Peabody and his boy, Sherman.


Medium: Television animation
Produced by: Jay Ward
First Appeared: 1959
Creator: Ted Key
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Set the Wayback Machine for 1959. That's when Jay Ward's Peabody's Improbable History began.

Peabody was a …

continued below

… cartoon series about a time-travelling dog and his pet boy, Sherman. Using Peabody's "Wayback Machine", the pair would take jaunts through history, and usually wind up instrumental in making events come out "right", i.e., the way they're depicted in history books. The 91 four-and-a-half-minute episodes always ended with atrocious puns.

Peabody was one of the back-up segments in several of Ward's cartoon shows, starting with Rocky & His Friends. It continued when, in 1961, that half-hour series switched from ABC to NBC and was retitled The Bullwinkle Show. From 1964-67, reruns of it became part of The Hoppity Hooper Show, which aired on ABC, Saturday mornings. Finally, episodes were re-packaged into The Dudley Do-Right Show, which was on ABC in the 1969-70 season. Nowadays, it's seen as part of the Bullwinkle show on Cartoon Network.

The cultured voice of the dog, Peabody, was provided by co-producer Bill Scott, whose other voice credits include Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, and Cap'n Crunch's arch-enemy Jean LaFoot. (And by the way, Peabody is named after Scott's pet pooch.) It's widely believed that Sherman's falsetto was provided by June Foray (Rocky's voice), but this is incorrect — Sherman was actually voiced by character actor Walter Tetley, who had earlier done the voice of the Walter Lantz studio's Andy Panda. Foray was the voice of most female characters, while the male historical figures were done by Paul Frees, voice of Ludwig von Drake, Dinky Duck and Boris Badenov.

Ted Key, the cartoonist behind Hazel, whose brother Leonard worked with Jay Ward, is credited with having created Peabody. Actually, his main contribution was the dog that had a boy, rather than vice versa. The rest of the scenario was added in development, with a few ideas from other proposed cartoons thrown in. As it wound up, it owed quite a bit to a series of vignettes that appeared in the 1950s and '60s in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. "Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot", by "Grendel Briarton" (a pseudonym — and anagram — of author Reginald Bretnor, and no relation) placed its eponymous hero in a wide variety of historical and science-fictional settings, usually as an excuse to deliver a pun at the end. Take away the futuristic settings and add a dog and his boy, and Feghoot becomes Peabody.

Whatever its source, the Peabody cartoons are well remembered by the generation that first watched them. "Set the Wayback Machine" has become a familiar phrase for recalling times gone by.


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Text ©2000-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Jay Ward Productions.