ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE “Claus and Effect or Yule… Be Sorry”
Original Air Date: 1961-1962
Moose and Squirrel head to the New North Pole…
In addition to designing cereal spokesman Cap’n Crunch, Jay Ward is also credited with creating television’s first ever animated series. Together with childhood friend and TerryToons animator Alex Anderson, Ward began a difficult battle to produce cartoons on the small screen, once thought to be too costly to achieve. in 1949, the duo succeeded with Crusader Rabbit, the first TV cartoon show.
Ever the savvy cereal business man, they managed to launch another show with the help General Mills, who were provided certain ownership rights to the characters and used to promote various food products. Meet Rocky & Bullwinkle.
Going into production as Rocky the Flying Squirrel, the show cut costs by outsourcing animation duties to Mexico, and Rocky and His Friends premiered on ABC on November 19th, 1959. In 1961, the show moved to NBC under the title of The Bullwinkle Show, and was for the first time broadcast in color during pimetime.
The show featured numerous other characters and segments, such as Peabody’s Improbable History, Fractured Fairy Tales, and Dudley Do-Right, so episodes were eventually restructured and aired on both networks, as well as in syndication, until 1973. Later generations would come to know the program as The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and other variations thereof, as the show continued to run on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Boomerang, where the cartoon can still be seen occasionally during the early AM hours.
Contrary to the characters’ longevity, the series was never a ratings smash and won few, if any, awards, despite influencing shows like Ren & Stimpy and The Simpsons. However, the duo did ultimately spawn a live-action movie starring Robert De Niro(?!?!), still have some presence in Universal Theme Parks, and was named the 3rd “Greatest Cartoon Show of All-Time” by TV Guide.
Jesus Christ, I forgot how hard it is to follow Rocky and Bullwinkle sometimes. Obviously, I have fond memories of the Peabody and Sherman, Aesop & Son, and Fractured Fairy Tales segments, it’s just that… with all those interstitials, it basically boils down to the show’s namesakes appearing on screen for less than 10 minutes per episode.
I didn’t recall how disjointed Rocky and Bullwinkle segments can come off. For instance, this “Christmas Special” actually occurs across three episodes in a much larger storyline. Or at least that’s all I’ll be talking about. It takes place during the third season’s fourth and final story arc “Topsy Turvy World.”
Animation at its crudest and most charming
I hope you don’t mind if I breeze over any segment that doesn’t include the famous moose and squirrel. After all, that’s a lot to watch, and this show is more than a little dated, with the Rocky & Bullwinkle portions feeling particularly reminiscent of even more ancient radio serials. “Tune in next time to…”
Rocky looking pretty retarded
As a result, not a whole lot ever happens to Rocky and Bullwinkle in order to run their story arcs over the course of nearly a dozen episodes. i mean, at least the Peabody and Fractured Fairy Tales gave you a bit of resolution, to say nothing of context.
I think the episode actually takes place in May
I don’t mean to get down on the show. Yeah, there are more than a few stinkers and ultra-shitty puns passed off as attempts at jokes. But I’ve always admired just how fast the writing comes off. It may not have always worked, but the banter and delivery is unspooled at lightning pace. Dialogue is the star here, obviously to compensate for the lack of animation, but man… those dudes wrote their asses off.
Don’t worry, that’s a reindeer not Bullwinkle
Oh, and R&B was the first cartoon I ever saw to use the word “Sex,” so credit where credit’s due. According to legend, Jay Ward loved courting controversey, and even encouraged people to sue the show, stating something along the lines of “Please, we need the publicity!”
Global climate change
Evidently, the writing team behind “Topsy Turvy World” were particularly ahead of their time in another area: Climate Change! The plot involves the North Pole becoming so overwrought with snow and ice, it begins to drag the North Pole downwards, and the rest of the Earth with it!
I really hate that the DVDs add a fucking watermark
Boris Badenov’s plan involves turning the tropical of locale of Riki-Tiki Island into the new North Pole. But why, you ask? Take a guess…
Hey, can anyone draw me an Xmas tree in less than 10 seconds?
Somehow, the Boris’ newfound proximity to the Earth’s northern axis will virtually guarantee that he gets to become Santa Claus. Once the world rolls over and accepts him as Kringle, he’ll move presents up the chimney every Christmas Eve, instead of down. And how will he accomplish that?
GUNS! Lots of guns!
“Once I’m Santa, I’ll get to rob all the banks, see!”
Honestly, in no other special, cartoon, or short film covered on this site will you find quite as many lethal weapons used for comedic effect.
Speaking of weapons, Peabody & Sherman go back in time to visit Jim Bowie, inventor of the Bowie Knife
In short, Rocky & Bullwinkle, as a show, didn’t give a fuck. At this point in the series original run, it was running closer to primetime anyway, so it didn’t necessarily care about exclusively pleasing an audience of kids. Otherwise, how could you explain the natives?
Are they offensive? Or are they just white people deserving of whatever mockery the world can dish out? I honestly can’t say…
Or did they alter their original cover for the DVD release? Doubtful. Check out the savages that precede Peabody and Sherman:
Since I didn’t watch the first half-dozen episodes in the full story arc, I’ve got no idea why Rocky and friends are here in the first place, but there’s a captain and a scientist here, and they might be important later (but only barely.)
Wait, what happened?
Beg your pardon if I’m leaving out any details, but it’s not like the episode seems to have a problem with doing just that. Rocky, who just moments ago was about to be eaten to death, is now frozen in his cauldron-y casket, all because Al Gore’s prophecy has proved truer than we could’ve ever imagined!
Animation so cheap, it can’t maintain consistent color in a simple panning shot
YAY! In what is quite possibly my favorite gag in the entire arc, we get to see how the climate change is effecting locales around the world.
“Shucks, we’re Yankees now”
Meanwhile, our heroes and villains finally meet up for the first time. Boris and Natasha’s operation is in full swing and they’ve got another plan to dispose of the oblivious moose and squirrel: A bomb, cleverly disguised as a Xmas gift. Who wouldn’t accept such an idealized present?!
However, R&B are so elated by the free swag, they decide Santa needs presents too, and regift it to Boris and Natasha unbeknownst to them.
Unfortunately, the natives are getting restless. The Riki-Tikians spend their lives shirtless and barefoot, so this climate change is really taking its toll. Anybody know where someone could grab something warm? Say, an animal pelt?!
Luckily, the cross-eyed captain does everything backwards, like polar opposite backwards, and he’s mistakenly loaded his tropical cargo with fur coats. Comedy wins again!
Climate Crisis #1: SOLVED
However, there’s still the small matter of, um… the entire balance of the world being screwed. How do they get the North Pole back to the top of Earth’s axis? The same way the government would sove an environmental catastrophe: With the most temporary of solutions!
A most literal Snow Telethon
Given that the North Pole slid down because of its own wintery weight, Rocky & Bullwinkle simply call upon the world to deliver more snow to the island of Riki-Tiki, so as to once again tip the scale of global balance.
It’s not offensive because they’re white!
Whatever, I love this sequence…
Silly, but this is literally how ocean sand erosion is addressed
And boy, do the people come out in droves, delivering snow from all over the world. And hooray, Earth is realigned, without so much as on gravitational catastrophe, or even slipping out of its elliptical orbit.
Santa’s elves can get back to work after a brief tropical holiday
Boris and Natasha drift away on a torrent of melted snow. Hey, what better time to open that present with bomb in it?
Look, even I’m sick of joking about the laws of nature negating religious superstition, too. So let’s just say that this episode of Rocky & Bullwinkle contains more science than Futurama.
The happiness of children is overrated
Perhaps it’s my bleeding heart liberal bias, but there’s far more of an environmental message here than anything pertaining to Christmas. Rocky & Bullwinkle as a show is certainly not without its charm, and the episode’s well worth revisiting assuming you have fond memories for it already. However, it’s cornball crudity will undoubtedly bore a younger audience, plus it’s nowhere near “Xmasy” enough to make it into your Decemeber playlists
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us – it helps!)
The Christmas portion of “Topsy Turvy World” appears on The Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends: Complete Season 3 collection. This was the last DVD season set released for about five years, so fans should note that Season 4 and 5 have only just recently hit DVD, as well as a Complete Bull DVD set. Conversely, these DVDs may also infuriate fans, as epsiodes are reportedly rearranged in order, contain new digitally inserted titles, and most frustratingly, contain R&B watermarks on the for no reason. Dude, I already bought the DVDs – I know what the fuck I’m watching!