It would seem that most everyone has a soft spot in their nostalgic heart for that lovable duo, Rocky and Bullwinkle. Ever since the Jay Ward characters made their debut in 1959 as Rocky and Friends, they have kept viewers of all ages thoroughly entertained. Kids particularly love the kooky characters, while older crowds notice a sophisticated humor laced with subtle wordplay lurking underneath. This “something for everyone” approach has made this animal duo and their host of friends one of the most popular cartoon series in history.
When Rocky and Friends made its original debut, it proved to be an instant success with the little ones, so much so that ABC began running it twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. By 1960, the show was moved to Sunday mornings – then inexplicably cancelled. NBC knew a good thing when they saw it, however, and quickly picked up the series. They changed the name to The Bullwinkle Show and began running it on Sunday evenings, then on Saturday mornings, then back on Sunday mornings again. Luckily, audiences followed it wherever it went and it would stay on network television for 13 years before finally moving to syndication, where it would remain until the early 80s.
Both stars of The Bullwinkle Show hailed from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota. Bullwinkle J. Moose, was the lovable, dimwitted alumni of Whatsamatta U. and his sidekick pal was a flying squirrel named Rocky, short for Rocket J. Squirrel. Their cliffhanger-inspired comic adventures pitted them against the evil Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, commanded by Mr. Bigg and Fearless Leader, and paired them with friendly aliens from the moon, Gidney and Cloyd, and Captain Peter “Wrongway” Peachfuzz, captain of the S.S. Guppy.
Each of the 28 Rocky and Bullwinkle adventures produced consisted of anywhere from 4 to 40 segments, each with a cliffhanger ending, that acted as bookends for the show. The middle was filled with segments featuring such classic cartoons as Dudley Do-Right, Fractured Fairy Tales, Bullwinkle’s Mr Know It All, Peabody’s Impossible History and Aesop and Son.
A few attempts have been made over the years to bring Rocky and Bullwinkle to the big screen. The first was based on Boris and Natasha (played by Dave Thomas and Sally Kellerman, respectively) and never actually made it into theaters. It would air instead on Showtime in 1992. In 2000, a live action/animated feature, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (starring Robert DeNiro as Fearless Leader) was released to lukewarm reviews. Brendon Frasier would take on the role of Dudley Do-Right in 1999.
Should fans of Rocky and Bullwinkle ever find themselves driving down Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, they might want to keep their eyes peeled around the 8200 block for an enormous statue of the duo. This was once the home of the Dudley Do-Right Emporium, a gift shop that sold a large assortment of Jay Ward-inspired memorabilia. The store was conveniently located next door to 8217 Sunset Blvd., the former home of Ward Productions and where many of these cartoons were produced. Sadly, today only the proud towering moose and his fearless friend remains at the site, a monument to the monumental popularity of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
If you remember faithfully curling up in front of the TV, bowl of cereal and favorite blanket close at hand, to watch the wonderful adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle on The Bullwinkle Show, we welcome your thoughts and memories in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this iconic animated show beloved by millions.