Ty Burrell on ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ and trying to sound smart

"Modern Family" star Ty Burrell voices a brainiac mutt in "Mr. Peabody & Sherman." Credit: Getty Images
“Modern Family” star Ty Burrell voices a brainiac mutt in “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.”
Credit: Getty Images

Since 2009, Ty Burrell’s face has been a fixture of televisions, as the bumbling but well-meaning paterfamilias on “Modern Family.” But with “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” Burrell disappears behind the titular cartoon mutt who, as on the history-themed segments on “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” is an anthropomorphic brainiac with an adopted son (voice of Max Charles). It’s not always an easy transition.

Was “Peabody & Sherman” your favorite bit on “Rocky and Bullwinkle”?

It was probably a dead heat with the Rocky and Bullwinkle bits. I don’t really remember the “Fractured Fairy Tales.” I didn’t see them when they were in their original airing, of course. But my older bother, who’s about 7 years older than I am, he loved them, and I remember him watching and laughing.

Bill Scott, who originally voiced Mr. Peabody, had a very distinctive delivery. How closely did you try to mimic him?

Initially a lot. I was really trying to keep as many of his cadences as I could. We kind of discovered that it didn’t work for the more heart-to-heart stuff between Peabody and Sherman. If you remember the originals, they’re very witty and very glib. It’s five minutes and it’s a history lesson, and it’s very funny. But we had to ground the voice so that when those scenes came along, it didn’t seem like they came out of nowhere. It became a balance between paying respect to Bill Scott and sounding a little bit human. Even though it’s a dog.

You have a lot of scientific terms to rattle off here. Were you a nerd?

No, no. That’s why I deserve an Oscar — three Oscars. Just being able to pretend that I’m a genius for two minutes is the greatest stretch ever captured on film. I lost to the words more than I won. Usually I’d get one take where I could get “synchronic fundibulator” without messing it up. Luckily they hit record on the few occasions I got it right.

Usually you’re working with your fellow actors. But voicework tends to be recorded individually. You never even meet, even though you’re communicating on screen.

That’s an unusual part of it for sure. Although Max [Charles] and I did have a day where we worked together. We tried to hit the scenes that were the most heart-to-heart. They usually prefer to keep you separated, so they can cut cleanly. You do the scenes 30 different ways, so they have enough to choose from. [Animation isn’t] about the actors. It’s about the directors and animators. They’re the stars of the movie. It really is the most humbling thing you can do, because you realize what a small part of an animated film a voice really is.

“Modern Family” is one of many shows made to look like it’s part improvised. How overstated is its reliance on ad-libbing?

We certainly don’t improvise as much as people think we do. That’s a product of the style — it makes us seem like we’re improvising. It’s more of an editors’ field. The editors get to contribute more, because it has looser ends to it. The editor gets to shape our show more than old comedies used to. But if you can beat a joke, which is hard with our writers, because our writers are very good — if you can beat, they use it. I love thinking maybe one of my hundred stupid jokes will make it to air.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

National

New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.

National

Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…