The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show (known as Rocky & His Friends during its first two seasons and as The Bullwinkle Show for the remainder of its run) is an American animated television series that originally aired from November 19, 1959 to June 27, 1964 on the ABC and NBC television networks. Produced by Jay Ward Productions, the series is structured as a variety show, with the main feature being the serialized adventures of the two title characters, the anthropomorphic moose Bullwinkle and flying squirrel Rocky. The main adversaries in most of their adventures are the Russian-like spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. Supporting segments include Dudley Do-Right (a parody of old-time melodrama), Peabody & Sherman (a dog and his pet boy traveling through time), and Fractured Fairy Tales (classic fairy tales retold in comic fashion), among others.
Rocky & Bullwinkle were conceived in the late 1940s by Jay Ward and his partner Alex Anderson, creators of Crusader Rabbit, the first animated program made specifically for television. An unused show idea called The Frostbite Falls Revue featured early versions of the moose and squirrel. Ward took this idea with him when he moved to Los Angeles from Berkeley and hired former UPA animator Bill Scott to help write the show (and voice characters as it turned out). Production on the show began in late 1958 when cereal company General Mills signed on as the primary sponsor, and it premiered November 19 the following year in a late afternoon timeslot.
Rocky & Bullwinkle is well known for the quality of its writing and humor. Mixing equal parts puns, cultural and topical satire, and self-referential humor, it was designed to appeal to children and adults, but it was also one of the first cartoons to outsource its animation (storyboards were shipped to Mexican studio Gamma Productions, the same studio employed by Total Television). As a result, the art has a choppy, unpolished look and the animation is extremely limited (even by television animation standards). However, the series has been held in high esteem by those who have seen it; some critics have described the series as a well-written radio program with pictures.
The show was never a ratings hit and was shuffled around the day (airing in afternoon, prime time, and Saturday morning) but has garnered a minor yet influential cult following over the decades, influencing shows from The Simpsons to Rocko’s Modern Life. A feature film based on the series was produced by Universal Studios and released on June 30, 2000 to lukewarm reviews.