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The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show

The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show is the collective name for two separate American television animated series: Rocky and His Friends (1959 – 1961) and The Bullwinkle Show (1961 – 1964). Rocky & Bullwinkle enjoyed great popularity during the 1960s. Much of this success was a result of it being targeted towards both children and adults. The zany characters and absurd plots would draw in children, while the clever usage of puns and topical references appealed to the adult demographic. Furthermore, the strengths of the series helped it overcome the fact that it had choppy, limited animation; in fact, some critics described the series as a well-written radio program with pictures.

Background

The idea for the series was created by Jay Ward and Alex Anderson, who had both previously collaborated on Crusader Rabbit, and was based upon the original property The Frostbite Falls Revue. This original show was about a group of forest animals running a TV station. The group included Rocket J. Squirrel, Oski Bear, Canadian Moose (Bullwinkle), Sylvester Fox, Blackstone Crow, and Floral Fauna. The show in this form was created by Jay Ward's partner Alex Anderson.

Ward wanted to produce the show in Los Angeles; however, Anderson, who lived in the San Francisco Bay area, did not want to relocate. As a result, Ward hired Bill Scott, who became the head writer and co-producer at Jay Ward Productions, and who wrote all of the Rocky and Bullwinkle features. Ward was also joined by writers Allan Burns (who later became head writer for MTM Enterprises) and Chris Hayward.

Voice actors

The series began with the pilot Rocky the Flying Squirrel. Production began in February 1958 with the hiring of voice actors June Foray, Paul Frees, Bill Scott, and William Conrad. Eight months later, General Mills signed a deal to sponsor the cartoon, under the condition that the show be run in a late-afternoon time slot, where it could be targeted towards children. Subsequently, Ward hired most of the rest of the production staff, including writers and designers. However, no animators were hired, since Ward was able to convince friends of his at Dancer, Fitzgerald, & Sample — an advertising firm that had General Mills as a client — to buy an animation studio in Mexico called Gamma Productions S.A. de C.V. (formerly known as Val-Mar Animation.) This outsourcing of the animation for the series was considered financially attractive by General Mills, but caused numerous problems. Bill Scott, when interviewed by animation historian Jim Korkis in 1982, described some of the problems that arose in the production of the series:
We found out very quickly that we could not depend on the Mexico studio to produce anything of quality. They were turning out the work very quickly and there were all kinds of mistakes and flaws and boo-boos. They would never check. Mustaches popped on and off Boris, Bullwinkle's antlers would change, colors would change, costumes would disappear. By the time we finally saw it, it was on the air.

Network television run (1959-1973)

The show was broadcast for the first time in the fall of 1959 on the ABC television network under the name Rocky and His Friends. In 1961, the series was moved to NBC, where it was renamed The Bullwinkle Show. Subsequently, in 1964, the show returned to ABC, where it was canceled within a year. However, reruns of episodes were still continually aired on ABC until 1973, at which time the series went into syndication. In addition, an abbreviated fifteen minute version of the series ran in syndication in the 1960s under the title The Rocky Show. This version was sometimes shown in conjunction with The King and Odie, a fifteen minute version of Total Television's King Leonardo and his Short Subjects. The King and Odie was similar to Rocky and Bullwinkle in that it was sponsored by General Mills and animated by Gamma Productions.

Syndicated package

Sponsor General Mills retains all United States television rights to the series, which remains available in domestic syndication through The Program Exchange, although the underlying rights are now owned by Bullwinkle Studios, a joint venture of copyright holder Ward Productions and Classic Media. Two packages, each containing different episodes, are available. The syndicated version of The Bullwinkle Show contains 98 half-hour shows (#801-898). The first 78 comprise the Rocky & Bullwinkle storylines from the first two seasons of the original series (these segments originally aired under the Rocky And His Friends title). Other elements in the half-hours (Fractured Fairy Tales, Peabody's Improbable History, Dudley Do-Right Of The Mounties, Aesop And Son, and short cartoons including Bullwinkle's Corner and Mr. Know-It-All) do not necessarily correspond to the original broadcast sequence. The final 20 syndicated Bullwinkle Show episodes feature later Rocky & Bullwinkle storylines (from "Bumbling Bros. Circus" through the end of the series, minus "Moosylvania") along with Fractured Fairy Tales, Bullwinkle's Corner and Mr. Know-It-All segments repeated from earlier in the syndicated episode cycle. (Originally, many of the syndicated shows also included segments of Total Television's The World of Commander McBragg, but these cartoons were replaced with other segments when the shows were remastered in the early 1990s.) Another package, promoted under the Rocky And His Friends name but utilizing The Rocky Show titles, features other storylines not included in the syndicated Bullwinkle Show series.

The current syndicated Rocky And His Friends package still retains the 15-minute format (consisting of 156 individual episodes), but like The Bullwinkle Show, its content differs from the versions syndicated in the 1960s. In fact, neither package includes all the supporting cartoon segments; however, all of the Fractured Fairy Tales (91), Peabody's Improbable History (91), and Aesop And Son (39) segments are syndicated as part of Tennessee Tuxedo And His Tales, and 38 of the 39 Dudley Do-Right cartoons are syndicated as part of Dudley Do Right (sic) And Friends. Syndicated versions of the shows distributed outside of the United States and Canada are again different, combining all of the various segments under the package title Rocky And Bullwinkle And Friends; it is this version of the show that is represented on official DVD releases by Classic Media.

Puppet Introduction

When first shown on NBC, the cartoons were introduced by a Bullwinkle puppet, voiced by Bill Scott, who would often lampoon celebrities, current events, and especially Walt Disney, whose program Disneyland was the next show on the schedule. On one occasion, "Bullwinkle" encouraged children to pull the tuning knobs off the TV set. "In that way," explained Bullwinkle, "we'll be sure to be with you next week!" After the network received complaints from parents of an estimated 20,000 child viewers who apparently followed Bullwinkle's suggestion, Bullwinkle told the children the following week to put the knobs back on with glue "and make it stick!" The puppet sequence was dropped altogether.. He also did a segment called "Dear Bullwinkle," where letters specially made for the show were read and answered humorously. Four episodes of, "Dear Bullwinkle," are on Season 1 DVD.

Credits

Rocky and His Friends

Season 1

  • Producers: Jay Ward, Bill Scott
  • Directors: Bill Hurtz, Ted Parmelee, Gerry Ray, Gerard Baldwin, Jim Hiltz, Rudy Zamora, Dun Roman
  • Animation: Val-Mar Studios: Animation Director - Harvey Siegel, Production Manager - Jesus Martinez
  • Writers: Chris Hayward, Chris Jenkyns, George Atkins
  • Voices: Edward Everett Horton, June Foray, Paul Frees, Bill Conrad, Walter Tetley, Daws Butler (uncredited: Bill Scott)
  • Host of Others: Harvey Siegel, Skip Craig, Al Shean, Roy Morita, William Schleh, Sam Clayberger
  • Theme Music: Frank Comstock
  • Recorded by Glen Glenn Sound
  • Executive Producer: Ponsonby Britt, O.B.E.

Season 2

  • Producers: Jay Ward, Bill Scott
  • Directors: Gerard Baldwin, Peter Burness, Bill Hurtz, Gerry Ray, Bob Schleh, George Singer, Ernie Terrazas
  • Writers: George Atkins, Chris Hayward, Chris Jenkins, Lloyd Turner
  • Animation: Gamma Productions: Animation Director - Harvey Siegel
  • Associate Producer: Edwin A. Gourley
  • Voice Actors: Edward Everett Horton, June Foray, Paul Frees, Bill Conrad, Walter Tetley (uncredited: Bill Scott, Daws Butler)
  • Design and Layout: Sam Clayberger, Dave Fern, Frank Hursh, Dan Jurovich, Joe Montell, Roy Morita, Al Shean, Shirley Silvey, Sam Weiss, Al Wilson
  • Supervisor: Harvey Siegel
  • Host of Others: Barbara Baldwin, Skip Craig, Adrienne Diamond, Art Diamond, Roger Donley, Sal Faillace, Carlos Manriquez, Jesus Martinez, Bob Maxfield, Dun Roman, Jean Washam

The Bullwinkle Show

  • A Producers Associates of Television Production (Peter Piech, producer)
  • Animation by Gamma Productions (Bud Gourley, Producer. Harvey Siegel, Animation Director)
  • Produced by Jay Ward, Bill Scott
  • Directors: Bill Hurtz, Pete Burness, Ted Parmelee, Lew Keller, Sal Faillace, Gerard Baldwin, George Singer
  • Writers: Marshall Guilmete, Chris Hayward, Lloyd Turner, Chris Jenkyns, George Atkins, Al Burns
  • Actors: June Foray, Paul Frees, Edward Everett Horton, Hans Conried, Bill Conrad, Walter Tetley (uncredited: Bill Scott, Daws Butler)
  • Artists: Sam Clayberger, Adrienne Diamond, Art Diamond, Roy Morita, Al Shean, Shirley Silvey, Barbara Baldwin
  • Editor: Skip Craig
  • Theme Music: Frank Steiner
  • Additional Music: Dennis Farnon, George Steiner
  • Executive Producer: Ponsonby Britt

Characters

The lead characters and heroes of the series were Rocket "Rocky" J. Squirrel, a flying squirrel, and his best friend Bullwinkle J. Moose, a dim-witted but good-natured moose. Both characters lived in the fictional town of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, which was based on the real life city of International Falls, Minnesota. The scheming villains in most episodes were the fiendish, but inept, agents of the fictitious nation of Pottsylvania: Boris Badenov, a pun on Boris Godunov, and Natasha Fatale, a pun on femme fatale. Boris and Natasha were commanded by the sinister Mr. Big and Fearless Leader. Other characters included Gidney & Cloyd, little green men from the moon who were armed with scrooch guns; Captain Peter "Wrongway" Peachfuzz, the captain of the S.S. Guppy; and the inevitable onlookers, Edgar and Chauncy.

Structure

Each episode comprises two "Rocky & Bullwinkle" cliffhanger shorts that stylistically emulated early radio and film serials. The plots of these shorts would combine into much larger story arcs that would span numerous episodes. For example, the first and also the longest story arc of the series was called Jet Fuel Formula and consisted of 40 shorts (20 episodes). Each story arc would place the mighty moose and plucky squirrel in a different adventure, ranging from seeking the missing ingredient for a rocket fuel formula, to tracking the monstrous whale Maybe Dick, to a desperate attempt to prevent mechanical, metal-munching, moon mice from devouring the nation's television antennas. Rocky and Bullwinkle confront a number of obstacles and enemies in the course of their adventures, most frequently the two Pottsylvanian nogoodniks, Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale.

At the end of most episodes, the narrator, William Conrad, would announce two humorous titles for the next episode that typically were puns of each other. For example, during an adventure taking place in a mountain range, the narrator would state, "Be with us next time for 'Avalanche Is Better Than None,' or 'Snow's Your Old Man.'" The narrator also frequently had conversations with the characters, thus breaking the fourth wall in the process.

Each episode was introduced with one of four standard opening sequences:

  • Rocky flies about snow-covered mountains. Below him, hiking on a snowy trail, Bullwinkle is distracted by a billboard featuring his name, and walks off a ledge. He becomes a large snowball as he rolls downhill. Rocky flies to him and pushes against the snowball, slowing it to a halt just at the edge of another cliff. Bullwinkle pops out of the snowball to catch the teetering squirrel at the cliff edge.
  • In a circus, Rocky is preparing to jump from a very high diving board into a tub of water tended by Bullwinkle. However, when Rocky jumps, he ends up flying around the circus tent, while Bullwinkle chases after him carrying the tub. As Rocky lands safely, Bullwinkle tumbles into the tub.
  • Rocky is flying acrobatically about a city landscape. Bullwinkle is high atop a flagpole painting a sign, and is knocked from his perch as the squirrel flies by. Rocky attempts to catch the plummeting moose with a butterfly net, but the moose falls through it. Rocky then flies lower to find his friend suspended from a clothesline, having fallen into a pair of long johns.
  • Similar to the previous opening, Rocky is again flying about the city. Bullwinkle is suspended from a safety harness on a large billboard, posting a sign. He loses his balance as the squirrel zooms past him and tumbles off the platform. The moose lands on a banner pole mounted on the side of a building, and the recoil springs him back into the air. He lands on a store awning, slides down it, and drops a few feet to a bench on which Rocky is seated. The impact launches the squirrel off the bench, and Bullwinkle nonchalantly catches him in his left hand to end the sequence.

Supporting features

The "Rocky & Bullwinkle" shorts served as "bookends" for several other popular supporting features, including:

  • Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties, a parody of early 20th century melodrama and silent film serials of the Northern genre. Dudley Do-Right was a Canadian Mountie in constant pursuit of his nemesis, Snidely Whiplash, who sported the standard "villain" attire of black top hat, cape, and oversized mustache. This is one of the few Jay Ward cartoons to feature a background music track. As was standard in Ward's cartoons, jokes often functioned on two levels. A standard gag was to introduce characters in an irised close-up with the name of the "actor" displayed in a caption below, a convention seen in some early silent films. However, the comic twist was using the captions to present silly names or subtle puns. Occasionally, even the scenery was introduced in this manner, as when "Dead Man's Gulch" was identified as being portrayed by "Gorgeous Gorge," a reference to professional wrestler Gorgeous George.
  • Peabody's Improbable History featured a talking dog genius named Mister Peabody who had a pet boy named Sherman. Sherman and Peabody would use Peabody's "WABAC machine" (pronounced "way-back", and partially a play on names of early computers such as UNIVAC and ENIAC) to go back in time to discover the real story behind historical events, and in many cases, intervene with uncooperative historical figures to ensure that events actually transpire as history has recorded.
  • Fractured Fairy Tales presented familiar fairy tales and children's stories, but with storylines altered and modernized for humorous effect. This series was narrated by Edward Everett Horton.
  • Aesop & Son was similar to Fractured Fairy Tales (complete with the same theme music), except it dealt with fables instead of fairy tales. The typical structure consisted of Aesop attempting to teach a lesson to his son using a fable. After hearing the story, the son would erode the fable's moral with a pun. This structure was also suggested by the feature's opening titles, which showed Aesop painstakingly carving his name in marble using a mallet and chisel and then his son, with a jackhammer and raising a cloud of dust, appending "& Son." Aesop was voiced (uncredited) by actor Charlie Ruggles.
  • Bullwinkle's Corner featured the dimwitted moose attempting to inject culture into the proceedings by reciting poems and nursery rhymes, inadvertently and humorously butchering them. Poems subjected to this treatment include several by Robert Louis Stevenson ("My Shadow", "The Swing" and "Where Go the Boats"), William Wordsworth's "Daffodils", "Little Miss Muffet", "Little Jack Horner", and "Wee Willie Winkie", J. G. Whittier's "Barbara Frietchie", and "The Queen of Hearts" by Charles Lamb. Simple Simon (nursery rhyme) is performed with Boris as the pie man, but as a variation of the famous Abbott and Costello routine "Who's On First?".
  • Mr. Know-It-All again featured Bullwinkle posing as an authority on various topics. Disaster invariably ensued.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle Fan Club, a series of abortive attempts by Rocky and Bullwinkle to conduct the club's business. The fan club consisted only of Rocky, Bullwinkle, Boris, Natasha, and Captain Peter Peachfuzz. Notably, these shorts seemingly break the fourth wall by showing these characters "out of character," as opposed to their portrayals in the serialized Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes.
  • The World of Commander McBragg, short features on revisionist history as the title character would have imagined it; this was actually prepared for Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales (and later shown on The Underdog Show). Although the shorts were animated by the same animated company, Gamma Productions, they were actually produced for Total Television, rather than Ward Productions. These segments were part of pre-1990 syndicated versions of The Bullwinkle Show (and also appear in syndicated episodes of The Underdog Show, Dudley Do Right And Friends, and Uncle Waldo's Cartoon Show).

Comic books, films, recordings and DVD releases

  • There was a syndicated daily newspaper comic strip titled Bullwinkle starting in 1962 with original stories drawn by Al Kilgore.
  • A phonograph album of songs, Rocky the Flying Squirrel & His Friends, was released in 1961 by Golden Record, using voice actors from the series. Boris and Natasha, for example sing: We will double, single and triple cross, our very closest friends!
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle comic books were released by Gold Key Comics and, in the 1980s Star Comics (an imprint of Marvel Comics). Both were called Bullwinkle and Rocky. The comics, although clearly for children, did contain numerous references spoofing issues such as celebrity worship or the politics of the 1980s. In one issue, Bullwinkle owns a small company, which makes him eligible to compete in a fun run in Washington DC for presidents of small companies. When Bullwinkle says he is there for the race, it is mistaken that he is campaigning for President. The comic also spoofed US President Ronald Reagan, and he personally thanks Bullwinkle for stopping Boris & Natasha by rewarding him with monogrammed jelly beans. Another comic broke the fourth wall when the narrator is outraged at a plot of Boris', to which Boris claims he has control of everyone "by capturing the Marvel Comics building and tying up the editor". When the narrator says how this is morally wrong, Boris quiets him by saying "you will agree or you will not find find paycheck in mail this month!"
  • A live-action made-for-television feature film Boris and Natasha, starring the two spies, was produced in 1992. Neither Rocky nor Bullwinkle appear in this film; however two characters are identified as 'Moose' and 'Squirrel'.
  • A theatrical film starring Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, was released in 2000. It was mostly live-action with Rocky and Bullwinkle appearing as computer-generated characters. For the film, June Foray returned to voice Rocky, while Bullwinkle was voiced by Keith Scott. Although the movie retained the spirit and feel of the original cartoons, most critics didn't think the film was as humorous as the original cartoon.
  • Dudley Do-Right, a theatrical live-action film, was released in 1999 and starred Brendan Fraser and Sarah Jessica Parker.
  • A live-action Peabody's Improbable History was planned for release in 2001, but the film was cancelled due to Universal Pictures' Dudley Do-Right and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle underperforming at the box-office. More recently, the film's production has been revived by DreamWorks Animation to now be a computer-animated film.
  • In 2002, Jay Ward Productions established a partnership with Classic Media called Bullwinkle Studios. In 2003 and 2004, the partnership produced DVDs of the first two seasons of the series, which were renamed (for legal reasons) Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends. In September 2005, the third season was released onto DVD. According to a pamphlet accompanying the DVDs for the first season, the DVDs use the second season opening, which Ward's daughter Tiffany says was her father's favorite. Nevertheless, the DVDs for the third season just use the opening and closing from the first season. In addition, the DVDs for the first two seasons replaced the original music with themes Ward produced for the third season.
  • In 2005, Bullwinkle Studios released a series of "best of" DVD compilations of popular segments of the series: two volumes of "The Best of Rocky and Bullwinkle", plus the single-volume "The Best of Boris and Natasha", "The Best of Mr. Peabody and Sherman" and "The Best of Dudley Do-Right". These compilations contain episodes from the entire run of the show, including the otherwise-unreleased seasons four and five. So far, there has been no word on when (or if) the Complete Season 4 and/or Season 5 will be released.

Season Sets

DVD Name Ep # Release Date Additional Information
Season 1 26 August 12 2003

  • 16 page booklet detailing the origins and popularity of the characters
  • Never before seen Bullwinkle puppet segments
  • Rarely-Seen "U.S. Saving Stamp Club" episode
  • Vintage Rocky & Bullwinkle TV Spots
  • Sneak Peek at "Complete Season 2"

Season 2 52 August 31 2004

  • Classic Bullwinkle TV commercials
  • June Foray Interview
  • Sneak Peek at "Complete Season 3
  • "Moosecalls: The Best of Bullwinkle Sings"

Season 3 33 September 6 2005

  • Live Bullwinkle Puppet clips
  • Best of Bullwinkle Follies
  • Sneak Peak at "Complete Season 4"

Video games

THQ released The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy and Super NES in 1992.

Absolute Entertainment also released a version for the Sega Mega Drive, in 1994.

Zen Studios released an Xbox Live Arcade video game titled Rocky and Bullwinkle for download on April 16, 2008.

Trivia

  • The show listed the fictional Ponsonby Britt as executive producer.
  • Bullwinkle's name came from a friend of Jay Ward's, Clarence Bullwinkel, who was a property owner/landlord in Berkeley, California. He also owned a Chevrolet dealership in neighboring Oakland, California.
  • Since the production budget was so small, there are a number of circumstances where the actors ad-libbed around blown lines, and the animations were adjusted to accommodate. For example, narrator William Conrad could not finish reading the end of the script within the time limitations. Therefore, in the final take, Jay Ward set fire to the script, which resulted in Conrad having to read the material before the flames reached his fingers.
  • Rocky and Friends has aired in over 100 countries. A popular urban legend claimed that it was banned in Canada, because of the portrayal of Dudley Do-Right, even though neither Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) (nor its predecessor, the Board of Broadcast Governors) has the ability to ban TV shows -- it can only fine broadcasters that violate broadcast standards which deal mostly with obscenity, violence, and racism, and not with depictions of Mounties. The show aired in Canada the early 1960s, and was on YTV throughout the 1990s.
  • The introductions for Rocky and Bullwinkle features are popular with hackers. During protracted debugging sessions, it is common for hackers to say "this time for sure" in a Bullwinkle Moose voice.
  • A pinball machine dedicated to Rocky and Bullwinkle was released in 1993 by Data East.
  • TSR, Inc. produced a role playing game based on the world of Bullwinkle and Rocky. The game consisted of rules, mylar hand puppets, cards, and spinners.
  • As a publicity stunt, Ward and Scott campaigned for statehood for "Moosylvania", Bullwinkle's fictional home state. They drove a van to about 50 cities collecting petition signatures. Arriving in Washington DC, they pulled up to the White House gate to see President Kennedy, and were brusquely turned away. They learned that the evening they had arrived was during the height of the Cuban missile crisis.
  • British Invasion band Herman's Hermits got its name because bandmates thought lead singer Peter Noone looked like Sherman of "Mr. Peabody" fame, and the name "Herman" was close enough to "Sherman" for them.
  • When this show aired on Nickelodeon, it was entitled "Bullwinkle's Moose-a-rama" with the same outro credits as "The Bullwinkle Show."
  • Rocky & Bullwinkle made cameos in one of the segments of Fractured Fairy Tales and Dudley Do-Right.

See also

Notes

References

  • The Moose that Roared, by Keith Scott, St. Martin's Press, 2000. ISBN 0-312-19922-8

External links

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