Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons!

The Rocky and Bullwinkle ShowImage via Wikipedia
Rocky & Bullwinkle  enjoyed popularity during the 1960s. It was targeted towards children and adults. The zany characters and absurd plots would draw in children, while the clever usage of puns and topical references appealed to the adult demographic.

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. Bullwinkle's name came from a friend of Jay Ward's, Clarence Bullwinkel, who was a property owner and landlord in Berkeley, California. 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 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. Eight months later, 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 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 Mexican studios 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."

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.

Today Rocky and Bullwinkle still live on in national commercials, a feature film, and the hearts of viewers. 

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