Book Review: The Art of Jay Ward Productions
What do the cartoon characters Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, and George of the Jungle all have in common? Besides starring in some of the wittiest animated TV shows broadcast during the 1960’s, and appearing in their own feature films decades later, all were created by Jay Ward Productions. Now, a new coffee table sized book has been released that pays tribute to the artwork used to make the original Ward cartoon episodes.
“The Art of Jay Ward Productions”, written by animator/director Darrell Van Citters and published by Oxberry Press, features a treasure trove of rare images over its 352 pages. As with so many of the U.S. cartoon programs produced from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, the original artwork (cels, model sheets, backgrounds, etc.) from the Ward shows are often quite difficult to find. Many were lost or thrown away. For this book, Van Citters was allowed exclusive access to the Ward archives, and private collectors submitted their own Ward character artwork.
Among the numerous highlights in the book are four pages of storyboard drawings from a controversial 1961 Dudley Do-Right episode “Stokey the Bear”, in which arch villain Snidely Whiplash hypnotizes a Ward parody character of Smokey the Bear to set forest fires. The U.S. Forestry Service wasn’t happy with the episode, which was broadcast just the one time. The episode finally re-appeared 44 years later on “The Best of Dudley Do-Right Volume 1 DVD.
Another interesting find is a production cel and eight storyboard pages from a 1960 “Fractured Fairy Tales” edition of “Sleeping Beauty”. The episode features a prince, drawn to look like a caricature of Walt Disney, who decides he can make a goldmine of money off of Sleeping Beauty as long as she doesn’t wake up. So, he opens a Sleeping Beautyland amusement park, as well as sells Sleeping Beauty hats, comics, and bubble gum.
A noteworthy fact learned from the book is that Ward was able to to make so many cartoons based on fairy tales because their legal rights were in the public domain. So animation studios, including Disney, didn’t have to pay the relatives of say The Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen, for using their characters in various projects.
But, the book offers much more than the artwork. We learn the story of how the “Moose and Squirrel” were created, and about the early careers of Ward and his co-producer/ head writer Bill Scott, the voice of Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Super Chicken, and more. It’s interesting to find out that Ward’s first animated series, “Crusader Rabbit”, was made in Berkeley, California, approximately 375 miles north of Hollywood. Ward’s business partner on the “Crusader Rabbit” toons was Alex Anderson, nephew of Paul Terry of the Terrytoons animation studio (home of Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle). Anderson, in fact, named the moose Bullwinkle, after Clarence Bullwinkel, owner of an Oakland car dealership.
“The Art of Jay Ward Productions” also provides short biographies of Ward’s team of directors, designers, background and story styling artists, and more. What’s nice is that in addition to learning about these individual animators, many of the bios have a photo of the person to go with the story. Ward and Scott are usually mentioned, justifiably so, when Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes are often written about in the media. But as the book shows, there was a whole team of talented artists who should also receive credit for bringing the TV audience these classic cartoons.
George of the Jungle and Shep
Yes, the made for television artwork seen in the Jay Ward shows would be considered “limited animation”. As Van Citters describes it in the book, limited animation means “rather than drawing the entire character for each frame, only the parts that were important to the action moved. It was a form of artistic stylization but shrewd producers realized it could also cut costs”.
But still the Ward production team had strong animation backgrounds. Van Citters notes that several of the Ward artists were former Walt Disney Studios staffers, who left the company following a 1941 strike . Some formed the UPA/United Productions of America studio, known for the Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing-Boing toons. Others “polished their skills” at L.A. area schools such as the Chouinard Art Institute, Art Center School, Jepson Art School, and Otis Art Institute. So, while the Ward shows were known for their clever and very funny scripts, the artwork still had lot of character to it, as evidenced in the book.
In addition to the 1960’s cartoon programs, the Ward Studio was very prolific in their output of animated commercials made for Quaker Oats Cereals. From 1963 to 1984, Ward produced ads starring Cap’n Crunch, Quisp and Quake, Simon the Quangaroo, and King Vitamin. Artwork from those commercials are found in the book.
Several pages focus, too, on Ward shows that never made it to air. The group includes such characters as airline pilot Orville Wrong; Davy Crockett look-a-like Hawkear and his cohort, Native American Pierced Arrow; and Fang the Wonder Dog and his owners, the Appleknocker family, with a grandfather resembling 1960’s “Hollywood Squares” star “Charley Weaver” aka Cliff Arquette (grandfather of Rosanna, Patricia,and David).
Van Citters definitely knows what he’s talking about regarding the field of animation. His career began with work on Disney’s “The Fox and the Hound”, “Fun With Mr. Future”, and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. He directed the first Bugs Bunny short in 27 years with 1990’s “Box Office Bunny”. His own company, Renegade Animation produced Cartoon Network’s ”The Mr. Men Show” and "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi", as well as ads for Cheetos snacks and Kelloggs Rice Krispies and Honey Smacks cereals. He also wrote the acclaimed 2009 book, “Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol: The Making of the First Animated Special”.
“The Art of Jay Ward Productions” is a must buy if you’re a fan of Rocky, Bullwinkle, Super Chicken, and all the other characters. To paraphrase the flying squirrel, it's "something you’ll really like".
Dudley Do-Right: Stokey the Bear episode
Fractured Fairy Tales: Sleeping Beauty
Rocky and Bullwinkle: Buried Treasure
Rare 1982 L.A. TV segment with the voices of Rocky and Bullwinkle
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