Posts Tagged ‘Dave Thomas’

Mr. Peabody & Sherman travel through time to the big screen.

mr__peabody__sherman_2014-wideBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

Jay Ward may not a household name, but many of the characters he created are.

As the Grand Poobah at Jay Ward Productions he produced the animated television shows that gave us Rocky & Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Peabody and Sherman and George of the Jungle among others.

His cartoons weren’t just for kids. The Los Angeles Times wrote, “The good ones, which Ward was a master at creating, worked at two levels: one direct and another wonderfully satiric.”

This weekend his characters take over the big screen in Mr. Peabody & Sherman, an animated film starring the voices of Modern Family’s Ty Burrell, Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann.

Based on Peabody’s Improbable History segment from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, the movie sees the duo use the WABAC machine to ping pong through time, interacting with everyone from Marie Antoinette to King Tut to Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman isn’t the first film based on Ward’s characters.

In a 199 television movie (originally shot in 1988 for theatrical release) SCTV alum Dave Thomas played Boris Badenov, “world’s greatest no-goodnik.” With his partner-in-crime Natasha Fatale (Sally Kellerman) he leaves Pottsylvania for the United States to retrieve a micro-chip. TV Guide said, “as a 90-minute feature film, it’s at least 80 minutes too long,” but it’s worth a gander to see one of the rare live action performances of June Foray, the original voice of Rocky.

Brendan Fraser brought two of Ward’s characters to life, George of the Jungle and Dudley Do-Right.

George of the Jungle is a riff on Tarzan. He’s boy raised in the jungle by an ape (John Cleese) but who never mastered the art of swinging from tree to tree. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 56% Fresh Rating, but the film remains most memorable for the catchy “George, George / George of the Jungle / Strong as he can be / Watch out for that tree,” theme song by the Presidents of the United States of America.

Two years later Fraser was back in another Ward inspired movie about a bumbling Canadian Mountie called Dudley Do-Right who “always gets his man.”

Co-starring with Sarah Jessica Parker and Alfred Molina, the story saw Dudley track his nemesis, the depraved Snidely Whiplash. Bad reviews—USA Today’s called it a “Dead-carcass spinoff of Jay Ward’s animated TV favorite.”—doomed the movie, but the character lives on as part of an amusement park ride called Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls at the Islands of Adventure theme park.

Finally, despite an big name cast—Jason Alexander, Rene Russo and John Goodman—The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle bombed at the box office despite Robert De Niro doing a take on his famous “You talkin’ to me?” speech from Taxi Driver.

MIKE MYERS, “Canada is the essence of not being” By Richard Crouse

waynes-worldFrom a gig as a dance show host (billed as “Funky Mike Myers”) to a stint on Saturday Night Live to hit films like Wayne’s World and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Michael John Myers has followed the path of Canadian trailblazers like the SCTV folks who found fame making Americans laugh.  The Scarborough, Ontario born comedian says he was able to break into the American comedy market “because other Canadians helped me.”

Citing early boosters like Dave Thomas, Martin Short and Lorne Michaels (who the young Myers idolized, even doing an eighth grade project on the producer) Myers found his feet as a comedian with Second City, (on stages in Toronto and Chicago), and then in 1989 he, like Dan Aykroyd and Phil Hartman before him, found fame as part of Saturday Night Live.  

Since then he’s had time to reflect on why Canadians have been so successful in America. To explain he quotes one of his early advocates.

“Martin Short said something that was kind of interesting which is when Americans watch TV they’re watching TV but when Canadians watch TV they’re watching American TV. There is sort of a separation. We can look at American culture as foreigners except that we’re not all that different. ‘Wow, we are like two cultures separated by a common language,’ to quote Winston Churchill.”

Canadians, he suggests, are the great observers, carefully studying and digesting American movies, television and music before putting their own spin on them. Having both objectivity and perspective allows comics like Myers to analyze pop culture, and then create a unique style that adds to the culture while cleverly (and quietly) dissecting it.

“Canada is the essence of not being,” he says. “Not English, not American, it is the mathematic of not being. And a subtle flavor. We’re more like celery as a flavor.”