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A thunder of jets and an open sky,
—The altered season two opening of Rocky and His Friends
This cult cartoon series, produced by Jay Ward and Bill Scott, ran on ABC Saturday evenings as Rocky and His Friends from 1959 to 1961. It featured the serialized adventures of Rocky (voiced by June Foray), a flying squirrel who wore flight goggles, and Bullwinkle (Bill Scott), a dimwitted moose. Their primary foes were Boris Badenov (Paul Frees) and Natasha Fatale (June Foray again), a pair of Slavic spies from the imaginary Soviet satellite of Pottsylvania. In 1961, the series moved to NBC and became The Bullwinkle Show; it ran under that title until 1964. Both series have since been seen in syndication and on cable TV.
Bullwinkle also appeared in two other segments: Bullwinkle's Corner, in which he gave poetry readings that usually degenerated into chaos, and Mr. Know-It-All, in which his attempts to offer "how-to" advice on a variety of topics often met with similar disaster. Supporting segments were Dudley Do-Right, Peabody's Improbable History, Fractured Fairy Tales and Aesop and Son. William Conrad was the Narrator in the main Rocky and Bullwinkle segments, and Edward Everett Horton performed that function in Fractured Fairy Tales.
It continued on with Rocky and Bullwinkle comics through the 80s. In 2000, Universal released The Film of the Series produced in live action, apart from a CGI moose and squirrel voiced by Keith Scott and June Foray, and hand-drawn opening and ending sequences mimicking the style of the 1950's cartoon. Jason Alexander and Rene Russo played Boris and Natasha. Robert De Niro, a fan of the show from his youth, not only played Fearless Leader, but was also one of the film's producers.
In 1992, there was a made-for-cable movie Boris and Natasha about the bad guy couple. Rocky and Bullwinkle were human in this film ("Agents Moose and Squirrel, genetically altered once again"), with a post-Cold War theme. Sally Kellerman, like DeNiro in the later film, was a fan of the show and co-produced it, playing Natasha.
A "making of" special, called Of Moose and Men: The Rocky and Bullwinkle Story was aired in 1990 or 1991 on PBS. It's well worth watching.
Rocky and Bullwinkle provides examples of:
- Accidental Athlete: Bullwinkle in the "Wossamotta U" arc.
- Affectionate Parody: The Powerpuff Girls episode "I See a Funny Cartoon in Your Future". It even had the voice of June Foray as the episode's villain.
- Rugrats did an episode with "Blocky and Oxwinkle", also bringing in June Foray to voice the Rocky and Natasha expies.
- The Fractured Fairy Tales segment itself is an affectionate parody of a book called "Famous Fairy Tales", which had a collection of fairy tales gathered together. Each segment took at least the title of one of these stories, then twisted it around.
- The All-American Boy: Rocky is an all-American boy in the form of a squirrel.
- Always Gets His Man : Dudley Do Right is an Affectionate Parody of this.
- As is the Peabody episode where the mountie can't take in his target because she's a woman.
- Anachronism Stew: The Peabody and Sherman segments are full of this.
- Animated Anthology
- Anti-Advice: When some island natives lose their weather-predicting Oogle bird egg, they employ Captain Wrongway Peachfuzz in its place--and simply expect the opposite of his predictions.
- Art Evolution: Several of the characters looked a bit different in the beginning, but the one who has gone through the most recognizable changes is Fearless Leader. In his first appearance, he was thin with a trenchcoat, sunglasses, and a hat like Boris's. His next few appearances depicted him fat, in a uniform, no hat and no sunglasses. When Rocky and Bullwinkle arrived in Pottsylvania, Fearless Leader was slimmed down a little. And finally, when Boris meets up with him in person, Fearless Leader looks as he does today: skinny, given a hat, a differently shaped head, a scar on his face and a monocle.
- Alternatively, Pottsylvania goes through a lot of Fearless Leaders.
- Ascended Extra: Natasha. The first few episodes present Boris as the main villain and only occasionally show Natasha as a flunky. Before the first serial is over, she has become his partner in crime.
- Bad Boss: Fearless Leader always threatens to shoot his men. Only rarely that he actually does it. In Missouri Mish Mash, he even sent one of his men to be executed after he tells Fearless Leader that Boris is the only available Pottsylvanian spy in Minnesota.
- Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: Boris takes any insult as a compliment and can't stand anything nice. One time when he was out cold, Natasha did CPR while saying "Out goes the good air; In comes the bad".
- "BANG!" Flag Gun: The one time Boris actually tries to just shoot Moose and Squirrel.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Boris and Natasha in "The Last Angry Moose" story get away with stealing Bullwinkle's savings without getting caught. It's not a total loss for Bullwinkle, though, since he gains alot of money from the success of his movie.
- Bat Deduction: In a "Mr. Peabody's Improbable History":
Mr. Peabody: Sherman, how thick is this fog?
- Big Bad: Though Mr. Big is the ruler of Pottsylvania, Fearless Leader is shown to be more in charge.
- Big Guy, Little Guy: Bullwinkle and Rocky respectively.
- Big Shadow, Little Creature: Mr. Big was revealed to be this towards the end of Upsidaisium.
- Big "Shut Up!": Boris to Natasha whenever his latest fiendish plan fails.
- Played with in one episode, when Natasha tells Boris to shut up his mouth as they fall off a cliff.
- Birthmark of Destiny: Bullwinkle has one of these on on the bottom of his foot/hoof. It's subverted at the end when it turns out that it's actually the design on his bathroom floor mat, imprinted when he stepped out of the tub.
- Then Double Subverted, as, well after the birthmark's significance has waned, Bullwinkle notes that same design on his other foot never comes off.
- Brains and Brawn: Rocky and Bullwinkle respectively.
- Breakout Character: Bullwinkle became so popular on Rocky and His Friends that the show was renamed The Bullwinkle Show on its third season.
- Dudley Do-Right was the only one of the show's supporting segments to get its own show. However, no new stories were made for it.
- Call Back: In the Bumbling Brothers Circus story, Boris wears one of his disguises from the Upsidaisium story. Rocky mentions that they've met in one of their previous adventures.
- In a Mr. Know-It-All segment about magic, Bullwinkle is about to demonstrate pulling a rabbit out of his hat. Rocky remarks that this looks familiar. Bullwinkle proceeds to do his act and pulls himself out this time.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Everyone from Pottsylvania is depicted as this. They even have a national anthem that boasts how evil they are.
- Hail, Pottsylvania! Hail to the Black and the Blue! Hail, Pottsylvania, sneaky and crooked through and through...DOWN with the Good Guys, UP with the Boss: Under the sign of the Triple Cross (HAI!)...Hail, Pottsylvania...Hail, Hail, HAIL!!!
- Catch Phrase: Rocky's "Again?" (which is a lot funnier if you say it in a Rocket J. Squirrel voice), usually his response to the Narrator, or to Bullwinkle's "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!" Also, "Hokey Smokes," (Rocky) and "Dahlink". (Natasha)
- Also "Sharrup you mouth!", "Allow me to introduce myself", "Hoo-boy!", "Raskolnikov!", and "Kill moose and squirrel" and variants thereof from Boris.
- Channel Hop: It went from ABC to NBC when the show was renamed The Bullwinkle Show.
- City of Spies: In the Jet Fuel Formula story arc, Pottslyvania is depicted as a country of spies where everything is secret: All phone numbers are unlisted resulting in blank phone books, and newspapers have nothing but advertisements since all news is too secret to print. The ice cream man also hawks classified documents.
- Cliffhanger Copout: Happened all the time, but let's face it, any continuity in these cartoons was purely by accident.
- Collective Groan: The Incredibly Lame Pun listed below got a sizable one.
- Comedic Hero
- Competition Coupon Madness: Boris and Natasha produce counterfeit box tops to get all the prizes and undermine the world's economy. General Mills (which not only sponsored the show, but owned it outright) was not amused and forced the producers to end the story earlier than planned.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Even more amusing in retrospect...
- Counterfeit Cash: Or rather Counterfeit Boxtops
- Crazy Prepared: Boris Badenov. He has been known to carry around a cardboard cutout with him in case moon men attack with freeze ray guns and a carrier pigeon attached to miniature rockets in case he cannot get to his radio and needs to send a message overseas.
- Creepy Changing Painting: One issue of the Comic Book Adaptation had a pawn shop in whose window was displayed a bust that seemed to grin one moment and scowl the next. It turned out to be connected to the auction in that story.
- Dinner Order Flub: Bullwinkle goes into a coffee shop and looks over the menu. Seeing that refills are free, he tells the waiter "think I'll have some of that there refill."
- Disability Immunity: You'd be surprised how many times Bullwinkle's lack of intelligence has protected him.
- The Ditz: Just about everyone, but especially Bullwinkle.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: One of the variants of the "rabbit out of the hat" sketches has Bullwinkle saying, "Don't know my own strength."
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Boris and Natasha.
- Either or Title
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Fearless Leader. His real name is unknown.
- Everythings Nuttier With Squirrels: Amazingly subverted with Rocky being the most clever character in the show. And even he gets stuck with the Idiot Ball whenever the plot calls for it (or whenever it might be funny).
- Evil Versus Evil: Boris and Fearless Leader briefly fought over the Kirward Derby in Missouri Mish Mash.
- Explosive Cigar: In the story Mucho Loma, Bullwinkle is put in jail after being mistaken for the villain Zero. Rocky gives Bullwinkle a explosive cigar to help him break out. Bullwinkle mistakes it for a real cigar and throws it out the window causing a Rube Goldberg Device that breaks the prison wall.
- Eye Glasses: Sherman.
- The Faceless: Mr. Big, whose shadow was the only thing we saw of him until the second-to-last part of the Upsidaisium story.
- Fastball Special: Bullwinkle tosses Rocky in the air for a boost of speed. This has often been called the "Alley-Oop".
- It becomes a plot point in the Wossamotta U story replacing Rocky with a football.
- Fate Worse Than Death: According to Natasha, being frozen in front of the America flag in a position that makes it look like he's perpetually saluting it is this for Boris.
- Feghoot: Mr. Peabody's segments, always.
- As well as a few Fractured Fairy Tales.
- The Film of the Series
- The Fool: Bullwinkle, full stop. It's telling that when Boris used a gas to turn the whole world into morons, Bullwinkle is the only one unaffected because he already is a moron.
Bullwinkle: A lot of good that does me. I don't have anybody to feed me a straight line anymore.
- Fractured Fairy Tale: Trope Namer.
- Funday Pawpet Show: The 2000 Bullwinkle figures made an appearence on an early episode.
- Genius Ditz: Turns out Bullwinkle is really good at fencing (although he uses it to shish kebab). Good enough to not only be mistaken for one of The Three Musketeers (by one of the actual Musketeers), but even to take on a small mob of swordsmen by himself.
- Go-Karting with Bowser: In the Rocky and Bullwinkle Fan Club segments, Boris and Natasha are members of said fan club.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- Somehow the censors missed a book in Gidney and Cloyd's bookshelf titled Sex on Planet 'X' .
- As well as a gag in one of the Fractured Fairy Tales about Prince Charming being a "hog flogger". Look it up.
- Giftedly Bad: Captain Peter "Wrong-Way" Peachfuzz, the worst sailor in the world.
- Glorious Mother Pottsylvania, dahlink.
- Got Volunteered: In The Guns of Abalone, Bullwinkle is sent to silence the Guns of Abalone after a eavesdropping newspaper reporter hears him say "I'll go", which really was a response to Rocky saying that one of them had to go to the store to get more milk.
- Grail in the Garbage the kerwood derby, a hat that makes you absurdly smart is found in a store.
- Greek Chorus
- Hartman Hips: Natasha, dahlink.
- Hat of Power: The Kirward Derby, which vastly increases its wearer's intelligence. The last known wearer was Albert Einstein.
- Until it was later revealed that it was made by a moon wizard to make the moon prince intelligent and that Gidney and Cloyd lost it after they borrowed it for their trip to Earth.
- Heel Face Door Slam
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Rocky and Bullwinkle, so much so that when he thinks Bullwinkle's dead or otherwise gone forever, Rocky blue-screens.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Almost every time Boris, Natasha, and Fearless Leader were defeated were by their own weapons. Most notably was in the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie where they attempted to use a digital Disintegrator Ray to eliminate Rocky and Bullwinkle but ended up getting digitized themselves when Bullwinkle unknowingly messed with the controls.
- Said word-for-word by the narrator when Boris falls into one of his own traps in The Treasure of Monte Zoom storyline.
- Hurricane of Puns: Even the episode titles are puns and each episode gets two titles. Which, in and of itself, has been invoked by Bullwinkle to get more puns into the episode (and serve as a distraction).
- I Take Offense to That Last One: This exchange between Boris and Fearless Leader.
Fearless Leader: Baddenov, you are an incompetent, stupid, disgusting little nincompoop!
- Idiot Hero: Bullwinkle, of course. Although there are moments when he's Genre Savvy.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Plenty to go around, but the most unspeakable one had to be when Bullwinkle found a model boat covered in red precious gems and a nameplate that read "Omar Khayyam". Which makes it... drumroll please... The Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam. Ugh.
- They were so many sometimes the character didn't want to do them:
- Insufferable Genius: Mr. Peabody.
- Insult Backfire: Boris takes every insult as a compliment.
- Interacting with Shadow: One of the Aesop and Son segments features interactive shadows.
- Interactive Narrator: Most infamously when Conrad starts breaking up in laughter over a stupid pun, and our heroes have to announce what the next episode titles are.
- Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: Bullwinkle makes a joke that Rocky gets, but Bullwinkle admits most of the viewers won't.
- Large Ham: Robert De Niro in The Movie.
- Late to The Punchline: "Aesop And Son". In one episode, Aesop laughs at a joke he heard days ago and tells his son a fable with the moral "He who laughs last laughs best". Come to think of it, a lot of things in that show were jokes young viewers wouldn't get until later.
Bullwinkle: Twenty dollars?!? That's antihistamine money!
- Lemony Narrator
- Limited Animation: This is perhaps one of the most famous examples of a cartoon being very popular regardless of having very crappy animation.
- Meaningful Name: Mr. Big,though only his shadow is big. What he really looks like is a subversion.
- Moose Are Idiots: Bullwinkle is practically the Trope Codifier.
- Motionless Chin
- Mistaken for Badass: Bullwinkle.
- Ninja Log: Boris Badenov regularly carries around a cardboard cutout of himself, just in case the moon men come back and want to scrooch him. The heroes don't attack it, though, when he uses it, and actually stand guard the 12 hours it takes to unfreeze somebody once scrooched, not wanting him to get away.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: In the Fractured Fairy Tales segment, witches and queens are often voiced to sound like Marjorie Main, and elves and princes often sound like Phil Silvers. Mr. Big's voice was Bill Scott doing a Peter Lorre impersonation.
- No Fourth Wall: Characters frequently exhibit Medium Awareness and other forms of being Genre Savvy.
- This applies to both the live action films as well
Natasha: We have been blown back clear to beginning of movie! (Boris and Natasha)
- No Sense of Direction: The aptly named Capt. Peter "Wrong Way" Peachfuzz.
- Non-Fatal Explosions
- Off-Model: This was one of the first animated shows to have its production outsourced to an overseas company (in Mexico). There were some...bugs in the animation, let's just say.
- Once an Episode:
Rocky: That voice. Where have I heard that voice?
- And the one time Rocky actually knew where he heard that voice, the effects of the goof gas gets to him right before he could say Boris's name.
- Opening Shout-Out: In The Weather Lady, Rocky gets a job at the circus as a high platform diver. Bullwinkle lampshades it with this:
Bullwinkle: Remember when we used to do this at the title, Rock?
- The Other Darrin: Keith Scott voiced the narrator, Bullwinkle and the cartoon versions of Boris and Fearless Leader in the movie.
- Out of Focus: Rocky could be considered this. Back when the show was still called Rocky and His Friends, the plots were more centered around Bullwinkle. When the show was renamed The Bullwinkle Show, it became apparent that Rocky was demoted to sidekick status.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: "That voice. Where have I heard that voice?"
- Parental Bonus:
Rocky: What game can you play with girls?
- Parody Magic Spell: "Eenie-meanie, chilly beanie! The spirits are about to speak!"
- Parody Names: The Kirward Derby from the story Missouri Mish Mash is a parody name of Durward Kirby, cohost of the show Candid Camera. Durward tried to sue Jay Ward Productions because of it, but they didn't care. The legality of the case was not strong enough and Durward dropped it.
- Also, in the first episode, news of an "alien landing" is broadcast by "Dorson Belles".
- Planet of Steves: Throughout the series, there are always two different guys (and two fish in one episode) named Chauncey and Edgar pointing out something that's out of the ordinary.
- The Power of Love: The Pottsylvania Creeper's weakness.
- Pull a Rabbit Out of My Hat: Trope Namer.
- Puppet Shows: In one of the network runs the segments were introduced by a Bullwinkle puppet. The puppet suddenly disappeared shortly after Bullwinkle said "Say kids, you know that knob that changes the channel on your tv comes off? Why dont you pull it off right now! Then you'll be sure to be here next week! And the week after that! And the week after that! And the week....."
- Recruiting the Criminal: Rather than sending him to jail, Zero is sent to do a job where his skill at making zero marks is useful. What is this job? Scorekeeper for the New York Mets.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Boris initially had magenta-colored eyes. They turned white in the fifth chapter of Jet Fuel Formula and stayed that way for the rest of the series.
- The 2000 CVS figure of Boris has deeply red eyes, ether the actual eye color or meant to be sunglasses.
- Red Scare: Boris is specifically called a "spy and no-goodnik"
- Retcon: In Missouri Mish Mash, it was said that the Kirward Derby has been around since the Stone Age. It was even in a hat shop for some time when Bullwinkle bought it. But towards the end of the story, it was revealed by Gidney and Cloyd that the Kirward Derby was created by a moon wizard to make their moon prince intelligent and that Gidney and Cloyd lost it after they borrowed it for their trip to Earth.
- Road Sign Reversal
- Rummage Fail
- Ruritania: Pottsylvania
- Save Our Team: Bullwinkle's throwing arm (And the fact that nobody argues with a moose who wants to make a running play) takes the Wassamatta U football team from dead last to undefeated.
- Self-Deprecation: Characters in the show constantly made jokes and comments about how much the show stinks. The irony is that the series was very popular.
(Boris and Natasha are off to get an "A-bomb")
- This even continued into the movies.
Karen Sympathy: Your jokes have gotten really corny.
- Shout-Out: During the promo trailer for the movie, which was to be live action/animation, the narrator said it was the most spectacular blend of live action and animation to ever hit the silver screen, it cut to a scene where one of Fearless Leader's men asked, "What about that movie with Roger Rabbit?" to which Fearless Leader responded, "Shut up! This is completely different!"
- That scene was actually used to introduce the toon-killing computer weapon to be used against the moose and squirrel, in contrast to the Dip.
- A final shout out to the Roger Rabbit movie could be said of when the Terrible Trio were blasted by their own weapon into the Internet, much like how the Roger Rabbit Big Bad perished due to his own weapon used against him.
- In one movie scene Rocky and Bullwinkle are directed to a hospital's J Ward.
- When Rocky asks Bullwinkle what "fraught with hortense" meant, he merely quips, "I dunno, I heard it on Meet the Press."
- Fearless Leader's appearance is based heavily on this World War II-era poster.
- Here's this dialogue from Metal-Munching Moon Mice, where Rocky and Bullwinkle see a portrait of Boris dressed as a mechanical moon mouse.
- Species Surname: Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose.
- Spiritual Successor to Vaudeville, the golden age of radio and Crusader Rabbit (a show also made by Jay Ward). Rocky and Bullwinkle also had its own Spiritual Successor in Sheep in The Big City.
- Spotlight-Stealing Title: The show was originally called Rocky and his Friends. It was changed to The Bullwinkle Show two seasons later due to Bullwinkle becoming more popular than Rocky.
- The Starscream: Boris has attempted a few times to stab Fearless Leader in the back. Considering they're spies, what else would you expect?
- Stern Chase
- Stupidity-Inducing Attack: Boris and Natasha once had a gun that can make anyone stupid.
- Syndication Title: Bullwinkle's Moose-a-rama on Nickelodeon
- Also The Rocky Show, a 15-minute edited series of episodes that aired in syndication starting in the 1960s.
- Heck, Rocky and Bullwinkle itself, which it was never called during the original run but is so branded on all the home video releases.
- The official DVD sets use The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends.
- Talking Animal
- Take That: Way too many to list. Basically if it was popular in the early 1960s, the moose and squirrel took a jab at it.
- Taken for Granite: Gidney the moon man fits this trope as he has a Freeze Ray which can turn a person into a solid statue for unknown amounts of time.
- Time Passes Montage: Bullwinkle invokes one to shorten a long airplane flight (he forgot the sandwiches), but overshoots and grows a long white beard. His response was to put some of the leaves back on the calendar and turn himself back to normal.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Boris and Natasha.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The Goof Gas story arc had Boris give the Narrator a whiff of the IQ dropping fumes in order to not let him tell where they were going.
Boris: You were saying?
- Those Two Guys: "Now there's something you don't see every day, Chauncey."/"What's that, Edgar?"
- Those Wacky Nazis: Fearless Leader taps into some of the imagery, particularly his monocle, prominent facial scar and uniform decorations. That, and he's also fond of the phrase "Schweinhund".
- Took a Level In Badass: Surprisingly, Bullwinkle fulfilled this trope in The Movie when he fought off a whole gang of Pottslyvania spies and even sent Fearless Leader flying.
- Partially justified in that, by that point, Bullwinkle was really annoyed.
- Unknown Rival: Rocky and Bullwinkle typically see Boris and Natasha only when they're disguised, but even if they weren't, our heroes might not recognize them if they wore giant neon signs saying, "We're the villains from the last 50 episodes, you stupid Moose and Squirrel!!!"
- During the story arc Bullwinkle's Testimonial Dinner, Rocky and Bullwinkle do recognize the spies. And later are confronted by them.
Rocky: Hokey smoke! It's our old nemesis!
- Also in The Weather Lady, Rocky immediately recognizes Boris when he and Bullwinkle sneak onboard Boris's steamboat.
- Villain Episode: More like villain movie. Boris and Natasha starred in their own movie eight years before Rocky and Bullwinkle did.
- Vocal Evolution: In the beginning of the show, everyone (including the narrator) spoke in a very low tone. Also, Captain Peachfuzz had a high-pitch squwak-like voice that sounded like a typical cartoon parrot in Jet Fuel Formula. After that story, his voice was then based on Ed Wynn.
- Wayback Trip: The Peabody segments are the Trope Namer and possibly the Trope Maker.
- Who's on First?: In a Bullwinkle's Corner segment where Bullwinkle and Boris perform Simple Simon, they transition into this over the word "ware".
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: For someone called Fearless Leader, it is shown that Pottsylvanian TV is too much for him.
- You Have Failed Me: Boris gets threatened with this at least once an episode, and the last few minutes of the series finale imply that his boss finally did it after Boris got caught in a rather nasty Morton's Fork.
- Zorro Mark: The Mark of Zero!