January 7, 2003
And now a man who needs no introduction………..And so I haven’t used any fancy title to write about Mr. Ward; his name pretty much says it all. I really did not have a strong desire to write an article on Jay Ward………….at first……….(mainly because, unlike co-producer, Bill Scott, he does not dabble in voices). However, after reading Keith Scott’s book, The Moose That Roared, a second time, I felt highly motivated to say something about this “animation pioneer”. I will try to use mostly just the information that Bill Scott and others relayed to me, in their letters from the early to mid 70s.
It is inevitable that some of their information will overlap with facts that Keith Scott brought out in The Moose That Roared. Be that as it may, I nevertheless did obtain these facts independently of Keith’s book. I daresay that there may even be a few nuggets, here, not covered exactly the same way as in Keith’s book (or possibly not covered at all). In spite of this, however, I still highly recommend that anyone who is truly interested in learning about Ward read Keith’s book. The anecdotes and biographical sketches on him are quite fascinating.
Bill Scott’s February 1, 1974 letter was the most “telling”, vis à vis Jay Ward. And rightly so! (as they were co-producers). Thus what I learned from Bill will be the LION’S SHARE of this discussion. I will include a few things from Daws Butler, Paul Frees and June Foray as well:
I found it interesting that Bill Scott and Jay Ward did not meet until 1957; just one year before General Mills bought Rocky & His Friends and just two years before that show debuted. They were born the same year—1920—-and they both died relatively close in time: Scott was in his mid 60s and Ward was in his very late 60s.
It’s interesting just how much they had in common; not just the years that they lived, but also that they shared a similar off-beat sense of humor—-and that
they were both REBELS and pioneers in cartoon history. The two men also got along FANTASTICALLY and worked very well together. I must credit Keith Scott for this last point; Bill did not go into detail about how very close they were. When you think about it, it is really very sad that the two men spent less than half their lives together (not even three decades!……….very little time, in the grand scheme of things).
In Bill’s letter, he said that at first just the two of them worked alone. Their first studio was an old Hollywood apartment house, in Spanish-stucco style, which was built around 1927 (how charming that sounds; no sarcasm intended there, as I really like Spanish architecture and older architecture very much). Though they never gave up that place, they eventually moved into four small buildings on Sunset Boulevard.
Bill said that they outgrew that Hollywood apartment because Jay had the collecting instinct of a pack-rat: the place got filled with old racing forms, hurdy-gurdys, merry-go-round horses and wooden Indians (I found that part about merry-go-round horses very interesting, as the opening scenes of Rocky & His Friends showed a circus scene, and some merry-go-round horses; hence I thought I understood why the first of their two Rocky and Bullwinkle shows had that type of
As I had mentioned in the feature, “Without Fanfare”, Bill Scott said that one of the reasons why he and Jay decided to call their studio Jay Ward Productions was because Jay was the one who worried the most about the money (he was also a real estate specialist in Berkeley, CA). But there was actually more to this decision than that: Jay already had a name in Hollywood as a producer. When Bill met Jay, in 1957, Bill had already worn many hats in the cartoon industry. His last role, before becoming a co-producer, was that of a free-lance cartoon story man.
Daws said that Jay Ward was always extremely loyal in that he was content to employ just a very small coterie of voice actors and he rarely turned to anyone else. Daws said, in so many words, that it was wonderful to be able to depend, so strongly, on Jay Ward. Ward appeared to have great confidence in Butler, Foray, Frees and Scott to take care of what he needed for his cartoons (perhaps he would have used Walter Tetley even more had he not started to have health problems toward the end of his life. Then too, Tetley’s voice was not as versatile as some of these other voice actors).
Paul Frees did not say a whole lot about Jay Ward. He did tell me, however, in answer to a question about getting into voice acting, that he would recommend Jay Ward as someone to whom I could send a tape of my voice characterizations. Initially he recommended sending a tape to Bill Scott (a very logical choice, since he did most of Ward’s starring voices) or to his own agent (Frees’ agent), Charles Stern. He hastened to add, however, that I might even want to consider sending a tape to Jay Ward.
June said that Jay Ward gave her suggestions regarding Rocky and Natasha, when they first met (Rocky: clean-cut, all-American boy; Natasha: not too Russian, as the U.S. was already having enough problems with the Cold War). She also commented on Ward’s impact on the writing for Rocky and Bullwinkle. This was interesting to me, since Daws Butler had once said that Bill Scott wrote about 90% of the scripts. She said that if the material for the show made Jay laugh, then that was his stamp of approval! Anything that HE loved………..Anything that made HIM laugh………..Well then it was in! I believe that Bill Scott also had a similar philosophy, given some of the things that Keith Scott wrote of him.