My Grade: B+
Rocky and His Friends (1959–1963)
User ReviewsReview this title
My Grade: B+
I am only 27, but the show reminds me of better times, and I enjoy watching it to this day, finally being able to get the jokes. I can never find it, but when I do, and I rarely do, I sit and watch and remember. I am not sure if I will ever see the live action/animated version of the film, however, because I hate what modern technology has done to the animated characters I grew up loving in flat monotone colors. Isn't this the only way to view Rocky and Bullwinkle, and if Peabody the dog and his boy Sherman ain't in it do I really want to pay money to watch? Oh well, maybe the film will make the TV show more available. One can only hope.
Looking back at the very onset of the show with the Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle DVD set, the show seemed to attempt to find itself both from a story nature and the art (Rocky's appearance changes quite drastically between episodes seven and eight of the "Rocket Fuel" serial and again between episodes five and six of "Box Top Robbery"), but once the show found itself deservedly attracting a grown-up audience, the story writers let it all hang out. Pop culture wasn't the target of the show, it was culture of all persuasions. It came fast and furious and that's what made the show so funny. Consider the following from the "Treasure Of Monte Zoom" serial, when Boris Badenov sets fire to a bridge:
Bullwinkle: "This is an ethical dilemma fraught with portents!"
Rocky: "What does that mean?"
Bullwinkle: "I dunno...I heard it on 'Meet The Press'."
Rocky and Bullwinkle has shown that brilliant writing and terrific heroic characters can offset the low-budget animation, and that heroes that can thrill us and make us laugh will have a spot in our hearts for life.
Now, more than four decades later, the show has held up very well. It is still funny, still full of surprises. And the humor is still far above the level of most of the comedy shows on TV (live or animated).
As a teenager, I thought I understood the humor in the name of the villain Boris Badinov (bad enough, get it?) It took me another fifteen years to realize that it is also a pun on the name of the Russian opera Boris Gudinov. I wonder how long it will take before I get ALL the plays on words in all the episodes.
By the way, fans of this show should look out for "Sheep in the Big City", which, though by no means a copy, is obviously inspired by Rocky and Bullwinkle.
I wonder if Jay Ward would have also been surprised that his creation had lasted that long. He had done Crusader Rabbit, back in 1949---TV's first animated show ever----but certainly that cartoon could not hold a candle to this one.
From what I have read, there were no other cartoon TV series, up until this point, which had lasted 5 years (shortly AFTER this series began, The Flintstones ran 6 years---1960-1966). After Rocky, Bullwinkle (and Hanna Barbera's Flinstones) I think that it was EXTREMELY RARE that any animated series lasted 5 or more years......Until The Simpsons came along!.....
The story that I have read, as to why Jay Ward switched the name, from Rocky and His Friends, to The Bullwinkle Show, is very simple. In 1961 the show switched networks. The new station would only pick the series up if Ward renamed it The Bullwinkle Show (for what reason, I will never know). The rest is history......
Probably my favorite part of this vintage cartoon series was the episodes of Rock & Bullwinkle.......and also the Fractured Fairytales. Sometimes I think that I liked the Fractured Fairytales even better than the episodes of R & B.
Jay Ward was very clever, however, to have so many different "side shows", if you will, on the program. I pretty much liked all of them (Peabody, Dudley Do-Right too). My least favorite of "Rocky's friends" was Aesop's Fables---but even that had some redeeming qualities.
Though I always loved the show, I think that I first REALLY became interested in it when my Great-Aunt Esther admitted to having met and known Edward Everett Horton, who used to narrate the Fractured Fairytales on the series. She met him when the two of them lived in the New York City area, when he was doing "winter stock". Supposedly Mr. Horton was born around 1886 and my great-aunt was born in 1895.
I had always loved his wonderful, grandfatherly voice, which was just so perfect for conjuring up the images of those priceless and precious fairytales (albeit "fractured" fairytales). I think that Edward Everett Horton truly lent a genuine modicum of CLASS and DELIGHT to those cartoons, by being the one to tell the story.
I started trying to tape all of the fractured fairytales, since my great-aunt and he had been acquaintances and since I liked him very much. I was not successful in getting too many of them on tape.
In the process of taping these tales I gained an even keener appreciation for the other voice-over actors, that Jay Ward used. Jay Ward was really quite loyal to these people----He generally only used four people, on all of his cartoons, over and over again-----but these folks were really all that he needed because they were truly THE BEST!!
I came to love the characterizations of June Foray (who did almost all of the female voices on all of Ward's cartoons---and some of the male ones---like Rocky and young boys), Daws Butler (in Rocky and Bullwinkle he was mostly used for the Fractured Fairytales, but he was a lot more active in the George of the Jungle series----including the Tom Slick and Super Chicken episodes), Paul Frees (Boris Badenov, Captain Peachfuzz, Fred the Lion in Super Chicken and the Narrator in many of Ward's cartoons)and Bill Scott (Bill usually did the starring roles in all of Ward's cartoons-----perhaps the fact that he was a co-producer, with Jay Ward, had something to do with that----he was Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Peabody, George of the Jungle, Tom Slick, Super Chicken, etc., etc.).
As much as I loved listening to Edward Everett Horton's voice, I think that the rich talent, of all of these other voice-over artists, far outshined Mr. Horton (who was just a narrator).
Since my great-aunt had known him, I had hoped to write to him, but I was too late. He died in the Fall of 1970 and I began trying to write to him in 1971 or 1972. It was a rude awakening when I learned that he was already dead for some time.
I did, however, manage to find, write to and exchange letters with all four of my above "heros": June Foray, Daws Butler, Paul Frees and Bill Scott. June and Daws were the most fascinating of these people.
Sadly, except for Ms. Foray, they are all dead. On September 18th, June Foray will be 83, 81 or 75, depending on which year of birth is correct for her......I have seen dates of 1917, 1919 and 1925, given for her, and I have no way of knowing which is correct (she understandably declined to tell me how old she was, back in December, 1973, when she wrote to me).
One supporting segment later had its own spin-off consisting of various characters like Sherman and Peabody and of course Dudley Doright. Another was "Fractured Fairy Tales",the title segment of which featured a hapless fairy opening the first pages of a volume of classic fairy tales,then getting snapped up by the suddenly closing book.(If you're wondering where the producers got their ideas for the movie "Shrek",they got the insight from this segment of the Bullwinkle Show) Narrated by Edward Everett-Horton,the segment of "Fractured Fairy Tales" was an off-the-wall rendition of Cinderella,Sleeping Beauty,Rapunzel,and other well-known classics,plus along with the narrator who,as in the main show talked with the characters. "Peabody's Improbable History" had a bespectacled pooch(with a Ph.D and highly intelligent)take his pet boy Sherman back in time via his Waybac machine and make dry comments about circumstances that did not square with what history said had happened. The "Mr. Know-It-All" segment featured Bullwinkle's helpful but bumbling attempts to answer viewers' questions. And "Aesop and Son" featured a young looking curly-haired kid named Aesop telling his tunic-wearing offspring so-called parables with such characters as a lion who caught a cold every time he roared because he wanted to sing. The moral of of that one was "Psychiarists are very good,but they're never cured the common cold." And this within a segment of other stories that ran within an eight to nine minute time frame within a half-hour show. Another Bullwinkle segment was "The Poetry Corner",where Bullwinkle takes a stab of classic poetry with hilarious results.
The cartoon was the only original series in ABC's late-afternoon lineup when it premiered on November 19,1959(which was by the way filmed in color but telecast in black and white),airing under the title of Rocky and Friends. However,it continued successfully well at ABC-TV until September 3,1961. On September 23,1962 the series moved from ABC over to NBC-TV,and this time around was in color with new episodes and under a new title "The Bullwinkle Show". Series creator and also executive producer Jay Ward offscreen antics were the keys to some of the great writing that they had on this animated classic(along with co-writers Allan Burns and Chris Hayward the writing team behind a lot of classic TV shows including "Mister Ed","Get Smart",and so forth). The series remained with the peacock network until September 5,1964. At the start of the 1964-65 season,the "Bullwinkle" show return to ABC in repeated episodes from September 20,1964 until September 2,1973 and was mostly shown on Saturday and Sunday Mornings for the remainder of its run on the ABC network. From 1963 through 1973(ten years)the show not only aired on weekends in repeated episodes,but also had a loyal cult following in the syndicated markets too from 1973 until 1981. There was a final network run of the series for NBC during the 1981-82 season. Did you know that William Conrad was the narrator for this series and later on Bill Scott? Voice regulars included June Foray(who basically did the voices for all of the female characters on the show and also the voice of Rocky and other young boys),Bill Scott(was one of the co-producers and was one of the writers for the show and was not only the voice of Bullwinkle,but did the voices for the characters of Mr.Peabody,Dudley Doright,and Aesop),Charles Ruggles,Paul Frees(who was the voice of Boris and other characters),and Walter Tetley.
Equally as great as the parts where Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose battle the evil-and-proud-of-it Soviet spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, are the Fractured Fairy Tales (narrated by Edward Everett Horton), Mr. Peabody's Improbable History, and Dudley Do-Right. Whether Prince Charming turns Sleeping Beauty into a circus attraction, Galileo needs help with a scientific experiment, or whichever dastardly scheme Snidely Whiplash is plotting, it's one of the greatest shows of all time. The "Simpsons" of its era, if I may say so.
So, June Foray has every reason to be proud of her work on this. I'll always love it. I never saw the 2000 movie, but every review said that it sucked.
How on Earth did the cute Rocky eventually lost the spotlight to the moose? Fans are likely to come up with one theory or another. But in my view, the problem occurred during the show's pre-production period. Too bad whoever chosen the cast didn't see it happened.
When trying to decide who should play a young male character, a child actor would be the best option. But in Rocky's case, they selected an old tomboy to do his words. If they can't find a child actor, they could have choose that baby-faced Walter Tetley, who played Sherman, to be that flying squirrel. But instead they choose an old tomboy. Because of that, viewers find it nauseating they way Rocky is performed and therefore eventually turning their attention to Bullwinkle. Bullwinkle may not be cute but his comical naivette makes him fun to watch.
Usually when I tuned into Rocky and Bullwinkle----even if the main part of the show was pretty good-----the show never really did begin until Edward Everett Horton began narrating those twisted Grimm Brothers tales! For me, Rocky and Bullwinkle were like the "warm-up band" on their own show----with their "supporting characters", on this side-show, as the main reason why I went to the "concert"!
During one of Rocky and Bullwinkle's five seasons, Ward and Scott gave up on the Fractured Fairy Tales and produced Aesop and Son episodes instead. Though the format of Aesop's fables was similar to the Fractured Fairy Tales, I was always so disappointed whenever I saw the opening scene with the chisel in Aesop's hand, rather than the fairy with the huge story book. I would always wait "with bated breath" hoping for a fractured fairy tale; not an Aesop's fable.
The Fractured Fairy Tales appealed to me because many of their stories took place in a world long lost to us (as long ago as Medieval times). The Fractured Fairy Tales were probably the most artistic and creative part of Jay Ward's endeavors. I loved that so many of the stories were full of castles, drawbridges, knights, kings and horses---so many beautiful horses with flowing manes. I loved the woodland and meadow scenes---- I loved the densely wooded forests; many of which were ENCHANTED, MAGICAL forests. I loved the open meadows with thick green grass and many colorful, pretty flowers (and sometimes there would be a river or lake closeby). I also loved some of the forests when they were made to look more ominous, by casting them in a darker light (both the trees themselves, and the eerie, gloomy sky around them).
The animators also once took great pains to sketch a gingerbread house, in one episode, for Hansel and Grettel----complete with candy shingles. This gingerbread house was ensconced deep in the forest, all by itself).
I also liked the occasional appearance of an old-fashioned spinning wheel. When I was a boy, we had a spinning wheel in the attic of our first house. This was an heirloom dating back to at least the 19th Century. It was passed down from some of my German ancestors. Because Mom never used the spinning wheel, or ever took it out of the attic, that heirloom held a kind of "mystique" for me. So it was neat to see it in a Jay Ward cartoon.
I loved the "antique", even "gaudy", surrealistic colors that the animators sometimes used to paint the buildings and castles of small villages in a given tale. This would sometimes set the town and the buildings apart from the characters in the story.
I loved the stories with witches, dwarfs, queens and frogs. One of my favorite Fractured Fairy Tales, of all time, starts out: "Once upon a time there was a year that was a very bad year for witches...They were everywhere: big ones, little ones, ugly ones....". The beginning of that tale even showed the year 1960 (when the cartoon was made), and flashed back to circa 1100 A.D. (that was a neat way of evoking a very special mood----along with the gloomy backdrop of the opening scenes).
Another unique thing about the Fractured Fairy Tales: unlike most of Jay Ward's cartoons there were no recurring characters. You might see the same fairy tale spoofed two or three times-----but it was always basically the same story line and the characters did not come back in "to be continued" plots. I loved this! I liked Jay Ward's "one-time Grimm Brothers characters" better than most of the rest of his animated heroes. I guess you could say that it made them special, that you only got to spend five minutes with them, and that was it.
These reproductions of Grimms' Fairy Tales would have been nothing, however, without the great voices used in these stories. As much as I have extolled the virtues of their animation, anyone who views them today will admit that much of the animation was somewhat primitive. There were so many character voices in these stories that I loved (provided by some of the best voice-over artists of the 50s and the 60s).
Finally I will say, though some of these "bastardized versions" of the Grimm tales were not very good, MOST of them were great entertainment (There were 91 fairy tales; you can't help but have at least one or two "lemons"). A few of them really surprised me, as being just as good as the original, IF NOT BETTER.
If you could package all 91 Fractured Fairytales into 2-hour videos, you would need three videos to do it (they are roughly 5 minutes a piece; that's 455 minutes). I'll be the first in line to buy all three, if that day ever comes! The great thing about these 5-minute stories is that they sometimes pack in a LIFETIME before they are over! I so often walk away from these tales, feeling richly blessed (and as if I were departing with my own "crown jewel"!).
Along with this great show, I can NEVER find "Jonny Quest;" "Star Trek" TOS; "The Wild Wild West;" "The Twilight Zone" Original Series, or, any "Twilight Zone" at all; "The Six Million Dollar Man;" nor, any other "CLASSIC" show on TV; even on TV-Land - the 'supposed' classic TV channel - besides "Bonanza" and "Gunsmoke." Both GREAT SHOWS!
"Rawhide"and "The Rifleman" ARE now on AMC...God Bless them!
I said..."What the heck!" And, I bought all of these great shows on DVD due to my impatience of waiting for a 'classic' TV channel to show' classic' TV shows.'
This cartoon, "Rocky and His Friends," is such an amazing, clever, and, creative cartoon! Although the cartoon graphics are simply done, they're simply-amazing! This actually adds to the ambiance of the show; and, along with its imaginative stories, crazy antics, and, clever 'twists-and-turns' in segments like "Grimm Fairy Tales;" "Peabody and Sherman;" and, my personal favorite, "Fractured Fairy Tales;" this all becomes a 'PERFECT' variety show for kids!
SPECIAL NOTE - I just love that June Foray, the lovely lady with the lovely voice of 'Rocky," is from Springfield, Massachusetts...right near where I grew up! :)
This show incorporates so much of classic prose, poetry, and, history, that, I don't believe that people nowadays can even begin to understand the jokes because they were never exposed to and don't understand the stories and histories that the jokes are poking fun at! Especially, in the US!?!? Although unimportant, does a 17 year-old in the US even know who "Goldilocks" is or was? How about "Little Red Riding Hood!?!? What about George Washington? Probably not! :(
In other words - you can't run until you can walk...and, as far as what this 'cartoon' jokes about, most people nowadays wouldn't understand the jokes that this cartoon provides because they have no prior knowledge of the classic stories and histories that are being joked about!?!? This show, even though it's a cartoon, is great...if you have a 'simple' background of 3rd grade education in 1964...which equals at the very least...an associates degree nowadays!?!?
If you have a classical, historical, and, geographical background..."Rocky and His Friends" is classically-historically-geographically background-groundbreaking; and, especially GREAT for you!
If you're a slug; or, have an associates or bachelors degree in liberal arts; or, work as a social worker; a children's therapist; a lawyer, or, a judge, in any capacity...this show, nor, any other show that views complexity of the mind or intellectuality of the soul, as a virtue...is "NOT" for you! :)