Alex Anderson, the cartoonist who created the famously pun-loving 1960s cartoon characters Rocket “Rocky” J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose, has died. He was 90 and died Oct. 22 in Carmel, Calif. He had Alzheimer’s disease.
Many people, included me, have long thought that Jay Ward was responsible for the creation of Rocky and Bullwinkle, whose media-savvy adventures made them a cult favorite for generations of kids who felt cooler for watching their show. But it was Anderson who created the clever squirrel and his dim-bulb moose pal; Ward was Anderson’s business partner early on, a strong influence on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and did much to keep the show’s memory alive. Still, Anderson had to sue Ward’s heirs in the 1990s to regain full credit as creator of the characters.
Rocky and Bullwinkle first appeared on TV in 1959, and their escapades matching wits with their Russian enemies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale were undisguised critiques of cold-war tension. William Conrad, later famous for starring in the TV series Cannon, did the voiceover narration. The show was constructed like an old movie cliffhanger, with breathless plugs to tune in for the next installment, which would have titles such as “Avalanche Is Better Than None, or Snow’s Your Old Man.”
In this clip, EW readers can learn from one of Bullwinkle’s “Mr. Know-It-All” segments how to sneak into a movie theater without paying. One typically excellent exchange occurs when Bullwinkle is asked by Boris what his qualifications are to be a movie usher: “I’ve been in the dark for most of my life.”
Anderson also created Dudley Do-Right, the dopey Canadian mountie, as well as a precursor to Rocky, Crusader Rabbit. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show aired under a variety of titles, including Rocky and his Friends and The Bullwinkle Show.
It’s difficult to imagine, these days, the thrill of discovering Rocky and Bullwinkle as a kid. You felt as though you’d been let into a secret back door to TV, where the characters joked about their show’s low ratings and the very nature of the narrative itself. During one edition, Rocky thinks he hears Boris, and says, “That voice — where have I heard it before?” Bullwinkle replies, “In about 365 other episodes.” Then he added, ever the dumb one, “But I don’t know who it is, either.”
Now you know who Alex Anderson was.