Saturday, July 4, 2015

Spacely’s a Stupe!

Six year old kids don’t know much about corporate backstabbing. But they do know when someone is being treated like crap and shouldn’t be. So it was that young me had a pretty good idea what was going on in The Jetsons cartoon, “Uniblab,” my favourite of the series.

Is there a more quotable episode?



“Name your game! Jupiter Gin! Jupiter Gin! Planet Poker! Planet Poker! Five Card Satellite! Five Card Satellite!”



“Spacely’s a stupe! Stupe! Stupe!”



“Not only is Spacely a stupe, he’s the king of the old crabs.”

Here are some of the reaction drawings of George kicking Uniblab. They’re used again at the end of the cartoon. This beady-eyed version of George surfaces in various parts of the cartoon. Hugh Fraser, perhaps?



Hanna-Barbera brushwork. George takes the tube to his apartment.



A guess on my part is Carlo Vinci worked on this cartoon. In some scenes, the characters talk with that three-angle head tilt that he used in dialogue in the Huck series. In one shot, Spacely has a bar-row of teeth similar to what he drew in his earlier cartoons at H-B (though much thinner). And it seems to me he drew characters with longer faces in several series. Here’s an example with George Jetson. I’ll accept any corrections from people who are more knowledgeable about this.



The earliest Hanna-Barbera cartoons had some pretty neat extreme poses. Things had become more lacklustre by the time The Jetsons were on the air. When Uniblab becomes a drunken mess in the cartoon’s climax and starts dancing to the “Jetsons Twist” cue, the animators could have gone a lot wilder. Instead, the movements are not too extreme, and drawings are shot on twos, with the background moved to mimic the appearance of dancing. Still, the scene works because the idea is funny and Don Messick gives a terrific performance as the drunk robot. But it could have been better.

I understand why the Hanna-Barbera cartoons used limited animation and try not to criticise the concept too much. But one scene doesn’t work. Uniblab shoots coffee at Spacely and the company’s higher executives. They don’t do anything. They just stand there. Even if the coffee wasn’t scalding them, couldn’t Bill Hanna have sprung for even two or three drawings that could have been used in a cycle showing them reacting to becoming wet? This is prime time, after all.



Still, Barry Blitzer came up with good story. The bad guy gets his comeuppance (how Henry got into the Spacely Sprockets building is left for viewers to imagine on their own) and there’s the twist at the end. If someone can think of a better episode, feel free to post a comment.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks Yowp. Uniblab has always been one of my favorite " Jetsons " episodes, and it's reach has gone on for years. I remember years back I was working for a corporate owned radio station that also had a low powered television station in the same building. Beside the transmitter was this small machine on wheels, never quite knew what it was( Probably a monitor for the transmitter )..For unknown reasons, sometimes it was rolled into the hall. My News Director would look over his glasses and comment;" Why don't you know?, that's the Uniblab, so watch out what you say about the front office ". We would walk past it and all say in our best Uniblab; " Coffee break...Coffee break...Spacely's a stupe " Our Uniblab was finally taken away also. Great blog, Yowp.

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  2. Is it just me, or does it seem as if Uniblab calls to mind Muni-Mula from Ruff and Reddy?

    (As reminder, "Muni-Mula" is aluminum spelled backwards.)

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    1. No, it's not you, Larry.
      Ed Benedict worked on Ruff and Reddy and he was still at the studio when the Jetsons was being developed. Whether he's responsible for Uniblab, I don't know, but it's not impossible.

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  3. Correct; that's Hugh Fraser animating George kicking Uniblab and jumping in pain. Fraser was very good at rubbery face expressions and body movements.

    I'd often use Uniblab's "Get to work! Work, work, work" when my son had homework.

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  4. And when George heads home after getting fired, it looks like Dick Lundy for a couple of minutes.

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    1. Could be, David. You have a better eye for Lundy than I do.
      The lack of original credits on the DVD release of the Jetsons (and Jonny Quest) is annoying, to be kind.

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  5. Uniblab's a Stupe For getting Jetson in Trouble for saying Spacely's a Stupe..:)SC

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  6. Next to this episode, I love the Sgt. Uniblab episode when George and Henry wind up being drafted into the Space Guard. The funny thing on this episode is Henry 'short-circuits' Uniblab by replacing its AC battery with a DC battery, whereas in Uniblab, Henry gives the robot a shot of his tonic in place of Unilube, but still two great episodes.

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