Rocky and Bullwinkle

by David Perlmutter

Rocky and Bullwinkle
Author David Perlmutter at his home.

Show business is full of incomparable duos. Partnerships thrive in it because of the uncanny ability of pairs to connect and spread joy and charm through a joint effort and desire to please. They exist in practically all endeavors within this broad level, and their work has enriched areas that might otherwise remained barren.

However, many of these partnerships have been splintered apart because of friction between the partners for one reason or another, and have not last as long as they could have otherwise.

The duo of which I speak is one of the few exceptions.

Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose were first unleashed on an unsuspecting world back in 1959, and nothing has really been the same since. With the name of one, and then the other, as the top billed star on different networks (that, in and of itself, was one of the more remarkable friction-free events of their story), their program remained in original production and broadcast until 1964, when it entered an endless loop of syndication (which is where this author, to his everlasting delight, first encountered them in the late 1980s). There followed occasional revivals in comic books, commercials, a feature film, and, more recently, a newer animated version from Amazon Prime.

Not many other animated cartoon characters- save, perhaps, the Looney Tunes gang and Our Boys' contemporaries at Hanna-Barbera- can match that kind of longevity.

It was a classic Mutt and Jeff physical pairing, but, in other respects, it was somewhat illogical. In real life, moose and squirrels have very little to do with each other, as far as I know. So these two becoming bosom buddies is rather odd.

Likewise, for all their talk of being "TV type heroes", they were, perhaps, among the most un-heroic figures of their time. Not for them the fistfights and gunfights that dominated TV shows of their era. No. They didn't go looking for trouble. It just had a knack for finding them. And when other people praised them for being so "heroic", they were the epitome of modesty, shrugging such things off entirely.

Yet it was a very astute partnership. As with many of the best, they understood each other perfectly- their strengths and their limitations, as well. As weird as things could get on that show, they responded to them with a straight-faced acceptance that was absolutely remarkable to the young man growing up surrounded by cynicism that I was then.

The show would not have worked if it was just about one of them. Rocky needed someone to launch him in to the air to fly; Bullwinkle needed a straight man for his bad jokes. And these affable Minnesotans needed all of their joint wits to survive the various "fiendish plans" of their opposite numbers from Pottsylvania, Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale.

And, in doing so, Rocky and Bullwinkle opened up the frontier of television animation for further artistic growth, just as Lewis and Clark before them had opened up the West for settlement by non-Indigenous people, with all the good and ill which that entails. They marked the trails for what kind of things you could get away with in television animation, spotting who the biggest boobs and moving targets were and putting them in their sights. Even if you weren't alive when the shows first aired, you could still get the jokes and appreciate their audacity. The equally dynamic duo behind the show- Jay Ward and Bill Scott- built their show to last.

Without Rocky and Bullwinkle, there would be no Simpsons, no Powerpuff Girls, no Family Guy, no Phineas and Ferb. Or at least not as we know them. Just ask the creators of those equally remarkable shows, and they'll tell you the same.

For Rocky and Bullwinkle, despite their outward masks of being babes in the wood, were the "fronts" of one of television's most subversively satirical programs- one that taught more than one generation of impressed viewers the true meaning of subversion, satire and irony. This author included. My fiction is indebted to their program and their characters as much as it can possibly be.

It's for all of these reasons that I'm nominating them for this GOAT title. Some may question it, but they mean a lot to me and their many other devoted fans, and I think they deserve it.

I hope that you do, too.

pop culture
David Perlmutter
David Perlmutter
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David Perlmutter

David Perlmutter is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

See all posts by David Perlmutter