Ratfink (l) and Roland.


Original Medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: DePatie-Freleng
First Appeared: 1968
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When superheroes slug it out, as for example Batman vs. The Joker, S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. The Yellow Claw or Superman vs. Luthor, it's not hard to guess why. The bad guy has done, or probably will do, something evil and/or reprehensible, and the good guy is trying to capture, thwart or otherwise oppose him. Another good …

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… guy/bad guy dichotomy that isn't hard to figure out is Ralph Wolf vs. Sam Sheepdog. It's their jobs. Their paychecks depend on it. Who pays them would be a good question, but like believers in cargo cults, who know the benefits come and can only speculate on their source, we don't ask it.

But in the case of Roland and Ratfink, it's the motivation itself that constitutes the unasked question. Roland is the hero, as we can tell from his white hat, curly blond hair, and big chin. Ratfink wears a flat. black hat and a thin, waxed moustache, has a big nose, and is sallow to the point of greenish skin; and that's how we know he's the villain. We can enjoy their conflict without wondering why they act as they do.

Sometimes their clash is perfectly ordinary, as in Cattle Battle, where Ratfink was a cattle rustler and Roland was the stalwart defender of the herd. Sometimes it's sheer, pointless aggression, as in Hurts & Flowers, where Ratfink won't let Roland enjoy his daisies. It was like adding storylines with conflict to a simple Goofus/Gallant scenario.

The setting and the source of the clash weren't the only elements of the series that were inconstant. There was also the characters' voices. At the beginning and end of their run, they were both voiced by Lennie Weinrib (Inch High, Gomez Addams). In-between their voices were both done by either John Byner (The Ant/The Aardvark, incidental voices in Garfield & Friends) or Dave Barry (who did various voices in occasional Pink Panther or Bugs Bunny cartoons),

The Roland/Ratfink series began with Hawks & Doves, released to theatres on December 18, 1968. There, they played representatives of Hawkland and Doveland, and agitated for either war or peace between their countries. It ended only two years later. Their producer was DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (Tijuana Toads, Here Comes The Grump). 17 were made altogether.

The Roland/Ratfink cartoons have since been shown occasionally on TV, as filler alongside the studio's more famous properties such as The Inspector and Misterjaw. But for the most part, they've faded into obscurity.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DePatie-Freleng.