Troplong "Jay" Ward ((September 20, 1920 - October 12, 1989) was a creator and producer of animated television cartoons.
Jay Ward was born in San Francisco, California. Ward's company, Jay Ward Productions, produced television animated series such as Crusader Rabbit (1950s), Rocky & Bullwinkle (also featuring Dudley Do-Right and Peabody and Sherman, late 1950s and early 1960s), Hoppity Hooper (mid 1960s), and George of the Jungle (also featuring Tom Slick and Super Chicken, in the late 1960s). Jay Ward Productions also designed the trademark characters for Cap'n Crunch, Quisp, and Quake breakfast cereals and made commercials for those products.
A onetime real-estate salesman, Ward drifted into the infant medium of television with the help of his childhood friend, animator Alex Anderson. Anderson was the nephew of Terrytoons founder Paul Terry, and had unsuccessfully tried to sell Terry a concept for a cartoon series made specifically for the new medium. Together, Ward and Anderson took the character, Crusader Rabbit, to NBC and pioneering TV-program distributor Jerry Fairbanks. They put together a pilot film, "The Comic Strips of Television", featuring Crusader, a parody of Sherlock Holmes named "Hamhock Bones," and a bumbling Mountie named Dudley Do-Right. NBC and Fairbanks were thoroughly unimpressed with all but Crusader Rabbit (though Dudley would make his appearance, finally, ten years later). "Crusader Rabbit" premiered in 1949 and ended its initial run in 1952. Adopting a serialized, mock-melodrama format, the series followed the adventures of Crusader and his dim-witted sidekick Rags the tiger. It was, in form and content, much like the series that would later gain Ward fame, "Rocky and His Friends".
Ward and Anderson, through a complicated series of legal maneuvers, lost the rights to the character, and a new color Crusader series under a different producer premiered in 1956. It was, however, considerably inferior to the original.
An unsold series idea from his Crusader Rabbit days would eventually earn Ward a permanent place in animation history. Taking place in a TV studio in the North Woods, the series featured a cast of eccentrics such as newsman Oski Bear and two minor characters named Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle, described in the script treatment as a "French-Canadian moose." This was the genesis of what would become "Rocky and His Friends," (later "The Bullwinkle Show", when NBC gave Rocky's sidekick top billing). Premiering on ABC in 1959 (and moving to NBC two years later) the series reached a level of sophistication in its humor not seen in cartoons before--or since. It skewered popular culture mercilessly, taking on such subjects as advertising, college sports, the Cold War, and incredibly, television itself. The hapless residents of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota blundered into unlikely adventures much as Crusader and Rags had before them, pursued by "no-goodnik" spies Boris and Natasha, perenially under orders to "kill moose and squirrel."
Ward fought many heated battles over content with the network and sponsor, but had little fear of censorship or lawsuits. He, in fact, begged organizations to sue him, quipping, "We need the publicity."
An eccentric and proud of it, Ward was known for pulling an unusual publicity stunt that happened to coincide with a major national crisis. Jay Ward actually bought an island in the area near his home and dubbed it "Moosylvania," based upon the home of his most famous TV character Bullwinkle. He and publicist Howard Brandy crossed the country in a circus wagon, gathering signatures on a petition for statehood for Moosylvania. They then visited Washington, DC and attempted to gain an audience with President John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, they arrived at the White House just at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and were escorted off the grounds at gunpoint.
In a running joke tribute to Jay Ward, many of his cartoon characters had the middle initial "J.", presumably standing for "Jay" (although this was never stated explicitly). The creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening, gave his cartoon character Homer Simpson the middle name "Jay" as a tribute to Jay Ward cartoons.
Jay Ward died in Hollywood, California, of kidney cancer. The Sunset Strip is still host to his production company (now managed by members of his family) and Dudley Do-Right's Emporium, which sells souvenirs based on his many characters. They are located across the street from the famous Chateau Marmont.