"Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat! Nuthin' up my sleeve...PRESTO!"
Anyone from my generation is sure to remember the phrase and the inevitable result that was always something other than an actual rabbit emerging from the hat. Alexander Anderson Jr., creator of the iconic characters in the cartoon program The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show passed away this week at the age of 90 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease .
Most people associate the characters and the show with Jay Ward, the man who popularized them on television, but Anderson actually was the unsung creator of those characters as well as Canadian Mountie Dudley Do-Right and Russian spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. In 1996 Anderson won an out of court settlement with Jay Ward Productions over the rights to the characters that recognized him as the original creator, though he had left the animation business to pursue a career in advertising before the cartoons became popular on television on the 1950's and 1960's.
Anderson said the inspiration for the classic character came from a dream he had in which he was playing poker with a moose. The animal kept doing card tricks and the image stuck with him. The name came from a local car dealership Bullwinkel Motors, which he thought was amusing. Anderson chose a flying squirrel for Rocky because he felt the ability to "fly" would lend him superhero qualities. The Rocky and Bullwinkle characters have endured, spawning many incarnations including both cartoon and live action feature film and can still be seen in cable syndication. "When you love your work, it isn't work" wife Patricia quoted him as saying.