ANIMATION SPIN
May 1, 2018 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Bullwinkle and Rocky’s Strange “Circus Adventure” on Records

Be with us this time for: “If the people who did these voices watched the cartoon before making the record, I’m Lorna Doone” or… “Puss Gets the Bootleg!”

BULLWINKLE AND ROCKY
PLAY CIRCUS
10 Action Characters Plus Record
Spotlight Inc. #1 (7” 45 RPM in 12” Gatefold Package / Mono)

Released in 1963. Producer/Designer: Vince Wayne and B.B.C. Associates, New York. Running Time: 8 minutes.
Performers: Uncredited (presumably two)
Music: Public domain marches.

Last time you remember, Bullwinkle and Rocky were purchasing the latest item at the makeshift checkout of a makeshift record store run by a familiar-looking fellow calling himself ‘Boris Makeshift.’ After his store manager, Natasha Goody, rang up the questionable purchases and shoved our heroes out the door, Rocky expressed his doubts to his antlered friend.

“Bullwinkle, I don’t think this record is the real thing.”

“But Rock, it’s got our names right on it! Lookie, ‘Bullwinkle and Rocky Play Circus!’ What could be more litigimous and over-board? I can’t wait to hear about all the fun we had at the circus on this keen new record!”

“But that’s just it, Bullwinkle. We didn’t go to the circus, and we haven’t made a record for two years!”

The sharp thinking squirrel was absolutely right, for it had been in 1961 that he and Bullwinkle had stepped before the microphones and committed their vocal talents to vinyl—for an erstwhile record that would briefly grace store shelves before becoming a prized collector’s item and the subject of a snappy online article.

But with their trusty Silvertone stereo in the shop, our friends journeyed to the home of Captain Peter Peachfuzz, who eagerly set the disc to spinning and the needle to grooving on his gramophone. The startled Captain was the first to remark about the spurious voices that met his ears.

“Heavens to Eliza! They made you sound like a little fuzzy comet, Rocky!”

“Well golly, it sure isn’t me! And it’s not you either, Bullwinkle!

“No, Rock! Let’s call our lawyer!”

“You wanna ask him if we should sue?”

“No, I wanna ask if that’s him doin’ my voice on the record.”

And so while Rocky phoned their lawyer, Captain Peachfuzz and Bullwinkle amused themselves by playing with the paper figures that came with the record—ten off-model representations of our favorite moose and squirrel, Boris, Natasha and various generic circus animals. After slavishly following the instructions, they were able to manipulate the puppet-like figures to their heart’s content–back and forth, two and fro–in front of the fold-out circus backdrop. Like playing a tissue and a comb, they found it more enjoyable than listening to the record.

Rocky waited on hold and listened to all nine Beethoven symphonies. Seeing the brave Captain and the mighty moose having so much fun with the humble paperboard play set, he placed the telephone receiver on its cradle and the lawsuit was forgotten. The record album did not sell well anyway and was buried in the landfill of obscurity that fate holds ready for such things.

You’ll be with us next time, won’t you?

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Bullwinkle and Rocky and Friends”

Most of the script, such as it is, sounds like attempts to fill out the record’s eight minutes.. On side one, the narrator goes through the instructions, which does not make entertaining re-listening. He introduces Rocky, Bullwinkle–and “DOCTOR Peabody” (who does not speak). Those who do speak say little more than “Hi, how are you doing?” to each other.

On side two, each animal is presented with a two-line rhyme. In his Mickey Mouse falsetto, “Rocky” comments on the rhymes with, “Gee, that was interesting,” He suggests we listen to the public domain marching band that is “so exciting.” The Crazy Guggenheim-inspired “Bullwinkle” agrees.

Through Rocky and Bullwinkle’s dialogue, the actions of Boris and Natasha (another nonspeaking role) are described. Boris is trying to steal a ball he thinks is made of gold, but it’s really filled with rocks. The characters say goodbye. The narrator reminds the children to put away their playthings, listen to what mommy and daddy says, then also says goodbye. Perhaps the kindest thing that could be said about the overall tone is that it is reminiscent some early local live children’s television programs.

A low budget does not have to be a hindrance to a genuinely fine recording. Records that either cannot access original casts or cannot afford lavish orchestras can nevertheless contain memorable, endearing productions. This record, however, sounds as if it was written and recorded quickly, with minimal exposure to the cartoons.

Jay Ward’s name does not appear anywhere on it the packaging nor on the record itself. A 1963 copyright is listed with “Producers Associates of Television,” but without the apostrophe.

20 Comments

  • There is no doubt that one of the voice actors is Dickey Goodman.

    • The narrator does indeed sound a lot like Dickie Goodman of “Mr. Jaws” and “The Flying Saucer” fame.

  • Not to mention that Tommy the Tiger looks like Snagglepuss in his striped pajamas.

  • Hokey smoke, another possibly counterfeit item with our favorite cartoon characters on it!!

    Since I cannot actually see the pictures that are possibly included with this article, may I ask the obvious other question…were there images of these familiar cartoon characters all over this product? And, if so, how is it that Jay Ward didn’t sue the trousers off these folks?

    Also, did no one connected with this actually watch Jay Ward cartoons? If they did, they would have realized that there was a more sophisticated sensibility to these cartoons than your average kid vid; that was true even with GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, although that show adhered more closely to the Hanna-Barbera formula of having a cartoon show with three characters, each with their own little theme song and wacky video to go along with that song!

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. Such a shame that Jay Ward didn’t manufacture a lot more official records since the kind of humor here could easily be merely audio without visuals and imagination enough on the part of the listener to “fill in the blanks”.

  • I wince here at the names of the other characters…Leo the Lion belonged to MGM, so there were two lawsuits that were never even approached; what are you, a spy from Hanna-Barbera?

    This could have been an idea to get back at Jay Ward for being so clever!! And, yes, I had to laugh at the sign-off from the narrator, reminding kids to pick up their toys and listen to Mommy and Daddy…” but be sure to remove the knobs from that TV set to insure that no one changes the channel and you can again tune in to the *REAL* “ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS” next week!

  • What happened to Rocky? His head is gray and the rest of his body is blue! Smurf disease?

    • Well, June did voice Jokey.

    • In all fairness, as a kid, I thought Rocky was blue, given how damaged those 16mm prints used to be when they aired them on TV, sometimes adding in a blue filter to take out the red in the color.

  • Rocky sounds like ” mr Bill” and Bullwinkle sounds drunk.

    • “Oh nooooooooooo! Boris is always mean to me!!!”

    • Good times!

      Now I’m just thinking of “Mr. Hands” being the narrator playing with these stupid “action characters”!

  • Greg’s right. .Bullwinkle DOES sound like Crazy Guggenheim, in real life Frank Fontaine!!! And he keeps saying the same thing.,…the narrator does sound loike Dickie Goodman..”LEO the LION?”

    • When in face, the actual character piece included names the lion “Lenny”!

  • I’m wondering how many kids got this record and actually enjoyed it? And of the ones who enjoyed it, how many were familiar with the TV version?

    This is not too bad of a record if it were all generic characters with no history and therefore no expectation on the part of the listener. There is no real drama in it and the characters have no real motivation, but as a simple “Let’s Go to the Circus” story it could be worse. The disappointment comes from the association of Bullwinkle and company with the story line. It makes us expect crisp dialogue, a witty plot, and deft characterizations. It makes us expect to hear from Bill Scott, Paul Frees, and June Foray. As it is, the character references are just worked in and Rocky and Bullwinkle sound like bad imitations of Mickey Mouse and Goofy.

    The background music was nice, at least. Wasn’t that Sousa’s “El Capitan”?

    • Yes, Frederick, that’s El Capitan at the beginning. Also mixed in there are Semper Fidelis, Washington Post Marcn, and the US Air Force march.

  • That was very cleverly written, Greg — in my mind I could actually hear William Conrad’s voice intoning your perfect phrasing!!

    I’m intrigued by those punch-out ‘puppets’ — they all seem to have movable parts (arms, mouths, etc.) ‘Paper engineering’ always fascinates me – I’d love to see what the punch-out pages looked like before the characters were ‘assembled’. I can’t figure out why Boris has a hole in his mouth with the word ‘FOLD’ above it! :o)

    • Thanks for the compliment on the “Ward-speak,” Dave. It was so much fun to write! There are two inside references buried in there, too. One is a nod to a cartoon in which Dudley Do-Right once thought he was Lorna Doone, and the other is a tribute to a very funny blooper between Paul Frees and William Conrad. It’s about halfway through this video:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfmphOjSO64

      And who doesn’t love puppets? We just can’t get enough of them! The reason Boris has the hole in his teeth is that he isn’t fully assembled. Each figure came in two pieces that fitted together by folding little tabs into the hole from one piece into the other, so the figure would pivot. I don’t know whether the figures were originally on punch-out sheets, as the set I received arrived with them already in pieces, with some assembled and some unasembled, as you see in the photos.

  • Wow, that’s bizarrely awesome!
    Just calling it ‘Bullwinkle And Rocky’ (instead of the reverse) tips it hand as a knock-off. Should of been issued with a cutout bin punch-hole.
    More entertaining than the R & B movie, though.

  • Didn’t they have an actual circus adventure? What about the whole Bungling Bros. storyline where Bullwinkle trained those lions and tigers to tap dance?

  • Since this was credited to “Producers Associates of Television” this was technically done through the company Jay worked with in getting the show to, they often had their copyrights shorten to “P.A.T.” on ‘official’ Rocky & Bullwinkle merchandise for a good two decades. This was basically done by them without Jay’s consent, since they probably didn’t think they had to.

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