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The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show is the collective name for two separate Americanmarker 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 previously collaborated on Crusader Rabbit, and was based upon the original property The Frostbite Falls Revue. This original show, which never got past the proposal stage, 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.* Bullwinkle's name came from a friend of Jay Ward's, Clarence Bullwinkel, who was a property owner/landlord in Berkeleymarker, Californiamarker and also owned a Chevrolet dealership in Oakland, Californiamarker.

Ward wanted to produce the show in Los Angelesmarker; 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.

Production

The series began with the pilot Rocky the Flying Squirrel. Production began in February 1958 with the hiring of voice actor 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 agency that had General Mills as a client — to buy an animation studio in Mexico called Gamma Productions S.A. de C.V. (originally known as Val-Mar Animation). This outsourcing of the animation for the series was considered financially attractive by primary sponsor 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... Moustaches 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: 1959-1973

See also: List of Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes
The show was broadcast for the first time in the fall of 1959 on the ABC television network under the title Rocky and His Friends twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, at 5:30pm(et). In 1961, the series was moved to NBC where it was renamed The Bullwinkle Show, and first appeared on Sundays at 7pm(et), just before Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color; eventually, it was rescheduled on late Sunday afternoons, and early Saturday afternoons in its final season. 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's Sunday morning schedule [11am(et)] 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.

Episodes:

  • Season 1:
  1. Jet Fuel Formula 1 of 40/ Fractured Fairy Tales: Rapunzel/ Peabody: Show Opening (pilot)/ Jet Fuel Formula 2 of 40.
  2. Jet Fuel Formula 3 of 40/ Fractured Fairy Tales: Puss and Boots / Peabody: Napoleon/ Jet Fuel Formula 4 of 40.
  3. Jet Fuel Formula 5 of 40/ Fractured Fairy Tales: The Fisherman Wishes/ Peabody: Lord Nelson/ Jet Fuel Formula 6 of 40.
  4. Jet Fuel Formula 7 of 40/ Fractured Fairy Tales: Fairy Tales/ Peabody: Wyatt Earp/ Jet Fuel Formula 8 of 40.
  5. Jet Fuel Formula 9 of 40/ Fractured Fairy Tales: Fee Fi Fo Fum/ Peabody: King Arthur/ Jet Fuel Formula 10 of 40.


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.

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, Minnesotamarker. 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

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 the Season 1 DVD.

Each episode comprises two "Rocky & Bullwinkle" cliffhanger shorts that stylistically emulated early radio and film serial. 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.


In addition, episodes ended with a bumper sequence in which a violent lightning storm destroys the landscape, appearing to engulf Rocky and Bullwinkle in the destruction and accompanied by dramatic piano music. The music would become more lighthearted, and the ground would scroll upward while the outlines of the heroes gradually appeared. We then see a smiling sun overlooking a barren field which rapidly fills with sunflowers until Rocky and Bullwinkle finally sprout from the ground. This sequence was parodied in the couch gag for Simpson Tide, a 9th season episode of The Simpsons.

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 Mountiemarker in constant pursuit of his nemesis, Snidely Whiplash, who sported the standard "villain" attire of black top hat, cape, and over-sized moustache. 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. Peabody and Sherman would use Peabody's "WABAC machine" (pronounced "way-back", and partially a play on names of early computers such as UNIVAC and ENIACmarker) 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. They are famous for including a terrible pun at the end. For example when going back to the time of Pancho Villa, they show Pancho a photo of a woman and he promptly gets the urge to take a nap. When Sherman asks why this is so, Peabody says that the woman's name is Ester, and whenever you "see Ester" (siesta) you fall asleep.
  • Fractured Fairy Tales presented familiar fairy tales and children's stories, but with storylines altered and modernized for humorous effect. This segment was narrated by Edward Everett Horton; June Foray, Bill Scott, Paul Frees, and an uncredited Daws Butler often supplied the voices.
  • 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 subvert 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 and his son, Junior, was voiced by Daws Butler.
  • 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 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 animation 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).


Reception and Cultural Impact

  • 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 in the early 1960s, and was on YTV throughout the 1990s. It is currently a part of Canada's Teletoon Retro lineup.
  • 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.
  • TSR, Inc. produced a role playing game based on the world of Bullwinkle and Rocky in 1988. The game consisted of rules, mylar hand puppets, cards, and spinners.
  • A pinball machine dedicated to Rocky and Bullwinkle was released in 1993 by Data East.
  • When this show aired on Nickelodeon, it was entitled "Bullwinkle's Moose-a-rama" with the same outro credits as "The Bullwinkle Show."
  • Cartoon Network aired the show under the new "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" title, featuring their own version of the characters among a purple and green checkerboard background while retaining the original outro credits.
  • In January 2009, IGN named Rocky and Bullwinkle as the 11th best animated television series.


DVD releases

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. Also The Program Exchange logo is not in the DVDs box sets. So far, there has been no word on when (or if) the Complete Season 4 or Season 5 will be released.

The DVD releases of the shows differ in several respects from the originals. First, the renaming of the show to "Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends" led to the sometimes clumsy superimposition of the new title onto preexisting opening credits and interior bumpers. A Bill Conrad impersonator was used to announce the new title, which some viewers have found jarring. Second, a semi-transparent 'R & B' logo appears for five seconds at the beginning of each segment. Lastly, some of the segments have been moved around from their placement in the original episodes.

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.

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"


In other media

Films



Comics

  • A syndicated daily newspaper comic strip titled Bullwinkle began in 1962 with original stories drawn by Al Kilgore.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle comic books were released by Gold Key Comics and, in the 1980s, by 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 paycheck in mail this month!"


Recordings

A phonograph album of songs, Rocky the Flying Squirrel & His Friends, was released in 1961 by Golden Records, using voice actors from the series. Boris and Natasha, for example sing: We will double, single and triple cross, our very closest friends!

There was also a 78rpm single (Golden 659) released on yellow vinyl. This had Rocky singing I Was Born To Be Airborne on one side, backed with Bullwinkle singing I'm Rocky's Pal. The single was sold in grocery stores. Paul Parnes (who later wrote songs for Sesame Street) is credited as composer. "Some nutty characters get together here for the benefit of the very young. Lots of laughs for the juvenile sense of humor." (Billboard, page 78, September 18, 1961.)

Video games





See also



Notes

References

  • The Moose that Roared, by Keith Scott, St. Martin's Press, 2000. ISBN 0-312-19922-8
  • The Simpsons: The Complete 9th Season, Fox Home Video


External links




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