THE MOOSE THAT ROARED
by Keith Scott
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The most famous creation of Jay Ward Productions was Bullwinkle J. Moose and his cohorts and adversaries. It is fitting, therefore, that Keith Scott has named his book about Ward Productions in honor of Bullwinkle. At the same time, Ward’s penchant for puns is reflected in the title, The Moose That Roared. The book does not only focus on Bullwinkle, but also examines the entire output of Ward Productions from the early “Crusader Rabbit” cartoons to the recent “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” and film.
Scott is in a unique position to write the history of the animation studios. From an early age, he was a fan of Ward’s creations and has known many of the principals involved, including both voice talents, animators, Bill Scott (no relation) and Jay Ward. Scott also has provided the voice for Bullwinkle in projects since the death of Bullwinkle’s originator, Bill Scott.
The style is eminently readable, often having the same feel as the Bill Conrad narrations which punctuated the original cartoons. Rather than narrating the misadventures of “moose and squirrel,” Scott is narrating the misadventures of Jay Ward, Bill Scott and their attempts to make intelligent, topical cartoons in a world in which they had to rely on sponsorship and faced network censorship.
The Moose That Roared manages to examine the battles which were fought to create a new animation studio in a world which already had Disney and Warner Brothers. Scott provides information about the animation business as well as the television business. He makes it abundantly clear that Ward was not acting on his own, in fact, Scott’s depiction of Ward remains somewhat elusive. Throughout the book, he refers to Ward’s agoraphobia and other problems, however Ward is also presented as a masterful showman and outgoing publicist.
Ward Productions was as much the brainchild of Bill Scott as Jay Ward, and his role, based on the book, was greater than Ward’s. Scott is shown as a multi-voice talent who also wrote and helped produce the different series. Scott’s importance to Jay Ward Productions may be seen in the fact that the production company did not survive much past Scott’s death in 1985.
It would have been easy for Scott to use the book to look at the individual episodes. While he does spend a little time discussing the episodes of everything from Rocky and Bullwinkle to Super Chicken, he spends the majority of the book discussing the inspiration for the different shows, the difficulties in bringing them from an idea to a reality and Ward’s clever methods of publicizing the shows.
Perhaps the most useful portion of the book, as opposed to interesting, is the series of appendices which provide complete information about the episodes of all the cartoon produced by Jay Ward Productions. Not only do these notes indicate what each episode was about, but they list the voice talents who performed each role, information which is frequently not provided during the course of the individual cartoons.The Moose That Roared is an entertaining and informative account of the history of Jay Ward productions. Unfortunately, reading the book without access to some of the cartoons described is rather like reading a cookbook without access to any of the ingredients mentioned. With luck, Buena Vista will soon see fit to re-release the various Jay Ward cartoons on video again.
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