One of the things I remember most fondly about my childhood are the annual holidays my family and I used to take at my grandparents place in Noraville, NSW, 800km away from where my family lived near Byron Bay and a world away from the limited choices of a small, though pleasant, country town.
The 1-2 weeks we’d spend there were filled with endless trips to the beach, body surfing with my grandfather, home cooked fish ‘n’ chips and coleslaw dinners, occasional cricket games in the backyard, and most wondrously to a boy already in love with pop culture, the multitude of TV stations beamed in to the Central Coast from Sydney.
So excited was I by the possibilities of a world where you had three commercial TV stations and two government-funded ones (as opposed to just the two up north; yes this way before the digital revolution and the hundreds of channels it offers) that I would happily get up at 5.50am each day, along with my sister, and creep into the lounge room to watch cartoons from 6am.
Everything from Scooby Doo to The Super Flying Fun Show to The Thunderbirds were on offer but the show I remember most vividly was The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show (aka Rocky & His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show), which ran from 1959 to 1964, and seemed to be on constant early morning repeat on Australian television.
Anchored by the adventures of a savvy flying squirrel Rocky and a rather dimwitted but loveable moose Bullwinkle (quite possibly where my oddly Canadian love of mooses comes from), who spent much of their time pursued by Eastern European-ish spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, the show also featured Dudley Do Right (old time melodrama send up), the gloriously loopy Fractured Fairy Tales (comedic takes on tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson) and Peabody’s Improbable History (a clever dog, his adopted son and a time traveling machine).
I loved each and every part of the show, which has grown in popularity massively over the years, spawning the so-so modern Rocky and Bullwinkle movies, and now Mr Peabody and Sherman, which is coming to the big screen on 7 March 2014.
If that isn’t exciting enough, it’s been announced that Dreamworks is producing a brand new animated Rocky and Bullwinkle short that will be shown with Mr Peabody and Sherman, featuring the only remaining original voice actor from the show, 96 year old June Foray, who gave delightful life to the irrepressibly upbeat Rocky.
“For an incredible 83 years, June Foray has left a tremendous imprint on the entire entertainment industry. Her amazingly indelible performances have enchanted generations and earned her a permanent place in the annals of popular culture.” (Executive Producer Tiffany Ward, variety.com)
This amazingly talented lady, who has also given voice to characters as diverse as Cindy Lou Who and Jokey Smurf, will be joined by director Gary Trousdale (Beauty and the Beast, The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper) with script by Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant.
With the passing of the original voice of Bullwinkle, Bill Scott, in 1985, Rocky’s partner will be voiced instead by Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants).
While reviving old much loved characters is always fraught with peril – Will they get the tone right? Will we recognise the characters we adore so much? – I have faith that with all the amazingly talented people involved, the first Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon in 50 years, will be an enchanting and resounding success.