June Foray going strong makes my day

So, when people get ready for work in the morning, they usually think about a few things: breakfast, commute packing, the day ahead, and maybe plans for the evening. Me, I think about those things. But some mornings, like this morning, I think about things like the odds of June Foray, the voice of Rocky the Squirrel, and I both living long enough for me to meet her, do my Bullwinkle voice and have her naturally reply as Rocky. That’s how I spent a good five minutes this morning. For real.

So, it’s with some joy that I search the Web and find Foray, now 94, still in good health and still doing the voices that made her the Queen of Cartoon Voices. Recent work includes a Pacifica radio appearance in December (reprising her work as Natasha Fatale and sounding great doing so), stage appearances last month and last June, work on the Annie animation awards, and (noted in the previous link) much more.

Still strong of voice, Foray is currently spending four nights a week out until midnight as a judge for the Academy Awards in the fields of short films and animated films. She’s also proud of the fact that she’s featured in a new Sylvester  and Tweety cartoon short that is playing in theaters nationwide as an extra attraction with the film “Happy Feet Two,” and says she’s looking forward to the challenge of tonight’s show.

“I have no idea what we’ll be performing, but working with Will is fun because we always manage to come up with fun ideas in rehearsal,” says Foray. “It’s very stimulating to do something different. My talent keeps me going.”

RIP Alex Anderson, to whom Bullwinkle appeared in a dream

A year or so before, Anderson had had a dream in which he attended a poker party with a large, goofy moose. “I brought along this stupid moose who was doing card tricks. I woke up feeling embarrassed — I thought, you’ve been working too hard.” Anderson told the San Francisco Chronicle, “There’s something majestic about a moose. They’re macho, but they have a comic aspect, with that schnozzola of theirs. There are few creatures so begging to be caricatured.” At the time in Berkeley there was a car dealer named Clarence Bullwinkel (Anderson recalls, “He ran a Ford agency on College and Claremont Avenues in Oakland”). Jay and Alex agreed that Bullwinkel was a funny name, and after respelling it the moose had his moniker.

–Keith Scott’s The Moose that Roared, on my proud bookshelf.

Both Rob and Kellen, also big fans of Moose and Squirrel, mailed me Anderson’s obits this week. Reading through the appreciations and rereading the book’s account of Anderson’s role in the creation, what you assemble is a picture of a storytelling innovator. He meshed the concepts of an active, fourth-wall-breaking narrator and of parodic characters, using meta humor to carry cartoons beyond a struggling industry’s art and tech struggles. The hooks first, then looking good.

Time appreciation. NYT obituary. Mr. Anderson, this fan thanks you.

When moose collide

Taking a journey from the press box and using the narrative style that puts him up with Dave Shenin as my favorite baseball beat writers, Tyler Kepner of The Times mamanged to work not one but two of my favorite things into a lede this week.

Their seats are in the front row of Section 616, in the upper deck behind home plate at Yankee Stadium, a convenient spot for paying homage to the Yankees’ starting pitcher. Gary DeSpirito and his son, Anthony, from Hawthorne, N.J., attend eight games a year in those seats, and most of the time the pitcher is Mike Mussina.

Before their last game, the DeSpiritos searched Google for a picture of a moose and printed a bunch to tape to the awning in front of them after each strikeout. But Mussina pitched badly, as he often has this season. The father and son hung just two moose that night.

“He lost that game,” Anthony said, “so we’re trying something different.”

This time, they brought 10 copies of an image of Bullwinkle, the cartoon moose. At the end of each inning from the third through the seventh, Mussina put them to work. Spotting his fastball and curve with uncanny precision, Mussina struck out seven over seven and two-thirds innings, leading the Yankees to a 7-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Read the rest. Should the Yankees make the playoffs this year, my box of Mussina cards is ready in the closet, waiting to cover my coffee table (completely) on nights when Mike hits the hill. The Mussina T-shirt and stuffed Bullwinkle are nearby. I like the DeSpiritos.

Previous Bullwinkle coverage
-July 2005: Cereality opens in Chicago
-May 2004: Did you know?
-May 2003: Delorian vs. Wayback Machine
-December 2002: This explains many things

Previous Mussina coverage:
-June 2006: “Could Mussina make tracks back to O’s?”
-October 2005: Mike Mussina’s night at the ballpark
-October 2004: In search of perfection

Cereality opens in Chicago

Red Eye has the first-day review.

Despite my earlier concerns, it sounds like the franchise is off to a solid start. The Sun-Times claims Cereality is the only place in the country that still sells Quisp cereal. A columnist at the Daily Southtown gives the most comprehensive rundown of the bunch: free Wi-Fi, $7.99 boxes of specially mixed cereal, all-day cartoons, and more.

One of the collegiate bloggers working there has been positive as well. So far, the girl blogger has made oatmeal for the president of Quaker and fronted various news reports.

Among non-employee bloggers, one reports Cap’n Crunch was in attendance on opening day, and another has several pictures.

More on Quisp
Quisp, a sweetened corn cereal, made a hit debut in the mid-1960s with great help from Jay Ward, father of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

According to Keith Scott’s The Moose that Roared, Quaker Oats first turned to Ward’s production studio in 1962 to develop the character of Captain Crunch. The Captain’s voice was the beginning of the work. Daws Butler — voice of Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Chilly Willy, Snagglepuss, Quick Draw McGraw, and Elroy Jetson — was the man for the job.

First the character needed a distinctive sound. Daws Butler said, “I fully expected the ad people would audition about fifty people for the role.” He and Jay Ward sat around for a few hours trying different approaches, until Ward suggested, “Why don’t you do that absent-minded king voice you used in the ‘Fractured Fairy Tales.'” This voice was energized slightly, and the good Cap’n was suddenly brought to life. Long one of Butler’s personal favorites in his large flock of characters, he described Cap’n Crunch as “a loyal old man who loved his crew; he was a combination of great sincerity and stupidity. He started out old and stayed old.”

The initial name was Captain, but June Foray, the voice of Rocky and Natasha, who misprounced the name in an early commercial recording session. So Captain became Cap’n.

Anyway, Cap’n Crunch was a huge hit, and Quaker soon turned to Ward with the Quisp idea. According to Scott’s book, Butler did the voice of likeable alien Quisp, and Bullwinkle narrator Bill Conrad performed Quisp’s “he-man” counterpart Quake. “Quisp constantly touted his ‘quazy energy cereal’ and feuded with Quake, who in turn plugged his ‘earthquake-powered cereal from the center of the earth.'”

Quake was phased out in a few years, but Quisp survived into the ’70s (timeline). Scott dug up a Leonard Maltin comment from 1975; the Quaker commercials, Maltin wrote, “are better in every way than most of the shows they interrupt.”

Quisp went back on sale in the late ’90s as a boomer product, with availability almost entirely online. But apparently Cereality made a brick-and-mortar deal since then.

Goooooo Jostens!

Brief: “City Maoist Visits Country Maoist”

Brief complaint: Annual Web subscription for $29.99?

Related to links to Aesop’s “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” translated many times to different effect:

Harvard Classics version

Oxford Classics version

Foreign versions

Where to buy a feminist retelling

1936 Disney version: Country mouse gets drunk

Why a Reading Rainbow kid liked the story

Why the Reading Rainbow kid was wrong

A commenter on the JTS Bullwinkle page also mentions “The Country Frog and the City Frog.” Despite mistakenly ascribing the sketch to Fractured Fairy Tales (it was an Aesop and Son, says Keith Scott’s book), the comment nails down the plot. An edited version:

….the country frog gets rich by selling a field full of holes to a golf-course developer for a million nickels and goes to the big city to spend his money…. The country frog falls for a dancing frog named Ann Phibian and after spending countless nickles to please the gold-digger, discovers he’s broke. Country Frog: “Honey, I’m nickel-less!” Ann Phibian: “I don’t care what your first name is.”

Love it.

Also in the Onion this week was “Ask A Jostens Class-Ring Salesman.” It brought back memories of my experience with a class-ring salesperson. That dang ring still don’t fit.

Did you know?

Did you know the Olsen twins are fraternal? Cup of Chicha blog has done the sourcing. I hear Mary Kate and Ashley don’t want to be called the Olsen twins any more, and you have to wonder what Uncle Jesse would’ve thought of that kind of posing. Would he have been all shook up or just referenced his hair?

I saw an episode of Full House the other day, the first time I’d see the show in a long, long time. It was a little shocking to realize John Stamos (nee Romijn-Stamos) was by far the best actor on the cast. Stamos got my young Elvis sympathies back in the day, but Dave Coulier essentially taught me the Bullwinkle voice. Did the moose confuse my sensabilities?

Delorian vs. Wayback Machine

Remember the central lesson in Back to the Future? Doc tells Marty: “You must not leave this house. You must not see anybody or talk to anybody. Anything you do could have serious repercussions on future events.”

I always interpreted this lesson to apply to all time travel — a Simpsons’ Halloween episode applied it as accepted theory. But watching Rocky and Bullwinkle tonight on TV, I realized that Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman took an entirely different approach to time travel in Peabody’s Improbable History.

Traveling in their Wayback Machine, they purposely intervened in the past and then returned to the present times without any known consequences. It made me wonder: Does time account for time travel? Why should one fool, traveling into the past, screw up the already-existing reality for the rest of us? It’s not like a tree is falling in the forest and no one is around to hear it. I think we’re going to notice if donuts unexpectedly stop existing.

This explains many things

“Tex” Henson, who died last week, supervised the animation for my beloved Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. The animation was done at a studio in Mexico, which apparently made the job all the more interesting. A decade ago, he talked to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about their process:

“We were hackin’ ’em out on the cheap, getting’ the job done,” he said, adding that most of his employees did not speak English or understand the humor of their work.

“But we made ’em as funny-looking as we could under the circumstances and I guess something clicked between the writing and the cartooning.”