Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Jetsons – A Visit From Grandpa

The Jetsons’ version of the future mainly focused on technology—flying cars, robots, push-button food dispensers, that sort of thing—ideas that could be found in science publications around the time the show first aired (1962). It didn’t look at an aspect of futurism that is still the subject of research and news reports today: developments in the medical field that lengthen our life span.

Evidently such things never came to pass in the minds of the Jetsons’ writers. Witness the appearance in “A Visit From Grandpa” of 110-year-old Montague Jetson. He isn’t treated as the average senior citizen of the future. Walter Black’s story makes him to be some kind of freak of nature. The whole first half of the cartoon is a series of gags emphasizing that he’s not bound by grandson George’s stereotype of the old man in a rocking chair, but out-energises everyone in the family. In the end, Montague hints he’s going to slow down, but in the final scene, he’s joy-riding in his compact space mobile, just as he was at the outset of the show.

The second half of the cartoon is the old sitcom staple, a misunderstanding based on people jumping to conclusions which is happily straightened out in the end. The cartoon employs a favourite narrative device of the Flintstones, where Fred tells Wilma “Here’s the whole story,” the scene fades out and fades back in with Fred saying “and that’s what happened.” In fact, this cartoon even uses the same Hoyt Curtin bridge music as when Fred gets set to go into an off-camera confession.

There’s not a lot of slapstick in this cartoon and there are no big punch-lines. It’s an atmospheric piece (pun not intended) with pleasant people in pleasant surroundings and not a lot of depth.

Ken Muse is the only animator I can pick out in this cartoon. There’s plenty of typical Muse teeth and tongue in dialogue scenes.



I suspect Dick Bickenbach laid out at least part of the cartoon. Here are the incidental characters. Celeste Skylar (played by Janet Waldo) seems to be a futuristic relation to Betty Rubble.



Emily Scopes (Janet Waldo) and nameless baby.



My guess is Fernando Montealegre was the background artist, though Hanna-Barbera was now employing background people who didn’t work on the 1950s cartoons so I can’t identify them. Here’s the Skypad Apartments.



Montague zooms past the same set of buildings over and over. There’s a cel under the animation repeated every once in a while of, well, some kind of control tower.



I love the roulette-wheel bowling alley. What is it with bowling and Hanna-Barbera characters, anyway?



I can only imagine what George’s phone bill is like. He has two phones, one where you only hear the person (who sounds like John Stephenson) and where you can see and hear them.



Other inventions: a talking watch (voiced by Penny Singleton anticipating Siri) and a self-milking baby carriage. Three stars on the bottle is your sign of quality.



Women of the early ’60s loved their hats, so we get futuristic hat gags. “Moonscape,” “The Cosmo-nautrus,” “Venus Off the Face” and “The Nuclear Look.” The little satellites on the latter whirr in a cycle of three drawings, each on two frames.



More exteriors. Sorry Montague is the way of the background in the first drawing. And you’ll note there’s modern art outside apartment rooms, too.



Two more shots. I like how bubbles float out of the soft drink billboard. And note the sparkles that accompany Elroy after he zips off screen.


Howard Morris supplies the voice of Montague Jetson. I don’t know if Howie ever did a bad voice at Hanna-Barbera. Don Messick’s the other guest voice as Astro and the frustrated motorcycle cop. I don’t think they brought in Jean Vander Pyl to do the baby so I’m not going to venture a guess of who’s providing the voice.

10 comments:

  1. YOWP, what do you mean if Howie Morris ever play a "bad voice" at HB. Is that Janet Waldo doing the voice of the mother of the baby, because it kind of sounds like Shirley Mitchell. I know it's Waldo doing the voice of Ms. Emily Scones.

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    1. Atom Ant's voice was pretty annoying, in my book at least.

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  2. Howie's voice as Grandpa kind of answers the question of what Ernest T. Bass would have sounded and acted like as an old man.

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  3. What is it with bowling and Hanna-Barbera characters, anyway?

    I do understand where a number of Hanna-Barbera animators were in their own bowling team, the Yogi Bears (complete with Yogi's facial profile on their shirt backs).

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    1. Everyone seems to love bowling in these 50s/60s shows.

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  4. Judy Jetson really got an acting job as those two incidental characters;funny that Yowp mentions Siri (the talking voice on cellphones and stuff) as I got a cellphone with a ":Siri" on it for my 55th birthday. SC

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  5. And nice to see Jane Jetson as a proto-"Siri"..SC

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  6. YOWP, I guess I should have been clearer in my question: Do you mean whether Howard Morris played a villain for Hanna-Barbera or if he did a voice that "was off". The latter is highly unlikely.

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  7. Jerry Hathcock also animated part of this Jetsons episode.

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  8. Janet Waldo does the older woman with the same voice she would use in her later appearances as Wilma's mother. She also does the younger woman in kind of a southern-accented Hepburn imitation.

    There's a rare instance of the regular characters' voices getting mixed up when Judy asks Grandpa what's going on in Jane's voice.

    Grandpa made a return appearance in the 1985 syndicated series, one of numerous recurring and incidental characters who would.

    One of my favorite JETSON-era Curtin underscores, a cymbal and synthesizer-driven 'chase' cue is used as a 'record' Judy and Grandpa listen to.

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