An early pioneer of animated television, Jay Ward was responsible for introducing audiences to some of the most beloved cartoon characters of the twentieth century. Ward burst onto the scene in 1949 with "Crusader ... Read more »
An early pioneer of animated television, Jay Ward was responsible for introducing audiences to some of the most beloved cartoon characters of the twentieth century. Ward burst onto the scene in 1949 with "Crusader Rabbit" (KNBC 1949-51; 1957-59), the first animated series created for television, and by the late '60s his Jay Ward Productions had produced some of the most celebrated animated TV shows in history, starring on such iconic characters as Dudley Do-Right, George of the Jungle and Tom Slick. Ward's most lasting contribution to television, however, was a show based on a baritone moose and his highflying squirrel sidekick. The show, of course, was "The Bullwinkle Show," (ABC 1961-64), which in its four season run did as much to advance the possibilities for animated TV series as "I Love Lucy" (CBS 1951-57) or "The Honeymooners" (CBS 1955-56) did for the medium's live-action programs. When he died in 1989 at the age of 69, Jay Ward left behind one of TV's most enduring TV legacies, and has since been immortalized with his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Born and raised in Berkeley, CA, Jay Ward never intended on becoming an animated TV producer. In fact, after receiving his MBA from Harvard University, he embarked on what would become a highly lucrative career in real estate, a business that, even when his animation business was booming, he never quite gave up. In the late 1940s Ward became fascinated by a new technology called television. He wanted to be a part of the upstart medium, and together with his childhood friend Alex Anderson, created several new cartoon characters that included the dimwitted Mountie Dudley Do-Right; Hamhock Bones, a parody of Sherlock Holmes; and the adventurous bunny called Crusader Rabbit. Ward and Anderson pitched their characters to NBC, who were enthused with the idea of forming an entire TV series around Crusader Rabbit. The animated cartoon debuted on NBC in 1949 - the first of its kind - and continued its initial run for three seasons. However, in 1952 Ward and Anderson lost the rights to Crusader Rabbit, and spent the remainder of the decade in relative obscurity. Little did Ward know, however, that by the beginning of the 1960s, he would go on to create one of the most lasting animated TV programs of all time.
Originally called "Rocky & His Friends" (ABC 1959-1961), "The Bullwinkle Show" debuted in primetime in September of 1961 on NBC, one of the first animated shows to fill a coveted nighttime timeslot. The show was an instant hit with both critics and audiences, praised for its subtle blend of sophisticated and slapstick humor, thus making it one of the few cartoons that were appealing to both children and adults. "The Bullwinkle Show" was cancelled in 1964, after over 150 episodes, but its impact continued to be felt for decades after the show ended its initial run, with endless repeats being shown in syndication, as well as a 2000 live-action feature film adaptation starring Robert De Niro and Jason Alexander.
Jay Ward continued to work steadily throughout the remainder of the '60s and '70s, serving as producer of such other classic animated shows as "The Dudley Do-Right Show" (ABC 1969-1970) and "George of the Jungle" (ABC 1967), while his company, Jay Ward Productions, was responsible for creating the iconic cereal mascots Quisp, Quake and Cap'n Crunch. By the 1980s, Ward was almost entirely absent from the entertainment industry, but his cartoon creations only grew in stature as the years passed. When he succumbed to kidney cancer in 1989 at the age of 69, Jay Ward left behind one of the most enduring legacies in animation history - one that is arguably still as impactful today as it was over half a century ago.