Our review of The Best Of Rocky And Bullwinkle: Volume 2, published October 5th, 2007, is also available.
"Hello, low IQ'ers!"
Television cartoons can be broken up into three kinds of entertainment: TV shows for children (Super Friends, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), shows for adults (King of the Hill, The Family Guy), and shows that both can enjoy equally, but for different reasons—like Jay Ward's Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends. Featuring a befuddled glove wearing moose, a perky flying squirrel, and a cast of zany supporting characters, Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends has gone on to garner a following of loyal and demented fans. Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends: Season One is finally on DVD care of Sony Wonder Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Everyone's favorite talking moose and flying squirrel make their way into the digital age with Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends: Season One. For the first time ever the complete (mis)adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle are collected in a four-DVD set that features some of their greatest and funniest romps. Included on this set are various shows (broken up into segments) featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle as they take on the notorious foreign spies Boris and Natasha. Along the way, we're also allowed to meet Mr. Peabody and his faithful four-eyed assistant Sherman as they travel through time, as well as that courageous Mountie Dudley Do-Right, his damsel in distress Nell, his trusty horse, and the sinister Snidely Whiplash. As if that weren't enough, fans will be treated to the ever funny "Fractured Fairytales," a twisted take on those old Mother Goose / Brothers Grimm stories like the long haired Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty. It's lunacy as only Rocky and Bullwinkle can deliver…and it's all here in Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends: Season One.
Included on this disc are 26 shows (including the long running "Jet Fuel Formula" Rocky and Bullwinkle storyline), each often including a "Fractured Fairytale," a Peabody and Sherman short, a Dudley Do-Right adventure, or an Aesop and son tale.
There is no doubt in my mind that Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends was hands down one of the funniest cartoon shows ever to grace our TV screens. Though The Simpsons may be considered the breakthrough show that really gave cartoon comedy a much needed boost, Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends is really the grand-daddy of great satiric animation. Jay Ward knew how to fuse rough animation with deliriously demented wit and cleverness—this first season of Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends proves that you can entertain children on one level while still making adults laugh on a totally different one. As a tyke I can recall (as can many of you, I presume) watching Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends and thinking it was hysterical. Rocky was a funny little flying squirrel and Bullwinkle was always getting into some kind of wacky trouble. After revisiting the series as an adult, I am sure that I laughed for completely different reasons this time around, yet my laughter was just as jovial.
Unlike many cartoons of its day, Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends took their stories and stretched them out over days and weeks. Take the great "box tops" episode in which Bullwinkle J. Moose gets blamed for counterfeiting box tops by the World Economic Council. Of course, it's really the vile Boris and Natasha who are doing the counterfeiting. The great genius behind this storyline was that Ward was slyly biting the hand that fed him—General Mills was one of the show's sponsors. Longer still is "Jet Fuel Formula," the Rocky and Bullwinkle story that lasts an amazing 40 episodes! Ward really knew how to hook the viewer with not only humor and daftness, but also a soap opera like theme (minus the sex, secret twins, and murders).
While I like the Rocky and Bullwinkle stories, I was always most interested in the "Fractured Fairytales." These were easily the best written of the series. What Ward did was take familiar fairy tales and turn them on their ear. In the hysterical "Sleeping Beauty" episode (as told by Edward Everett Horton), the prince races to the damsel's rescue. Upon finding her, he plans to awaken her with a kiss. But wait! Realizing that he has a potential goldmine in front of him, the prince instead turns the castle into "Sleeping Beauty Land" and charges admission to gaze upon the slumbering female (he also sells hats, gumballs, and other products as well). There is so much humor in these marvelous retellings—even the narrator seems to be attempting to catch his breath as he quips one zinger after another.
Jay Ward was a master of comedy, and this first season of Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends solidifies his standing as a master in his field. Ward's sense of the absurd is fully intact. Unlike many cartoons from this era (and from any other era), Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends never panders to its audience. The jokes will tickle both children and adults, a rarity in the animation world. Recommended.
Each episode in Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends: Season One is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, the show's original aspect ratio. The transfers for this show were far better than I anticipated. While these aren't perfect (they sometimes have a soft look to them, as well as some dirt and grain in the image), overall they look pretty darn good. The colors are mostly sharp and bright (some look dull and worn), and the blacks look appropriately solid. Hey, the bottom line is this: this 1960s TV show has never looked better, which should really please die hard fans.
[Editor's Note: Several alert readers have pointed out that there is a "bug" displayed on the screen for a couple seconds at the beginning of each episode. Your annoyance may vary; since Judge Naugle didn't mention it, I'm sure he did not find it distracting.]
The soundtracks are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in both English and Spanish. There isn't a whole lot to say about each mix—they're mono, which means they're front heavy and not very exciting. Dynamic range and fidelity is lacking, though these cartoons didn't really need a full blown Dolby Digital 5.1 remix—though there is a small amount of hiss in the mix, overall the dialogue, effects, and music are clean. No alternate subtitles have been included on this disc.
Dear Bullwinkle: Bullwinkle (conspicuously disguised as a cheap hand puppet) reads the viewers letter and then doles out his often skewed advice (example: "Dear Bullwinkle: Although I am only a sophomore I weight 435 lbs. They are having a costume ball at school and I don't want to look conspicuous. What would you suggest?" and Bullwinkle's answer is, "Why not go as a Volkswagen?") This is a pretty funny and off-the-wall little feature.
Classic TV Promo Spots: Funny promotional spots featuring the cast of the show pitching their adventures to the audience. I especially liked the one where Boris complains about always getting blown up or hit whenever he executes his devious plans—it ain't easy being a super spy!
Rocky and Bullwinkle Saving Stamp Club: Rocky and Bullwinkle promoting US savings bonds for the kids. Cute and but fairly inconsequential.
Sneak Peek: Season Two: A nice little promotional short for the second season of the show. This includes two episodes from the "Metal Munching Moon Mice" storyline. Hey, if you liked the first season you won't need this promo to sell you on picking up season two.
Boris Badenov: Master of Disguise: A short compilation of the dastardly Boris Badenov in various disguises (as a woman, a doctor, et cetera) as he tries to outwit our hapless heroes.
If you're a fan of this show, you've most likely already made your way to Best Buy with your hard-earned cash in hand. And hey, it's far better than watching that crappy live action flick that came out a few years ago! Sony Wonder has done a fine job with this set (nice video and audio, decent supplements), making sure that fans are given four jam-packed discs to drool over. Hokey Smoke, just wait until season two rolls around!
Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends: Season One is a full blown laugh riot! Enter at your own risk—you may lose your sanity, but gain one heck of a big funny bone.
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