Saturday, 8 May 2021

Beavers and a Pink Sweatshirt

How many cartoon producers had a sense of humour?

By all accounts, Fred Quimby at MGM and Ed Selzer at Warner Bros. did not. Paul Terry liked borrowing gags so maybe he had everyone else’s sense of humour.

Then there was Jay Ward.

His sense of humour was like his cartoons—irreverent. Take away his PR department that cooked up ridiculous and facetious promotions and Ward was still a playful, amusing man. He was an enigma, too. He was private, on one hand, but outrageous whenever he decided to brave going out in public.

The success of The Flintstones on ABC in prime time had an unexpected effect—other networks wanted their own cartoon hits, and NBC saw one in Rocky and His Friends. They had some elements changed, revised the name to The Bullwinkle Show and then were aghast at what Ward and co-producer Bill Scott wrought. The two of them continually accused the network of either ignoring the show or wilfully trying to kill it.

Here are a couple of feature columns that give you an idea of Ward’s warped sense of humour, not that any of what you’ll read will surprise Bullwinkle fans. The first story came from the Pittsburgh Press of November 9, 1962 and the latter appeared in papers starting April 1st. It was syndicated by the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Roasting the NBC peacock is a truly inspired idea; the network’s executives showed their traditional horror toward anyone who dared to be sacrilegious toward the hallowed National Broadcasting Company. Even Quimby and Selzer weren’t that much of a corporate toady.

Bullwinkle Creator Is An Unusual Harvard Graduate
His Pink Sweat Shirt Is Definitely Non-Ivy


Jay Ward is perhaps the only alumnus of the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration who lunches in metropolitan hotels wearing a pink sweatshirt. With the gracious manners of a Harvard man, however, he removes his hat before entering the dining room. This is fortunate, since his hat is a lavishly plumed affair, looking like something the Goodwill might have picked up at Napoleon's house on Clean-up Day.
He was in Pittsburgh this week on a promotional tour for the "Bullwinkle" cartoon show of which he is producer.
“Thirty cities, 30 states, 30 days, 30 parties,” he said of his trip. “I just met your mayor. We had a very pleasant chat.”
“What did he say to you?”
“Get out! But he said it in a friendly tone. I could see right off he was my kind of politician. I have big plans for this man. He gave me a key to the city; I gave him a lock.”
Jay has a laugh that can be heard all over the Golden Triangle which, combined with his pink sweatshirt and plumed hat, made him a rather noticeable figure in the Hilton Hotel.
A waitress came over and asked: “Are you Mr. Jay Ward of Hollywood? I have a phone call for you.”
“Now how in the world did she know it was me?” marveled Jay.
He got into cartooning more or less by accident, he relates. He had intended to put his Harvard business education to use in the real estate field and opened an office in Los Angeles.
“I had barely got to the office and sat down at the desk when my first prospect entered,” he said. "The driver of an out-of-control truck. The office was smashed and I was in a plaster cast for six months.” During this period of incapacitation, when, he explained, “I didn't dare try to sell any real estate because I couldn't run,” he took to cartooning. The result is the fanciful characters of Bullwinkle, Rocky the Squirrel, Dudley Do-Right and the others who brighten Sunday afternoons (5:30 p. m.) on the NBC network.

Bullwinkle Has Rocky Going On TV

NEW YORK — Yes, television viewers, there really is a Jay Ward.
Who is Jay Ward? Well, he’s a man who never stops smiling, who yells “beaver” whenever he sees a man with a beard, who laughs through his stories of a feud with NBC, who will go to enormous lengths for a practical joke, who sends out the funniest mail carried by any postmen, and, incidentally, heads Jay Ward Productions, the firm which produces the Bullwinkle Show.
Jay came to New York recently in the company of his co-producer Bill Scott (who also supplies Bullwinkle’s voice) for the sole purpose of throwing a gigantic picnic at the staid old Plaza Hotel. )Invitations to the press were delivered in person by a man dressed as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, accompanied by an eight-piece band wearing Bullwinkle hats.)
Ants and a pickpocket were hired for the picnic, atmosphere, you know, although Scott did express a small amount of concern regarding the pickpocket: “We’re not sure he is honest.”
A good deal of New York’s population was there—but no one from NBC was invited.
The network, it seems, is persona non Minow to the Ward production company. There is the matter of the Bullwinkle puppet no longer being allowed to appear on his own show (the network was offended when he roasted the NBC peacock for Thanksgiving) and also the matter of cannibalism.
One episode, concerning Bullwinkle and his friend, Rocky, a squirrel, contained a sequence described by Scott as “so usual as to be time-honored in cartoons.” Our heroes parachuted out of a plane into deep jungle territory. Waiting below was a group of cannibals, a large pot containing boiling water, and a chef reading a book called “Fifty Ways To Cook a Squirrel.”
“That was as far as we got with the sequence,” says Ward. “The continuity acceptance telephone in our office (it has an angry ring and fire comes up when you answer) rang resolutely. A voice on the other end said, ‘We have been looking over the script and NBC will countenance no cannibalism in any program on the network.’
“We brooded for a while, then we sent back a very terse, concise letter in which we asked, ‘As a moral point, is it strictly cannibalism to eat a squirrel?’ We're still waiting for an answer.”

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