Skip

Bullwinkle Turns 50 -or- The Old Grey Moose Is Still What He Used To Be
November 19, 2009 4:25 AM   Subscribe

Hokey Smoke! Today is the 50th Anniversary of the television debut of Rocky and Bullwinkle! (...and Boris & Natasha & Peabody & Sherman & Fractured Fairy Tales... Dudley DoRight debuted later in the 1st season) The entire first episode is online at both Hulu and Joost (with some minor alterations based on the DVD release) so, hopefully everyone can see how it began.
posted by oneswellfoop (49 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's definitely a trip through the Wayback Machine.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:37 AM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


They're only two years younger than me. I feel lucky to have grown up with such contemporaries. I watched R&B (and don't think for one minute it's a coincidence that those are their initials!) religiously throughout my childhood, and they had a lot to do with shaping my world view. The absurdist streak running through my life and my art is due in large part to that wacky and inspiring slice of American television culture. Happy 50th, old friends!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:49 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah...visions of my youth. Thanks for this!
posted by Thorzdad at 4:50 AM on November 19, 2009


I recently downloaded a bunch of these for my kids (although I didn't really watch it as a little kid, I still loved them as a teen and adult). One description I read was that it was a radio show on TV. That seems pretty true--the animation is technically terrible and there are almost no visual jokes. But the writing and delivery...oh man.
posted by DU at 4:51 AM on November 19, 2009


Just last week I listened, with great pleasure, to Bob Claster's interview with June Foray and Bill Scott, which I recommend to all of you.
posted by e.e. coli at 4:53 AM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Please to enjoy the fine slab o' wax that is Rocky & His Friends.
posted by Kinbote at 5:07 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


That seems pretty true--the animation is technically terrible and there are almost no visual jokes.

I always thought of the animation as being very limited, but because the writing was so sharp, it never bothered me that much.

This excerpt from the Wikipedia article explains some of the problems with the animation:

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."

posted by louche mustachio at 5:25 AM on November 19, 2009


Yeah, I read that too. That explains the technical shortcomings of the animation. But you can't blame Mexico for the lack of visual jokes. Presumably it was the writers doing the storyboards and so forth. They were writing a radio show with illustrations.
posted by DU at 5:31 AM on November 19, 2009


One description I read was that it was a radio show on TV. That seems pretty true--the animation is technically terrible and there are almost no visual jokes. But the writing and delivery...oh man.

They definitely made the best of a limited animation budget, that's for sure (such as padding the show out with those tiny interstitials -- I never did quite get the one where moose and squirrel are running around in the lightning and then they go underground and then they sprout up as daisies. Some kind of Orpheus reference? What?!)

But yes. It really is an animated radio show, and it's wonderful. I'd love to try an audio adaptation of a R&B script. I bet there'd be very little to change besides the minimal visual translation. Perform with live SFX, shake well, serve.

What I'd really like to see, and I haven't heard about the DVD release so I don't know if this stuff is in it, are the show bumpers featuring Bill Scott fooling around with an actual live-action Bullwinkle puppet. Those segments never made the syndicated afternoon packages and so I've only read about 'em. Scott approached Soupy Sales levels of television disobedience in these segments: According to The Moose That Roared, an excellent account of Jay Ward and Bill Scott's animation partnership, the Bullwinkle puppet gets into trouble after telling kids to glue their television dials to the set so that they'll always know which channel the show is on.

The only other cartoon which was on a par with Rocky & Bullwinkle in the realm of excellent writing, terrible yet cleverly hidden puns, and brilliant voice acting was Time for Beany. (A Bob Clampett CartoooOOOOOOOon!) I wonder how it came to be that Rocky & Bullwinkle kept on going in eternal syndicated reruns while Beany more or less slipped off the cultural radar. (I mean, the show is respected by animation historians and it really is good, but on a pop culture level, exponentially more people know and remember "Get moose and squirrel" more than, say, Tearalong the Dotted Lion.)
posted by Spatch at 5:44 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Good fun!
posted by Drasher at 5:45 AM on November 19, 2009


The "Kirwood Derby" was named after versatile TV comedian Durward Kirby, who for years played second banana on "The Garry Moore Show" and, for a time, was co-host of "Candid Camera." In November 1961, Kirby threatened to sue Jay Ward Productions for the parody of his name. Ward reportedly replied: "Please sue us, we love the publicity." Kirby dropped the case after realizing that its legality was not strong enough. One story says that Ward responded to Kirby's threat by offering to let him name any hat he chose after any character from the show.
posted by gimonca at 5:51 AM on November 19, 2009


What flapjax said. Much of what I am today, I am because of Rocky, Bullwinkle, Mr. Peabody, Sherman, and Edward Everett Horton. Now I must don my Kerwood Derby and head off to good ol' Wassamatta U.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:53 AM on November 19, 2009


What I'd really like to see, and I haven't heard about the DVD release so I don't know if this stuff is in it, are the show bumpers featuring Bill Scott fooling around with an actual live-action Bullwinkle puppet.

There are at least some in the DVD extras.
posted by DU at 6:05 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


and now here's something you'll really like....
posted by caddis at 6:13 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bullwinkle is one of my favorite Minnesotans. And if you're looking for structures of comedy to steal -- not the actual jokes, but the way they are established and delivered -- the early MAD Magazine and Jay Wards animation can't be beat.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:14 AM on November 19, 2009


Of Moose and Men aired on PBS years ago, and was a pretty definitive history of the show.
posted by Danf at 6:19 AM on November 19, 2009


Rocky and Bullwinkle was huge for me as a kid and I'll always welcome an excuse to revisit them. And e.e. coli, thanks for the tip on the Bob Claster's Funny Stuff interview - I'm downloading it, along with a few others, now.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:25 AM on November 19, 2009


Great post onesweelfoop, but how will it help us catch moose and squirrel?
posted by jefficator at 6:39 AM on November 19, 2009


I have pretty much decided that today is a holiday.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:47 AM on November 19, 2009


From that first episode:
Mr. Peabody: "My dear boy, I'm a genius, not a track star." Clearly Dr. McCoy's inspiration.
Wonderful post - thanks.
posted by fish tick at 7:05 AM on November 19, 2009


I loved this show, and I loved moose and squirrel, but I REALLY loved Fractured Fairy Tales and Mr. Peabody. The FFT in the linked episode doesn't have the later opening with the fairy, although it was cool to see that Rapunzel was played by Peggy from Mad Men. There are a lot more FFTs at YouTube.

And nthing the "radio cartoon" theories. In the intervening years, I've always associated the show with Stan Freberg just because it felt like one of his radio pieces. But there wasn't really any connection, I think, except that June Foray worked with Stan, too
posted by maudlin at 7:15 AM on November 19, 2009


There are at least some in the DVD extras.

Today has officially just become More Awesome.
posted by Spatch at 7:19 AM on November 19, 2009


I loved Maybe Dick. . .the fearsome whale.

He roamed the seas, killing everything in his path. . .MAYBE!
He could swallow a ship, with all it's crew in one gulp. . .MAYBE!
posted by Danf at 7:23 AM on November 19, 2009


As a child growing up in the late 80s, I'm not sure how I came to love Rocky and Bullwinkle as much as I do. Some station near me ran it, and I would watch it whenever I could. This brings me to my real questions, does anyone, anywhere actually like Dudley Do-right? I guess it could be okay out of context, but when it's taking time away from something actually good like Peabody or Fractured Fairy Tales?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:25 AM on November 19, 2009


Is the entire narrator's part re-recorded? 'Cos I remember it being much, much better than this. I love the show, and have since I was five years old or so, but the guy doing the voice-overs in that episode sounds like he has no real interest in the show he's narrating.
posted by Limiter at 7:25 AM on November 19, 2009


This brings me to my real questions, does anyone, anywhere actually like Dudley Do-right?

A quick phone call to my mom has confirmed a bizarre memory - when I was about 5-6 years old, Dudley Do-Right was my imaginary boyfriend. Shortly afterwards I betrayed him by turning my tiny affections to Wonder Woman and her invisible plane.
posted by elizardbits at 7:31 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is the entire narrator's part re-recorded? 'Cos I remember it being much, much better than this.

The narrator was Willam Conrad, who was TV Detective Cannon, and the spokesman for First Alert fire detectors.
posted by Danf at 7:36 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rocky and Bullwinkle.. I loved them and still do. As a kid it just washed over me and I was like 'yay!' and then later as teenager I was all 'yeah!' and many years after that I was watching one and it was parody of 'Bonanza' and I nearly died. I've got a few old videos that my kids watch and they are all 'yay! too.

Really good. This and Roger Ramjet.
posted by h00py at 7:37 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


What a great post. R&B was snarky, well-written, and full of cool tidbits. Fractured Fairy Tales and the Wayback Machine; I loved that show.
posted by theora55 at 7:39 AM on November 19, 2009


Hokey smoke, Kinbote! I used to love that record when I was a kid, I'd forgotten all about it!
Great post, Rocky & Bullwinkle were my best TV friends growing up.
posted by Floydd at 7:46 AM on November 19, 2009


I had forgotten about Rocky and Bullwinkle for years until one day I heard its wacky end credit music on an alternate music radio station and after I finally figured out where I had heard this before it brought back lots of memories.
posted by eye of newt at 7:53 AM on November 19, 2009


Plus, that bizzarre, reincarnation intro animation was downright apocoplyptic. This show and Dr. Suess molded my early sense of humor. Fracture Fairy Tales spinoff Fractured Flicks, was a precursor to MST 3000.
posted by xjudson at 8:08 AM on November 19, 2009


Yay!

There was a station near us showing The Bullwinkle Show recently and my husband remarked, "I'm just staying up to watch Bullwinkle and then I'm going to bed. My life has come full circle."

Also, I do so love Sherman and Peabody and I find the way he says, "Every dog should have a boy" heart-meltingly endearing.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:26 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I still say "Moose and Squirrel" with that delightfully fake Russian accent of Boris! I also do a passable "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!" in Bullwinkle's voice. To say this show had a profound effect on me growing up is a clear understatement.
posted by tommasz at 8:52 AM on November 19, 2009


Metafilter: Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!
posted by brand-gnu at 9:19 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bullwinkle was one of the few pop culture things my mom latched onto and shared with all of us kids. I remember one episode in particular, when a quick thinking Rocky, about to be bombed by an Air Force plane, hastily scrawled a large sign in an attempt to spare him and Bullwinkle from being killed. He flips over the sign to reveal "U.S. Taxpayer" and thus saves the day. Without missing a beat, my mom says "This cartoon was not written for children!"

I highly recommend the book "The Moose That Roared" which gives a great deal of background on the show, sometimes disturbingly so (there were publicity stunts/attention getting efforts just after the Kennedy assassination that came off as weird, pathetic and untimely ... can't remember details, it's been a while since I've read the book, it's just the impression I had reading it at the time...)
posted by kuppajava at 9:20 AM on November 19, 2009


I'm about half the age of Moose and Squirel, apparently, but I grew up on them just like my dad did. Every time I went to visit my grandparents as a kid, they would put on VHS tapes and we would all watch them together; I loved it.

I went back this summer to visit them again, and introduce them to my wife, and we all watched Bullwinkle again; I loved it.

Now my grandfather is in the hospital, and they don't know why. Today I have to go buy him a card and install a telephone so that they can call me. And This FPP came along, and you have no idea how hard it has been to do anything but sit in a ball and cry, today.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:25 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


almost forgot this! for lovers of Rocky and Bullwinkle related pop culture references, here's giving the Chicago House sound of Trax Records to samples from the show:

Hey Rocky! by Boris Badenough

I used to hear this a lot on the radio one summer in the mid 1980s. Enjoy!
posted by kuppajava at 9:26 AM on November 19, 2009


According to Toonzone, this post is 10 days early, and the show's network premier was November 29.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:34 AM on November 19, 2009


On further search, I see references to both days, but 19th seems to be more popular. Anybody know whether the show was weekday (Thursday) or weekend (Sunday)?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:40 AM on November 19, 2009


Is the entire narrator's part re-recorded? 'Cos I remember it being much, much better than this.

It's definitely re-recorded and cleaned up. The original series has a Flinstones-esque canned laugh track for the first half-dozen or so segments which has obviously been removed.

I think the last time the unedited originals of the show were aired were on Nickelodeon about ten or fifteen years ago. Even the home video releases in the 90's used the "best available footage" (The "box top bandit" story for example cut entire segments out because of quality issues)

I had all the VHS releases when I was a kid; no idea if they've done a better job for DVD but I hope they did.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:18 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


To this day, the only foreign accent I can do moderately well is Russian, thanks to June Foray - not only because of Natasha but also the giant lady bunny (she's Slobovian - when in Slobovia, do like all the other slobs) who fell in love with Bugs. "Give to me large kiss."
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:25 AM on November 19, 2009


I just irradiated my niece and nephew with Rocky and Bullwinkle. They have been raised on a strict diet of Disney, Disney, and more Disney with some Pixar frosting. After a half hour of watching Bullwinkle baking his rocket fuel "pan-dowdy", I thought they were bored to tears, since they were nearly silent and wide-eyed, but they nearly tackled me when I went near the DVD player to put in the "real movie" they were supposed to be watching - "No please Unka Benzene! We want to watch the flying squirrel!"
posted by benzenedream at 10:53 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


there were publicity stunts/attention getting efforts just after the Kennedy assassination that came off as weird, pathetic and untimely ... can't remember details, it's been a while since I've read the book

Oh god, that was a brilliant story which turned really really weird. It involved Moosylvania, the island that lies on Veronica Lake between the US and Canada. At one point in 1962 Jay got this great idea into his head to campaign for statehood for Moosylvania. (I think he also bought an island up north and dubbed it Moosylvania.)

Thus began a cross-country tour in a big, gaudy type of bus. Kinda like Ken Kesey's Furthur only with flying squirrels and moose faces instead of acid paintings. They'd make stops, stump for Moosylvania, have a lot of fun, that kind of thing.

The tour eventually hit Washington, DC and the gang decided it'd be a great idea to stop and visit JFK. He'd probably get a kick out of the whole shebang. The big colorful bus parked in front of the White House and the group performed their antics outside, hoping to attract the attention of the President. It didn't happen and eventually a few thin-lipped Secret Service agents showed up and told them now was not the time for such displays, and shooed them away.

The group thought maybe they were a bit too weird for Washington, until it came out later that they showed up in front of the White House just as the Cuban Missile Crisis had begun its strange escalation. JFK had just convened a very serious, very tense meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council in an attempt to keep the world from blowing itself up, and here are a bunch of animators dancing around in front of the White House demanding that Moosylvania become the 51st state.

This is why I love Jay Ward Productions.
posted by Spatch at 12:21 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


If there's one thing I abhor, it's the repackaging and re-editing. I want to see these in their ORIGINAL form with their ORIGINAL theme songs and titles, goofs and all. (According to the book, that first episode contained a card at one point that said "Sorry - we didn't make it" because the last bit of animation had failed to come back from Mexico on time.)
posted by evilcolonel at 12:32 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rocky & Bullwinkle, Felix the Cat and Gumby pretty much informed my early years.

Really, very little has approached those three programs in all these intervening years in terms of comfort and creativity. Their motivations were easily understandable whereas grownups just seemed like twisted and bloated versions of us brats, with incomprehensible needs and wants.

Come to think of it, very little has changed.
posted by metagnathous at 4:53 PM on November 19, 2009


NPR interview with June Foray and Jay Ward's daughter Tiffany.
posted by eye of newt at 7:22 PM on November 19, 2009


Much love for Jay Ward's Fractured Flickers. "As Shakespere said at the end of Othello: 'That's all there is. There ain't no Moor.'"
posted by SPrintF at 8:11 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


almost no visual jokes

As they panned across the interior of Gidney and Cloyd's rocket ship, one of the books on the bookshelf was "Sex on Planet X". As a kid, what caught my eye on that one was "Planet X". As a college student seeing the same episode, it was the other part.
posted by anewc2 at 12:40 PM on November 20, 2009


« Older Mind Games   |   This, my darling, is the Zybourne Clock. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post