Greetings and salutations, fellow Fridge Nukers! Bradfield here, once again reporting from outside the boundaries of time and space! However, this time, I’m travelling in the WABAC, who many an animation fan may recognize as the time machine used by the World’s Smartest Dog, Mr. Peabody, and his adopted son, Sherman.
Over fifty years ago (actually, around fifty-five years ago) the Rocky and Friendscartoon show debuted on ABC, and the world was introduced to a new stable of cartoon characters, an alternative to giants Disney and Warner Bros, created by animator, Jay Ward. Though Mr. Ward’s name may not be “household,” like many pioneers in animation, his name is sacred to many fans, and his creations are, to make a long story short, iconic. George of the Jungle, DudleyDo-Right, Fractured Fairy Tales, Super-Chicken, and Tom Slick continued to delight new generations of animation fans in syndication (here, in Southern California, they were staples of Tom Hatten’s long-running Popeye show), decades after they were made. The former two were even made into feature films – both starring Brendan Fraser. Ward’s most popular creations, high-flying daredevil, Rocket J. Squirrel, and his dull-witted, well-intentioned partner Bullwinkle Moose (most Ward characters have the middle name “J”), made it to the “real world,” their 3D incarnations appearing in a big budget adaptation starring Bob Hoskins, Rene Russo, and Robert DeNiro. [If you really want to go deep you can bring up the Dave Thomas/Sally Kellerman vehicle Boris and Natasha – in which Rocky and Bullwinkle’s perpetual nemeses, Boris Badanov and Natasha, took the spotlight… without the moose and the flying squirrel… because that’s a good idea… but do we really have to go there?]
And of course, this past March, another one of Ward’s most enduring and endearing concepts, Mr. Peabody— the story of a brilliant, but lonely, dog who adopts a human boy, and then builds a time machine to “give him some space to play” — became the first in what promises to be a long line of collaborations between Jay Ward Productions and DreamWorks Animation.
3D CGI extravaganza, Mr. Peabody and Sherman[starring the voices of Ty Burrell, Stephen Colbert and Patrick Warburton] is being released on home video this fall – Digital HD on September 23rd, Blu-Ray/DVD on October 14th. The Deluxe Edition includes:
Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital Download copies of the film
The premiere episode of The Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends Show
Assorted documentaries and games
Sneak peeks at upcoming DreamWorks Animation projects
And on the Blu-Ray…
A new short featuring the title that pretty much started it all, Rocky and Bullwinkle! On board for this particular outing, Executive Producer (and Jay Ward’s daughter) Tiffany Ward; renowned animation director, Gary Trousdale (Beauty and the Beast); comedy writing team Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (Reno 911); as Bullwinkle, the voice of SpongeBob Squarepants, veteran voice actor Tom Kenny; and animation voice legend, June Foray, reprising the role she’s been playing for over half a century, Rocket J. Squirrel. According to Trousdale and Ward, Ms. Foray is the only actor who didn’t have to audition for the piece. [Of course!]
The plot offers much in the way of the expected “cloak and dagger” antics that didn’t so much satire the territory east of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War (like MAD’s perennial favorite, Spy vs. Spy), but gleefully thumbed its nose at both sides of the argument – choosing to have the heroes and villains to go up against one another for rather nebulous reasons, usually involving the assumption that Bullwinkle is much smarter and important to the business of international espionage than he really is. This time, Fearless Leader has created a female robot moose, to be piloted by the smallest member of the team, Boris. Naturally, Rocky smells a rat, while Bullwinkle smells only perfume, naturally leading to the traditional cliffhanger.
Tiffany Ward takes much pride in preserving the essence of her father’s creations – and with good reason. Where Looney Tunes, Disney characters, and the vast and varied personages in the world of Hanna Barberra became somewhat tempered and tame the more they became associated not so much with the artform, but with the label of “children’s entertainment,” the Jay Ward characters appealed more to a MAD Magazine crowd – one part Marshall McLuhan, one part vaudeville by way of Sid Ceasar’s Your Show of Shows — every short a reverent, yet ludicrous send-up of a mainstream step-cousin.
Once again, Mr. Peabody and Sherman will be available as of September 24th for digital download. However, animation enthusiasts would do well to wait a little less than a month to get the next installment in the adventures of “Moose and skwerell,” trying to do the right thing in the face of forces trying to “keel” them. More 21st century adaptations of Jay Ward classics are on the line, after all.