Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Cartoon that Predicted the Future

So, did Barry Blitzer invent the big screen TV? Probably not. But he gave one to George Jetson in his story for “The Space Car” (1962) and homes are equipped with them today. The episode features a few things we’re waiting for, like a push-button shaving machine, a flying belt, and prosthetic faces to make someone look instantly beautiful. And, later, Blitzer came up with some we’re not waiting for—the ultimate robotic corporate hypocrite, Uniblab.

The inventions of the future were certainly the things that people remember most about The Jetsons. And they were certainly the things on which Joe Barbera lavished attention in interviews plugging the series shortly before it aired. At the risk of boring you with another one, here’s another one. It appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune, September 23, 1962, the date the first episode aired.


Jetsons Live In Future 
Richard O. Martin 
LIKE MANY people these days, Joe Barbera is afraid the world may be moving a little too fast for him.
With a group of TV editors, I was seated in Mr. Barbera’s small, functional office at Hanna-Barbera Productions in Hollywood, the place where The Flintstones is created. On a nearby table a well-dusted Emmy statuette gleamed in the soft light. Mr. Barbera, his hands as animated as a character in one of his cartoon series, was explaining problems encountered in turning out this season’s entry, The Jetsons, which premieres Sunday evening (Ch.4).
LIKE THE Flintstones, The Jetsons deals with an average sort of American family. But instead of a Stone Age setting, the family is projected 100 years into the Goodness-Knows-What-Age.
And that, Mr. Barbera told us, is one of his problems.
“We had to junk gag after gag,” he said with a gesture that indicated dismay.
“Science had either conceived of them already, or worse, was already building them. What can I think of they’re not already working on?
“For instance,” he said, “we worked for weeks on a house that would be suitable for a 21st Century family. We finally came up with just the thing.”
With another dismayed gesture he showed us a sketch. “But Seattle’s Century 21 Exposition beat us to it with its Space Needle.”
However, with a few refinements, the original concept is staying in the show. The Sky Pad Apartments feature adjustments to raise or lower the living quarters to any desired level. This way their occupants can avoid smog and fog and can get just the right amount of sunlight.
DESPITE ALL of Mr. Barbera’s protestations to the contrary, the series has some gimmicks that not even the wildest-eyed scientists have come up with yet, all the while hewing to a format that Mr. Barbera described as: “A ‘Father Knows Best’ pushed into the future.”
For instance there is the atomic bubble car which scoots along at a leisurely 75,000 miles an hour, which makes weekends (four days long, by the way) at Las Venus possible.
Then there is the “foodarackacycle,” which stores, processes, prepares and serves all the family's food. Food cards are fed into the machine and meals are served up instantly.
And in the series even the hallowed game of football will have undergone some tremendous changes. In the 21st Century the grand old game will have become strictly a spectator sport. The players, big bruisers all, will be fierce-looking robots.
PILLS WILL be equipped with electronic gear to track down the causes of illnesses, and children and dogs will be antenna-equipped to make them easier to find at meal-time.
Still, despite such innovations as “slidewalks” and high-speed pneumatic travel tubes, many of the family problems will be just the same as they are today, Mr. Barbera said.
George Jetson occasionally gets picked up for doing 100,000 mph in 75,000 mph zones, and son Elroy is reminded not to lose his rubbers on a school field trip—to Europe. Even health bugs continue business as usual in The Jetsons’ 21st Century world. They lead their adherents in complicated finger exercises to keep them in condition for punching buttons.
In all, the series is pretty good proof for the maxim—coined this very minute—that the more things change, the more people remain the same.

At least one of the inventions in “The Space Car” has come and gone. Blitzer didn’t anticipate computer downloads. George Jetson subscribes to the daily paper which, presciently, isn’t on newsprint. It’s on computer. But it’s delivered to him on a 3 ½ inch disc. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a few years since I’ve been able to buy a new computer that plays floppies.

Many an article has been written about things on The Jetsons that are part of today’s living. George’s “pushbutton-itis” is reminiscent of carpal tunnel syndrome, for example. And I suspect there are people who must have the equivalent of a visiphone (if nothing else, streaming live video from home cameras is not uncommon). Some inventions we’re still waiting for. An acrylic raincoat bubble would be cool, but environmentalists probably wouldn’t like the spray-on aspect (one wonders if everyone on The Jetsons lives in sky towers because environmentalists of the future won a lawsuit to turn the Earth into untouchable green space). And you can’t read a story about a flying car without the word “Jetsons” appearing. The futurism was a huge part of the show’s success, but there was one other thing that was great about the show we haven’t touched on in these posts leading up to the show’s 50th anniversary. We’ll do that tomorrow, if I’m able to predict the future as well as Barry Blitzer.

3 comments:

  1. I still like to think how impressive it was to see how the home theater room became a reality today though I use to see it happen thanks to The Jetsons!

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  2. The growing size of TV screens in the '50s makes the big one a natural extension.
    What's neat about this isn't the size but the depth. It's not envisioned by whoever designed the episode (Iwao or Jerry Eisenberg perhaps) as a roll-up canvas like a projector screen. The TV box has been replaced by thin components.

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  3. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth and HB-fanatics from the whole world,

    Actually, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera predicted the future on The Jetsons (Hanna-Barbera/Columbia Pictures, 1962-63). And some gadgets seen on this series, ended coming to the reality, as, for example, the moving threadmills, which are very used on the airports and the subway systems from the whole world (also including the city where I live [São Paulo, Brazil]).

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