Mention the cartoon “Miss Solar System,” and the first thing that will pop into someone’s head is the “Bill Spacely” song belted out by Jane Jetson. But Barry Blitzer’s story is chock-full of early ‘60s pop culture references.
The Flintstones had a habit of adding “rock” or “stone” to someone’s name to make it sound more Stone Age-y. Sometimes, it was creative. Eventually, it got obvious and tedious. The Jetsons did the same thing, using “space” or something similar to evoke the universe. So we have George Jetson watching the Fred Solarvan Show with special guest Gina Lolajupiter. The Ed Sullivan variant is okay but let’s face it: “Lolajupiter” isn’t even a pun on “Lollobrigida.” It’s “we need a name and this will have to do.” The Jetsons did this kind of thing with varying degrees of success. When George shoos Elroy away, the younger Jetson grumbles “Gina whiz” instead of “Gee whiz.” Whether that was Daws Butler ad-libbing, I don’t know, but it’s a better pun than the character’s name. (Later, we get “Irving Galaxy” for “Irving Berlin.” Uh, yeah).
Pay TV was a concept in the early ‘60s and it’s with us in the future. George has to feed the meter to keep the screen from going blank. And, at the press of a button, he has 3-D TV with characters zooming into his living room. Not an original gag (the John Sutherland industrial cartoon “Your Safety First” did it in 1956) but a fun one nonetheless.
As you can see, George Jetson has a flat-screen TV, something that certainly was in no one’s home until at least a generation after this cartoon was made. We’ll get to more inventions in a minute.
The Rent A Rocket commercial that George watches is a parody of the Hertz ads of the day where a guy zoomed from the sky and landed in a rental car—“Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat” was the tag line. In this case, it’s the “pilot’s seat” and the guy goes through the car after landing in it.
When George pays more attention to Gina than his wife and her new outfit, he protests that he was watching “The Stuntley-Dickley Report,” a play on NBC’s “Huntley-Brinkley Report,” the network’s 6 p.m. newscast. Later in the cartoon, George jokes to Mr. Spacely that if his wife catches him judging the Miss Solar System contest on TV “you’ll be another case for Dr. Ken Spacey,” a reference to the Ben Casey show popular on TV at the time (Hmm. The Flintstones had a “Gina Lolabrickida” and a “Dr. Len Frankenstone”). Spacely puts on a mask and says “You’ve heard of the Mystery Guest?” Yes, Mr. Spacely, I have. And it’s nice to know people in the future remember What’s My Line?, too. But the best reference comes in the same sequence when the cartoon tosses in a nod to another Hanna-Barbera character. George observes “As Yogi Bear would say, ‘You’re smarter than the av-erage boss’!” Best of all, the line is delivered by Daws Butler in his Yogi voice.
Jetson gets a chance to sing a Spacely Sprockets signature tune where he spells the name of the company, similar to the old “J-e-l-l-o” jingle popularised on the Jack Benny radio show in the 1930s and still heard on TV in the ‘60s.
Zsa Zsa Gabor is referenced in the cartoon as well. Jean Vander Pyl does her voice as Miss Saturn while Gina’s voice by Janet Waldo owes something to everyone’s favourite Hungarian, um, actress. As you might guess, the whole beauty pageant is a takeoff on the Miss America pageant where emcee Bert Parks crooned “There she is, Miss America!” Blitzer’s lyrics, wonderfully sung by Howie Morris, who rises an octave at the end:
She’s the fairest we have seen.
From the brightest galaxy
She, our queen, will ever be.
A camera and cameraman, in silhouette, are on an overlay moved into the foreground of the long-shot scene of Jane slowly flying toward the judge’s table to receive her crown. It isn’t necessary to the plot but adds to the atmosphere of the scene.
The layout and design people outdid themselves in this cartoon. The original credits were torn off these cartoons about 30 years ago and the current versions don’t reveal who is responsible. It’s a crime (fie on the replacement gang credits, say I). But let’s look at some of the designs. The cartoon opens with Jane trying on various new dresses. She hopes to please George. Naturally, George doesn’t notice (being an exaggerated husband stereotype, he improbably calls Jane’s electric, neon-trimmed dress as “an old housecoat”) and that prompts Jane to enter the Miss Solar System pageant.
The Miss Solar System contestants, including Miss Big Dipper, Miss Satellite, Miss Comet and Jane as Miss Western Hemisphere. The searchlight effect is really great. Is it a cutout on a cel laid over the animation?
Inventions: the pneumatic transporter tube, the robot visiphone, the teletape player (recording tape was still reasonably new in the early ‘60s), the automatic groomer and a robot vacuum cleaner that also empties ashtrays and serves coffee (Rosey evidently had a day off).
More background drawings. This version of the Spacely Sprockets office is in the sky. And I like the silhouette audience at the beauty pageant.
The animation, as best as I can tell, is by Carlo Vinci and Hugh Fraser. They were a good pairing. It looks like Carlo takes up the first half. He’s got a great butt-turning, high-stepping walk for George. Look at the stretch he gives Spacely’s mouth. Later in the scene, Jetson runs off the TV screen in one of those great Vinci drawings with Jetson’s body curved back and leading with a bended knee.
Here are a couple of drawings from a little Carlo dance.
This eye take is about as daring as Hanna-Barbera got in 1962. And you can see one of Hugh Fraser’s stretched heads on the emcee (thanks to Howard Fein for the ID). It’s not as stretchy as he used to do on those TV Popeyes he animated.
Judy Jetson doesn’t appear in this cartoon, but Janet Waldo provides some voices. Mel Blanc and Howie Morris provide additional voices, along with Jean Vander Pyl. She’s Mrs. Spacely. I love how she berates her husband and eventually goes “blah, blah, blah,” which is funnier than any real words and it’s how her husband would hear her anyway. I suppose it makes sense that she’d appear out of nowhere at the beauty pageant. Checking up on her husband, I imagine. (Emcee: "And now, a word from our sponsor." Sponsor Spacely, being dragged off by his wife: "HELLLP!"). By the way, if Spacely thinks Jetson is such an imbecile, and can’t put up with him, why does he have him go to the beauty pageant with him?
Oh, and for anyone wonder, Penny Singleton does not sing as Jane. The voice belongs, I understand, to session singer Betty Jane Baker, who also did the “Rockenspiel” jingle for Wilma Flintstone.