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A tribute to Alexander Anderson

October 31, 2010
Messenger News

Alexander Anderson Jr. died last week.

His name probably doesn't register with most people, but the 90-year-old was the creator of the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" TV cartoons.

Although I didn't know his name until this week when The Associated Press reported his death, Anderson's flying squirrel and not-so-bright moose pal had a major impact in my childhood home.

Like countless other children of the 1960s, I sat glued to the family's lone black-and-white TV to see the adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle in Frostbite Falls, Minn., as they battled those notorious Pottsylvania villains, Natasha Fatale and Boris Badenov, and their commander, Fearless Leader.

As recently as this past summer, two of the villains' names resurfaced when 11 alleged members of a Russian spy ring were arrested in the United States. One published report said the spies' "marching orders use English syntax that would make Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale proud."

Segments on the Rocky and Bullwinkle shows included "Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties," "Mr. Know-It-All," "Fractured Fairy Tales" and "Aesop and Son."

The animation wasn't great, but who could forget the characters and some of their tag lines? How many times did we laugh when Bullwinkle, dressed as a magician, said, "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat." "Again?" his goggle-wearing squirrel buddy would ask. "Presto," Bullwinkle would say - as he pulled a roaring lion out of the top hat. Bullwinkle's response: "Ooops, wrong hat."

Rocky and Bullwinkle's popularity wasn't limited to the human members of the household.

My mother's pet mynah bird, a handsome fellow named Koko, loved to listen to the TV show from his cage - which was on the other side of the living room wall, directly behind the television.

Mynahs are excellent talkers. They learn quickly and speak much more clearly than a parakeet. In fact, one of the parakeets developed quite a vocabulary from hanging around with Koko.

"Where's Bullwinkle?" would come Koko's plaintive wail. We never understood his other question: "Who hit Bullwinkle?"

But in his vast vocabulary of phrases - which ranged from "I don't like you" to "Where you going?" to wolf-whistling the neighbor's dogs into a perplexed frenzy - the only TV shows that seemed to matter enough for him to steal from were the ones with the moose and squirrel.

Mom was also something of an artist, and for my childhood bed, she recreated and embroidered onto a seafoam green quilt an array of cartoon characters, including Rocky, Bullwinkle, Natasha and Boris. Another, earlier Alexander Anderson creation, Crusader Rabbit, was also among the cartoons who kept me warm at night.

So, here's to you Alexander Anderson. Thank you for many laughs, many memories and some unforgettable characters.

Barbara Wallace Hughes is managing editor of The Messenger



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