ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE AND FRIENDS -
COMPLETE SEASON 1
Region 2 Edition - Reviewed by Andrew Smith
Bill Scott, June Foray, Paul Frees, Hans Conreid, Charles Ruggles
Many American baby boomers regard Rocky and Bullwinkle in the same way
that their British counterparts regard shows like The Clangers, Mr Benn
and Ivor the Engine. These series provided cherished
childhood memories, and they stand up as very enjoyable productions even
when maturity has long since been reached.
Originally conceived in 1950, under the name The Frostbite Falls Review,
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends was put on the
back-burner for almost a decade when advertisers didn’t take to the idea.
Creator Jay Ward retooled the show as Rocky and His Friends which
premiered in November 1959, becoming an instant hit for broadcasters ABC.
After a successful run the show transferred networks to NBC in 1961, where
it was renamed The Bullwinkle Show. (What Rocky thought of
this upstaging we will never know!) Both of these shows were later sold in
a single syndication package, finally renamed The Adventures of Rocky
and Bullwinkle and Friends.
Unfortunately for some animation purists the syndicated versions are the
ones included on this set, meaning that there will be the traditional
timing edits and replacement credits to worry about. To be honest this
didn’t really bother me and the episodes still work well.
This release comprises the twenty-half hour shows that make up the first
series. That includes the Rocky and Bullwinkle stories Jet Fuel Formula
and Box Top Robbery (serialised into forty and twelve segments
respectively). The Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends format has each
half hour segment broken into four sections. In the first season this
means that there are two instalments of a Rocky and Bullwinkle serial book
ending the two peripheral cartoons, Fractured Fairy Tales and
Peabody’s Improbable History.
sees Bullwinkle inadvertently create the worlds most efficient Rocket Fuel
while attempting to bake one of his grandmother’s recipes. Unfortunately,
in the ensuing explosion, the recipe is torn in half. Now, contracted by
the government to produce more of the amazing fuel, Rocky and Bullwinkle
must attempt to remember the recipe, while at the same time keeping Spies
Boris and Natasha, not to mention some hostile Moon Men, from getting
their hands on it.
Top Robbery Bullwinkle is the proud owner of the world’s largest
collection of box tops, and, since box tops are now the world’s standard
currency, he is a very rich moose indeed. Unfortunately somebody is
flooding the market with thousands upon thousands of counterfeit box tops.
Can our two heroes stop the villain before the world market collapses?
two storylines I find Box Top Robbery much more satisfying. As
usual with the first season of any television programme, The Adventures
of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends takes time to find its
feet. Ward was a pioneer of the limited animation technique, which allowed
for television animation to be turned out cost-effectively at a quick
rate. This technique is obviously in it’s infancy at the beginning of the
series, but, by the second story, there is a great improvement in movement
and character design.
which I found quite jarring was the contrast between the show bumpers
added during syndication and the original animated segments. As these
bumpers were animated and added a few years after the original episodes
there is a very obvious difference in animation style and
perhaps the most bizarre animated concept I have ever come across: genius
hound Mr. Peabody and his adopted boy Sherman travel through time in the
“Way Back” machine revealing the untold stories of events past. For
example did you know that the reason Napoleon always had his hand in his
jacket was to hold up his trousers? You’ll soon find out why!
modern takes on well-known children’s stories, and to my mind they’re not
as strong as the Bullwinkle and Peabody shorts. They do, on occasion,
however display some very dry wit.
Fractured Fairy Tales during the run in the series, but, after
public outcry, the short was quickly dropped and Fractured Fairy Tales
was reintroduced. To my mind Aesop and Son are the weakest of
the bunch: the fact that they included shoehorned morals goes some way to
making this a more kiddie-orientated toon.
twenty-six episodes are spread out over four disks. Each episode can be
selected from a static menu. While this may appear a little plain it does
get the job done and, more importantly, will be easy enough for young
children to navigate.
sampling of various episodes suggests that the picture quality is, on the
whole, acceptable. These are, however, standards conversions from an NTSC
source, and probably old conversions: the series suffers from
interpolation throughout (interpolation is the blending of two or more
‘clean’ frames to create one mixed frame). Under normal viewing conditions
the effect is virtually invisible, but can experienced subliminally. With
animation like Rocky and Bullwinkle, where there’s often no substantial
change between one frame and another, the effect is minimized. Shot
changes, though, are softened. (See the first image in the strip above for
an example of an interpolated frame).
forty-five year-old series the film elements seem to be in reasonably good
condition, with only a few minor instances of film dirt and the occasional
distracting is a small “R+B” logo in the bottom right corner of the
screen. Luckily this semi transparent logo only appears for about ten
seconds at the beginning of each cartoon segment and I found that after a
while I got used to it.
picture is encoded at a reasonably high 7.35 Mb/sec, with no evidence of
MPEG artefacts. Sound is presented at 192kbps in 2.0 Dolby Digital mono.
THE BONUS MATERIAL
selection of special features can be found on disc four:
Bullwinkle Savings Stamp Club
public service infomercials were initially used as bookends to the
individual segments of one episode of the show. They would obviously have
been removed for the syndication package as they would not be relevant
overseas. This rarely-seen footage is the highlight of the extras package
live action segments have a puppet version of Bullwinkle (above) answering
questions sent in by viewers with the help of silent movie clips to
illustrate certain points. While they can be very funny at times these
sections are not put into context in any way at all. The final
segment, filmed in black and white, is notable due to the fact that at the
end the Bullwinkle head is obviously pulled out of shot by a puppeteer
before the camera stops rolling!
Commercials and Promos
a selection of promos from the two non syndicated versions of this show,
Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show. What makes
these particularly interesting is the original animation that is not to be
found anywhere else in the shows.
Many Faces of Boris Badenov
compilation of clips from the series that illustrate the many disguises
villain Boris uses to trick Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Peak at “Complete Series Two”
segment from a second series episode, The Monstrous Mechanical Metal
Munching Moon Mice Mystery, presents more enjoyable fun with Rocky and
extras package is lacking is a commentary on any of the episodes, or a
retrospective documentary. The insights of voice artist June Foray, the
last survivor of the so-called Golden Age of animation, would have been a
welcome inclusion, for example.
Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends
be to everybody’s taste. For starters it is insanely silly and childish.
However this is, at the same time, what makes it so compelling: there's
nothing like a really bad pun to raise a smile sometimes. It might be a
cliché to say this but this really is a DVD set the whole family can
enjoy. What makes this an interesting buy for animation enthusiasts is the
chance to see how the show's style evolved in such a relatively short
space of time into the format it is remembered in today.