Sunday, February 27, 2011

#6 The Moose that Roared by Keith Scott

I picked up this book because I loved Rocky and Bullwinkle as a kid and I still think that it is one of the funniest shows ever created.  So I figured that a look behind the scenes would be interesting, mostly so I could figure out exactly why the animation was so bad (their funders were really cheap).  Overall though, this wasn't as interesting as I thought and I found that I didn't want to finish it, it became a chore.

The book is about Jay Ward Productions, the company that brought us the fabulous Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Fractured Fairy Tales, George of the Jungle, and even Captain Crunch (this one was news to me).  Jay Ward was a WWII vet and new real estate agent when he was crushed by a truck that came through his new office.  Needless to say, Ward had lasting issues from that event, probably PTSD, but it is never confirmed.  Once he is recovered, Ward decides to do something different with his life, so he and a friend start to make cartoons.  Their first, Crusader Rabbit, gets picked up and becomes a success, but due to some shady characters, it is taken away from them.  Ward goes off on his own to create a new show, which after a few attempts becomes Rocky and Bullwinkle.  Production was plagued by low budgets, inept production, humorless networks, and overzealous censors.  This is my favorite of the notes from network censors:
I find the whole tenor of this episode objectionable.  Juvenile delinquency is not something to be treated flippantly.  Please have Tom become something other than a mixed up JD with a souped up butterfly, leading a juvenile gang on 'candy heists'.
The networks were convinced that kids wouldn't get the humor, they especially disliked Fractured Fairy Tales, even canceling it at one point.  Massive requests from viewers brought it back luckily.  Throughout it all though, Ward Productions had fun.  There were a few famous publicity stunts that kept people watching, like lobbying for Moosylvania statehood and a picnic at the Plaza, with real grass and ants.  While it didn't last long, this production company had fun creating cartoons that could be enjoyed by adults and kids alike.  They refused to talk down to kids and as a result their cartoons are beloved to this day.

You can tell right away that Keith Scott is absolutely devoted to this subject.  He grew up on the show and went on to become a voice actor himself, even doing characters from the show for the movies.  I loved his little puns throughout the book, what Rocky fanatic wouldn't, but the book unfortunately never really got interesting.  It ended up being too much about the insiders when I really wanted more about the wonderful shows that they created.

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