New 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' Short Screened at Comic-Con26 Jul, 2014 By: Stephanie Prange
SAN DIEGO — A young Leonard Maltin once wrote a letter to Jay Ward, the creator of “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” and was delighted to get a personal reply on official letterhead.
The venerable critic returned the favor July 25, praising the late producer and moderating a 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International panel on the revival of Ward’s creative progeny.
He also introduced a screening of a new “Rocky and Bullwinkle” short included in DreamWorks’ Oct. 14 Blu-ray Disc release of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, distributed by Fox.
Tiffany Ward, daughter of the cartoon icon and the custodian of the Jay Ward library, joined the short’s director, Gary Trousdale (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast), on the panel.
Ward said the short, which features the voice of original Rocky and Natasha, June Foray, is true to the spirit of the classic cartoons and would please her dad.
“I think he would just be dazzled,” she said. “It was true to his property.”
But that didn’t mean 96-year-old voice actress Foray didn’t have a few suggestions, Trousdale said.
“She would say, ‘No, Rocky would never say that,’” he said.
Foray could also get impatient with retakes because she was used to working on the fly, almost like live radio.
“She can just go from Rocky to Natasha and back and forth,” Trousdale said.
Ward, too, offered guidance.
“For the final word we would go to her,” Trousdale said. At one point, there was a joke that was a little too edgy that she nixed, he said, adding that Jay Ward had a personal ratings system.
“They would call it rated ‘J,’” Trousdale said.
Ward’s daughter also offered direction on the details.
When they were animating Bullwinkle, she noticed a discrepancy.
“You know, those hairs coming out of the top of his head, there are seven of them,” she told animators.
Despite staying true to the spirit and many details of the original, the new short is updated, with music from Lady Gaga, celebrity cameos and state-of-the-art animation. The original, the panel said, was a low-budget affair.
“They were kind of cheaply animated,” noted Maltin.
The bigger budget would have pleased and delighted her dad, said Ward, who is in charge of protecting his legacy.
“It’s a family property,” Ward said, and control will stay in the family. The Ward franchises have not been sold. Universal produced several movies, and the properties have been licensed to Classic Media, which was bought by DreamWorks Animation. But Ward retains control.
“We have an option with DreamWorks on a ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ movie,” Ward said, noting the number of movies and TV spinoffs the properties have spawned.
What would her father think of his legacy and its success?
“I think he would never have dreamed what has happened,” she said.
(L-R): Film critic Leonard Maltin, Bullwinkle Studios president Tiffany Ward and director Gary Trousdale at the "Rocky And Bullwinkle" Comic-Con panel.