Before Balboa, there was Squirrel.
As in Flying Squirrel, as in Rocket J. Squirrel, as in Rocky -- the plucky little rodent with the aviator goggles, the avian-octave voice and the lumbering sidekick with the spatulate antlers.
You know, Rocky, the buck-toothed, "Hokey smokes!"-crying, scrappy little hero of Frostbite Falls, Minn., forever doing battle with a pair of Eastern bloc-heads named Boris Badenov ("long for bad") and Natasha Fataley ("long for fatal"). Rocky, friend to man and moose --especially Bullwinkle J. Moose, the dunderheaded do-gooder who is to the flying squirrel what Robin was to Batman, what Sancho Panza was to Don Quixote, what Hammacher was to Schlemmer.
Tomorrow is a big day in the annals of this animated icon, whose eponymous half-hour series, "Rocky and His Friends," made its debut Saturday, Sept. 29, 1959, on ABC. (It was canceled two seasons later, but lived on in various syndicated incarnations -- including "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" and "The Bullwinkle Show" -- through the 1960s and on into the '70s.) Why tomorrow?, you ask. Because tomorrow is the day the folks at Disney's Buena Vista Home Video release the first six volumes of "Classic Stuff -- The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle," a half-dozen action-packed cassettes culled, collected and carefully restored from 156 hours' worth of the legendary Jay Ward-produced cartoons.
Acquired in 1989, the folks at Disney Home Video spent over a year restoring the hundreds of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" episodes -- cleaning audio tracks and hand-painting cels and scenes. Then they were packaged into 45-minute cassettes that best represented the original programming mix of the shows: a "Fractured Fairy Tale" or "Aesop and Son" here, a "Dudley Do-Right" there, and so on. Happily, Disney has managed to squeeze one full Rocky and Bullwinkle adventure onto each of its inaugural volumes (save for No. 6, which focuses on Dudley Do-Right's run-ins with bad guy Snidely Whiplash), replete with their own little cliff-hanger endings and recaps.
So return to those heady days of yesteryear, to the idyllic land of Mooslyvania, to the ivy halls of Whatsamatta U?.