— 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. There is a feature film adaptation of Peabody's Improbable History as Mr. Peabody & Sherman due for March 7, 2014.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.
"Hey Rocky, watch me pull a trope out of my hat!":
Absentee Actor: The Buried Treasure storyline is the only one in which Boris appears but Natasha doesn't.
Additionally, neither Boris nor Natasha appear in the storylines "The Three Moosekateers", "Much Mud", and "The Ruby Yact of Omar Kayam".
Affectionate Parody: The Fractured Fairy Tales segment parodies 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.
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'. 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.
Artistic License - History: A lot of people forget that Beethoven was deaf. This is misrepresented in a Peabody and Sherman segment.
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.
Ascended Fanboy: DeNiro, who not only played Fearless Leader but produced the 2000 film.
Keith Scott as well, having gotten to hang out with the cast and crew of the original series before sadly replacing most of their voices once they'd died.
As Long as It Sounds Foreign: This was exactly Jay Ward's attitude towards Boris and Natasha. When June Foray first asked Ward what accent he wanted her to do for Natasha, he suggested anything but Russian (as this was during the Cold War, and he didn't want to risk offending Russia).
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.
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 a lot of money from the success of his movie.
Boris frequently bests Bullwinkle in the Mr. Know-It-All segments.
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".
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.
And in another episode, Boris tells Natasha that the next time he has such a plan she should "shut up my mouth!"
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.
Bold Explorer: The Peabody's Improbable History segments featured visits to see many bold explorers, including Sir Walter Raleigh, Marco Polo, Juan Ponce de Leon, Balboa, Columbus and Magellan. Many of them turned out to be not-so-bold in person, and needed a kick in the pants from Peabody and Sherman.
The Bore: One of the Fractured Fairy Tales was about Leaping Beauty, a beautiful girl who leaps about spreading joy and cheer, until she runs afoul of a witch, who curses her to become a bore, after which she literally puts the entire kingdom to sleep with her incessant prattling.
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 (HAIL!)...Hail, Pottsylvania...Hail, Hail, HAIL!!!
Catchphrase: 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.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: After his brief appearance in the Banana Formula arc at the end of the fourth season, Captain Peachfuzz is never seen again.
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.
Contrived Coincidence: Like everything else, used liberally and mocked ruthlessly. When something ludicrously coincidental saves or helps our heroes the show (and later the movie) always make sure to point out how ridiculous is is, either by having the narrator or characters lampshade it or by having the coincidence itself be so absurd that there's no question it's being played with.
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.
Cross-Dressing Voices: June Foray as Rocky, as well as several boy characters. On the other end, Bill Scott would occasionally voice a witch in the Fractured Fairy Tales segments.
Defictionalization: Moosylvania nearly became the name of a small state next to Minnesota. The "Moosylvania for Statehood" campaign was cut short when the petition reached the White House just as the Cuban Missile Crisis was unfolding.
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.
Enforced Method Acting: Jay Ward was having trouble getting William Conrad to read his lines fast enough, as Conrad felt that his voice sounded hysterical the faster he spoke. So one day, just before the recording session started, Ward walked into the recording booth and set Conrad's script on fire.
Every Episode Ending: All the Peabody and Sherman shorts end with Mr. Peabody making a terrible pun.
Evil Versus Evil: Boris and Fearless Leader briefly fought over the Kirward Derby in Missouri Mish Mash.
Exact Words: In the Mr. Know-It-All segment "How to Get Your Money Back if Not Completely Satisfied", Bullwinkle tries to return an item he's not satisfied with and get his money back, but in the end the store owner, Boris, won't give him a refund. When Bullwinkle points out the stores promise, Boris says, "And I'm completely satisfied!"
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.
Furry Confusion: Rocky is about two or three feet tall, compared to other people, however, he wasn't the only squirrel seen on the show: in the Upsidasium story arc, we learn that before the discover of the gem, Pottsylvanian cars were powered by squirrels running inside hamster wheels. These squirrels look just look Rocky, except they're the size of actual squirrels and run on all fours.
Exec 1: Then it's settled, gentlemen: Next week, we all become television producers.
Exec 2: I thought we were all going to commit suicide together!
Exec 1: It's the same thing.
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.
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.
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.
Hollywood Natives: Stereotypical Indians appear in the story arc, "Bumbling Bros. Circus"; the rain dancers capture Rocky and Bullwinkle and attempt to burn them at the stake to please Great Spirit. However, Bullwinkle's humming comb gives them dance fever, and they literally dance up a storm, putting out the flames. The circus comes to their rescue, Boris and Natasha escape, and the tribe realize who the real good and bad guys are, naming Rocky and Bullwinkle honorary chiefs of their tribe, and making peace with the circus (complete with a peace pipe).
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:
Bullwinkle: Uh-oh! What are those things Rock? (points to a pair of tanks)
Rocky: Tanks, Bullwinkle. (Beat) I said tanks Bullwinkle.
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.
Or, in many cases, ever. The most famous was probably the Kurward Derby, a long drawn out gag involving this guy and a bunch of really bad jokes that seemed to offend him greatly, so much so that he tried to sue the makers of the show to get them to stop (producer Jay Ward, delighted at the publicity this afforded the show and knowing the law was on the show's side, actually encouraged the suit)... it failed.
Bullwinkle: Twenty dollars?!? That's antihistamine money! Rocky: Antihistamine money? Bullwinkle: Yes. It's not to be sneezed at. Get it? Not to be sneezed at? Rocky:(exasperated) I get it. Bullwinkle: Thousands won't!
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.
In one version of "Sleeping Beauty", Prince Charming was modeled loosely after Walt Disney. In the story, rather than awaken Sleeping Beauty, he built a theme park around her.
No, Except Yes: From the "Mr. Know-it-all" segment "How to Catch a Bee":
Bullwinkle: But if you're in Death Valley, the task becomes a little tougher, but not surmountable.
Officer O'Hara: If a policeman didn't talk like a Dragnet character, odds are he would have an Irish accent.
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. Among the more common problems were Boris losing his mustache, Bullwinkle losing an antler, or incidental characters up and changing color for no reason.
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' 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?
Orphanage of Fear: it is strongly suggested in their first episode that Sherman came from one of these.
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.
While Boris's disguises have a bit more effort (including fake mustaches), Natasha's disguises are not as elaborate. In fact her disguises are rarely more than just a simple change in clothing, and yet Rocky never mentions her face looking familiar. In fact there are even instances where she is not disguised at all alongside Boris wearing a disguise, and never gets recognized by Rocky.
In the Mr. Know-It-All segment "How to Get Into the Movies Without Buying a Ticket", one step is to try a disguise. However, Bullwinkle's disguise still gets him kicked out.
One "Aesop and Son" segment begins with Aesop wearing a disguise to see if he can fool his son. His son isn't fooled.
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".
The "Maybe Dick" arc featured a shipping magnate named Pericles Parnassus, a thinly-veiled parody of Aristotle Onassis.
"Boris Badenov" is a play on name of Russian tsar Boris Gudenov.
Punny Name: Boris's disguises inevitably invoked this. A list can be found here
Occasionally Natasha would get one as well. Of course her full name (Natasha Fatale) is one in and of itself.
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 don't 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....."
Race Lift: Aesop and Son, possibly. Some sources claim he was either black or middle eastern (if he existed at all). In any case he probably wasn't a redhead.
Reassignment Backfire: In the Upsidasium arc, the Maritime Commission tried to have Captain Peachfuzz be literally Reassigned to Antarctica by putting him in charge of counting penguin eggs at the South Pole. But thanks to a typo in his orders, he was made head of America's spy network.
Recognizable By Sound: A running gag is that Rocky would always recognize Boris' voice but still couldn't see through his disguises.
Rocky: That voice. Where have I heard that voice?
Bullwinkle: In about a hundred other episodes, but I don't know who it is either.
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".
Replaced the Theme Tune: After the first season, the Frank Comstock theme was replaced with one by Fred Steiner. The Steiner version is the one present on the DVD sets.
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: Seen in one of the intros when Boris reverses a road sign to send Rocky and Bullwinkle's car into a tunnel with a brick wall. Also, this example:
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") Rocky: Bullwinkle, do you know what "A-Bomb" means? Bullwinkle: Certainly! "A-Bomb" is what some people call our program! Rocky: I don't think that's so funny. Bullwinkle:(Looking at us) Neither do they apparently.
This even continued into the movies.
Karen Sympathy: Your jokes have gotten really corny. Bullwinkle: No they haven't, they were always this bad. When you were a kid you didn't notice.
Shameless Self-Promoter: Jay Ward himself, to the point of responding to threat of a lawsuit with "go ahead, we could use the publicity."
The scene introducing the toon-killing computer weapon to be used against the moose and squirrel claims it's the first and only way to actually kill cartoon characters. Then 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!"
Another 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 portent" meant, he merely quips, "I dunno, I heard it on Meet the Press."
Police would frequently talk in the style of Dragnet characters. In the Banana Formula storyline, two such persons were called Ben (Romero) and Joe (Friday).
Sliding Scale of Animation Elaborateness: One of the leading examples how good animated creations do not necessarily always involve technical visual skill. Namely, this series has terrible animation done by a Mexican studio, but is still a classic with its brilliant writing and voice acting such as with Bill Scott, June Foray, and Paul Frees.
Natasha: (after Bullwinkle inadvertently has foiled another one of Boris' fiendish plans) Boris, I thought you said this plan was foolproof.
Boris: Foolproof, yes. Idiotproof, no.
Also, when Bullwinkle was kidnapped to replace the Greenpert Oogle bird, his kidnappers took an overly complicated course to throw off all pursuit... except Captain "Wrongway" Peachfuzz.
Bullwinkle, again, in the movie. The villains have almost won, the President has been brainwashed, and Bullwinkle is sitting in front of the Mind Control device... and then it turns out that Bullwinkle is so stupid, the brainwashing device has no effect on him. Promptly lampshaded by the narrator.
Bullwinkle was also the only one immune from goof gas in "Goof Gas Attack". As Boris says, "Goof gas effects the brain. No brain, no effect!"
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".
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 reverse part of the Exploding Calendar and turn himself back to normal.
Took a Level in Badass: Surprisingly, Bullwinkle fulfilled this trope in The Movie when he fought off a whole gang of Pottsylvania 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' steamboat.
Use Your Head: Subverted during the second half of season 2, episode 10.
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.
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".
Another variation the show often used was to have Bullwinkle use a wrong word, then be corrected with the right word, which in true Who's on First? fashion would have a double meaning that Bullwinkle would misunderstand. Lampshaded in the movie.
In the Jet Fuel Formula arc, while stuck on Bloney Island, Rocky and Bullwinkle are digging for clams (which are the local currency). During their excavations, they uncover some pirate treasure. But it's not clams, so it's tossed aside.
In the Upsidasium arc, Bullwinkle digs up some gold. But since it's not upsidasium (which admittedly is more valuable), Rocky tells him to get rid of it.
In the Lazy Jay Ranch arc, the fishing resort of Angel's Cramp is experiencing a bait shortage. The fishers are frustrated while digging for worms because all they uncover are these silly gold nuggets.
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.