Saturday, March 12, 2016

Jetsons – Miss Solar System

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.



Ed Sullivan used to introduce celebrities who were in his studio audience, then the director would turn the camera on them as they waved. Blitzer parodies that by having Solarvan forget the name of the celebrity he is introducing (Sullivan was known to muck up names on occasion) and check his little card.

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:

Miss Solar System, she’s the queen
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.

18 comments:

  1. This is one of the more adult-themed episodes of The Jetsons. Penny Singleton really gets to shine as Jane in this one. It's a nice change of pace from the Spacely-Cogswell feud which fuels most of the Jetsons story-lines. It's also timeless in its representation of a woman's role being more than just a home-maker. It's easy to pull for Jane in this one.

    Looks like visually the artists went all-out on this one. It's one of the most stunning episodes in the entire series.

    Rosey the Robot is absent from all but two of the original series episodes. She is regularly shown in the closing sequence, but that is all. I had thought maybe she made brief cameos in some of the other ones, but having watched the original series several times, she only appears in those two.

    So Betty Jean Baker sang for Penny Singleton and Jean Van der Pyl? Interesting that Betty Rubble's maiden name is Betty Jean McBricker. Coincidence?

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    1. Yes, sc, the design work is great which is why I'm annoyed the credits aren't on the cartoon (if Jerry Eisenberg reads these posts, he may know who was responsible).
      I went back through my e-mails from the late Earl Kress, and I gather Ms. Baker went by "B.J." professionally.

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  2. 3/12/16
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    I doubt we'll ever see the original closing credits ever again with the original and correct animator/gag/layout/background credits. With Warner Brothers owning the material nowadays, it seems improbable they will give any credibility to former distributor Screen Gems/Columbia Television, as Worldvision Television industries originally chopped up the original credits around 1983 simply to remove mentions of the old "Screen Gems/Color By Pathe" logo from 1962 semi-imposed in-credit on the screen (to this day I'm still not sure if original 1964-67 repeat prints on NBC Saturday morning had the 1963-65 Screen Gems "Dancing Sticks" logo on them like 1967-81 counterpart re-runs of "The Flintstones" first five seasons on NBC and in Syndication.) The correct credits have sadly never been restored since. It's the same story on The Flintstones closing credits in confusion-Worldvision and later Turner Enterprises were simply removing any mentions or logos of Screen Gems, which today are sorely missed by those who still remember them 50-55 years earlier in retrospection. I know I'll never forget about them. Original mentions to ABC Television & NBC Television ("The ABC-TV Space Sky" logo and "The NBC Color Snake" logo respectfully are also removed as well. A favorite gag I liked in this episode from childhood: When Mr. Spacely catches Jetson goofing of at the water cooler with the staff members on company time, and later crashing through the "Miss Solar System" billboard sign directly on the model's face in front of an angry Mr. Spacely.

    Spacely: "Why....WHY...WHY DO I PUT UP WITH YOU?!"
    Jetson: "I DON"T KNOW< SIR!"

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    1. That is a shame about those original end credits.

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    2. I really haven't seen the actual real closing credits and correct logos intact on these cartoons since they ran on the networks, and for just a few years after that on our local television stations when they actually ran 16mm prints in real time, not pre-recorded.

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    3. Tracking down collectors who own those 16mm prints may be the only way to get the closing credits recorded, if not actually applied to the DVD (or successor format) re-releases. You know they've got to be out there somewhere.

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  3. This ep is one of my Jetson favorites, purely for the music cues, most of which were never repeated and have never been available outside of the cartoon. In addition to Bill Spacey, there's the Galaxy Concherto, the cue when the contestants are being introduced (a blown-up variation on "The Swivel"), etc.

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  4. This such a great Jetsons episode. I don't know why but George, Jane, Mr. and Mrs. Spacely always reminded of Alan Young, Dina Merrill, Harold Peary and Verna Felton. Betty Jane Baker! Thanks, YOWP :)

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  5. I don't remember that Rent A Rocket commercial. Was it cut out of syndication?

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    1. Probably, I don't recall ever seeing the "Pay TV" bit either, in 1985, these episodes were released in a package that often edit out nearly a minute of the episodes to fit it into a shorter length for more ads.

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    2. There were other episodes I've seen on TV that were edited for time: "Rosey the Robot", "A Date with Jet Screamer" (the only '60s episode with no laugh track), "The Space Car", "The Little Man", "G.I. Jetson", "Dude Planet" and "Elroy's Mob". I got the edited version of "Astro's Top Secret" on videotape without the laugh track. Judy was also absent in that episode also.

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  6. Thanks as always for the acknowledgements. Now I feel guilty, but have to offer another correction: That's Hugh Fraser animating the four vidcaps of George stomping out of his office, Spacely bellowing, and George dancing. George's 'wild take' is undubitably Vinci, however.

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    1. Howard, I'll accept your eye.
      I'm so used to Carlo doing butt-twisting walks. I didn't realise anyone else did it.

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  7. This episode is a bit of an alternate take on "The Beauty Contest", which was a Season 2 episode of "The Flintstones". Same denouncement that Fred and Barney find their wives competing for Miss Water Buffalo, but the way they get there is different from Blitzer's story (in the former case, Mr. Slate isn't a judge, but is pressuring Fred to pick his daughter as the winner).

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  8. THank you Howard for the animation ID and Yowp for the voice ID's. Janet Waldo, whether as Judy, Josie (not in this show, of course) or as Gina gets to do "hot chick"(within the TV limits, anyhow) ways..SC

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  9. Such a concept of working in interrelated worldplay would continue with the likes of Smurfs and its "home-grown" cousin, Trollkins, in the early 1980's.

    And correct me if I'm wrong in noting where Jabbewjaw deployed similar practices.

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  10. Am I the only one who found it strange that George didn't recognize Jane? Not only was her face not disguised very well, but she was wearing that dress that he thought was too "Uba-Duba-Duba-Duba" as was previously mentioned. Too much logic?

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