, “It was basically like they handed me a book and it was empty and I got to write the pages,” she explains. “I thought it was pretty cool that I got to create my own character.” Winter also joked that she brought her own real life sass to the role.
Penny’s assertive personality is what drives Sherman to defy orders and take Penny in Mr. Peabody’s WABAC (pronounced “Way-back”) time traveling machine. They embark on an adventure throughout some of history’s most legendary events, like the Trojan War. It also becomes a journey of self-discovery. Over the course of the story, Penny and Sherman grow up and learn important lessons in friendship and understanding. At the same time, Mr. Peabody goes through the hard process of learning to let the parental reins go a little.
Winter believes Penny’s behavior and actions go deeper than just a desire to pick on Sherman. She explain, “Penny gets the most attention at school for being smartest in class, and when she gets threatened by Sherman a little bit because he comes in and kind of takes her place, she acts out, to take back what she feels is her’s. In the end Penny really realizes some things about herself and we see that she has a huge heart and she ends up caring for Sherman and Mr. Peabody.”
When asked about his favorite scene in the movie, Charles described a sequence where King Tut smashes into the windshield of the WABAC — a very appropriate response for a 10–year-old boy.
Adventure aside, the heart of the story lies in the relationships. First we have the friendship that develops between Penny and Sherman. Second, we see the challenges of the father and son relationship and the added complexities of a dog being a parent to a boy. As humanized as Mr. Peabody is, at the end of the day, he still is a dog. Clearly the message is about acceptance, and not just canine love. However, for those of us out there who love our dogs like part of the family, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is sure to hit a special chord in our hearts for the film’s depiction of the love, loyalty and companionship we share with our four-legged best friends.
In addition to the voice talents of Max Charles and Ariel Winter, Mr. Peabody is voiced by Winter’s on screen, TV dad “Modern Family’s” Ty Burrell.
Be sure to check out the film when it hits theaters nationwide March 7th 2014.