Looking at The Jetsons

Looking at the Jetsons

If you did not know about the Jetsons yet, get ready to know about them now!

“The Jetsons” is an animated TV show produced by Hanna-Barbera. It was Hanna-Barbera’s counterpart to the animated TV show The Flintstones (1960) .(3)  While the Flintstones live in a prehistoric world with dinosaurs, the Jetsons live in outer space. (4) 

The show was the third prime time series from the Hanna-Barbera Studio, after The Flintstones and Top Cat (1961).  The show aired just 24 episodes after its debut on Sunday September 23, 1962 but more episodes were made in the mid 1980s adding a second and third season. (8)

Today this show stands as the single most important piece of 20th century futurism on records.  Whether some people agree or not this show had a profound impact on the way we think and talk about the future.

Looking at the projected Future

Even though it’s from the early sixties, The Jetsons TV show is still a reference when talking about the technological advancements that are constantly happening around the world.

People refer to “The Jetsons” as a creation of the golden age of futurism. Many items in the show like jetpacks, flying cars, robot maids, automatic food processors, moving sidewalks and even drones, are references to this futuristic idea. (2)

However nothing presented in the show was a new idea in 1962, but what the creators of the show did successfully was to create an entertaining story and impressive illustrations for kids at the time. (2)

Even though it was just a cartoon it was based on very real expectations for the future. According to Danny Graydon (The Jetsons: The Official Cartoon Guide) the creators and artists got inspiration from futurist books of the time.

The launch of Sputnik by the Soviets in 1957 created great anxiety in an American public that were aware of the Communist threat. In February 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. The just imagine what the future could hold was exciting and terrifying at the same time. (2)

The show provided an idea of how the American family would be in the future. The world of ”The Jetsons” showed people with very few concerns about political and social changes, but instead showed a technologically advanced culture where the largest concern of the middle class was getting  a push-button finger. Despite this apparent easiness of life, the characters in the show often complain of exhausting hard labor and the difficulties of living in their era. (2)

Looking at the Colors

The Jetsons” was produced and broadcast in color, but in 1962 less than 3 percent of American households had a color television set. In fact, it wasn’t until 1972 that 50 percent of American households had a color TV. (2)

“The Jetsons” was the first show ever broadcast in color on ABC, but it was still up to individual affiliates as to whether the show would be broadcast in color. According to the September 23, 1962 New York Times only people with access to ABC’s owned-and-operated stations in New York, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and Los Angeles were guaranteed to see the show broadcast in color, provided you owned a color set.(2)

Following its prime time cancellation, ABC placed reruns of The Jetsons on its Saturday morning schedule for the 1963–1964 season. The program would spend the next two decades on Saturday mornings, with subsequent runs on CBS  and NBC.(2)

The Jetsons is one of the few series to have aired on each of the Big Three television networks in the United States. (2)

In 1984, Hanna-Barbera began producing new episodes specifically for syndication; by September 1985, the 24 episodes from the first season were combined with 41 new episodes and began airing in morning or late afternoon time slots in 80 U.S. media markets, including the 30 largest.(5)

The 41 new episodes were produced at a cost of $300,000 each, and featured all of the voice actors from the 1962–1963 show.(5)

During 1987, 10 additional “season 3” episodes were also made available for syndication. (6)

Personally I think that the season 1 episodes are completely different from the 80s episodes created for syndication. To me it is indeed the same concept but presented in a different way and not a continuation of the 60s version.

Looking at Science Fiction

There is no discussion about the science fiction (space) elements of the show: The Jetsons live in an era where space colonization is already established. Life in outer space is depicted as a fact of life, while the reasons behind humanity’s take over of outer space are never explained. (7)

Looking at the Characters

The Jetson family live in Orbit City. The city’s architecture is rendered in the Googie style, and all homes and businesses are raised high above the ground on adjustable columns.(1)

George Jetson lives with his family in the Skypad Apartments. George commutes to work in an aerocar that resembles a flying saucer with a transparent bubble top.(1)

Daily life is characterized as being comically leisurely because of the incredible sophistication and number of labor-saving devices, which occasionally break down with humorous results. (1)

George Jetson (the protagonist of the show), is a loving 40 year old family man who always seems to make the wrong decision. He works full time, 15 hours a week at Spaceley’s Sprockets as a computer engineer. He is married to Jane.(1) (8)

Jane (33) is obsessed with fashion and new gadgets and her favorite store is Mooning Dales. She is also a dutiful wife who always tries to make life as pleasant as possible for her family as a homemaker. Outside the home, she is a member of the Galaxy Women Historical Society and is a fan of Leonardo de Venus and Picasso Pia.(1) (8)

Their teenage daughter Judy (16) attends Orbit High School, and their early-childhood son Elroy (6½) attends Little Dipper School. (1) (8)

Housekeeping is seen to by a robot maid, Rosie, which handles chores not otherwise rendered trivial by the home’s numerous push-button Space Age-envisioned conveniences. She’s an outdated model but the Jetsons love her and would never trade her for a newer model. Rosie does all the household chores and some of the parenting. She is a strong disciplinarian and occasionally dispenses advice to the family. (1) (8)

The family dog Astro can mumble and say his words beginning with R’s. Astro’s catch phrases are “Ruh-roh!” and “Right, Reorge!” or “Rats Rall Right Reorge!” Later Hanna-Barbera cartoon dogs, including Scooby-Doo and Muttley, would have the same speech impediment; voice actor Don Messick played all three.(1) (8)Orbitty is also able to change color to reflect his emotions.

In the first episode of the 1980s show, an alien named Orbity joined the family. He is a furry animal, resembling a monkey, but with a built in slinky/spring. Elroy found Orbity on a field trip to Mars and brought it home. Orbity is a friendly pet, incredibly smart and always in a good mood.(1) (8) Orbitty is also able to change color to reflect his emotions.

Henry Orbit: age unknown, is the Jetsons’ apartment repairman. He is always helpful and always in a good mood. His robot, Mack, has a crush on Rosie. (1) (8)

George Jetson works three hours a day and three days a week for his short, tyrannical boss named Cosmo G. Spaceley, owner of the company Spacely Space Sprockets.

George’s work day consists of pressing a single computer button. Typical episodes involve Mr. Spacely (George Jesons Boss) firing and rehiring George Jetson, or promoting and demoting him. He is a “little person” with brown hair and a bad temper.

R.U.D.I. is George’s work computer. His name is an acronym for Referential Universal Differential Index. He has a human personality and is a member of the Society Preventing Cruelty to Humans.

Mr. Spacely has a competitor, H. G. Cogswell, owner of the rival company Cogswell Cogs. He owns the Cogswell’s Cogs company and causes a lot of trouble for Cosmo and George. (1) (8)

Names of locations, events and devices are often puns or derivatives of contemporary analogs with explicit space-age twists. The same technique was used in The Flintstones with archaic or stone-age twists.(8)

Looking at the intro and hearing the Music

This catchy intro of the show is one of the most remembered & recognized:

Meet George Jetson,

His Boy Elroy,

Daughter Judy,

Jane, His wife.

The 1962 episode “A Date With Jet Screamer”, in which daughter Judy Jetson wins a date with a rock star, provided the song “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)” written by Hoyt Curtin, William Hanna and Joseph Barbara. The episode was a surrealistic Busby Berkeley-in-space affair which prefigured conceptual MTV videos by decades.(8)

A cover of “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)“, mistitled “Eep Opp Ork (Uh, Uh)“, performed by The Dickies, is included on the 1988 album Killer Klowns from Outer Space, produced by Leonard Graves Phillips and Sir Ronald Powell Hitchcock for Enigma Records.(8)

A cover of “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)“, performed by Violent Femmes, is included on the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits, produced by Ralph Sall for MCA Records.(8)

Looking at the difference between the 1960s & 1980s

Besides the increased presence of Rosie and the addition of Orbitty, further differences between the 1960s version and 1980s version include the following(8):

  • Both the 1960s and 1980s episodes were syndicated in the 1980s as a complete package, the original 1960s episodes are distinguished by 1960s style animation, music, and references (similar toThe Flintstones and other Hanna-Barbera shows of that period).
  • The cast members have a slightly softer vocal tone in their 1960s performances, since they were about 20 years younger when originally working on the series.
  • Whereas the 1960s stories were basically 1950s sitcom plots in a futuristic setting, the 1980s stories delved into fantastic, sci-fi cartoon territory.
  • The opening credits of the 1980s version featured a re-recorded version of the originalJetsons theme song, which features the use of synthesized drums to create percussion typical of 1980s music.
  • The closing credits are static drawings (like most of Hanna-Barbera’s shows of the time). This format replaced the original credit sequence described above when the 1960s episodes were rebroadcast.
  • The 1980s version has a smoother look and clear sound, primarily due to Hanna-Barbera’s switch to computer aided animation techniques at the time.
  • While episodes made in the 1960s referenced rockets and other “space age” theme devices, reflective of the real-life U.S. space program which fascinated America, the 1980s episodes leaned more towards how computers would influence life in the future.
  • Jane’s lipstick in 1980s version is darker red.

Looking at the Jetson’s presence

Television films

Television specials

  • Hanna-Barbera’s 50th: A Yabba Dabba Doo Celebration (1989)

Theatrical releases

  • Jetsons: The Movie (1990)

Direct-to-video films

Further appearances

  • The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera (ride) Elroy Jetson is kidnapped by Dick Dastardly and Muttley and it is up to ride guests to save him. (1990)
  • Space Stars: Astro was the star of the segment Astro and the Space Mutts
  • The Jetsons: Father & Son Day (Spümcø, Macromedia Flash)
  • The Jetsons: The Best Son (Spümcø, Macromedia Flash)
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Lawepisode “Shaggy Busted” (2002)
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Lawepisode “Back to the Present” (2004)
  • Some characters appear in commercials forElectrasol and Tums.
  • In the late 1990s, George, Jane and Astro appeared in Christmas commercials for Radio Shack. Judy, Elroy and Rosie were mentioned.
  • The Jetsons have appeared twice inFamily Guy in the episodes “Brian in Love” and “Meet the Quagmires”.
  • The Jetsons were parodied in The Fairly OddParents movie, “Channel Chasers” as “The Futurellis”. In the parody, Timmy Turner parodies Astro.
  • Rosie appears in the Futurama movie Benders Game; she has been sent to the Hal institute for criminally insane robots after murdering Elroy and Astro.
  • The Jetsons family were seen in a Cartoon Network Rap in 1995.
  • The Jetson characters were main characters in the skit done by Robot Chicken where George was murdered.
  • The Jetsons were referenced several times in The Simpsons:
    • In the episode, “Bart Gets Famous”, in a Bart Simpson’s dream, the set of Match Game 2034 looks like the futuristic settings of The Jetsons.
    • In the episode, “Lisa’s Wedding”,Homer Simpson’s shirt resembles that of George Jetson’s. Also, the cars of 2010 sound like jet-cars.
    • In the episode, “A Star Is Burns”The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones as The Flintstones Meet the Jetsons appears and Bart criticizes the “cheap” crossover.
    • In the episode, “All Singing, All Dancing”, thecouch gag of the episode parodies the closing credits of The Jetsons.
    • In the episode, “Children of a Lesser Clod”, in a Homer’s dream, George Jetson flies by. Also, Homer yells “Jetson!” exactly like Spacely.
    • In the episode, “My Big Fat Geek Wedding”,Lenny Leonard dresses as George Jetson to Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con.
    • In the episode, “Postcards from the Wedge”, a film loosely based on the show’s depiction of future life is seen in Bart’s class, and again over the closing credits.
    • In the episode, “Replaceable You”, as the robopets are roaming through town, they stop to watch TVs, with The Jetsons playing on it. On it,Rosie the Robot Maid and George Jetson are on the TV.
    • In the bookHomer Simpson’s Little Book of Laziness, The Sitter-Bot bears a striking resemblance to Rosie the Robot Maid.

Comics

  • The Jetsons#1-36 (Gold Key Comics, January 1963 – October 1970)
  • March of Comics#276 (1965), #330 (1969), #348
  • The Jetsons#1-20 (Charlton Comics, November 1970 – December 1973); 100-page no-number issue
  • Spotlight#3 (Marvel Comics, 197x)
  • The Jetsons#1-5 (Harvey Comics, September 1992 – November 1993); Big Book #1-3, Giant Size #1-3
  • The Jetsons#1-17 (Archie Comics, September 1995 – August 1996)
  • The Flintstones and the Jetsons#1-21 (DC Comics, August 1997 – April 1999)
  • Scooby Doo Team-Up #8 (DC Comics, January 2015)
  • Booster Gold/The Flintstones Annual #1 (DC Comics, March 2017)

Games

  • The Jetsons’ Ways with Words(Intellivision) (1984)
  • The Jetsons and the Legend of Robotopia (Amiga, 1990)
  • The Jetsons: By George, in Trouble Again (MS-DOS, 1990)
  • The Jetsons: Cogswell’s Caper (Nintendo Entertainment System, 1992)
  • The Jetsons: Robot Panic (Game Boy, 1992)
  • The Jetsons: Invasion of the Planet Pirates (Super NES, 1994)
  • Jetsons: The Computer Game (Amiga) (1992)
  • The Jetsons: Mealtime Malfunction (Apple)
  • The Jetsons: Space Race
  • Flintstones Jetsons Time Warp (CD-i) (1994)

Looking at the Legacy

  • Boomerang aired the show from April 1, 2000 to April 6, 2014, and the series returned to Boomerang on July 2, 2016. Cartoon Network aired the show from 1992 to 2004 and returned the series October 2012. Also, some of the 1980s episodes were available for viewing on In2TV prior to its shutdown; these episodes were later moved to the online version of Kids’ WB. Also the first two seasons of The Jetsons are available to download on Sony’s PlayStation Network, Apple’s iTunes Store and at the Xbox Live Marketplace.  The Kids’ WB website eventually shut down in 2015, however, the Kids’ WB episodes can still be streamed, thanks to much of the website being preserved by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. (1)
  • Forbes magazine valued Spacely Space Sprockets at $1.3 billion, on its “The 25 Largest Fictional Companies” list.(9)
  • In January 2009, IGN listed The Jetsons as the 46th best animated television series.(1)
  • The music video for theKanye West song “Heartless” features George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, Astro, and Rosie done as portraits. This footage is based on Kanye West’s actual apartment decor, which includes large portraits of the Jetsons in the den.(1)
  • The Jetsons episodes have been available for viewing on Comcast’s video on demand service under the kids category, then under the Kids WB (1)
  • The original cartoon series had several futuristic devices that did not exist at the time but subsequently have not only been invented but are in common usage (1): a flat screen 3D television, newspaper on a tablet computer-like screen, a computer virus, video chat, a tanning bed, home treadmill, drones and more.

Looking at our place in the future

If we accept that media has an influence on the way that we view culture, and our own place in the future (as “The Jetsons” seems to ask us to do) we have to ask ourselves how our expectations might have changed with subtle tweaks to the Jetson story. (2)

What if George took a flying bus or monorail instead of a flying car? What if Jane Jetson worked outside of the home? What if the show had a single African-American character? These questions are impossible to answer, of course, but they’re important to recall as we examine this show that so dramatically shaped our understanding of tomorrow. (2)

Final thoughts

“The Jetsons” is a great animated show for kids and adults. It gives a view of how people in the sixties and eighties thought about the future and we can also see how some of their ideas became a reality in our daily lives. It also inspires us to think outside the box.

What do you think of the Jetsons? What do you think of their influence and did you realize that some of the products/inventions we now use were illustrated in the show in the early sixties? Feel free to leave your comments.


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References/sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jetsons
  2. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/50-years-of-the-jetsons-why-the-show-still-matters-43459669/
  3. CD liner notes: Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits, 1995 MCA Records
  4. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/automating-hard-or-hardly-automating-george-jetson-and-the-manual-labor-of-tomorrow-20694353/?no-ist
  5. Yockel, Michael (September 10, 1985). “Fresh Episodes Ending The Jetsons Suspended Animation”Chicago TribuneProQuestArchivedfrom the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved 2010-11-21.
  6. Koch, David, ed.“The Jetsons TV Episode Guide”. The Big Cartoon Database. p. 4. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  7. Lehman (2007), p. 25-26
  8. http://hanna-barbera.wikia.com/wiki/The_Jetsons
  9. Noer, Michael; Ewalt, David M. (December 10, 2007). “In Pictures: The 25 Largest Fictional Companies”. Forbes. Retrieved 2010-07-11.

6 thoughts on “Looking at The Jetsons

  1. Hey Dira,

    Thank you for bringing me some nice childhood memories.
    When I was a child, I used to watch the Jetsons. It was very interesting for me because this whole thing with the outer space was very strange and at the same time pretty haunting.
    Me and my sister we were huge fans of this show.
    Now, they don’t make such great animated shows as per my opinion.
    My favorite character was George Jetson . Which one is yours?

    1. Hi Asen,

      Yes you are right: they don’t make them like that anymore.
      It’s really hard to choose:
      I liked the banter between George and his boss
      I liked when Elroy’s inventions get George and Family in problems.
      I liked the trio of Elroy, Astro and Orbitti
      And of course, not to forget the adventures of Rosie

      If I had to choose right now I’ll choose Rosie.

  2. Hi, as a little kid I used to watch cartoons every day when i woke up and The Jetsons was one of the cartoons on a tv. That was in 2001 and it still blown me away. Untill this day I didnt know that The Jetsons was from mid 60’s. Nice to see someone still reviews these shows even tho they are so old. Keep up with good work 🙂

    1. Hi Kristina,

      You are not the only one. Many people don’t know that it originally started in the sixties. Also many don’t know that at that time it only lasted one season and that through a succesfull sydication they made a new version of it in the eighties.

  3. When I see the word jetsons a lot of memory remembering my childhood came in front of me – I still didn’t forget seeing this in Cartoon Network during my earlier days and the theme song. Knowing this I didn’t made a note on the minute details that we are using in today’s world – Gonna watch it one more time to see what all I can relate to and will get back to you. Thanks, Mana

    1. Hi Mansir,

      Yes, it brings many memories and there are many items we are using today that were just fantasy many years ago.

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