A Year: Day to Day Men: 19th of November
November 19, 1959 marks the release date for the television show “Rocky and His Friends”.
“Rocky and His Friends” was a serialized animation show, produce by Jay Ward Productions, that ran from November 1959 to June of 1964. During its history, it appeared under several broadcast titles, most notably “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”. The series was structured as a variety show, with the main feature being the adventures of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and the moose Bullwinkle. Their main adversaries were the two “Russian” spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. both who worked for the Fearless Leader.
The animation show included three other supporting segments: the old-time melodrama styled “Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties”; “Peabody’s Improbable History”, in which the dog Mr. Peabody takes his boy Sherman to different historical events in time; and “Fractured Fairy Tales”, a new look, albeit slightly askew, at the classic fairy tales.
The idea for “Rocky and His Friends” was from Jay Ward and Alex Anderson, who had both collaborated on “Crusader Rabbit”, the first animated series created specifically for television. Production began in February of 1958 with the hiring of the voice actors: June Foray who voiced Rocky, Natasha, and every female character on the show; Paul Frees who voiced Boris and Inspector Fenwick,; Bill Scott who voiced Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right and Mr. Peabody, and William Conrad who narrated the Rocky and Dudley Do-Right segments..
“Rocky and His Friends” was sponsored by the cereal-manufacturer General Mills, who insisted that the show have an late-afternoon time slot, targeting it toward children. The writers and designers were hired; however, no animators were hired. Instead in a move to save cost, the advertising agency for General Mills outsourced the animation to a Mexican company called Gamma Productions, which caused many productions problems because of its quality of animation and mistakes in the continuity of the animated characters and scenes.
“Rocky and His Friends” abounded with quality writing and wry humor, appealing to adults as well as children. Its segments mixed puns, self-humor, and satire on the existing culture and topics in life. The animation art has an unpolished look with limited action compared to the other animated series produced at that time. Despite this, the series is still held in high esteem by critics, with some viewing it as a well-written radio program with visual images. The series was influential to the development of other animated series and, to date, has aired in one hundred countries.