The History of Rocky and Bullwinkle
Rocky and Bullwinkle have been a part of our history and lives for the past 50 years, and have the rare honor of being elected into the animated elite that has pervaded the annuls of pop culture, history buffs, and medium of television as we know it. Although not as highly praised as Disney or Warner Brothers animation, this moose and squirrel left a big impression an an entire generation and changed the way cartoons were made.
It started with Jay Ward. Born in 1920, he was destine to become one of the most comical and satirical writers of animation to date. Teamed with funny man, Bill Scott, the duo crafted the earliest version of an animated television series. In 1950, they had the honor of producing the first animated program made-for-television, "Crusader Rabbit." At first believed to be a risky venture (After all, who had the ability to make an animated feature with a TV show's budget? ). With much luck, the transfer of animation to the silver screen, to the small screen was a major success. Ward and Scott did not have access to large amounts of supplies and often supplemented animation to only its basic functions. For example, instead of an entire character moving, only their mouth or hands would move, leaving the rest of the character as a still image. This process saved time and resources in the process of creating animated images. Plastic cels that were painted on were washed and reused to save even more money. The whole "game" of animation was now different. Crusader Rabbit lasted two years on early network television.
"The Frostbite Falls Review" idea lead way to 'Rocky and His Friends' in 1959, co-created with Alex Anderson. A new mix of ideas was used to create the "Rocky" show. First, many of the secondary characters were cut, which left only Rocky, the flying squirrel, and Bullwinkle the moose. The prime time cartoon premiered on November 29th at 6:30 p.m. on ABC. The series was an instant hit among children and adults. Kids loved the witty characters, while adults enjoyed the social commentaries and satire. ABC begged for more episodes, as the audience's demand for "Rocky" was at a fever pitch.
The show starred Rocky, the flying squirrel, Bullwinkle, his motley friend, and the two Pottsylvanian spies, Boris and Natasha. The series followed Rocky and Bullwinkle through many random situations that lead to long, harrowing adventures. As many cartoons do today, there were many "shows within a show" on Rocky and His Friends. There was Peabody's Improbable History, an overly intelligent dog and his pet boy, Sherman, travel through time; Fractured Fairy Tales, comedic reenactments of fairy tales; Mr. Know-It-All, featuring Bullwinkle as the educated scholar, teaching the audience valuable skills; Aesop and Son; the great story teller teaching his son morals through stories, was added for one season (39 segments) as a replacement for Fracture Fairy Tales. Luckily the fans wrote in and complained, bringing back Fractured Fairy Tales.
In 1961, the show was moved to NBC and renamed The Bullwinkle Show. The new show was a cozy neighbor to NBC and remained on the network for another three years. Bullwinkle and Rocky had their fare of the public eye until 1964, when Ward decided to move productions back to ABC.
Then it happened in 1964. The Bullwinkle Show was cancelled! Although it seems like Rocky and Bullwinkle were canceled for no apparent reason, it is believed that ABC wanted to move on with something new (like their new sitcom in the works, Happy Days). By the time of cancellation, the ratings for "Bullwinkle" were moderate, and the stories still original, but even this couldn't saved the dwindling success of America's first prime-time cartoon. To Ward, his staff, and countless fans, this was a very harrowing feeling to get from a network that only years prior counted on the show for massive ratings. In 1963, during production of the last seasons of "Bullwinkle," they worked on Fractured Flickers, old movies with twisted soundtracks. A year later, Hoppity Hooper, a series about a frog of the same name. It became a Bullwinkle stand-in, as it took over the Rocky and Bullwinkle spot in the show, leaving all the other smaller shows (i.e. Peabody, Fractured Fairytales) in place. In 1967, Ward's comedic team started production on another hit, "George of the Jungle". The story featured a crazy Tarzan-like fellow and his jungle friends. In the grad tradition of Rocky and Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle show included a few other stars in the same half hour. The most notable included Super Chicken and Tom Slick. The Bullwinkle Show kept its name when moving back to ABC, as to avoid confusion. The Bullwinkle Show lasted until 1974 (Yes folks, 15 years on the air!) on ABC, which from there went into syndication. Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show were packed together for syndication and given the same introductions and credits. The aptly named "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends" went into syndication for nearly two decades.
George of the Jungle only lasted one year, leaving Jay, and the cast on to their next hit series. As demands for Jay Ward's humor grew, NBC wanted something more. It prompted NBC to contract the staff of The Bullwinkle Show to create an entirely new half hour series, based off the Dudley Do-right shorts. Dudley Do-Right followed The Bullwinkle Show in prime time, creating a full hour of the beloved humor of Jay Ward and company. Jay Ward breathed life back into the Canadian Mountie he created almost a decade ago. "The Dudley Do-right Show" premiered in 1969, pleasing many of the Rocky and Bullwinkle fans by giving Dudley, Snidely Whiplash, Nell, Inspector Fenwick, and even Horse, their own half hour once a week.
While The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle flip-flopped from local stations' early morning animation blocks to Nickelodeon (they renamed it Moose-O-Rama?!) in the early 1990's, the fans remained true, supporting the series. Luckily the moose and squirrel found a stable home in 1996 when Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network picked up the series. The channel now has become a meeting place for other of classic cartoons. In 1998, Cartoon Network also acquired the rights to The Dudley Do-right Show, making it the ultimate place for Rocky and Bullwinkle fans. Both shows have since moved to Cartoon Network's sister station Boomerang, a classic cartoon channel.
In 2003, Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends was released on DVD. Each set is packaged into a season set. The first season includes all original episodes from the 1959 "Rocky and His Friends". In 2004, the second season was released. There are slated to be at least 5 seasons, each being released around August. Today Rocky and Bullwinkle still live on in national commercials, a feature film, and the hearts of viewers.