Blogs 'N' Sods #5: The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show

And here we go again: Russia is threatening others with nuclear weapons, and NATO is considering a plan of defense.

Now more than ever, we need The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Running from 1959 until 1964, the height of the original Cold War, this cartoon was a welcome reprieve from the paranoia of the the superpowers playing "who's got the biggest rocket".

It was crudely produced even by standards of the day, as the actual animation was outsourced to a studio in Mexico to save on costs. You will actually see things like Boris's mustache disappear and Bullwinkle's antlers change colors. Often.

The premise: the main character is a big, dumb moose (Bullwinkle, voiced by Bill Scott); his best friend is a flying squirrel (Rocky, voiced by June Foray). These are the good guys. The villains are two Iron Curtain assassins named Boris and Natasha (voiced by respectively Paul Frees and Foray again). Other characters making various appearances are Captain Wrongway Peachfuzz, Fearless Leader (again, voiced by Scott) and a pair of aliens named Moon Men.

Yes, I realize that as I write this in the blog, this concept looks completely insane.

Interspersed with shorts parodying Aesop’s Fables (Aesop and Son), Grimm's Fairy Tales (Fractured Fairy Tales), the continuing story of a time traveling dog with a "pet" human (Peabody's Improbable History), a segment delving into in-depth reporting of mundane facts (Mr. Know It All, often featuring the Bullwinkle character) and a lampoon of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Dudley Do-Right), every one of the episodes features corny humor, terrible puns and groan-inducing double entendres.

Watch the show in the morning. Later in the day, for some strange reason, you will be at the supermarket, and all of a sudden, like a song with an insanely catchy hook, you will catch yourself mumbling under your breath and shaking your head in disbelief as you reach for the pancake mix: "Upsidasium."

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The interesting thing is this: You don't even need to SEE the cartoons to enjoy them. The show's writing never panders to children, and voice acting of the principles is so smart and well paced that it comes across more like an old time radio hour. Try doing this with just about any animated series or film of today and you will realize just how incredibly well structured The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was and still is. Much like Orson Wells Mercury Theatre Players during the golden age of radio, the voice actors were highly versatile, the show had a continuous but never overbearing narrator and an inventive and intelligent use of music and sound effects.

 Fun Fact: The series was narrated by William Conrad. Some of his other notable television credits include The Fugitive, Gunsmoke, Jake and the Fatman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Nero Wolf.

Not bad for a children's cartoon. Watch it on Hulu or check it out on DVD at the library, and realize for yourself how nothing can "keel muus und skwerl".

Possible topic for next week's Blogs 'N' Sods: "Pregnant Women in Distress" or "Asbestos in Obstetrics".

Love to you all.

Ben Bear

Image: Courtesy of Jay Ward productions. l-r: characters Boris, Natasha, Bullwinkle and Rocky.

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