Friday, 10 May 2013

Rumpelstiltskin and a Car Dealer

When you think of stunning animation, you don’t think of Rocky and Bullwinkle. But who cares? They’re among the funniest shows—including live action—ever put on TV.

The odd thing about it is a number of people who worked on “Rocky” and other Jay Ward shows had been employed at UPA, where it seems the prevailing attitude was “laughter is gauche” (except when it came to an old blind guy; UPA thought that was comic). It was all about design. So it’s only natural some interesting bits of design crept into the Ward cartoons, especially ones that weren’t animated in Mexico.

I like this little bit of animation in the Fractured Fairy Tale “Rumpelstiltskin.” The title character pops onto the screen after some squiggles. They’re animated on twos.

Daws Butler uses his Phil Silvers voice for the title character while June Foray is Gladys, the miller’s daughter.

Since we’re on the subject of Bullwinkle, Alex Anderson explained in Keith Scott’s book The Moose That Roared that Bullwinkle was named for Clarence Bullwinkel, who managed a Ford dealership that was once on College Avenue between Alcatraz and Claremont Avenues in Oakland. Clarence Ahrens Bullwinkel was born on May 10, 1893 in San Francisco to German immigrants John and Catherine Ahrens Bullwinkel; his father was a liquor dealer. The Berkeley Gazette of December 7, 1940 reveals he was going to enter the University of California College of Dentistry but was convinced by a friend in 1912 to accept a job in the stock and tool room of a Ford operation. He lived for a time in Portland, Oregon where his only son Bob was born. The Ford plant in Richmond, California opened in 1930 and Bullwinkel was soon the manager of it. He bought a Ford franchise in the Oakland area in fall of 1940. Bullwinkel was civic-minded and helped his community in many ways (none involving ridding the world of Pottsylvanian spies); he was appointed director of the Berkeley-Albany Red Cross War Fund campaign in December 1942 and was the president of the Berkeley YMCA and Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. His grandson Daniel Bullwinkel told a Berkeley, Calif. news web site:

Clarence and Jay were friends at Rotary club and the Berkeley Breakfast club. From what Clarence told me, at Breakfast club of Berkeley, Jay asked him if he could use his last name for a cartoon he was creating. Jay said he would reverse the last two letters of our name not to upset the family.

Bullwinkel the Citizen died in Contra Costa on June 12, 1984. Bullwinkle the Moose lives on.


  1. Back in the late 1960s-early 70s, the Chicago Bulls had a big lumbering center named Tom Boerwinkle. He died two months ago, and at the time it reminded me of the name similarities -- Tom would have been about 13 when "Rocky" debuted, and given his size and (for the time) weight, he had to have dealt with the comparisons to a certain dumb moose during his adolescent years (of course, when you're seven feet tall and almost 300 pounds, the comparisons might have been made at a distance).

    You kind of get the feeling that a number of people at UPA wanted to do funny stuff -- even if it was focused on satirical stuff with a certain goofiness in it -- but were stymied by the general culture of the workplace. UPA may have been cutting-edge modern in its design, but it really took Fred Quimby's "No Warner Brothers rowdyism!" edict to Tex Avery to heart, and ended up with Hollywood's most pretentious animation studio. The Ward studio had to be a breath of fresh air on the comedy front.

  2. My dad worked at the Ford plant in Richmond (and later Milpitas) and knew Clarence Bullwinkel--and admired him. He was not the stereotypical car dealer, but as your entry notes, a community-minded person and all around good guy. I never had any idea his name was used for Rocky and Bullwinkle, of which I'm a big fan. Thanks for this nice bit of insight.

  3. You could do a great Jay Ward tour of the Bay Area. There's the Bullwinkel dealership, or whatever is there now; Jay Ward's birthplace, which is in Union Square between Morton's and a Chase bank branch (formerly a Disney Store); and the Cartoon Art Museum, which has the Crusader Rabbit animation camera. Somewhere, there's whatever now stands where Jay Ward's real estate office was. And do we know precisely where the Crusader cartoons were made?

  4. And was this the source of the moose?

    This is the first evidence I've seen that connects Bullwinkel's Royal Stag to Bullwinkle the moose. Though I suspected it for a long time.

  5. Clarence Bullwinkel was my great-uncle. What you write is correct: he was a man of tremendous character, integrity and public-spiritedness. Bob -- or "Bud" as he was known to family and friends (and is a renowned organist and scholar of the instrument -- was adopted by Clarence and his wife, Margaret, who was a wonderful woman. "Uncle Clarence" was a devoted Rotary member who attended weekly meetings well into his 80s, and who was named Berkeley "Citizen of the Year" due to his many civic contributions. Although he has been gone for more than 30 years, he is fondly remembered by family and friends (as is his wife) for their wonderful example of graciousness and kindness. Thanks for writing an accurate recollection of a good man that made me smile.