November 19: Rocky & Bullwinkle

MooseAndSquirrelIt was on this day in 1959 that America was introduced to Rocket J. Squirrel, his friend Bullwinkle J. Moose and a cavalcade of other assorted goofs when ABC aired the premier episode of a show that at the time was called Rocky & His Friends. During its five years on the air, the program experienced changes in its name, network and time slot; and was never a ratings hit, failing as both a prime time show and a Saturday morning show. However, the program developed a loyal fan base that included many future comedy writers.

From a production standpoint creator Jay Ward’s show about the moose and squirrel is notable for two things: Its crude animation and quick, sometimes subversive wit. The jokes on Rocky & Bullwinkle (as it is popularly known) came fast; full of word play (including knowingly terrible puns) and cultural references both lowbow and highbrow. On top of that, the series didn’t exactly break the fourth wall, so much as it shattered it and then destroyed the pieces so that it couldn’t be rebuilt: Rocky, Bullwinkle and the rest of the show’s cast weren’t just aware that they were characters on a tv show, they would also argue with the unseen narrator and comment on the show’s declining ratings. Rocky & Bullwinkle was also fond of poking fun at the American government. Lest we forget, this was a show produced during the height of the Cold War in which America’s only hope against Eastern European spies was a squirrel and an incredibly dumb moose.

Rocky & Bullwinkle‘s subversive streak even extended into real life. In the fall of 1962, Jay Ward decided to start a campaign for statehood for Moosylvania, a fictional island that appeared in a few episodes of Rocky & Bullwinkle. According to the series, Moosylvania was located in the Lake of the Woods between Canada and the U. S., but neither nation wanted to lay claim to the island. In fact each claimed that it belonged to the other country. So, Ward decided to make Moosylvania a reality. First, he leased a small island in the Lake of the Woods, and then embarked on a cross-country tour in a decorated van to promote Moosylvanian statehood and also Rocky & Bullwinkle. The tour culminated with Ward driving the van up to the White House gates to seek an audience with President Kennedy. However, when he drove up to the White House he was greeted by several armed guards, with guns drawn, telling him to get out of there. As Ward later discovered, he had driven to the White House on the first day of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Moosylvania still hasn’t been recognized as an American state, but until it is we can celebrate Rocky and Bullwinkle’s tv debut with a Flying Squirrel cocktail. It’s a solid tequila cocktail, and after a few of these you might think you can fly. However, let me remind you that just like Bullwinkle’s “pull a rabbit out of my hat” trick, that’s never going to work.

Flying Squirrel

  • 1 1/2 ounces White Tequila
  • 1 ounce Triple Sec
  • 1 dash lime juice
  • 1 splash sweet and sour mix
  • orange juice

Pour all ingredients into a highball glass half-filled with ice and stir.

Tomorrow: “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.”


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