Rocky & Bullwinkle ► Saturday Morning Cartoons

The dirty little secret of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show is that the animation was outsourced to Mexico.

Originally conceived as a cute little group of woodland animals that run a tee vee station [shades of SCTV?], by the time The Frostbite Falls Revue went on the air in 1959, it was called Rocky and His Friends. After the first 2 seasons it got the name The Bullwinkle Show. Then it became known as The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and Friends.

Before it went on the air it needed a sponsor and cereal killer General Mills stepped up. It wanted the show to air in the afternoon to better target kids. Also, according to The Encyclopedia of Cartoon Superstars:

“In an effort to reduce costs, the advertising agency that had the General Mills account invested in an animation studio in Mexico,” recalled director Bill Hurtz. “Then they made a contract with Jay which agreed that we’d write the stories, direct them, design them, and assemble them, but that the animation was the backgrounds and inks would be done in Mexico… This was nothing that Jay was particularly fond of.”

Even though some of the Ward staff, including Hurtz, were periodically sent down to Mexico for quality control, problems arose. “We found out very quickly that we could not depend on Mexican studios to produce anything of quality,” remembered Bill Scott. “They were turning out the work very quickly and there were all kinds of mistakes and flaws and boo-boos… They would never check… Moustaches popped on and off Boris, Bullwinkle’s antlers would change, colors would change, costumes would disappear… By the time we finally saw it, it was on the air. It went directly from Mexico to airing… As a result, we tried to pull as much of the work as possible up North.” Reportedly, at one point to avoid customs problems, people would bring some of the completed episodes back across the border in their suitcases as home movies.

Whether that was why the writers bit the hand that fed them, but:

The second story that first season was “Box Top Robbery” which only lasted a dozen installments. The global economy is threatened by counterfeit cereal box tops. It was a satirical jab at General Mills and its cereals who were sponsoring the show.

One of the things kids loved about Rocky and Bullwinkle were the reoccurring gags that changed over time, so you were never sure what to expect. Such as:

The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was about a lot more than a flying squirrel and dim-witted moose. There was also Fractured Fairy Tales:

Peabody’s Improbable History:

 Aesop and Son, which was so similar to Peabody’s Improbable History that it used the same opening theme music.

And, Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties:

But, it was Moose and Squirrel that held our interest.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.