Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hats off to the man who created Rocky and Bullwinkle and Boris and Natasha. PLUS: Crazy Jim Inhofe flies planes???


Capt. Peter "Wrong-Way" Peachfuzz is the cultural icon who helped prepare several generations of impressionable young minds for the eventuality that a "mutton-headed idiot" who, while being kept safely out of the loop, "made a wrong turn and wound up in the right room" could one day make enough wrong turns to wind up in the Oval Office.

by Ken

Alex Anderson? Here I am a self-professed worshipper of all things Rocky and Bullwinkle, and I swear, I don't remember ever in my life hearing the name Alex Anderson. Jay Ward, of course. Bill Scott, sure. But Alex Anderson?

Sure enough, however, the Wikipedia entry confirms that Alex Anderson was Ward's original partner in this wonderfully subversive venture - first Rocky and His Friends and later, in confounding NBC prime time, The Bullwinkle Show, a godsend for children of all ages who didn't have access to the minimum daily subversive content required for proper mental health -- and was in fact the creator of the core characters.
The idea for the series was created by Jay Ward and Alex Anderson, who had previously collaborated on Crusader Rabbit, and was based upon the original property The Frostbite Falls Revue. This original show never got past the proposal stage. It was about a group of forest animals running a TV station. The group included Rocket J. Squirrel, Oski Bear, Canadian Moose (Bullwinkle), Sylvester Fox, Blackstone Crow, and Floral Fauna. The show in this form was created by Jay Ward's partner Alex Anderson. Bullwinkle's name came from the name of a car dealership in Berkeley, California called Bullwinkel Motors. Mr. Anderson changed the spelling of the name and gave it to his moose, and an unforgettable cartoon character was born.

Ward wanted to produce the show in Los Angeles; however, Anderson lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and did not want to relocate. As a result, Ward hired Bill Scott, who became the head writer and co-producer at Jay Ward Productions, and who wrote all of the Rocky and Bullwinkle features. Ward was joined by writers Allan Burns (who later became head writer for MTM Enterprises) and Chris Hayward.

I have the NYT's Verlyn Klinkenborg to thank for my belated awareness of (the now-departed) Alex Anderson. Klinkenborg offered this decent-enough appreciation:


Moose and Squirrel

Published: October 26, 2010

In the Wayback Machine, it’s a very short trip to 1959 and the debut of "Rocky and His Friends" -- the cartoon series featuring characters originated by Alex Anderson. Mr. Anderson died Friday at the age of 90 after a life spent mostly in advertising.

Jay Ward, who created the series, was clearly responsibly for its anarchic spirit. But Mr. Anderson’s leading characters -- Rocky the flying squirrel and his pal, Bullwinkle the moose -- are lodged in the imagination of Americans of a certain age. Say the words "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and suddenly we’re in Frostbite Falls, surrounded by Boris and Natasha, the Russian spies, and Mr. Peabody, the calm, pedantic owner of the Wayback Machine.

Compared with animation by Warner Brothers and Walt Disney, Rocky and Bullwinkle was a simply sketched cartoon. To the children who watched, it was spectacularly grown up, a cold-war fable crowded with allusions, puns and moments of almost abstract silliness. Its narrative lines were so absurd that it made Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck look like studies in narrative composure. If you want to chart the decline in the attention span of baby boomers, this is the place to begin.

My favorite moment from the show, which came to an end in 1964, was the invisible narrator’s telling of Fractured Fairy Tales. In a series rich with vocal characterizations, this was the richest of all, voiced by the great Edward Everett Horton, who is better remembered as Fred Astaire’s comic partner in "Top Hat."

Others had their own favorites. The young viewer instinctively identified with Rocky, a squirrel of both courage and common sense, and with Bullwinkle, who was mystified not only by the world but by the conventions of the cartoon and often stepped out of its frame. Our idea of rationality came from Mr. Peabody, who was, of course, a bespectacled dog time-traveling back into one non sequitur after another.

An entire generation got its first impression of our Soviet rivals from Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The two plotted and bickered and -- reassuringly -- were always thwarted.

Personally, even at age ten I didn't have much use for Mr. Peabody or his infernally twittish boy Sherman. I loved Fractured Fairy Tales, though.

If I've got this right, Anderson didn't have anything to do with the actual shows that were produced, not even the original Rocky and His Friends. And I gather that the later-concocted saga of the sappiest of the Mounties, Dudley Do-Right, featuring the not-wildly-intrepid Mountie Inspector Fenwick and his fairly boobish daughter Nell --  and of course, most notoriously, the infamous Snidely Whiplash -- postdated Anderson's involvement.

Still, it seems that Anderson was the man who created the core characters. And the man who created Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Boris and Natasha (but I'm guessing not one of my personal heroes, the ineffably foggy Capt. Peter "Wrong-Way" Peachfuzz, a sort of prototype for George W. Bush -- except that the captain did, especially in his later adventures with the boys, develop an all but irresistibly helpless charm), did a piece of work.


Our WaPo "In the Loop" pal Al Kamen tells the tale of a pilot who, as he was about to land his twin-engine Cessna 340 at the Port Isabel (Texas) airport, noticed that it had giant (60 feet by 10 feet) yellow "X"s on the main runway, indicating that it was closed. Workmen were "painting and doing general maintenance on the runway."

Our flying ace, who hadn't read the NOTAM ("Notice to Airmen") that included notice of the closure, which Al notes "all pilots are supposed to read before take-off," landed "well to the side," he told Al. At least one airport official, who the pilot says "hates me, I don't know why," was mightily peeved.

The pilot, as you've no doubt guessed, is certifiable crackpot Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), an always-formidable contender for the title of Craziest Person Ever to Hold Public Office. He was on his way to the house he owns on South Padre Island. For the record:
"I called the [Federal Aviation Administration] when I landed to tell them what had happened" and to see whether there was any problem, he said Tuesday. Since there was no accident, there appeared to be no significant problem, he said.

In theory a pilot's license could be suspeded for landing on a closed runway -- or, as Crazy Jim did on departure, using a taxiway to take off. "In practice, though," Al writes, "suspensions are not often imposed, we're told, unless the infractions involved criminal activity -- drugs, for example -- or injuries or were intentional." A voluntary explanatory report by the pilot "usually suffices to end the matter."


Scary as it is to learn that someone as deeply demented as Senator Inhofe is licensed to pilot a plane, Al offers an even more intriguing incidental disclosure:
Inhofe, by the way, has been flying GOP candidates around their states to help them campaign.

I'm sure this is all being properly accounted for in those candidates' campaign filings. Oh wait, the Roberts Cabal-Court hasn't done away with campaign filings yet, has it?

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At 6:17 PM, Anonymous me said...

You couldn't pay me enough to get on a plane with that guy at the controls.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Just think of the stimulating conversation you could have in the confined space of that little Cessna, me!


At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

Thanks Kenni for the "Moose and Squirrel" nostalgia...

WHERE's that wayback machine when you need it?

I really didn't need to know that Inhofe was a pilot, of course a bad one.
Grok that THAT dinosaur may be heading up the Committee on Environment of Public Works if the Obama Yes We Can Train slows enuf.


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