Rocky and Bullwinkle (and Friends): Episode 3, Jet Fuel Formula parts 5 and 6 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Rocky and Bullwinkle (and Friends): Episode 3, Jet Fuel Formula parts 5 and 6

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Jet Fuel Formula Part 5

In which a scrooched moose becomes an important trophy for spies and moonmen alike.

Today's episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a fun lesson in how to read older works of art. There's a temptation among critics (myself included) to think that certain lines or images are more progressive or "woke" than their surroundings might suggest. This episode opens on a fantastic image of Moon Churchill addressing angry moon men holding the above sign, "Progress is our least important product!"

The temptation is to read this as a literal progressive critique against the isolationist moon men borrowing one image of 20th century opportunistic conservatism. What's more probable is that Churchill, at the time, was a man whose image in the anglo world was still riding high on beating back invaders and that makes for a good fit into the caricature-friendly world of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Cartoons can be great mechanisms for social commentary but it's highly unlikely this cartoon that shipped its animation to be cheaply produced outside the US to save those sweet advertiser dollars was thinking that progressively.

Anyway, discussions on whether something's progressive in a '60s cartoon aside, this is a punchier start to Rocky and Bullwinkle than the previous parts. There's fine snappy timing on display as Rocky and Natasha both want to claim the genius of their respective pairs then pass it off once the moon men threaten the geniuses with more scrooching. Then there's the fantastic image of Bullwinkle frozen mid-hypnosis having to be carted around by Boris, who must be all muscle considering the heft of the titular moose.

Fractured Fairy Tales: The Fisherman's Wishes

Now this one's a charmer, though mileage will vary depending on how the rule of repetition works for you. Every description of the fisherman and his life contains the phrase, "Shabby...but neat." Always a slight pause with the same words. So the repetition isn't laugh out loud funny, but the marshmallow-mouthed performance of the fisherman keeps a sort of humble warmth around the story that rouses a chuckle after the third or so repetition.

"The Fisherman's Wishes" also has great application of selfish logic. When the fisherman's wife says, "I feel so silly dressing up in a golden gown to do dishes in a house boat," it's hard not to feel somewhat for the train of logic driving the dialogue. In a story that lasts barely three minutes, having simple and clean motivations that can be expressed in a handful of seconds sets up dynamics that can play out quickly.

Bullwinkle's Corner: The Horn

This episode's been a bit light on the meta jokes but, blissfully, Smug Rocky is here to help.

Smug Rocky is a fun variation of what I'll call Episodic Rocky. The former appears in the quick bite segments to act a bit haughty over whatever Bullwinkle is trying to do, while the latter is the plucky hero who gets to be the brains of the operation for the overall storyline. Given Rocky and Bullwinkle's heavy debt to radio plays, I gotta wonder if Smug Rocky is a dig at blowhard performers who need to be corralled into their performances through their egos instead of just being a craftsperson who's good at what they do (like Backstage Bullwinkle).

I remember Smug Rocky being a recurring part of the backstage shenanigans away from the main story, so having him resist Bullwinkle's direction and blow the wool off of sheep is a fun introduction.

Peabody's Improbable History: Lord Nelson

Ah, this is more like the Peabody and Sherman I remember. The last two appearances of the duo were so dry I felt my screen cracking in need of moisture. This episode, focusing on Admiral Nelson, starts solidifying the niche Peabody and Sherman would form away from Rocky and Bullwinkle. In this episode, Peabody and Sherman start focusing in on the silly logic of the supposedly serious person.

Case-in-point: Admiral Sherman can't participate in a battle because he and his crew forgot to cast off, which they find out dozens of miles away from port, which they won't sever because admiralty law frowns on casting off anywhere but the port, which requires Peabody and Sherman to pretend to be official experts to get rid of the rope, and so on. The problems and solutions are written as the result of strictly following logic that pertains to only one thing, contrasted to the loose "anything goes" logic of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

That's why the puns (in this episode involving Admiral Nelson's half-brother) hit so well. They arise from the strict logic of the historical characters Peabody and Sherman interact with, and given the production order of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle I hope it's a trend that will continue soon.

Jet Fuel Formula Part 6

In which the sudden end to scrooching leaves Bullwinkle forced to cook up fresh batches of his formula with Rocky in pursuit.

No questions of "woke" or whatnot to round out this episode, just a bunch of good silly fun. The Cold War humor takes a good turn when Bullwinkle (eventually unscrooched in an uncomfortably warm surrounding) unknowingly dictates instructions for his baked bomb to the baddies. I love the contrast between Bullwinkle, not knowing a blessed thing about either his dictation or his formula, and the poor Pottsylvanian scientist who does know his craft and is terrified of Bullwinkle's instruction.

Top it off with the amusingly literal instruction to our plucky squirrel hero and this episode provides the strongest example yet at what The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle would perfect as time goes on.

NEXT TIME: Squirrel in a Stew

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Posted by Andrew

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