J. Troplong “Jay” Ward was born September 20, 1920 in San Francisco, California.
He grew up in Berkeley, California and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley.
Jay went on to receive his MBA from Harvard before entering the real estate business.
One of his childhood friends, animator Alex Anderson, convinced Jay to invest in a new animation business.
Thus, Jay Ward Productions was formed, with Jay deciding to keep his real estate firm as a “fallback” business.
Jay Ward Productions soon moved into the young mass medium of television with the new cartoon character “Crusader Rabbit.”
Soon, Jay Ward and pioneering TV programing distributor Jerry Fairbanks put together a pilot film, “The Comic Strips of Television” featuring Crusader Rabbit, Hamhock Bones (a parady of Sherlock Holmes), and Dudley Do-Right (a bumbling Canadian Mountie).
Fairbanks was unimpressed with all the characters except Crusader Rabbit.
NBC picked up the show in 1949 and together they launched the animated series “Crusader Rabbit.”
The cartoon series adopted a serialized, mock-melodrama format, following the adventures of Crusader Rabbit and his dimwitted sidekick Rags the Tiger.
Rocky and Bullwinkle
When Jay Ward and Alex Anderson lost the rights to their Crusader Rabbit character, a new color version of Crusader Rabbit under a different producer premiered in 1956.
Jay Ward then pursued an unsold series idea, The Frostbite Falls Revue.
Jay then called up friend Bill Scott, asking him if he would be interested in writing adventure scripts for a series which included a moose and a squirrel. Bill said ‘Sure’ and the rest as they say, is history.
This series featured a cast of eccentrics such as newsman Oski Bear and two minor characters named Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose, described in the script treatment as a “French-Canadian moose” containing a mix of sophisticated and low-brow humor.
“Jay loved to hear me read the jokes out loud,” Bill Scott later said in an interview.
“I’d do all the voices. I’d never done this kind of thing, but I went through radio training when I was going to school in Denver.”
So, Jay decided to have Bill do the voice of Bullwinkle as well as Dudley Do-Right.
Soon, ABC picked up the show, premiering The Frostbite Falls Revue in 1959.
Jay, Alex, and Bill often used puns shamelessly. In the episode, “Fractured Fairy Tales” featuring Little Jack Horner, upon pulling out the plum, Jack announced, “Lord, what foods these morsels be!”
Self-referential humor was another trademark of the show. In another episode, the breathless announcer (William Conrad) gave away the villain’s plans, prompting the villain to grab the announcer from offscreen, bind and gag him, and deposit him visibly within the scene.
The show skewered popular culture, taking on such subjects as advertising, college sports, the Cold War, and TV itself.
The hapless duo of Rocky and Bullwinkle from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, blundered into unlikely adventures much as Crusader and Rags had before them, pursued by “no-goodnik” spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, perennially under orders to “keel moose and squirrel.”
The segments were serialized, generally ending on a cliffhanger; the announcer would urge the viewer to “tune in next time” for the next adventure, featuring two puns in the titles, like “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Gory, or, Moose’s in the Cold, Cold Ground” and “When a Felon Needs a Friend, or, Pantomime Quisling.”
Then, in 1961 the show moved to NBC and they decided to give Rocky top billing with the series new name “Rocky and His Friends.”
The show later would be called “The Bullwinkle Show” when NBC decided to give Rocky’s sidekick top billing.
Jay Ward fought many heated battles over content with the network and sponsors, but had little fear of censorship or lawsuits.
This was often a punchline in gags such as:
Rocky: “I think somebody’s trying to kill us!”
Bullwinkle: “Well, don’t worry. We’ll be renewed.”
Rocky: “I wasn’t talking about the Bullwinkle Show.”
Bullwinkle: “Well, you’d better! We could use the publicity!”
An eccentric and proud of it, Jay Ward also became known for pulling an unusual publicity stunt that coincided with a national crisis. Ward bought an island in Minnesota near his home and dubbed it “Moosylvania,” based upon the home of his most famous TV character Bullwinkle. He and publicist Howard Brandy crossed the country in a van, gathering signatures on a petition for statehood for Moosylvania. They then visited Washington, D.C., and attempted to gain an audience with President John F. Kennedy. They arrived at the White House during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and were escorted off the grounds at gunpoint.
Jay Ward Productions, also went on to design the trademark characters for Cap’n Crunch, Quisp, and Quake breakfast cereals and made TV commercials for those products.
Also, in a running-joke tribute to Jay Ward, many of his cartoon characters had the middle initial “J.”, presumably standing for “Jay” (although this was never stated explicitly).
The cartoonist Matt Groening later gave the middle initial “J.” to many of his characters as a tribute to Jay Ward.
Jay Ward died October 12, 1989 of kidney cancer in the West Hollywood area of Los Angeles and was buried in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.
In 2000, Jay Ward was recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, paid for as part of the publicity for the live-action and animation film The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
In 2002, Jay Ward Productions established a partnership with Classic Media called Bullwinkle Studios; the partnership produced DVDs of the first five seasons of Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010, and 2011. respectively, and then switched to releasing “best of” DVD collections of segments from the series.
Eventually, the complete fourth and fifth seasons would be released.
Until it closed in July 2004, the Dudley Do-Right Emporium, which sold souvenirs based on his many characters and was largely staffed by Ward and his family, was located on Sunset Boulevard.
Today, Jay Ward Drive is a studio access road at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Now WE know em