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The Art of Jay Ward Productions

The Art of Jay Ward Productions - Darrell Van Citters

The Art of Jay Ward Productions


One animation empire was built on a mouse, another was built on a rabbit. This one was built on the unlikely combination of a moose and squirrel.

It began in the late 1940's, when Jay Ward and his lifetime friend, Alex Anderson, joined forces to create a cartoon series for the fledgling medium of television with a budget that would make "shoestring" look generous. The result was Crusader Rabbit, which debuted on a local NBC affiliate in Los Angeles in mid-summer of 1950. The cheaply produced and minimally animated series became the inauspicious and unlikely beginning of a TV animation powerhouse with a defiantly innovative-and influential-brand of humor that shaped animated comedy for decades.

As the 1950's drew to a close, Ward, with now-former partner Anderson's blessing, took two characters from an unsold series they had developed together, teamed with writer Bill Scott and a couple of freelance UPA artists, and created a short pilot film starring a flying squirrel and a hapless but hilarious moose. That pilot, Rocky The Flying Squirrel, launched an animation studio that turned out the funniest, hippest and most satirical cartoons on television and creating a comic vocabulary for generations of children and their parents.


The shows produced at Jay Ward Productions featured the wittiest writing in the medium, some of the best character voice work, and ... some of the worst animation. Assembling a staff of first rate writers and artists, Jay Ward was undermined by the cheapest budgets in what was already a low-budget medium. And it showed. In one of the earliest examples of runaway production, Ward was forced to send the animation out of the country. But what was happening with the art off the screen revealed a fascinating dichotomy of the brilliant draftsmanship on the drawing boards and the crude but effective work that was aired.


This behind-the-scenes artwork was never meant to be seen by the general public but was merely a means to an end. Now, for the first time anywhere, we are provided an in-depth look at the comic artistry of a talented group of designers, storytellers and directors who created such fondly remembered shows as Rocky and His Friends, Fractured Fairy Tales, Peabody's Improbable History, Dudley Do-right, George of the Jungle and Super Chicken.

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One animation empire was built on a mouse, another was built on a rabbit. This one was built on the unlikely combination of a moose and squirrel.

It began in the late 1940's, when Jay Ward and his lifetime friend, Alex Anderson, joined forces to create a cartoon series for the fledgling medium of television with a budget that would make "shoestring" look generous. The result was Crusader Rabbit, which debuted on a local NBC affiliate in Los Angeles in mid-summer of 1950. The cheaply produced and minimally animated series became the inauspicious and unlikely beginning of a TV animation powerhouse with a defiantly innovative-and influential-brand of humor that shaped animated comedy for decades.

As the 1950's drew to a close, Ward, with now-former partner Anderson's blessing, took two characters from an unsold series they had developed together, teamed with writer Bill Scott and a couple of freelance UPA artists, and created a short pilot film starring a flying squirrel and a hapless but hilarious moose. That pilot, Rocky The Flying Squirrel, launched an animation studio that turned out the funniest, hippest and most satirical cartoons on television and creating a comic vocabulary for generations of children and their parents.


The shows produced at Jay Ward Productions featured the wittiest writing in the medium, some of the best character voice work, and ... some of the worst animation. Assembling a staff of first rate writers and artists, Jay Ward was undermined by the cheapest budgets in what was already a low-budget medium. And it showed. In one of the earliest examples of runaway production, Ward was forced to send the animation out of the country. But what was happening with the art off the screen revealed a fascinating dichotomy of the brilliant draftsmanship on the drawing boards and the crude but effective work that was aired.


This behind-the-scenes artwork was never meant to be seen by the general public but was merely a means to an end. Now, for the first time anywhere, we are provided an in-depth look at the comic artistry of a talented group of designers, storytellers and directors who created such fondly remembered shows as Rocky and His Friends, Fractured Fairy Tales, Peabody's Improbable History, Dudley Do-right, George of the Jungle and Super Chicken.

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