Directed by Bill Hurtz et al
Studio: Classic Media
Year: 1962. 1964
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 132 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English, Spanish
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Review Date: October 12, 2007
Some would choose The Flintstones and others would pick The Simpsons, but for my money, the greatest animated series ever created for television involved a plucky flying squirrel and his dunderheaded moose pal. Rocky & His Friends and later The Bullwinkle Show ran for five seasons on network television before every network and syndicator in the world began stripping pieces of the masterpiece to suit their own purposes thus preventing true fans from ever seeing the show in its original form. No matter, the adventures of the dynamic duo from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, have entertained generation after generation of fans on videotape, laserdisc, and DVD. No, the show hasn’t been treated quite like the treasure it is even today with only three seasons released completely (and those tampered with in their original artwork) and other DVD releases that pluck gems from the crown jewel of TV animation. Still, even a little of Rocky and Bullwinkle is better than nothing, and this new set gives us a taste of the genius that was and is Rocky and Bullwinkle.
The producers of this set have selected three adventures featuring Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle Moose and placed them on this DVD set with no lead-ins, no filler between episodes, and no lead-outs. Luckily for us fans, the three tales chosen all come from the last two seasons of The Bullwinkle Show which have yet to see the light of DVD day. Other than an R&B bug that appears in the lower right hand corner for a few seconds at the beginning of each episode, the episodes themselves have not been tampered with.
The set begins with “Wossamotta U.,” an adventure from season 5 of The Bullwinkle Show. Its 12 episodes (which run 44 total minutes in 14 chapters) recount Rocky and Bullwinkle being drafted to play football for Wossamotta University. Naturally Boris, Natasha, and Fearless Leader are on hand to foil the team’s unbeaten record.
“The Treasure of Monte Zoom” involves a plan by Boris Badenov to drain a lake which contains a valuable treasure at the bottom. Our heroes intervene when it looks as if the villains are going to blow up a dam to drain the water out of the lake. This 8 episode adventure (10 chapters) comes from Season 4.
Also from Season 4 is the third adventure on the disc, “Goof Gas Attack.” Pottsylvania has declared war on the US and attacks our national brain trust by spraying them with a gas that renders them with the minds of five year olds. Bullwinkle, who already possesses the mind of a five year old, is the obvious savior of the country since he’s immune to the effects of the gas. Also lasting 8 episodes (10 chapters), this tale runs about a half hour.
Seeing the episodes back to back as one continuous story allows us to notice more readily the huge continuity errors in the animation. Things like Natasha’s dress and Rocky’s helmet changing colors or trains and planes which travel in opposite directions from one episode to the next are readily apparent, but in fact only make the show that much more endearing. Animated cheaply and hurriedly in Mexico to cut costs, the show has always had an eccentric low budget U.P.A. look about it, but that only adds to its appeal. It’s the crackerjack writing, that bottomless well of wit and a long bow to the theater of the absurd that is displayed in every episode, that makes these stories so hilarious and so timeless. And that incredible array of voice talent on hand has never been matched. The versatile June Foray plays Rocky and Natasha Fatale. Bill Scott is the lovable loon Bullwinkle and the evil Fearless Leader. Paul Frees is the no goodnick Boris Badenov and the dim-witted Captain Peachfuzz. And that hilarious over-the-top narration by Cannon himself, William Conrad, just can’t be topped.
The original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 is presented in this set. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that there has been any digital clean-up as there are some scratches, a pink color band that runs down left frame on one episode for several minutes, and some dust particles and other minor debris. It’s sharp, though, and the color is solid.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are decoded by Prologic into the center channel. Like the video qualities, the sound is of its time lacking fidelity and bass. However, to its credit, it’s clean sound without pops, hiss, or crackle. It’s what you would expect from forty-five year old television audio masters made on a tight budget.
A five minute series of short, witty live action lead-ins and lead-outs featuring a Bullwinkle hand puppet and voiced by Bill Scott are offered as a disc bonus. These color 4:3 inserts were filmed in 1961 for the transition of The Bullwinkle Show to NBC, but the show later went to all animation.
Yes, I miss the Fractured Fairy Tales, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Dudley Do-right, and all the rest of the moments that gave the series its enduring appeal. But the stars of the show get their own spotlight in this set, and it’s a tribute they more than deserve.