A Nineteenth Century Carousel

December 12, 2000

A Quaint, Nineteenth-Century Carousel. A Merry-Go-Round, from the 1800s, with intricately-carved, wooden horses, beautifully painted with a myriad of antique
from yesteryear. Deep azure and jet black glass eyes, imported from Germany. Real, brittle, horse hair, treated and dyed black, orange and corn yellow………..

This is what I remember when I think of Rocky & His Friends……….the nearly forgotten first series of the television version of the adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. The now vague, vague memory, far outshined by The Bullwinkle Show,
BUT………the better series of the two………..

When The Bullwinkle Show began, in 1961, after two years of the Rocky & His Friends show, this was, in a small way, the death of the innocence of the story of Moose and Squirrel (at least the death of the innocence of the packaging…….and the aura, of the show).

I first saw this show, when I was at the seashore, with my parents, on a family
vacation. I could not have been much more than five years old. We had returned, from the beach, to our vacation house. We were in the limbo period, between an afternoon at the beach, and going out to dinner. I was incredibly bored and I complained to my mother that I had nothing to do. My mother decided that she would keep me busy by turning on some cartoons. She turned on Rocky & His Friends.

I loved the sound of the show’s theme song……….so much like a carnival tune. I remember seeing Rocky, jumping off the carousel, and flying, from scene to scene, in a series of side-shows, akin to the circus! One pictured him jumping through hoops of fire!……….One showed him trying to paddle upstream, on the edge of a cascading waterfall, with sharks swimming all around him!………One gave a glimpse of Rocky sticking his head into a roaring lion’s mouth!

Once Rocky finished jumping from circus show to circus show, he was shown chiseling out the huge letters: G.M.……….(the sponsor, General Mills cereal) and then blowing the dust away, from these letters, as if he had sculpted a masterpiece of the Greeks! How very artistic and decorative the opening of Rocky & His Friends was!………

I remember, over the years, when I would see re-runs of Rocky & His Friends, they would often air the original General Mills cereal commercials. What was special about these commercials was that they would actually have Rocky and Bullwinkle, themselves, plugging their cereals, in these commercials (and sometimes Mr. Peabody and Sherman too)……..right on their own show! I do not recall The Bullwinkle Show, following suit, and showing these same commercials in their own re-runs. This does kind of remind me of when the Flintstone characters did their own Welch’s jelly commercials, right on their own show.

The Bullwinkle Show, for its part, changed its motif to that of a loud, gaudy,Las Vegas or Vaudeville show………showing Bullwinkle, “dressed to the nines”, twirling
a walking stick, with bright search lights flashing all over in the background. It was the exact same theme song, but BOY!!……….what a difference it made, when cast in this very gaudy, flashy light……..perhaps they were searching for a more adult audience, when they switched networks and series names……….Though the content and the format, of this new show, was pretty much the same, as Rocky & His Friends, it just was not the same for me………..not without that charming, innocent introduction.

Interestingly enough, there was yet another factor, which contributed to my preference to this “Rocky precusor”……….and this was purely by coincidence, that this happened……….In 1968…….1969, when I was in third grade, one of my local TV stations, aired the Rocky & His Friends shows, broken apart, into two fifteen-minute segments (instead of one thirty-minute show, as it originally aired). These two fifteen-minute segments were dispersed, several hours apart, over the course of the day. As weird, as senseless and as stupid, as that may sound……….I think that I enjoyed the show even more that way!

I liked, even more than the episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle, the side-shows!!: Fractured Fairytales, Aesop and Son, Dudley Do-Right and Peabody’s Improbable History. In the fifteen-minute format, there was never time for more than just one episode of Moose and Squirrel, and one of the side-shows. Just when my appetite was whetted for more……..I was left hanging……….and having to wait, for several hours, to see another side-show……….and the concluding episode of Moose and Squirrel. By the time I saw the second half of the show, I was really looking forward to it!!

Though I have seen re-runs of The Bullwinkle Show, over the years, I think that it has been at least thirty years, since I have seen a single re-run of the Rocky & His Friends show……….I miss that show! When Rocky & His Friends left the air waves, and his moosely counterpart prevailed, I think that not only did the show lose a modicum of its innocence………but so did I……….

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