In March 2014, Jay Ward’s cartoon duo of Mr. Peabody and Sherman made their feature film debut. The movie arrived 55 years after the pooch and his adopted boy’s animated career began as part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle (aka “Rocky and His Friends”)TV series. Now, to coincide with the release of their computer animated movie, 20 original episodes have been gathered together and released on DVD as “The Original Mr. Peabody and Sherman WABAC Adventures Volumes 1 and 2”.
The two volumes, on the DreamWorks/Classic Media label,each feature 10 cartoons, with a total running time of 60 minutes per disc. Three different "Peabody's Improbably History" intro openings are used for the episodes. A small number of the cartoons have the R&B (Rocky & Bullwinkle) bug or watermark appearing for a few seconds onscreen at the beginning of the episodes, as they did on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Complete Season DVD releases.
The Volume 1 DVD includes cartoons in which Mr. Peabody and Sherman meet various explorers such as Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Marco Polo, and Vasco Nunez de Balboa. Volume 2 includes the pair encountering U.S. historical figures like Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Daniel Boone, and Buffalo Bill. Of course, the writing in the toons is as clever as ever. In the episodes, we learn that the Great Wall of China was built by Marco Polo to introduce the sport of handball with; Daniel Boone’s hat was originally made of skunk skin, not coonskin; and James McNeill Whistler had a difficult time getting his hyperactive mother to sit still so he could create his famous painting of her .
The Texas Rangers episode includes a unique cameo from Bullwinkle,too, as in on scene, Sherman blows a bubble gum bubble of the moose who speaks a brief line.
Of course the cartoons were examples of limited animation. During one scene in the “Marco Polo” episode from Volume 1, Sherman’s nose is missing for a brief second. Also, in the “James McNeill Whistler (Whistler’s Mother painting) toon, Mr. Peabody is also missing his red bow tie for a moment. But, neither of these examples detracts from the fun of watching the episodes.
While enjoyable to watch, it feels like there’s something missing with these two releases, though. They’re bare bones in terms of content, with no bonus features, booklet or notes on the episodes included. The descriptions on the back covers are wrong, as the episodes noted as being on DVD Volume 1 are actually for Volume 2 and vice versa. Also, it’s as if the Peabody and Sherman episodes fit better as part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle shows than on their own. In that regard, perhaps a few of the Bullwinkle “Mr. Know It All” and “Bullwinkle’s Corner” segments could have been used as a sort of tie in feature in between the Peabody and Sherman cartoons.
It's a little surprising, too, that the first ever Peabody and Sherman episode produced, “Ben Franklin”, is not part of either DVD collection. It was part of the lineup on Classic Media's first “The Best of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Vol. 1” DVD release in 2005. By the way, only four cartoons from the 2005 DVD are repeated on the 2014 releases. 91 "Peabody's Improbable History" cartoons were produced from 1959 to 1961.
At less than ten dollars a pop, "The Original Mr. Peabody & Sherman WABAC Adventures " Volumes 1 and 2 are a nice deal They're just missing that little bit extra that would have made them more of a must buy.
- Book Review: The Art of Jay Ward Productions
Hokey Smoke! The new book by Darrell Van Citters about Jay Ward Productions, the creators of Rocky and Bullwinkle, is a complete triumph. It's a great look back at the artwork made for their shows.