|Alex Anderson, the cartoonist who first drew Rocky the flying squirrel and his buddy, the bumbling moose Bullwinkle, television characters who captivated young baby boomers in the early ’60s, died on Friday in Carmel, Calif. He was 90 and lived in Pebble Beach, Calif.
The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, his wife, Patricia, said.
Mr. Anderson, whose credit for creating the characters faded from public view until he won a lawsuit in 1996, was not directly involved in the production of the television series, in which Rocky and Bullwinkle raced to the aid of those in danger and solved mysteries.
Rocky, in his flight goggles, was the smart one; Bullwinkle, not so bright, would deliver punch lines without always being aware of their meaning. They faced off against no-goodniks like the cold warrish spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The shows had a penchant for puns that delighted adults; one episode was titled “The Guns of Abaloney.”
The series, created by Jay Ward (who had been Mr. Anderson’s childhood friend) and Bill Scott, made its debut on ABC in 1959 as “Rocky and His Friends.” In 1961 it moved to NBC as “The Bullwinkle Show,” one of the first prime-time network cartoon series.
“It’s one of the most beloved animated cartoon series of all time,” Charles Solomon, an animation historian, said on Monday. “There’s a cadre of baby boomers who didn’t know that there was a Boris Godunov until they got older,” and discovered Russian history or Russian opera.
Steven Spielberg told The New York Times in 1989, “It was the first time that I can recall my parents watching a cartoon show over my shoulder and laughing in places I couldn’t comprehend.”
Mr. Anderson, who in 1949 had worked with Mr. Ward in creating “Crusader Rabbit,” the first animated series created for television, chose to be a consultant on the Rocky and Bullwinkle shows, said Amid Amidi, co-editor of Cartoon Brew, an online animation news blog. Mr. Anderson chose to stay in San Francisco, where he was a successful advertising art director, rather than move to Los Angeles, Mr. Amidi said.
Alexander Anderson Jr. was born in Berkeley, Calif., on Sept. 5, 1920, the only child of Alexander and Olga Anderson. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. In 1938 he began working with his uncle Paul Terry at Terrytoons, the studio that created “Mighty Mouse.”
After serving in Navy intelligence during World War II, Mr. Anderson teamed with Mr. Ward to create “Crusader Rabbit.” The Rocky and Bullwinkle characters were an outgrowth of that collaboration. The television series featured other Anderson creations, including Dudley Do-Right, a Canadian Mountie who pursues the mustachioed Snidely Whiplash.
When Mr. Anderson saw a documentary about the show in 1991 without a mention of his name, he filed suit against Jay Ward Productions, two years after Mr. Ward died.
“I’m thrilled that something I did has become so popular,” he told The San Francisco Chronicle. “But I’m sorry that I don’t get any credit for it.”
An out-of-court settlement was reached in 1996, with a court-mandated acknowledgment of Mr. Anderson as “the creator of the first version of the characters.” The settlement included a financial component, which was sealed.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Anderson is survived by four sons, Terry, Scott, Daniel and Matthew; a daughter, Carolyn Kennedy; 14 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
I know a few things about love. Horrible, terrible, awful, awful things.