"Hey, Rocky, watch me
pull a rabbit outta my hat."
- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium
ROCKY & BULLWINKLE
Rocky & Bullwinkle Show (known as Rocky & His Friends during
its first two seasons and as The Bullwinkle Show for the remainder of
its run) is an animated television series that originally aired from
November 19, 1959 to June 27, 1964 on the ABC and NBC television
networks. Produced by Jay Ward Productions, the series is structured
as a variety show, with the main feature being the serialized
adventures of the two title characters, the anthropomorphic moose
Bullwinkle and flying squirrel Rocky. The main adversaries in most of
their adventures are the Russian-like spies Boris Badenov and Natasha
Fatale. Supporting segments include Dudley Do-Right (a parody of
old-time melodrama), Peabody & Sherman (a dog and his pet boy
traveling through time), and Fractured Fairy Tales (classic fairy
tales retold in comic fashion), among others.
Rocky & Bullwinkle is
known for the quality of its writing and humor. Mixing puns, cultural
and topical satire, and self-referential humor, it was designed to
appeal to adults as well as children. It was also one of the first
cartoons whose animation was outsourced; storyboards were shipped to
Gamma Productions, the same Mexican studio employed by Total
Television. Thus the art has a choppy, unpolished look and the
animation is extremely limited even by television animation
standards. Yet the series has been held in high esteem by those who
have seen it; some critics have described the series as a
well-written radio program with pictures.
The show was never a
ratings hit and was shuffled around the day (airing in afternoon,
prime time, and Saturday morning) but has garnered a minor yet
influential cult following over the decades, influencing shows from
The Simpsons to Rocko's Modern Life and spawned a number of feature films.
idea for the series was created by Jay Ward and Alex Anderson, who
previously collaborated on Crusader Rabbit, and was based upon the
original property The Frostbite Falls Revue. This original show never
got past the proposal stage. It was about a group of forest animals
running a television station. The group included Rocket J. Squirrel
(Rocky), 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 the
name of a car dealership in Berkeley, California called Bullwinkel
Motors. Mr. Anderson changed the spelling of the name and gave it to
his moose, and an unforgettable cartoon character was born.
Ward wanted to produce the
show in Los Angeles; however, Anderson lived in the San Francisco Bay
Area and 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 joined by writers Chris Hayward and Allan Burns, who later
became head writer for MTM Enterprises.
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 toward 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 some friends 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. In a
1982 interview by animation historian Jim Korkis, Bill Scott
described some of the problems that arose during production of the
series: "We found out very quickly that we could not depend on
Mexican studios 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
show was broadcast for the first time on November 19, 1959 on the
ABC television network under the title Rocky and His Friends twice a
week, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, following American
Bandstand at 5:30 p.m., where it was the highest rated daytime
network program. The show moved to the NBC network starting September
24, 1961, broadcast in color, and first appeared on Sundays at 7
p.m., just before Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.
Bullwinkle's ratings suffered as a result of being aired opposite
perennial favorite Lassie. A potential move to CBS caused NBC to
reschedule the show to late Sunday afternoons and early Saturday
afternoons in its final season. NBC canceled the show in the summer
of 1964. It was shopped to ABC, but they were not interested.
However, reruns of episodes were aired on ABC's Sunday morning
schedule until 1973, at which time the series went into syndication.
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. Rocky & Bullwinkle have been syndicated under
various titles and packages over the years including segments
repackaged from the original run of the series.
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.
Andalusia; and the inevitable onlookers, Edgar and Chauncy.
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 Wonderful
World of Color 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!" 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 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 is composed of
two "Rocky & Bullwinkle" cliffhanger shorts that
stylistically emulated early radio and film serials. The plots of
these shorts would combine into story arcs spanning numerous
episodes. The first and longest story arc was Jet Fuel Formula
consisting of 40 shorts (20 episodes). Stories ranged from seeking
the missing ingredient for a rocket fuel formula, to tracking the
monstrous whale Maybe Dick, to an attempt to prevent mechanical,
metal-munching, moon mice from devouring the nation's television
antennas. Rocky and Bullwinkle frequently encounter 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.'" Such a 'This,'
or 'That' title announcement had been used in The Adventures of Sam
Spade radio shows produced in 1946-50. The narrator frequently had
conversations with the characters, thus breaking the fourth wall.
"Rocky & Bullwinkle" shorts serve 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 is a Canadian Mountie in constant
pursuit of his nemesis, Snidely Whiplash, who sports 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 is standard in Ward's cartoons, jokes
often have more than one meaning. A standard gag is 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 is using the
captions to present silly names or subtle puns. Occasionally, even
the scenery is introduced in this manner, as when "Dead Man's
Gulch" is identified as being portrayed by "Gorgeous
Gorge," a reference to professional wrestler Gorgeous George.
Improbable History features a talking dog genius named Mister
Peabody who has a pet boy named Sherman. Peabody and Sherman 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. The term "Wayback Machine" is used to
this day in Internet applications such as Wikipedia and the Internet
Archive to refer to the ability to see or revert to older content.
These segments are famous for including a 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 Esther, and whenever you "see Esther" (siesta) you
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 is
similar to Fractured Fairy Tales, complete with the same theme music,
except it deals with fables instead of fairy tales. The typical
structure consists of Aesop attempting to teach a lesson to his son
using a fable. After hearing the story, the son subverts 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.
Corner features 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?".
again features Bullwinkle posing as an authority on any topic.
Disaster inevitably ensues.
Rocky and Bullwinkle Fan Club,
a series of abortive attempts by Rocky and Bullwinkle to conduct the
club's business. The fan club consists only of Rocky, Bullwinkle,
Boris, Natasha, and Captain Peter Peachfuzz. These shorts show these
characters out of character.
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 appear in syndicated episodes of The
Underdog Show, Dudley Do Right And Friends, and Uncle Waldo's Cartoon Show.
Boris and Natasha: The Movie
and Natasha is a 1992 comedy film that was loosely based on the
animated television series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. It was shot
in New York City. The actors did not attempt to copy the accents of
their animated counterparts, and although Rocky and Bullwinkle do not
appear in this film, they are referred to by the names "Agent
Moose" and "Agent Squirrel". This was due to the
production company's inability to secure the rights to the animated
characters' likenesses for this film. Originally intended for a
theatrical release, this film was produced by Management Company
Entertainment Group for Showtime Networks, and aired on Showtime on
April 17, 1992.
Boris Badenov (Dave Thomas
of SCTV fame) and Natasha Fatale (Sally Kellerman) are spies for the
mean little country of Pottsylvania, where, sandwiched between the
nations Wrestlemania and Yoursovania, the Cold War is still frigid.
Their Fearless Leader hatches a plan to capture a time-reverse
micro-chip, using the two spies as high-profile patsies. They
clumsily defect to America and try to unravel Fearless Leader's
master plan. But can these dim-witted fools survive a secret
assassin, exploding potatoes and the temptations of capitalism? And
what of their old foes, "Moosk unt Squoirrel"?
The Adventures of Rocky
Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a 2000 comedy film produced by
Universal Pictures, based on the television cartoon The Rocky and
Bullwinkle Show by Jay Ward. The animated characters Rocky and
Bullwinkle shared the screen with live actors portraying Fearless
Leader played by Robert De Niro (yes, that Robert De Niro. De Niro
was also one of the producers), Seinfeld's Jason Alexander was Boris
Badenov, Rene Russo was Natasha Fatale, and Piper Perabo who played a
new character, FBI agent Karen Sympathy (Perabo would later go on to
work for the CIA in Showcase's Covert Affairs).
This film is also notable
for its ensemble cast featuring guest appearances by Billy Crystal,
Janeane Garofalo, Whoopi Goldberg, John Goodman, David Allen Grier,
Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Don Novello, Jon Polito, Carl Reiner,
and Jonathan Winters, along with many fourth wall breakages.
Set 35 years after The
Rocky and Bullwinkle Show's cancellation, our two heros have been
living off the meager finances of their TV reruns. To make matters
worse, Rocky has lost his ability to fly, and the trees in Frostbite
Falls have all been cut down. Meanwhile, over in Pottsylvania, home
of Rocky and Bullwinkle's arch enemies Fearless Leader, Boris, and
Natasha, the Iron Curtain has fallen, leading the villains to leave
Pottsylvania, and dig through a tunnel all the way to the TV of a
Hollywood Producer, Minnie Mogul. She signs a contract, giving her
the rights to produce the Rocky and Bullwinkle Movie, and
accidentally pulls the 3 villains out of the TV, turning them into
humans! Now, Fearless Leader has an evil plan to hypnotize America,
using RBTV (Really Bad TeleVision), making everyone's mind mush, so
he can get everyone to vote for him for President. However, new FBI
Agent Karen Sympathy has an assignment, get the only ones who could
ever defeat these villains, Rocky and Bullwinkle. Using a green light
lighthouse, Rocky and Bullwinkle (and their Narrator) are sucked out
of the TV world, and to real life as 3D computer-generated
characters! With all of America being hypnotized, and Fearless
Leader's evil speech in 48 hours, and Boris and Natasha are sent out
to destroy moose and squirrel before they can save the day.
Do-Right is a 1999 romantic comedy film produced by Davis
Entertainment for Universal Studios. The film based on Jay Ward's
Dudley Do-Right that was a regular feature of the Rocky &
Bullwinkle Show. Starring Brendan Fraser as the cartoon's title
character and Sarah Jessica Parker as Nell, it was shot in Vancouver,
British Columbia, Canada. Dudley Do-Right was Fraser's second film
based on a Jay Ward cartoon, George of the Jungle having been his
first, in 1997.
Brendan Fraser (George of
the Jungle, The Mummy) brings his considerable charm to this
live-action version of the classic cartoon Dudley Do-Right. The story
begins with three children and a horse. These are young versions of
Dudley Do-Right, Nell Fenwick, Snidely Whiplash, and Horse. The three
talk of their aspirations; Dudley believes he is destined to be a
royal Canadian Mountie while Nell wishes to see the world. Snidely,
however, wishes to be the "bad guy".
Several years later, all
three have fulfilled their supposed destinies. Dudley is now a
Mountie (but always sticks to the rules and is frequently oblivious
to even the most obvious of things), and Snidely (Alfred Molina) has
become an infamous bank robber. Nell returns from her world tour and
reunites with Dudley just as Snidely's hatches to take control of the
town, renaming it "Whiplash City".