The human characters in the Jetsons were never too over-the-top, so Astro was a welcome part to the cast. Being a dog, the studio treated him as a much broader character than any human on the show, and that boosted the comedy. Astro was used pretty well on the original series, both as a centrepiece character (such as in Millionaire Astro) or when paired up (such as in TV Or Not TV).
Astro was the brainchild of writer Tony Benedict, who plunked him into the Jetsons home as a stray dog found by Elroy in The Coming of Astro. The main storyline of the cartoon—Astro vs. a nuclear-powered robot dog—owes something to a cartoon called Push Button Kitty (1952) by the Hanna-Barbera unit at MGM, where the robot cat Mechano is brought in to replace lazy feline Tom. In a way, it’s a reworking of an earlier cartoon, Old Rockin’ Chair Tom (1948), but we’re getting off the subject here. The Coming of Astro is a fun cartoon by any standard as the cowardly, not-too-bright but affectionate Astro catches a cat burglar in the Jetsons’ home by pure happenstance (while the robot dog is programmed only to recognise a mask and not a burglar) and is allowed to stay.
The cartoon is enlivened by the presence of Carlo Vinci, who animated at least the first half of it. Unfortunately, my DVD of this cartoon has a huge gouge in it so I can’t give you a frame-by-frame look at Carlo’s animation (the frame grabs you see here are from an internet version with ghosting between some of the frames). Below are frames from two different run cycles. Astro’s churning in the air in the first and kind of galloping in place in the second, and again in the third and fourth drawings, all from different scenes. Note the angles on Judy; you’ll see the same angles on other characters in other cartoons Carlo worked on.
There’s an open-mouthed, long-eyed expression on Astro that Carlo used on other characters during his Hanna-Barbera career. And there’s one of those scene exits where characters lead with various parts of their bodies, similar to what he drew on The Flintstones in the early episodes.
I don’t know who else animated on this cartoon but generally Hugh Fraser was paired with Carlo in the half-hour shows. It doesn’t look like Fraser in the final scene, though. (Note the comments below about animators from Howard Fein. You can take his word for it).
The first portion of the cartoon has absolutely nothing to do with Astro. Either Tony Benedict needed to pay for time or he wanted to open with some sight gags. Jane goes to the hairdresser looking for a new style (“this old hair style doesn’t do a thing for me”). The topper of the routine is new style she picks is her old one. Here are some of the hair gags. Pierre the hairdresser looks like a Dick Bickenbach design to me.
Some exteriors and interiors. I haven’t checked about the Skypad Apartments, but the drawing of the Spacely Sprockets background can be found in The Good Little Scouts, but painted differently. And the pet shop apparently sells roosters.
The interior of the Jetsons’ apartment is turned into a gag. Judy is tired of Space Provincial and changes her room into Moon Moderne with the press of a button. Actually, it’s all on one background drawing that the cameraman slides as he films the cartoon.
George has two computers in his office. Computers have apparently devolved in the future. They’re the size of a room, just like they were in the 1960s.
The regular voice cast—George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo and Daws Butler—doubles in a few other roles and is augmented by Don Messick as Astro, Don Messick as ‘Lectronimo, Don Messick as the cop and Don Messick as the police sergeant.