While attending Punahou School in Honolulu, Allan contributed cartoons to The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. He used his drawing talent while studying architecture at the University of Oregon. He dropped out during his sophomore year in 1956 and moved to Los Angeles, where he was hired as a page at NBC and later became a story analyst. After being laid off, he began writing and illustrating greeting cards while trying to find work at an animation studio.
He found a job at Jay Ward Productions, which produced “Rocky and His Friends,” the satirical cartoon series about the adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (more formally, Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose). Mr. Burns appeared unannounced at Mr. Ward’s office on Sunset Boulevard, toting his portfolio of greeting cards. Mr. Ward leafed through the cards, chuckled and quickly hired him.
Mr. Burns wrote for the moose, the squirrel and other characters on “The Bullwinkle Show.” He also developed the character Cap’n Crunch for Quaker Oats, which had hired Mr. Ward’s company to create a mascot for a new cereal.
After he and his colleague Chris Hayward left Mr. Ward in 1963, they created “My Mother the Car,” a sitcom that starred Jerry Van Dyke, with Ann Sothern as the voice of his mother, who has been reincarnated as a vintage Porter automobile and speaks only to him. A notable flop considered by some to be one of TV’s worst shows, it was canceled after one season.
In 1967 and 1968, Mr. Burns and Mr. Hayward worked on the only season of the sitcom “He & She,” in which the married couple Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss played a comic book artist and his wife, a social worker. Mr. Burns shared his first Emmy with Mr. Hayward for one episode.
After “He & She” was canceled, its producer, Leonard Stern, brought them to the espionage parody, “Get Smart,” another series he produced, then in its fourth season. “Room 222” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” soon followed.