Playing a genius is 'biggest stretch' of Ty Burrell's career

Ty Burrell.

"Mr. Peabody & Sherman" marks Ty Burrell's first animated feature, but getting the cartoon treatment as Mr. Peabody wasn't the hardest part of the job for the "Modern Family" star.

Even playing a canine didn't faze the Emmy winner. But playing a cartoon canine who happens to be incredibly intelligent? Now that was tough.

"I'm playing a genius, which is by far the biggest stretch of my career," he said during a Friday morning visit to TODAY. "It's like De Niro putting on 65 pounds to do 'Raging Bull.'"

The brainy role wasn't the only thing Burrell wasn't used to. As the voice of staid scientist Peabody, he had to leave the laughs to the other characters.

"I'm the straight man in this," he said. "And it's actually amazing. They have surrounded Peabody with hilarious people — Stephen Colbert and Patrick Warburton."

And an actress audiences are already used to hearing side-by-side with Burrell — his "Modern Family" daughter, Ariel Winter (who plays the part of schoolgirl Penny).

But the movie is really about Peabody, his protégé-turned-adopted-son, Sherman, and their fantastical time machine — the WABAC (aptly pronounced "way back.) . The characters use it to travel throughout history, but if Burrell ever got his hands on similar technology, he wouldn't have such grand plans.

"I'd probably go (back) … right before certain haircuts (I got) in high school," he confessed. "It'd be a very short trip."

"Mr. Peabody & Sherman" hits theaters in March.