ALEX ANDERSON's cartooning career made for one fractured fairy tale.
It's a story as old as Aesop: An idea is created, and the share of credit or commerce overly goes to one person instead of another. And in the tale of Alex Anderson, there are so many familiar strains. Here is the entrepreneur overshadowing a creator (See: Bill Gaines and Harvey Kurtzman, MAD magazine), Here are the heirs to the cartoon creation fighting over rights and royalties (Recently, see: Superman, Winnie-the-Pooh). Here is even the case of one best friend being reluctant to relocate and thus is left in the geographic -- and corporate -- dust (See: The founders of Facebook).
Anderson, who died last week in Carmel, Calif., at age 90, created the beloved characters Rocky the Flying Squirrel (influenced by his uncle's creation of Mighty Mouse) and Bullwinkle J. Moose, as well as that Canadian Mountie with the comical rectitude, Dudley Do-Right. And in later years, at least, Anderson's tale received a legally rectified ending, as the cartoonist regained his co-creator credit for iconic characters that populated friend Jay Ward's animated classic, the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons of the late 1950s and '60s.
Jay Ward's name would become synonymous with the entire cast of minimally animated characters that featured world-class radio voices and more Catskills-worthy wordplay than you could shake a shtick at. But Anderson, who in the '40s was convinced that TV could be the new home for adapted comic strips, told John Province in an interview how he regained his creative claim:
Some time after Jay [Ward] died in 1989, I discovered he had copyrighted the characters in his name alone, a violation of our original agreement. In 1996, I reached an out-of-court settlement of my lawsuit with Jay Ward Productions concerning certain rights to Bullwinkle, Rocky and Dudley Do-Right. The terms of the settlement are confidential and I'm not at liberty to discuss them, but in settling the litigation, Jay Ward's widow and daughter, Ramona and Tiffany, acknowledged my original contributions as the creator of the characters.
The adventures of Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose became an achievement in wit that appealed -- often on separate planes -- both to children and adult viewers. The show also helped pioneer the outsourcing of TV animation to other nations to cut costs -- in "Rocky and Bullwinkle's" case, the shoddy on-the-cheap work sent back from Mexico included countless continuity errors that ultimately became part of the cartoon's charm.
And with "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" (in its various titles and retitles), postwar generations were weaned on such writers as Bill Scott, Chris Hayward and Allan Burns, and such indelible voice talents as June Foray, Paul Frees, Daws Butler, Hans Conreid and William Conrad (whose widow, Tippy Stringer Huntley Conrad, also died this month).
So, with Mr. Anderson's passing, we salute not only his creations, but also all the talent that came together to pun and wink and elbow-rib, to crack self-aware jokes and routinely shatter that fourth wall. So watch now, as we pull a show quote out of our hat ("oops, not that hat"). Here they are: Our Fifteen Favorite Lines From Rocky and Bullwinkle's Adventures: :
15. Rocket J. Squirrel: "Bullwinkle, do you know what an A-bomb is?"
Bullwinkle: "Sure. A bomb is what some people call our show."
Rocky:"I don't think that's very funny."
Bullwinkle: "Neither do they, apparently."
14. Bullwinkle: "Well, if you can't believe what you read in a comic book, what can you believe?"
13. Narrator: "Well today we find our heroes flying along smoothly..."
Rocky: "Flying along smoothly?
Bullwinkle: "You're just looking at the picture sideways!
Rocky: "Actually it's like this!
Narrator: "Oh good heavens!... Today we find our heroes plunging straight down toward disaster at supersonic speed!"
Bullwinke: "That's better."
12. Natasha Fatale: "Hello, dahlink."
11. Rocky: "Bullwinkle, I'm worried."
Bullwinkle: "Ratings down in the show again?"
Bullwinkle: "That's odd."
Rocky: "I'm worried because there have already been two attempts on your life."
Bullwinkle: "Oh, don't worry. We will be renewed."
Rocky: "I'm not talking about the Bullwinkle Show."
Bullwinkle: You had better -- we could use the publicity."
10. Rocky: "A thousand dollars to get to Frostbite Falls?"
Bullwinkle: "You can buy the place for eight dollars cash."
(upon hearing Boris Badenov): "That voice. Where have I heard that voice before?"
Bullwinkle: "In about 365 other episodes. But I don't know who it is, either."
8. Rocky: "Look, Bullwinkle, a message in a bottle."
Bullwinkle: "Fan mail from a flounder?"
Rocky: "This is what I really call a message."
7. Mr. Peabody: "I smell foul play, Sherman."
6. Dudley Do-Right: "Stop, Snidely Whiplash, in the name of the law."
5. Natasha: "Boris, iz Moose you said you killed in previous episode?"
Boris: "Look, it's his show. Eef he wants to be hard to kill, let him."
4. Bullwinkle: "You just leave it to my pal Rock. He's the brains of the outfit."
General: "And what does that make you?"
Bullwinkle: "What else? The executive."
3. Announcer: "Well, you're just in time for what might be a very unhappy ending."
2. Bullwinkle: "Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat."
Bullwinkle: "Oops, wrong hat."
1. Rocky: "And now, here's something we hope you'll really like!"