Saturday, 9 April 2016

Jetsons – Las Venus

Why can’t sitcom characters just be honest?

Why can’t they say “Honey, the boss has forced me to have dinner tonight with a female client to get a contact signed”? No, sitcom writers would rather drag out the anxious-married-man-has-uncomfortable-dinner-with-beautiful-single-woman plot. We know how it’s going to end, because the plot never changes. The wife and the woman come face-to-face in the climax scene, the misunderstanding is cleared up and the husband and wife tag out the show happy and hugging.

That’s what we get from Barry Blitzer in the Jetsons episode “Las Venus.”

And why is it that boss Spacely thinks George Jetson is an imbecile but still has him close out important business deals?

Sorry, but the plot in this one is a little too old, tired and predictable for my liking, though Blitzer adds a little change at the end. So let’s, instead, concentrate on the best part of any Jetsons episode that isn’t named Astro—the designs.

George is taking Jane on a second honeymoon to Las Vegas, which has morphed for futuristic space pun purposes as Las Venus. The Jetsons, of course, is a product of the early ‘60s, a time in Vegas of flashing neon and the Rat Pack, where a little casino action translated into innocent fun (and generally within one’s financial means for the average suburbanite). The various casinos we see in this episode all have bright lights going on and off and the designs, as usual, are imaginative. Click on them to make them bigger.



Dean Martian is about the only nod to the Rat Pack in the cartoon. I thought Frank Star-natra might be part of the bill, but we get enough “star” celebrity puns. George refers to that great dancer Fred Astar. And we get a performance from Starence Welcome, wunnerfully voiced by Daws Butler. I like how the dialogue refers to “space bubble music” but there are no bubbles in the scene. Bill Hanna saves on the animation budget.


Blitzer has some billboard sight gags. Note the parody of Williams Lectric Shave, which was advertised all over the place on TV in the ‘60s. The Cosmic Cola ad has an animated cycle of the Martian kids drinking while the lipstick ad talks to George who just can’t stop being distracted by women.



The credits were removed from the episode about 30 years ago so the cartoons in circulation now don’t tell you who is responsible for these great backgrounds. Or the animation, for that matter. My guessing average is pretty lousy for the Jetsons. I can safely say that several animators worked on it because George looks different in various parts of the cartoon. Whoever did the opening animation (and I believe he’s back at the end) has odd mouth movements. George exhibits a row of teeth, lip-biting and some tongue biting, too. George has a long neck.



What would a Jetsons cartoon be without a motorcycle traffic cop? This one includes a judge on a TV screen giving a ticket. The cop has those roundish eyes that I’ve seen Dick Lundy and Bob Bentley draw at Hanna-Barbera.

A different animator is at work here, giving George several facial expressions as he hears Jane win a jackpot from a robot one-armed bandit. He’s cross-eyed, beady-eyed and a little cockeyed in some of the drawings, though I’m only posting a few examples.



Here’s part of a take later in the act when Spacely promises Jetson a shapely secretary. I’ll bet this is Don Patterson’s work here; he did a Fred Flintstone drawing once with swirling eyes and head tilted in the same way (with a little open mouth).



Part of one more take from later in the cartoon. George’s mouth is great. George Nicholas drew takes similar to this but it doesn’t look like his work.



And a couple of exit-from-frame drawings. George becomes an outline while G.G. (Gigi) Galaxy leaves behind a few multiples.



Besides the regular voice cast, Jean Vander Pyl dips into her voice collection and borrows Tallulah Bankhead for Miss Galaxy (it’s also her Mrs. J. Evil Scientist voice). She may have the best line in the cartoon; it’s a Groucho-like play on words: “In the meantime, I’ll take a good old-fashioned bath. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the expense filling the tub with old fashioneds.” Don Messick has a bunch of roles, repeating his Uniblab voice for one of the mobile robot slot machines (Barry Blitzer also wrote the great episode where Uniblab turns himself into a robot gambling casino), and playing the cop. Mel Blanc is Spacely, Judge Fairly of Lunarville, a robot one-armed bandit and the doorman at the Las Venus Venus.

Whether Hoyt Curtin wrote some cues with this episode specifically in mind, I don’t know, but his space samba music heard in several cartoons (someone can tell me if a theremin is used) is worked into the plot of this one. One really interesting cue is when the scene cuts to a background drawing of the dog kennel where Astro is staying while George and Jane are in Las Venus. It’s a flute version of the Augie Doggie theme that was also used in the Pixie and Dixie cartoon Pied Piper Pipe.

13 comments:

  1. This is one of the best episodes! LOVE IT. Thanks, YOWP!

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  2. I always wondered, if H-B always wanted a Frank Nelson-like desk clerk why didn't they just hire him more often instead of having the brilliant Don Messick do an imitation of his voice?

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    1. Soooohhhhh:) Frank (as a character)n turned up here,too,like in other HB productions...Don was so versatile that Joe or whoever figured it was cheaper and they only had to pay more to one actor later (like when Messick did a certain unmentionable Great Dane who will not go mentioned on this blog..hint..he's similiar to Astro..)

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  3. I happened to be surfing around YouTube a couple of days ago and came upon a mild variation of the Jetsons plot that Blitzer would use for a McHale's Navy episode two years later (though in this case, it's the designated bad guy Joe Flynn who's trying to keep his visiting wife away from exotic dancer-turned-nurse Yvonne Craig as well as from the admiral. Slightly more complicated structure, and not a happy ending for Capt. Binghamton of course, but same basic idea).

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  4. Penny Singleton was well-rehearsed in this type of plot, because it occurs numerous times in the "Blondie" films. There is a running gag where fireworks, bugle calls, and battle scenes are superimposed over the image of Blondie's face when she first learns of one of Dagwood's supposed infidelities. Her jealousy is almost always completely unfounded.

    Notice that the way she enunciates "Mr. Spacely" is similar to the way she said "Mr. Dithers"--same kind of inflection.

    This is one of the more romantic Jetsons episodes, featuring some adult humor and focusing on the relationship between George and Jane. Shopworn as it is, this type of plot always seemed very satisfying to me, because it emphasized the family bond--and it centered on the main characters. Flintstones #44 "The Entertainer" utilized the plot device as well.

    And yes, I always wondered--why not just be up-front with your wife and tell her you had to entertain a female client at your boss' request? But then, of course, there would be no plot!

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  5. Actually, that's a flute version of the Augie Doggie theme heard during the dog kennel scene- not the meece theme. So it does make perfect sense contextually, as well as being a cute in-joke.

    This is one of several JETSON episodes animated by the quartet of Irv Spence, Don Lusk, Ray Patterson (brother of Don) and Grant Simmons. Spence's work is somewhat easy to detect; the facial expressions are very rubbery and flexible a la Ed Love, but more exaggerated.I suspect he animated the take and George's revolving eyes in the stills with him talking to Spacely on the visapone. Characteristics of the other three animators are rather hard to identify.

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    1. Thanks, again, Howard. This is why I hate guessing at animators after 1960. That eye-take really does remind me of Don Patterson.
      The AD theme was used in a meeces cartoon so I've fixed the sentence.

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  6. Bit of excellent sound design when George is trying to get G G Galaxy to discuss the contract and she insists on having a drink - great background music in the restaurant with some sounds of conversation and clinking dishes, followed by applause when the music ends! The ambience of being in a club has a "real world" feel to it.

    Also love the complexity of the opening animation as the family members come down and are "loaded" into the car.

    And the instrumental re-use of "Won't You Come Home Bill Spacely" when George and Jane are checking into the hotel!

    AND Starrence Welcome's theme music is pretty respectable "Champaign Music"!

    This and Miss Solar System are my two favorites.

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  7. I never cared for this episode, not because of the plot but because of the animation. The characters (as shown in your first slide and the sequence with the in room slot machines) look like Spumco characters rather than HB animation. Just didn't work for me.

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    1. That's probably Irv Spence's animation, which is very loose and rubbery compared to most other H-B animators at the time. Spence was a prominent animator in the much higher-budgeted Tom & Jerry and Tex Avery theatricals, and his free-wheeling style is quite noticeable.

      Lusk, Patterson and Simmons didn't seem to do much H-B TV work during the Screen Gems era other than on THE JETSONS. So their styles can't be pinned down the way the studio's mainstays (Hathcock, Love, Lundy, Muse, Nicholas, Patterson, Vinci) can.

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  8. It's Starrence Welkin, not Welcome. "Welkin" essentially means "the sky," which makes it a fitting Jetsons gag, especially paired with "star" in the first part of the name.

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    1. While that would make sense, SC33, I hear Messick saying "come" not "kin" when introducing him.

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  9. Here's a link to the Frank Nelson voice issue on HB shows:
    Dancing Girls and Storyboards

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