The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show

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Rocky_bullwinkle_tracks.jpg
Bullwinkle (left) and Rocky (right), the stars of Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show.

The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show is the collective name for two separate American television animated series (Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show) that originally aired from 1959 to 1964. Rocky & Bullwinkle enjoyed great popularity during the 1960s, and is still found in reruns in the United States.

Much of the success of the series was due to its ability to work on two distinct levels. As an animated series with zany characters and plots, it appealed to children; its clever use of puns and topical references appealed to adults. The animation is quite limited while the scripts and audio are inventive and sometimes sophisticated. Some critics at the time described the effect as being like a well-written radio program with illustrations.

Contents

History

The series, inspired by an original property called "The Frostbite Falls Follies," was created by Jay Ward and Alex Anderson, who had previously collaborated on Crusader Rabbit. Ward wanted to produce the show in Los Angeles, and Anderson, who lived in the San Francisco Bay area, did not want to move south, so Ward was joined by Bill Scott, who became head writer and co-producer at Jay Ward Productions, and wrote all of the "Rocky & Bullwinkle" segments. Another notable writer was Allan Burns who later became head writer for MTM Enterprises.

The series got its start as a pilot, Rocky the Flying Squirrel; the voice actors (June Foray, Paul Frees, and Bill Scott) recorded their dialogue in February 1958. Eight months later, General Mills signed a deal to sponsor the cartoon, to be shown in an late-afternoon time slot targeted at children.

Ward then hired the rest of the production staff, which included writers and designers but no animators. Friends of Ward's at Dancer, Fitzgerald & Sample (an advertising firm with General Mills as a client) had bought a studio in Mexico to produce the animation; this outsourcing had made the deal financially attractive to the sponsor. Scott, when interviewed by animation historian Jim Korkis in 1982, described their work:

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.

The show started in fall 1959 as Rocky and His Friends on the ABC television network. In 1961 the series moved to NBC and was renamed The Bullwinkle Show. The show moved back to ABC in 1964 and was canceled that same year, although episodes continued to be aired on ABC until 1973 when it went into syndication.

Rocky & Bullwinkle

The lead characters and heroes of the show are Rocket "Rocky" J. Squirrel, a flying squirrel, and his best friend Bullwinkle J. Moose, a dim-witted but good natured moose, from the fictional town of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota (inspired by International Falls, Minnesota).

Each program included two "Rocky & Bullwinkle" shorts, which featured cliffhangers in the style of early movie serials. The shorts formed a storyline which crossed episode boundaries: the first and longest such story arc was "Jet Fuel Formula", which consisted of 40 shorts spanning twenty programs.

Each arc involved the moose and squirrel in adventures that took them all over the world, ranging from trying to find a missing ingredient for a rocket fuel formula, to searching for the monstrous whale Maybe Dick, to preventing mechanical metal-munching moon mice from devouring the nation's television antennas.

In nearly every episode, the villains behind these schemes were the fiendish but inept agents of the fictitious nation of Pottsylvania, Boris Badenov (a pun on Boris Godunov) and Natasha Fatale (whose last name was a pun on the phrase "femme fatale"), along with their bosses, the sinister Mr. Big and Fearless Leader.

At the end of most episodes, the show's narrator announced two possible titles for the next episode — the second title always a pun that was related to the first (for example, the narrator once intoned during an adventure taking place in a mountain range: "be with us next time for 'Avalanche Is Better Than None,' or 'Snow's Your Old Man'").

Supporting segments

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

  • Dudley Do-Right, a parody of early 20th century melodrama and silent film. Dudley Do-Right was a Canadian Mountie who was always trying to catch his nemesis, Snidely Whiplash. Do-Right was so interested in his own horse that he scarcely noticed the flirtatious advances of his would-be love interest, Nell Fenwick.
  • Peabody's Improbable History featured a talking dog genius named Mr. Peabody who had a pet boy named Sherman; Sherman and Peabody used Peabody's "WABAC machine" (pronounced "way-back") to go back in time to discover the real story behind historical events. The WABAC machine inspired the naming of the Wayback Machine, a web site that allows visitors to browse an archive of historically significant websites.
  • Fractured Fairy Tales, presenting familiar fairy tales and children's stories with the storyline humorously changed.
  • Aesop & Son, similar to the above, except dealing with fables instead of fairy tales. The usual framing portion consisted of Aesop attempting to teach a lesson to his son using a fable; after the story his son subverts its moral with a pun.
  • Bullwinkle's Corner, presenting Bullwinkle reading a poem or nursery rhyme that he inadvertently and humourously distorts. Poems subjected to this treatment include several by R. L. Stevenson ("My Shadow", "The Swing" and "Where Go the Boats"), "Little Miss Muffet", "Little Jack Horner", "Wee Willie Winkie", and J. G. Whittier's "Barbara Frietchie", and "The Queen of Hearts" by Charles Lamb.
  • Mr. Know-It-All, presenting Bullwinkle trying to give practical advice on something only to have it go disastrously wrong.

Some segments were introduced by Rocky. In one common introduction, Rocky would be interrupted by Bullwinkle's cry of "Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat." Undaunted by Rocky's response ("Again?"), Bullwinkle then pulls out something preposterous, like the head of a rhinoceros.

Cast

Memorable lines

Bullwinkle: "Don't worry Rocky, I'll think of something."
Rocky: "I don't think I can wait that long."
Bullwinkle: "I'm going over there and giving them a piece of my mind."
Rocky: "That's what I like about you. No matter how little you have, you're always willing to share."
Bullwinkle: "Don't worry Rocky. I'll get you out if I have to do it piece by piece."
Natasha: "Fearless Leader, here?"
Boris: "He's doing a guest shot in this episode." (A gunshot noise is heard) "There goes a guest now."
Narrator: "There were two ways of dying in Jaipur. One was just living there."
Grand Vizier: "Take him [Bullwinkle] away and cut off his... no, that won't hurt him."
Inspector Fenwick: "Fie on you, Whiplash! You've got my post and my daughter. And I want my post back!"
Bullwinkle: "Hey Rocky - watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!"
Rocky: "Again? That trick never works!" (Bullwinkle pulls a lion from hat)
Rocky: "Now here's something you'll really like!"
Bullwinkle: "When it comes to humility, I'm the greatest!"

Other media

  • A live action made-for-TV movie, Boris and Natasha, starring the two spies, was produced in 1992; neither Rocky nor Bullwinkle appeared in this film.
  • Dudley Do-Right, a theatrical live action movie, was released in 1999, and starred the cast of the Dudley Do-Right segments.
  • In the movie True Lies, when Helen Tasker (Jamie Lee Curtis) is brought into the team, their code name is revealed to be "Boris and...", at which instant Helen asks "Natasha?," only to be disappointed to hear "Doris."
  • 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, renamed (for legal reasons) Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends. 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 his favorite. The DVDs also replaced the original music with themes Ward produced for the first two seasons.
  • In 2005, Bullwinkle Studios produced a series of "best of" DVD compilations of popular segments of the series.

External links

See also

  • The Moose that Roared, by Keith Scott, St. Martin's Press, 2000.
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