Back in The Swing
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Say "George of the Jungle," and the goofy tree-swinger's theme song instantly pops into your head. That tune has bounced around brain cells and across generations ever since the animated Tarzan spoof first appeared on the small screen in 1967. Now a contemporary version of "George" is back on TV, complete with a catchy hip-hop beat to his familiar song.
Tiffany Ward, the show's executive producer, is the daughter of the late Jay Ward, who created the original "George" along with Rocky the flying squirrel and Bullwinkle, his bumbling moose pal.
"I can't tell you how much moose paraphernalia we had around the house," Ward said. "It almost felt like Rocky and Bullwinkle were like our brothers."
Cartoon Network has ordered 26 episodes of "George of the Jungle," the first of which aired in January. It's produced by Bullwinkle Studios, a joint venture of Classic Media and Jay Ward Productions Inc.
"We've invigorated it with young characters, but it still has that same joyful essence that our 'George' had," Ward said. "The chance to bring 'George' to another generation is in line with my goal of keeping my father's legacy alive."
Ward said she and her team have been working on the project for more than two years.
"For just one episode of 'George,' there are probably 20 or 30 reiterations of a script, with outlines and drafts and changes," she said. "The recording doesn't take terribly long, but the scripts have to be perfected for animation."
Fans of the original George will notice that he's had a bit of a makeover, swapping his muscle-bound silhouette and highly styled pompadour for a trimmer physique and cool new 'do. But his old gang is here: Ape the ape; Tookie-Tookie bird; Shep the elephant, whom George calls his dog; plus human pals Maggie and Ursula.
With polished production and lush colors, the show's animation is true to the original, Ward said, and the quick-witted dialogue is a nod to Jay Ward's signature banter.
But this time, besides just having adventures, George is concerned about the environment. In April, Cartoon Network is planning an Arbor Day promotion centered on the character.
Like his earlier counterpart, the new George speaks to the animals and comes to the rescue of his friends while residing in "this fantasy world of the jungle where all of us would love to live," said Nicole Blake, senior vice president marketing for Classic Media.
"The reason George still resonates is that he reveals the hero in all of us," Blake said.