"Hey, Rocky, watch me
pull a rabbit outta my hat."
- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium
The 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 19th,
1959 to June 27th, 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 Rocky & Bullwinkle Show dates back to the late
40s and early 50s. In 1947 Jay Ward and Alex Anderson,
working as Television Arts Productions, proposed "The Comic
Strips of Television" to NBC-TV It would be a
television-exclusive cartoon series and consisted of three ideas. A
private eye named Hamhock Jones, another about a rabbit named
Crusader and his tiger friend Rags team who would go on adventures,
and a third about a dimwitted Canadian mountie named Dudley Do-Right.
NBC ended up picking up Crusader Rabbit for a full series, passing on
Hamhock Jones and Dudley Do-Right. The first sale and broadcast of
Crusader Rabbit was to KNBH in Los Angeles beginning August 1st, 1950.
In the first episodes, Crusader Rabbit
battled many villains including Dudley Nightshade and Whetstone
Whiplash/Sternwheel Jackson who all looked very much alike being
lean, dressed in black and with mustaches (Nightshade had a French
Imperial and Whiplash/Jackson a handlebar). These characters pre-date
the more well known Snidley Whiplash from Dudley Do-Right.
Capital Enterprises/TV Spots revived the series (in color) in 1959
nobody remembered the old 1949-51 episodes and it was decided to give
Crusader a continuing arch-enemy. TV Spots preferred the name Dudley
Nightshade but also preferred the appearance of Whetstone/Sternwheel
so the new Nightshade was a combination of the two and apparently a
master of disguise. As the character announced at the end of episode
eight of The Great Uranium Hunt: Theyll rue
this day or my name aint Dudley Nightshade alias, Nightly
Dudshade, alias Sternwhell Jackson, alias Whetstone
Whiplash&ldots; The narrator cuts in with Dudley can go
on like this for hours, so lets close for now.
In 1951 during a six month gap when it
wasnt clear whether or not NBC would renew Crusader Rabbit
following a strong run of 130 episodes. Total Arts Productions sent
another series of ideas to the executives at NBC. Included amoung the
ideas was another private eye series and a how called "The
Frostbite Falls Review". This show would be about six animals in
the North Woods who had gotten their own television station as was
intended to be a satirical comment on the early television industry. The
group (pictured below) included Rocket J. Squirrel (Rocky), Oski
Bear, Canadian Moose (Bullwinkle), Sylvester Fox, Blackstone Crow,
and Floral Fauna. Bullwinkle's name came from the name of a car
dealership in Berkeley, California called Bullwinkel Motors
and the name "Frostbite
Falls" originated from a mixture of the city of International
Falls, Minnesota, and its nickname "the Ice Box of
America". NBC passed upon The Frostbite Falls Review and renewed
Crusader Rabbit for one last season, bringing its total up to 195 episodes.
Following this was a period of uncertainty
for Jay Ward and Alex Anderson; the rights to Crusader Rabbit
switched hands a few times, until it wasnt clear who really
owned the character. Jay Ward and friend Leonard Key attempted to
make a revival series of Crusader Rabbit several years later (with
the help of William Hanna), but failed as the courts ruled against
them in 1957. There would be no further Crusader Rabbit shorts from
The television market in the late 50s was
rapidly changing and cartoons made for television were becoming more
popular. In the same year of that court ruling, William Hanna took
what he learned from the brief time on the failed Crusader Rabbit
revival and with partner Joseph Barbera created Ruff & Reddy.
They followed a year later with Huckleberry Hound. Networks and
syndicators were now looking anywhere they could for up-and-coming
animation studios to produce programs for television.
Without his original star, Jay Ward
scrambled to come up with a new series but his partner Alex Anderson
was busy working in his own advertising business, and was not eager
to return to animation. After speaking with Jerry Fairbanks, who had
helped produce Crusader Rabbit, Ward was eventually pointed in the
direction of Bill Scott, a theatrical short writer who had worked on
several Looney Tunes shorts and UPAs Gerald McBoing-Boing.
Together with writer Charlie Shows, the three started developing a
series that wouldve been called "Phineas T. Phox,
Adventurer", about a detective agency run by a Sam Spade-esque
fox and his bumbling bear assistant. While half a dozen scripts were
produced, there were initial difficulties between the men, leading to
Ward walking out and the project being shut down.
This was then that Ward decided to rework
his Frostbite Falls Review idea into something new. Gone were most of
the cast and the television station angle, but Rocky the Flying
Squirrel and Bullwinkle Moose were kept with some minor retooling.
Six months after the failure of "Phineas Phox", Ward called
up Scott, asking him if hed be interested in writing an
adventure script about a moose and a squirrel. Scott, not one to turn
down a job offer, accepted. In many ways, Bill Scott is credited as
the soul of Rocky and Bullwinkle; while it was Jay Ward who created
the characters and designed the confident short / bumbling tall
pairing which he originated from Crusader Rabbit, it was Bill Scott
(below right with Jay Ward) who really brought the series to life
with his unique comedic style, mixing satire and puns in a way that
hadnt been seen in television cartoons to that point. They
would later be joined by writers Chris Hayward and Allan Burns, who
later became head writer for MTM Enterprises.
Rocky was somewhat inspired by Mighty
Mouse, a series about a Superman-esque mouse which Jay Wards
former partner Alex Anderson had worked on while at the Terrytoons
Studio. Whereas Mighty Mouse shared Supermans same style of
flight without any means of propulsion, Rocky was a flying squirrel,
initially intended to have artificial wings (as flying squirrels
dont actually fly). One of the major things that Ward retooled
was removing these artificial wings, giving Rocky the ability to fly
without assistance, just like Mighty Mouse. While fearless and
intelligent, Rocky was also gullible and easily fooled by disguises.
came from a dream Anderson had one night, about bringing a large
goofy moose who could do card tricks to a poker party. Bullwinkle was
the comic relief of the duo, often clueless and always getting
himself and his friend into mishaps.
Just as every good adventure needs heroes,
it also needs villains. To oppose their stars, Ward and Scott created
Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, two incompetent spies from the
nation of Pottsylvania who reported to a dictator only known as
Fearless Leader (and sometimes to his superior, Mr. Big, who contrary
to his name, was as short as Rocky). Between their Russian accents,
spy occupations, and the Eastern European feel of Pottsylvania, they
had been designed as a satire on the Cold War era which the world was
currently in the midst of. In fact, the Russian government took this
satire so personally that Rocky & Bullwinkle was banned in Russia
for being "anti-Soviet propaganda"!
Each story, which ranged from as short as
four segments (two episodes) to as long as twenty segments (ten
episodes), saw Rocky and Bullwinkle on a different adventure in the
style of a film serial or a radio play. Many adventures were the
result of Rocky and Bullwinkle being in the wrong place at the wrong
time, getting thrown into one situation after another due to various
mishaps. On each adventure, Boris and Natasha would try to derail
them in their own goal of stealing something valuable for Fearless
Leader, but ultimately end up failing, often because of their own incompetence.
In the pilot, Bullwinkle accidentally
creates a new type of rocket fuel in his kitchen using his
grandmothers recipe for cake mix and, following a trip to the
moon to get back his stove which flew away, Bullwinkle is
commissioned by the US government to recreate the rocket fuel,
leading Boris and Natasha to try to steal the recipe. Eventually they
encounter aliens Gidney and Cloyd, who also want the formula. This
pilot, as well as the first few episodes, included a laugh track. The
series would eventually ditch this by the end of the first season.
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.
Frees, a long-time voice in the radio business known best at the time
for announcer and narrator roles would eventually be replaced as the
announcer by actor William Conrad. Frees was also cast in the role of Boris.
For Rocky and Natasha, Ward and Scott
sought out June Foray, well known in the animation business for roles
such as Granny and Witch Hazel in the Looney Tunes shorts, as well as
Lucifer the Cat in Cinderella. They met with Foray, and after some
drinks, she accepted the role saying "Sure, Ill do it.
What the hell!"
As the recording date neared they still
didn't have a Bullwinkle. Scott began to ask Ward who they were
getting for the moose. Ward said that he figured Scott would be
Bullwinkle, and with the prospect of being paid an extra $50 per
episode (the session fee for voice actors at the time), Bill Scott
was cast as Bullwinkle (as well as Fearless Leader and Mr. Big).
The pilot was recorded at Universal
Studios but was still unsold and without a sponsor. At this time you
couldn't get on television without a sponsor. Kelloggs had hit
it big with their sponsorship of Huckleberry Hound the previous year,
so their rival General Mills was open to hearing Ward and Scotts
pitch. Bill Scott met with the General Mills board members in the
Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood (Jay Ward was unable to attend due to
being briefly hospitalized for a nervous breakdown), and negotiations
began. The contract was signed after an agreement was made that the
show would be animated in Mexico, where animation costs could be
Eight months after the
pilot was recorded, 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 that
led to production errors for the early episodes of Rocky &
Bullwinkle. The Mexican studio was subpar even compared to other
television animation studios at the time. The animators were clearly
not up to the task of animating a weekly television series, leading
to issues such as disappearing body parts, miscolored costumes, and
major issues with the audio synching (which was also handled by the
animation studio). Even worse, the episodes always went from Mexico
straight to television, with no quality control step inbetween! In
some ways though, this encouraged the quality of the scripts to
flourish; Since they couldnt rely on the animation to look
good, Ward and Scott had to make sure the dialogue, humor, and voice
acting more than made up for the visual short-comings. As the show
went on, they tried to pull back production away from Mexico as much
as possible and give the show to more competent artists, until the
final season, which was made almost entirely in the United States.
The show was broadcast for
the first time on November 19th, 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. Twenty-six
episodes were produced for the first season, consisting of two Rocky
& Bullwinkle shorts at the beginning and end of each half hour
episode. The show was a big hit; children loved the witty humor,
while adults were amused by the satire and social commentary, all of
which Bill Scotts writing had provided. ABC quickly ordered
another batch of episodes, and Jay Ward was propelled once more into
that spotlight he had once enjoyed ten years earlier during Crusader
Rabbit, but this time on an even larger scale.
show moved to the NBC network starting September 24th, 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
back 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.
During and following the conclusion of
Rocky & Bullwinkle, Jay Wards studio would animate a number
of cereal commercials for General Mills and Quaker Oats, including
ads for Capn Crunch, Quisp and Quake. Soon after, he moved on
to create two more series: Hoppity Hooper in 1964, and George of the
Jungle in 1967.
died of kidney cancer in West Hollywood on October 12th, 1989, and
is buried in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery. He was
survived by his wife of 46 years, Ramona Ward and his three children.
Following Ward's death, Alexander Anderson, Jr., who had created the
initial conceptions of the characters Dudley Do-Right, Bullwinkle and
Rocky, but had not received public recognition, learned the
characters had been copyrighted in Ward's name alone. He sued Ward's
heirs to reclaim credit as a creator and Anderson received a
settlement and a court order acknowledging him as "the creator
of the first version of the characters of Rocky, Bullwinkle, and Dudley."
On June 21st, 2000, Jay Ward was
recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080
Hollywood Boulevard for his contribution to the television industry,
coinciding with the release of the live-action and animation film The
Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
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. 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.
Bill Scott (above left) provided the voice
of Bullwinkle J. Moose as well as Mr. Peabody, Dudley-Do-Right,
Fearless Leader and later on George of the Jungle. Scott was
primarily a writer, gagman and producer working for Warner Brothers
animation and U.P.A. before he became the main creative talent for
Jay Ward Productions. Scott was credited on-screen as producer and
sometimes as a writer on the Jay Ward cartoons but never as a voice
talent even though he usually played the star characters.
June Foray (above center) voiced Rocky the
Flying Squirrel as well as Natasha Fatale, Nell Fenwick and almost
any other female or little boy voice. She is also known for playing
Granny (owner of Tweety), Jokey Smurf and Mother Nature on The
Smurfs, Magica De Spell and Ma Beagle on DuckTales, Cindy Lou Who,
Grammi Gummi on Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Grandmother
Fa in the 1998 Disney film Mulan, about 80% of all cartoon witches
and hundreds of others.
was a superstar of comedy and drama radio shows, plus she has done
thousands of commercials and promos and was often heard dubbing
on-camera actresses and children in movies and television. Her on-camera
jobs have been limited but she did play a Mexican telephone operator
in several episodes of the TV series, Green Acres, and a serious
on-camera romantic lead in a forgettable movie called Sabaka. Foray
also worked with Stan Freberg on his records, radio shows and
commercials and was one of the early members of ASIFA-Hollywood, the
society devoted to promoting and encouraging animation. She is
credited with the establishment of the Annie Awards, as well as
instrumental to the creation of the Academy Award for Best Animated
Feature in 2001. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
honoring her voice work in television. June Foray was the most
prolific and in-demand voice actress who ever lived and Chuck Jones
was quoted as saying: "June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc.
Mel Blanc was the male June Foray.
In 2012, Foray received an Emmy Award in
the category of Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for her
role as Mrs. Cauldron on The Garfield Show, making her the oldest
entertainer (at age 94) to ever be nominated for and to win an Emmy.
Foray also reprised her role of Rocky the Flying Squirrel in a Rocky
and Bullwinkle short film, which was released in 2014. The following
year, she was honored with the Governors Award at the 65th Primetime
Creative Arts Emmy Awards. On July 26th, 2017, Foray died at a
hospital in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 99, less than two
months before her 100th birthday. She had been in declining health
since an automobile accident in 2015
Frees played Boris Badenov, Capt. Peter "Wrong Way"
Peachfuzz and Inspector Fenwick. He is also known for voicing
Professor Ludwig Von Drake, Squiddly Diddly, Toucan Sam, Poppin Fresh
the Pillsbury Doughboy and hundreds of others.
Frees had occasional on-camera roles but
was simply in too much demand for the off-camera ones (like the
unseen philanthropist character in the TV series, The Millionaire. He
was a superstar of radio dramas, a frequent re-dubber of on-camera
actors, a voice in thousands of commercials, a narrator, a recording
artist and even a stand-in when someone hired Orson Welles to narrate
something and needed to have someone impersonate Orson. The most
famous Frees voice job may be his voiceover as the "Ghost
Host" in the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland and he is
still heard in other rides at the Disney theme parks.
Frees may have been the most versatile
voice actor ever and his peers still marvel at some of his vocal
feats. In the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons, bad guy spy Boris
Badenov often adopted disguises and fake dialects&ldots; so Frees was
called on to do a Russian feigning a Texas accent. And as
producer/co-star Bill Scott once remarked, "We could never stump
Paul with that kind of stuff. He always got it in one take."
There are hundreds of examples of Paul
replacing the voices of other actors in movies and TV shows. Near the
beginning of the Academy Award-winning motion picture Gigi, star
Louis Jordan walks into a mansion and has a conversation with three
servants. All three actors were redubbed by Paul Frees.
A Classic Commercial for Cheerios feturing Bullwinkle & Dudley Do Right in Old Mother's Cupboard - 1963.
Rocky & His Friends had a solid run on
ABC for two seasons, but never quite got the ratings the network
wanted. Meanwhile, in 1961, NBC was looking for animated programming
to air next to Walt Disneys Wonderful World of Color (which NBC
had just acquired from ABC as well), so the show exchanged hands and
was aired on NBC as "The Bullwinkle Show" for an additional
To promote the shows new network, a
statue of Bullwinkle holding Rocky was erected in front of Jay
Wards studio in Los Angeles, an unveiling event which included
star Jayne Mansfield. This statue would eventually find its more
permanent home in front of the Dudley Do-Right Emporium, where it
remained until it was taken down and removed by Dreamworks (the
current rights holders) in 2013 for repairs after years of neglect.
Most recently, the statue, now fully restored, was on display in late
2014 at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, its new permanent home yet
to be decided. There was also a Bullwinkle balloon in the 1961 Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade, giving Bullwinkle the distinction of having
the first parade balloon based on a television character. Also for
promotion, Rocky & Bullwinkle writers George Atkins and Allan
Burns took a petition around cross-country, which would ask the
government to create a state named Moosylvania located on a small
island near Minnesota (which Ward and Scott had purchased). The
petition actually got a fair amount of signatures, but before Ward
could reach Washington DC with it, the Cuban Missile Crisis broke
out, and they scrapped the petition.
When first shown on NBC,
the cartoons were introduced
by a live-action Bullwinkle puppet who was a lot more sarcastic than
the Bullwinkle in the cartoons. The Bullwinkle puppet,
voiced by Bill Scott, would often lampoon celebrities, current events
and at the end of the show
would return and usually make a sly remark about Walt Disney (whose
program Wonderful World of Color was the next show on the schedule).
These segments ran as a weekly part of the show until one segment
aired in which Bullwinkle requested that the children viewing pull
the knobs off their television sets, so they wouldnt be able to
change the channel. (A trick I had used on my older cousin who when
babysitting didn't want to watch Get Smart when I did. Something to
this day she bring up at family gatherings.) After reportedly 20,000
complaints from parents of children who actually followed this advice
(like me), another segment aired the following week with the
Bullwinkle puppet telling those kids to glue the knobs back on. The
Bullwinkle puppet disappeared for a while after that, until returning
for a segment titled "Dear Bullwinkle", where hed
read "fan mail" and answer questions.
Each episode was composed
of two "Rocky & Bullwinkle" cliffhanger shorts that
stylistically emulated early radio and film serials and only lasted 3
½ minutes, with a short at the start and at the end for a total
of 7 minutes of the runtime. 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.
The "Rocky &
Bullwinkle" shorts serve as "bookends" for several
other popular supporting features that filled the another 15 minutes
in the middle of each episode that needed to be filled. There were a
number of recurring segments that would shift in and out from week to week.
Fractured Fairy Tales
Fractured Fairy Tales, was a 4 ½
minute segment which would parody a different fairy tale each week. A
common theme in these parodies was putting the characters of these
fairy tale in the present day and seeing how their stories would
(humorously) play out in a modern setting. Some of the stories
covered included Little Red Riding Hood, Aladdin, Rumpelstiltskin,
Snow White, and Rapunzel.
This segment was unique at the time
because unlike other TV cartoons at the time, Fractured Fairy Tales
was an anthology series, rarely ever having the same cast twice. The
regular cast of the Rocky & Bullwinkle segments (Bill Scott, June
Foray, and Paul Frees) also voiced various fairy tale characters in
this segment. Joining them was Daws Butler (who was already voicing
most of Hanna-Barberas star characters) and, for the narrator,
actor Edward Everett Horton, who had previously done voice work on a
cartoon Bill Scott had produced at UPA.
In large part, Fractured Fairy Tales was
inspired by a 1953 record titled "St. George and the
Dragonet", a parody of the Dragnet series set in medieval times
with Stan Freberg playing St. George on his way to slay a dragon
while acting like the detective from Dragnet. The B-side of this
record was "Little Blue Riding Hood", a parody which had
Riding Hood under investigation by the detective for "trafficking
goodies". This record was a #1 seller, and even had Daws Butler
and June Foray voicing characters in it. Rocky & Bullwinkle
writer George Atkins used this record as a basis for the humorous
direction of the segment.
Peabody's Improbable History
Ted Key, brother of Leonard Key (who had
gone to school with Jay Ward and briefly worked with Ward in a failed
Crusader Rabbit revival), had already enjoyed a fair bit of
popularity with his single-panel comic series "Hazel",
which ran in the Saturday Evening Post from 1943 to 1969 (and then in
newspapers from 1969 until Keys retirement in 1993). At the
initial meeting of the Rocky & Bullwinkle staff, Key presented an
idea he had come up with: "Danny Day-Dream", about a dog
and his pet boy who go time traveling through history. Ted Keys
initial pitch included 93 possible scenarios that the characters
could find themselves in, many of which were used in the show itself.
The idea of having a dog owning a boy came
from Ted Key observing animals. He noted that humans "all take
orders from cats", so from that he came up with the idea of
having a smart dog, a beagle, giving orders to a boy. The dog, who
walked upright with a red bowtie and thick glasses, would come to be
named Peabody, named after Bill Scotts own dog. Peabody was
extremely self-confident to the point of arrogance, bragging whenever
he came up with a solution to a problem.
In each adventure, Peabody would take
Sherman on trips through time in the WABAC Machine (pronounced
"way-back", and a play on the names of early computers
such as UNIVAC and ENIAC). 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. Peabody
invented the WABAC machine himself, in hopes of educating Sherman
about historical events. In each trip, they would discover something
wrong with the course of history, leading to Peabody coming up with a
solution (with Sherman assisting him) and history being corrected,
before Peabody ends the episode by with a pun. 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
Mr. Peabody was voiced by Bill Scott,
doing an impression of actor Clifton Webb, while Sherman was voiced
by Walter Tetley, a voice actor best known for his child
impersonations and the character of Andy Panda in the Woody
In 2014, Dreamworks Animation released
"Mr. Peabody & Sherman", who were voiced by Ty Burrell
and Max Charles respectively. The film was a hit, raking in $273
Million globally. Dreamworks has also recently ordered a 78 episode
series based on this film.
Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties
When Jay Ward and Alex Anderson made their
"The Comic Strips of Television" pitch to NBC in 1948,
there were three characters in the proposal: adventurer Crusader
Rabbit, detective Hamhock Jones, and mountie Dudley Do-Right. NBC had
passed on Hamhock Jones and Dudley Do-Right at the time but now Ward
decided it was time to revive Dudley Do-Right.
Dudley Do-Rights segment was a
parody of old melodramatic film serials, though given that some of
the serials it was parodying were ridiculous in their own right it
would sometimes come off as more of a tribute. Dudley is a dimwitted
Canadian mountie who is always trying to save Neil Fenwick, daughter
of his superior Inspector Fenwick, from the clutches of villain
Snidley Whiplash (a direct parody of old film serial villains who
sports the standard "villain" attire of black top hat,
cape, and over-sized moustache.). He would often only win
against Snidley through luck or with the help of his trusty horse,
simply named Horse. While Dudley would try to win the affections of
Neil, Neil only had eyes for Horse. To go with the silent film
melodrama style, all the background music was done only with a piano.
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.
Dudley Do-Right had the Rocky &
Bullwinkle regulars, Bill Scott (Dudley), Paul Frees (Inspector and
the Narrator), and June Foray (Neil). But also among the cast,
voicing Snidley Whiplash, was Hans Conried, who is best known to
animation fans as the voice of Captain Hook in Disneys Peter
Pan. Dudley Do-Right was one of Jay Wards personal favorite
segments; Wards personal gift shop in West Hollywood, which
stayed open from 1971 to 2005, was named the Dudley Do-Right Emporium.
A live action version of
Dudley Do-Right made it to the big screen in 1999. The comedy film
was produced by Davis Entertainment for Universal Studios and
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". Unfortunately,
this film didnt live up to its animated counterpart and made
only 1/7th of its budget back.
Aesop and Son
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.
For the rest of the time that the previous
four shorts couldnt fill, there was Bullwinkles Corner.
While sometimes this could just be a little segment with the
characters running around doing something or performing a magic
trick, it most often consisted of three different types of recurring
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?".
During these segments, especially in later
ones, something (usually Boris) would disrupt his performance. While
it may seem odd that the bumbling moose would have such an interest
in poetry, this was in line with Bullwinkles early personality
which was prominent in the General Mills advertisements the
characters also starred in, where he was presented as an intellectual
moose. As the series went on, these poetry segments were gradually
There was also "Mr. Know-It-All",
a segment where Bullwinkle would explain to the audience how to
perform a task, like how to be a hobo or an archeologist, or how to
catch a bee, or even how to disarm a live 5000 megaton TNT bomb in
your own workshop in your spare time to amuse your friends. Similar
to Disneys Goofy "How To" shorts, something would
always go wrong for Bullwinkle in the process of trying to do the
task at hand.
Lastly, there was the "Fan Club"
segments, which began appearing as the poetry segments were phased
out. These were short 90 second vintages putting Rocky, Bullwinkle,
Boris, Natasha, and Captain Peachfuzz (another recurring character) a
bit more on friendly terms, such as acting in plays together and
holding fundraisers for Bullwinkles club. These were the least
frequent of all the segments, with only ten installments made.
The World of Commander McBragg
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.
After five years in production, Rocky &
Bullwinkle ended its run in 1964 with 163 half-hours under its belt,
an impressive feat for any show. While there was still a loyal
following, the network and the advertisers, primarily General Mills,
had grown tired of the show and wanted something new. The series went
back to ABC who, while not interested in producing new episodes,
continued to air reruns as part of their Saturday morning lineup
until 1973. It also had a long healthy life in syndication, airing
under various different names; "The Rocky Show" for most of
its time on local networks, "Bullwinkles Moose-O-Rama"
during its run on Nickelodeon in the early 90s, and eventually
"The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle" for later reruns
and the DVD releases. Dudley Do-Right even got his own rerun show in
1969, which included several segments produced by General Mills
Total Television studio.
The characters have also managed to remain
relevant to this day through reruns, comics, video games, theme park
rides, and most of all film adaptations. The first of these was a
Boris & Natasha film written by Jay Ward.
Boris and Natasha: The Movie
Boris 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 17th, 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"?
Rocky & Bullwinkle finally got their
chance at the big-screen in 2000 with "The Adventures of Rocky
& Bullwinkle", also made by Universal.
The Adventures of Rocky
The 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). June Foray reprises her role as Rocky, with
animation historian Keith Scott (no relation to Bill Scott, though he
was friends with him and Ward) as Bullwinkle and the Narrator.
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, ove 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.