Alex Anderson, the cartoonist who created animated characters Rocky the Squirrel and his friend Bullwinkle, has died. He was 90.
Anderson died Friday in Carmel, Calif., of complications from Alzheimer’s.
Anderson was business partner to Jay Ward, producer of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. And while Ward and writer-director Bill Scott are known for their association with the show, Anderson was almost unknown.
Anderson had to sue Ward’s heirs in the 1990s to regain full credit as creator of characters such as Rocky, Bullwinkle and Mountie parody Dudley Do-Right.
Anderson is credited with setting the tone of rapid-fire humour in the show, which was sophisticated enough for adults though aimed at children.
He parodied Cold War tensions by setting the sharp Rocky and dimwitted Bullwinkle against Russian enemies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale.
Those names were just the beginning of the puns, which flowed with vaudevillian timing and included naming Bullwinkle’s old school Wossamotta U., or its archrival college Heckwith U.
Anderson and Ward, both born in September 1920 in Berkeley, Calif., were friends from youth.
Anderson studied at the California School for Fine Arts in San Francisco and University of California at Berkeley and was a Navy spy during the Second World War.
After the war, Anderson went to work full-time for Terrytoons, in New Rochelle, N.Y. , but he began thinking about the new medium on its way — television.
In 1948 he dreamed up the animated series Crusader Rabbit, and talked his friend Ward into handling the business end. The series ran from 1949 to 1952 on NBC.
During this period, Anderson developed the ideas for Bullwinkle, Rocky and other characters and conceived of a show where Bullwinkle and Rocky were hosts of a kind of animated variety show featuring cartoons that parodied popular TV.
While Anderson conceived of the show, it was Ward who got it to air.
“I didn’t want to move to Los Angeles and elected not to get involved in production, but NBC would not make the deal unless I was involved. So I agreed to act as a creative consultant and to review scripts and make suggestions,” Anderson said in an interview with Hogan’s Alley, a cartoon history site.
He credited Ward with assembling the great team of writers and actors that moved the show forward.