Tag Archives: animation

‘Beauty and the Beast’ aims to enchant a new generation

In 1991, Disney struck gold with Beauty and the Beast. The film enchanted audiences and critics alike, and raked in several hundred million dollars along the way, but also upended expectations of what an animated film could be.

Not only did the New York Times theater critic controversially call it the best Broadway musical score of the year (spurring an actual Broadway show three years later), it also was the first-ever animated film to be nominated for a best picture Oscar.

Over a quarter century later, the legacy endures but times have changed, and there’s a new Beauty and the Beast on the block. Out March 17, the film is a lavish live-action reimagining of the “tale as old as time” with state-of-the-art CG splendor, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s classic songs and score (and a few new tunes with Tim Rice), and a modern social consciousness.

The film stars Harry Potter’s Emma Watson as the bookish heroine Belle, who yearns for adventure outside of the confines of her “small provincial town” and Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens as the cursed and cold Beast. Their supporting cast is a coterie of veterans, including Kevin Kline (Maurice), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe), Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza) and Ewan McGregor (Lumiere).

That Disney’s specific vision for Beauty and the Beast has lived on is no surprise, and its 13-year run on Broadway helped keep it in the cultural consciousness.

“It’s genuinely romantic, a genuinely beautiful story,” Menken said of its lasting appeal.

And then there’s the nostalgia aspect. For many (including the cast), this was a seminal childhood film.

Luke Evans (Gaston) saw it when he was 12, Josh Gad (LeFou) when he was 10, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette) when she was 8. Suffice it to say, they all knew the lyrics to the songs before they were cast.

The remake is also part of the Walt Disney Company’s ongoing strategy to mine their vaults for animated fare worthy of live-action re-creations. Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King are just a few already in the works.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t worthy updates to be made in Beauty and the Beast. Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) delighted in rooting the story in a specific time and place — 1740 France — and adorning every last corner of the production with Rococo and Baroque details.

Technology advances allowed the production to render household objects that look believable when brought to life. The Beast’s look, meanwhile, was achieved by combining performance capture and MOVA, a facial capture system, meaning Stevens throughout production walked on stilts and sported a prosthetic muscle suit with a gray body suit on top. (Yes, he danced in this getup).

The characters are more fleshed out as well. The Beast gets a backstory. As does Belle, whose independence looked refreshingly radical in ‘91 and goes even further here.

“She’s a 21st century Disney princess. She’s not just a pretty girl in a dress,” Evans said. “She’s fearless and needs no one to validate her.”

That the woman behind the character is also the UN women’s goodwill ambassador only adds to its resonance.

“I think Emma’s an incredible role model for young girls, as somebody who has two daughters but also has a young son who I want to grow up with these values instilled,” Stevens said.

And, in a tribute to Ashman, who died of complications relating to AIDS at age 40 before the ‘91 film came out, the production even unearthed forgotten lyrics from his notes, which they’ve added to two songs in the new film — Gaston and Beauty and the Beast.

While many of the beats, and even lines, remain the same as in 1991, the world looks more diverse from the very first shots. Faces of all races can be seen both in the grand castle and the country town.

“(Condon) wanted to make a film that was resonant for 2017, that represents the world as it is today,” said Mbatha-Raw.

Much has been made, too, of LeFou’s subtle “gay moment,” which put the internet in a tizzy far ahead of anyone actually seeing the film. On one side, GLAAD was applauding, on the other, a Facebook page apparently belonging to the Henagar Drive-In Theatre in Henagar, Alabama, announced that it would not be showing the film.

Many in the production have backed away from the topic entirely.

“To define LeFou as gay … nobody who sees the movie could define it that way. He’s enthralled with Gaston,” Menken said. “I’m happy that LeFou is getting so much attention. But I pray that this stupid topic goes away because it’s just not relevant with any respect to the story. Even the one moment that’s being discussed is just a silly little wink. It’s nothing.”

For his part, Gad thinks it’s been “overblown,” too, and that the story is more about “inclusiveness” and not judging a book by its cover.

“It’s a story with a lot of wonderful messages, and, really once you watch the film, anyone who is wondering what it’s all about will understand that it’s a beautiful story, inclusive of everyone. It’s a legacy that I’m proud to be part of,” Evans added.

“But you can judge Gaston by his cover,” he said with a smirk. “That’s exactly who he is.”

‘Trolls’ is big-hearted sensory overload

“Trolls” is a sugary sweet confection of sights and sounds that will surely leave a fair share of adults with an aching stomach and bleeding ears from sensory overload.

But, it’s not for them, is it?

Sure, it’s their childhood toys that are being riffed on, but beyond the dazzlingly grotesque renderings of the 1970s rec room look — all carpets and felt and mustard yellows — “Trolls” is not a nostalgia play.

It’s for the kids, and fairly young ones too, who will no doubt be swept up by the neon, the sterilized cover songs of pop music past and present, and the goofy, big-hearted humor. Even the parents will find loads of charm from that last one. The script is quite clever, but it is too easily overshadowed by everything else that’s going on (which is a lot).

The governing theory behind “Trolls” seems to have been to crank it up to eleven at every turn. That fits with the mantra of the Trolls themselves, which is hyper positivity (and I do mean hyper). They sing and dance and hug every hour and celebrate with joyous abandon. There’s even a Troll in full body sparkles who sings only in auto-tune — an example of how the jokes can go way too far into just plain annoying territory.

Thankfully, it’s grounded with some truly fantastic vocal talent led by Anna Kendrick (Princess Poppy), whose impeccable comedic timing and silky speaking and singing are perfectly used. I just wish they would have stuck with more original songs, saving the known pop tunes for comedic effect only. Sonically speaking, “Trolls” is hitting a little too close to that abysmal George Lucas mess “Strange Magic.”

The story itself is an odd one. The Trolls have some distant neighbors called Bergens — grotesque-looking monsters suffering from chronic depression who decided long ago that the only way to be happy is to eat Trolls. Yes, EAT the Trolls, like their own personal supply of Prozac. For some reason, they only do this once a year on Trollstice. But that all ended 20-some years ago when the Troll King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor) heroically staged a massive escape mission, saving his subjects from death by Bergen.

Cut to the present day and the Trolls are happy and celebratory as ever, but their party gets a little too rowdy and, well, an exiled Bergen (Christine Baranski) spots them and captures a few to weasel her way back into the good graces of the people of Bergen Town. The dreary ugliness of Bergen Town and its inhabitants actually has a bit of a Jim Henson-vibe, reminding older audiences of a time when children’s productions were still allowed to be insanely weird and even a little creepy. But it stops at the visuals. Even the awkward Bergen scullery maid Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) has a perfectly crisp pop voice when she bursts into Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” Why didn’t she go full character actress in song? It’s just another one of the ways in which “Trolls” mashes up past and present in a way that doesn’t quite coalesce.

In any event, Poppy and the rare negative troll Branch (Justin Timberlake) take it on themselves to go try to save the captured Trolls. They have a fun enough buddy comedy chemistry together, though Timberlake is not as adept at voice acting as Kendrick is. And ultimately, the “get happy” moral of the story, while trite compared to something like “Inside Out,” is sufficiently sweet enough for its audience. Did you expect more from a piece of candy?

 

Animal lovers will delight in ‘The Secret Life of Pets’

Any pet owner who’s imbued their furry or feathered friends with deep thoughts and mysterious intentions will relate to the imagination behind The Secret Life of Pets.

It may not have the emotional resonance of a Pixar movie, but with its playful premise, endearing performances and outstanding score by Alexandre Desplat, Pets is fun, family (and animal)-friendly fare.

People’s favorite non-speaking companions are brought to life here by Illumination Entertainment (the studio behind Despicable Me) and given voice by an all-star cast that includes Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate and Albert Brooks.

Plot-wise, Pets follows the path Pixar set with talking toys 20 years ago in Toy Story: Two would-be rivals fighting for the love of their owner are forced to unite for a common cause.

Little terrier Max (C.K.) is the top dog in the life of his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper), and a leader among the other house pets in their New York City apartment building, including neighbor Pomeranian Gidget (Slate), and the fat cat next door, Chloe (Lake Bell). But his exalted position is threatened when Katie brings home a giant, fluffy mutt named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Like Woody and Buzz, Max and Duke are instantly at odds.

The rival pups are trying to sabotage each other when they become separated from their dog walker and captured by animal control. This sends them on an adventure into the animal underworld: literally the underground headquarters of a bitter bunny named Snowball (Hart) and his team of Flushed Pets. Abandoned by their former owners, their motto is “liberated forever, domesticated never.”

Max and Duke try to fit in, but Snowball soon observes, “You’ve got the scent of domestication all over you,” and sends his army of rogue animals after them. At one point, the little rabbit steals a bus.

Meanwhile, the other pets from Max and Duke’s apartment building notice the two are missing and set out to find them. Gidget, who has a not-so-secret crush on Max, leads a menagerie that includes Chloe the cat, Mel the pug, Buddy the dachshund and a guinea pig named Norman.

They enlist the help of Tiberius the hawk (Brooks) and Pops (Dana Carvey), the wheelchair-bound basset hound who knows every animal in New York.

Desplat’s jazzy, energetic score amplifies the urgency and excitement as the chase continues through the city, and clever animation highlights the quirkiness of animal behavior. Though the characters in Pets are entirely anthropomorphized — they speak English and can operate electronics — they retain some recognizable animalism. When Pops wants to shut down one of his famous parties, for example, he turns on the vacuum cleaner. Dogs in hot pursuit of their friends are suddenly distracted by butterflies. And Buddy’s movements are especially amusing, as he navigates his elongated dachshund body around corners and down stairs.

It’s fun to imagine what pets get into when no one is home, and Pets does a great job of taking that idea to an extreme. And you thought Fluffy and Fido just spent the day napping.

Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ is wildly entertaining

Just when it was looking like animated animal movies had run out of anything original to say, along comes Disney’s smartly amusing, crisply relevant Zootopia to handily demonstrate there’s still plenty of bite left in the anthropomorphic CG menagerie.

Boasting a pitch perfect voice cast led by a terrific Ginnifer Goodwin as a righteous rural rabbit who becomes the first cotton-tailed police recruit in the mammal-centric city of Zootopia, the 3-D caper expertly combines keen wit with a gentle, and very timely, message of inclusivity and empowerment.

The engaging result should easily appeal to all creatures great and small, giving this premium Walt Disney Animation Studios effort a paw up on spring break entertainment, not to mention the summer arrival of Universal’s animated “The Secret Life of Pets.”

As the Zootopia Police Department’s sole bunny officer, idealistic Judy Hopps (Goodwin) discovers that breaking barriers can be an uphill climb, especially when the other cops in the force are mainly of the more imposing elephant/rhino/hippo ilk.

Although intrepid Judy can’t wait to collar her first perp, Bogo (Idris Elba), Precinct 1’s gruff cape buffalo police chief, has other plans, assigning her to parking duty, where she proves her worth by writing 200 tickets before noon on her first day.

But when a number of Zootopia’s residents abruptly go missing, Bogo gives Judy the green light to do some big time police work and she finds herself partnering up with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly, world-weary scam artist of a fox, in a 48-hour bid to crack the case.

Nimbly directed by Byron Howard (Tangled, Bolt) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph), along with co-director Jared Bush, who shares screenplay credit with Phil Johnston, the romp serves up plenty of sharply observed satire (a DMV manned entirely by sloths is played to hilariously protracted effect) wrapped up in judicious life lessons that never feel preachy or shoehorned-in.

While Goodwin and Bateman are a voice-casting dream team come true as a dysfunctional duo who learn to follow their instincts over preconceived notions, they’re joined by a nicely diverse supporting ensemble that also includes J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer and Shakira as a gazelle pop star who performs the film’s original song, “Try Everything,” co-written by hit-makers Sia and Stargate.

Also making their lines count are Jenny Slate as a not-so-sheepish sheep who serves as Zootopia’s predator-averse assistant mayor and Maurice LaMarsh as an arctic shrew version of Don Corleone named Mr. Big.

Visually, the Zootopia canvas pops — with or without the 3-D glasses — thanks to a gorgeously vibrant color palette and whimsical architectural scales orchestrated by production designer David Goetz. His work is in keeping with an all-mammal parallel universe comprised of distinct microclimates like sunny Bunnyburrow, icy Tundratown and self-explanatory Little Rodentia.

Composer Michael Giacchino, meanwhile, in his first non-Pixar animated feature assignment, delivers a typically buoyant score, playfully tossing in music cues that pay affectionate homage to Bernard Herrmann and Nino Rota.

Zootopia, a Disney release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some thematic elements, rude humor and action.” Running time: 95 minutes.

Walt Disney’s wild ride with surrealist Salvador Dali

It turns out the man behind Mickey Mouse liked quirky cats.

Besides his love of wholesome entertainment, Walt Disney also had an appreciation for the eccentric that led to a short-lived partnership and decades-long friendship with surrealistic artist Salvador Dali.

Although their styles and personalities were dramatically different, Disney and Dali shared a fascination with the fantastic. They brought their vivid imaginations together shortly after World War II to work on an animated feature called “Destino,” which wasn’t completed until long after their deaths.

Even after they abandoned “Destino,” the two artists remained in touch and even traveled to each other’s homes, swapping fishing stories and periodically discussing plans to make a movie based on “Don Quixote.” That dream was never realized. Disney died in 1966. Dali, who was three years younger, died in 1989.

The improbable bond between the mastermind of Disneyland and the Spanish painter of reality-bending images will be explored in an exhibit running from July 10 through Jan. 3 at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. It will then shift to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The exhibit will feature “Destino” storyboards, letters exchanged between the two men, photographs, voice recordings and rarely seen artwork, including a drawing of Don Quixote that Dali did for Disney in 1957 inside a book, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

“This will show an angle of Walt that people don’t normally think of — he wasn’t just all about family-friendly stuff,” says filmmaker Ted Nicolaou, the exhibit’s curator. “He wasn’t dark, but he dealt in dreams and fantastical images. He was a man ready to experiment in any way possible.”

Dali, a pioneer in Europe’s surrealistic movement, thought Disney might be a kindred spirit when he saw some of Disney’s early animation in the “Silly Symphony” series that ran from 1929 through 1939. Nicolaou said a “Silly Symphony” skit featuring dancing skeletons particularly appealed to Dali, whose paintings of melting clocks, apparitions, monsters and other creatures often border on the hallucinogenic.

When he first came to California in 1937, Dali sought out another artist whom he considered to be a master in surrealism _ the comedian Harpo Marx. He also saw surrealistic undertones in the work of Disney and filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille.

Disney had become intrigued with Dali, too. After reading the artist’s autobiography, he sent his copy to Dali in 1944 seeking an autograph. He also suggested that Dali work on a piece of animation to be packaged into a film along the lines of Disney’s 1940 musical, “Fantasia.”

The partnership didn’t come to fruition until late 1945, shortly after Disney and Dali met for the first time at a Hollywood dinner party hosted by movie studio mogul Jack Warner. By that time, Dali had already completed some work on a dream sequence in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Spellbound.”

Given the a wide range of choices in Disney’s vast music library, Dali decided to set his animation to a Spanish ballad called “Destino” because the title resonated with his interest in destiny. Disney assigned one of his most trusted animators, John Hench, to assist Dali on “Destino.”

While working with Hench to produce more than 200 storyboards and sketches for “Destino,” Dali struggled to come up with a plot that made sense to Disney. The two men’s differences began to crystallize in a 1946 interview when they were asked about their visions for “Destino.” Dali described it as “a magical exposition of life in the labyrinth of time” while Disney saw it as “a simple love story _ boy meets girl.”

Their differences widened when Dali began to insert sketches of baseball players into “Destino.” Exasperated that about $70,000 had already had been spent on a project that didn’t seem to be progressing, Disney decided to scrap it.

“It got a little too wild for Walt, so he quietly pulled the plug,” Nicolaou says. “I think Dali was embarrassed and hurt by it.”

The professional split apparently didn’t damage Dali’s friendship with Disney. During the 1950s, Dali visited Disney’s home, where he rode Disney’s model train, “the Lilly Belle.” Later Disney and his wife, traveled to see Dali and his wife, Gala, at their home in Port Lligat, Spain.

“Destino” was finally finished in 2003 after Walt’s nephew, Roy, hired French director Dominique Monfery to complete what Dali left behind with the help of computers. Hench, then in his 90s, also helped animators figure out where Dali was initially headed with the story.

The adaptation includes Dali-sque images of plants with eyeballs, ants morphing into beret-wearing men on bicycles and a ballerina removing her head to throw at a baseball player wielding a bat.

“Destino” was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004 for best animated short film. Although it didn’t win, Nicolaou says the piece deserves recognition for “incrementally expanding our vision of who Walt Disney was.”

If You Go…

DISNEY AND DALI: ARCHITECTS OF THE IMAGINATION: July 10-Jan. 3 at Walt Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery St., The Presidio, San Francisco, 413-345-6800 or http://www.waltdisney.org/ . Closed Tuesdays; other days 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Adults, $20; students, seniors, $15; children 6-17, $12. Exhibition moves to Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2016.

Dali-and-Dinsey-exhibit-718x300

Before rape joke, ‘Family Guy’ had critics

This weekend’s crossover episode of Fox’s “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” has received criticism for a scene where a character uses rape as a punchline for a joke.

The line appears in a scene in which Bart Simpson is instructing Stewie Griffin in the art of the prank phone call. Bart dials the owner of Moe’s Tavern and asks whether there is anyone there with the last name Keybum, first name Lee. When Moe calls out to his patrons, asking for a “leaky bum,” everyone gets a laugh.

Stewie thinks that’s cool, and asks to make his own prank call.

“Hello, Moe?” he says. “Your sister’s being raped.”

Tim Winter, president of the advocacy group Parents Television Council, said he’s a longtime fan of Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons,” and sought out the trailer when it was released.

“I was blown out of my shoes when I saw the scene with the rape joke in it,” Winter said. “It really troubled me.”

He said he found it particularly offensive in the context of stories about sexual assaults on college campuses and, most recently, talk about abusive treatment of women by some players in the National Football League. He said when rape is accepted as a punch line for a joke in entertainment, “it becomes less outrageous in real life.”

Winter said he wrote to Groening, “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane and Fox in August, asking that the joke be removed when the episode is shown on television. He said he received no reply.

MacFarlane brought up the line during a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, predicting he will get attacked for it in the media. “But in context,” he said, “it’s pretty funny.”

Winter said he didn’t think the subject was worth joking about, and said he was particularly concerned about its exposure to younger viewers who may be fans of “The Simpsons,” but are not familiar with the “Family Guy” style of comedy.

It’s not the first time the animated “Family Guy” has gotten its creators in hot water. Here are some other examples:

• Fox declined to air an episode, “Partial Terms of Endearment,” during the 2009-10 season when family matriarch Lois Griffin contemplates an abortion. She was acting as a surrogate for a couple killed in an auto accident before the baby was born. Fox executives said it was fragile subject matter at a sensitive time. The episode was later released on DVD.

• The episode, “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein” was criticized as anti-Semitic by The Forward, a newspaper that spotlights Jewish issues. In it, the character Peter sings a song titled “I Need a Jew.” Fox initially declined to air it, and it was shown first on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network in 2003. Fox then aired it the next year.

• Advocates for people living with AIDS criticized a 2005 episode in which Peter was part of a barbershop quartet that dressed in red vests and danced around a man’s hospital bed singing a song titled, “You Have AIDS.”

• Sarah Palin called the show’s writers “heartless jerks” for a 2010 episode in which the character Chris dated a girl with Down syndrome. When Chris asked what her parents did, she replied: “My dad’s an accountant, and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.” Palin, who had resigned as Alaska governor months earlier, has a son with Down syndrome.

Fox’s entertainment division, through a spokeswoman, said it would not comment on the criticism or whether there are any second thoughts about the joke in the episode scheduled to air later this week.

Review: Lovely visuals, smart writing in ‘Dragon’

You thought it was tricky to train a dragon?

It’s even trickier to take a much-admired animated film and make a sequel that feels satisfying and worthwhile. And it’s harder still to balance the competing needs of stretching the story in new directions but retaining the guiding spirit of the original enough to make fans happy.

It’s nice to be able to report that “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” written and directed by Dean DeBlois, does all that tricky stuff pretty darned well. And you’ll be happily surprised at the new twists it takes — sort of like getting an unexpected second candy bar in the vending machine. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” doesn’t play it safe, and that’s why it’s the rare sequel that doesn’t feel somewhat stale.

The story returns us to Berk, where our young Viking hero, Hiccup (again voiced by Jay Baruchel), lives and frolics with his devoted dragon, Toothless, whom he befriended in the first movie, with momentous ramifications for human-dragon relations. Five years have passed, and now Berk is a virtual playground for dragons and Vikings alike. 

An amusing opening sequence shows the new pursuit of dragon-racing, a game that vaguely resembles Quidditch. And adjustments have been made to enhance dragon-human coexistence: for example, an aqueduct system, to quickly put out those pesky dragon-breath fires.

Hiccup, though, isn’t into the games — he’s attracted to the beautiful skies, and spends his time exploring them, aboard Toothless, adding to the map he’s making of the world. His first scene of airborne frolic with Toothless is absolutely beautiful, and a sign of the visual delights to come.   

Hiccup’s restless nature, though, is at odds with the aspirations of his burly father, Stoick the Vast (a sweetly gruff Gerard Butler), who wants Hiccup to take up new responsibilities. But Hiccup doesn’t feel leadership is really his thing. That’s what he tells spunky Astrid (America Ferrera, back from the first film), who is now his girlfriend, as well as a fellow explorer.  (Other famous returning voices are Jonah Hill as Snotlout and Kristen Wiig as Ruffnut.)

One day Hiccup and Astrid make an ominous discovery: A trapper’s fort. Eret, son of Eret (Kit Harington) is cocky and ambitious. But his boss? He’s evil. That would be Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), a vicious villain who’s building a dragon army. Hiccup resolves to stop him.

And someone else, he learns — a mysterious figure in the skies _ is also fighting Drago. Her name is Valka, and she is, shockingly, none other than Hiccup’s mother, long presumed dead. In fact, Valka — voiced by Cate Blanchett in an elegant, otherworldly accent — has spent these long years saving dragons. The scene in which she shows him the fantastic oasis where these rescued dragons live — a tropical wonderland inside a giant ice formation — is a marvel of color and inventive design, probably the prettiest scene in the film.

For a while, it seems like a perfect family reunion. But happiness is short-lived. Valka doesn’t believe, as her family does, that dragons can live with humans — humans can be too cruel. And Drago, with his violent plans, is proving her right.

Without giving away too much, this is where the film travels into darker areas than its predecessor, displaying an admirable maturity. Many animated tales involve dashing acts of bravery, but rarely do they show the possible tragic consequences of such acts. Many tears will be shed over the scene where Hiccup learns that bad things can happen to good people.

And there’s another lesson here, too: People _ or creatures _ who love you sometimes can still hurt you. Relationships have their limits. Animated films for kids don’t routinely address such matters. Kudos to the creators here, who took a terrific first film and made a sequel that, both visually and thematically, lives up to that promise.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America “for adventure action and some mild rude humor.” Running time: 102 minutes. Three stars out of four.

‘Peabody & Sherman’ a sweet, geeky jaunt

Animated films have seen their share of uptight dads — the most memorable being merman Triton and his strict rule over daughter Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” and the over-protective caveman Grug in the prehistoric journey “The Croods.” Mr. Peabody the dog in the charming “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is no different.

As the aforementioned papas learned, this overbearing beagle must eventually loosen the leash he has on his adopted son, Sherman. But this is especially difficult for Mr. Peabody, since Sherman is not only a lively youngster, but a human one.

Heartfelt and snappy, DreamWorks Animation’s “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” follows the wild adventures that bond a dog and his boy. Within the first few moments, we discover Mr. Peabody (voiced by a tenacious and loveable Ty Burrell) is a pseudo-intellectual dog who attended Harvard. Meticulous and reserved, Mr. Peabody’s success has earned him an impressive penthouse in New York City and the consent to adopt Sherman (voiced by child actor Max Charles of ABC’s “The Neighbors”), who he found abandoned in a cardboard box as a baby.

Like last year’s wacky, yet underwhelming “Free Birds,” this animated feature features time-travel. Luckily, “Peabody & Sherman” offers a tighter plot and adorably geeky dialogue, thanks to writer Craig Wright (“Six Feet Under”). Via a time-machine he’s invented, papa Peabody has enriched Sherman’s upbringing with visits to past eras and the benchmark events within them — like Vincent van Gogh’s creation of “The Starry Night.”

Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, Mr. Peabody and Sherman first appeared in “Peabody’s Improbable History,” a segment within the animated television series “Rocky and His Friends” and later “The Bullwinkle Show.” The latest film modernizes the duo’s story, time-machine still included, into a 3-D jaunt.

Now in elementary school, Sherman, a cute kid with wild red hair and huge glasses, is curious and frisky. On his first day of class, a brainy blonde named Penny (voiced by Ariel Winter of “Modern Family”) starts a fight with Sherman when he challenges her knowledge of George Washington, who he’s actually met in his time travels.

Despite the aptitude of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, we never really get another glimpse of Penny’s intelligence, even as she becomes a central character. Instead, she’s mostly obnoxious and when Sherman takes her for a ride on the time machine, she leads him to be disobedient. But she also encourages him to be a risk-taker, fostering his individuality and that of the little ones watching. It’s here that Mr. Peabody learns a thing or two about parenting. He must remain in control, while allowing Sherman to make mistakes.

As Mr. Peabody and Sherman visit ancient Egypt, the French Revolution and the Trojan War, historical tidbits unfold in cunning ways. However, aspects of their adventures, like Leonardo da Vinci’s weird robot baby invention, are often too loony. But the story, with additional voices by Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann and Allison Janney, does have the ability to inspire kids’ curiosity about historical benchmarks. And though a few corny jokes may go over their heads — “Perhaps I’m an old Giza,” Mr. Peabody says after leaving Egypt — jabs at Spartacus and Bill Clinton will make adults giggle.

Directed by Rob Minkoff (“The Lion King,” “Stuart Little”) and with Jason Schleifer (“Megamind”) as the head of character animation, the visuals are stylish and clean. But the 3-D effect is unnecessary. Danny Elfman, whose credits include “Big Fish” and 14 Tim Burton films, crafts a score that’s sprightly and sentimental. The most touching moments come during montages of Mr. Peabody and Sherman playing sports.

The kiddie film is a big wet kiss for dogs and dog lovers that champions loyalty and bravery as not only traits of canines, but as universal attributes.