Saturday, 14 May 2016

The Jetsons – Uniblab

“Spacely’s a stupe!”
“Jupiter Gin! Planet Poker! Five Card Satellite!”

Who doesn’t love those quotes?

“Uniblab” is probably my favourite Jetsons episode, though a few others come awfully close. I’ve already written about Barry Blitzer’s corporate backstabbing robot in this post with some frame grabs of animation by Carlo Vinci and Hugh Fraser. I didn’t really plan on writing about it again, but there were some random things I didn’t touch on last year, so let’s do a part two post.

One of the appealing things about The Jetsons is the creative gadgets of the future that had a kernel of reality to them (well, 1960s reality). Perhaps something similar had been portrayed in a magazine like Popular Science. How bright and sunny we all were in the 1950s and ‘60s, looking forward to an improved life in the future, thanks to technology. Today, the future is portrayed in popular culture as a dark and gritty place where people have no control over their own lives. And movie and TV viewers can’t get enough of the nightmarish negativity. But that’s an essay for another time.

Who would have thought of CD-Roms or zip drives in 1962? Barry Blitzer did, apparently. Judy has an encyclopaedia (a microbook) on a little square disc.



George Jetson’s bedroom has a flat-screen TV that comes down from the ceiling. Instead of George doing morning exercises in person, he does it on a video recording by proxy. “Ah, boy, I can feel that flab meltin’.”



The special “Emergency First Aid” (with a Red Cross below the speaker-phone) screen includes a ’60s pop culture pun. The doctor’s name is “Ken Racy” instead of “Ben Casey.” Yeah, it’s a bit of a stretch. Later, we get “Sing Along With Henry,” as Blitzer takes a poke at “Sing Along With Mitch.”



The hammy Elroy claims he’s suffering from “Venus Virus” (in an attempt to get out of school). Methinks he’s suffering from a case of Malformed Hand. Check out the difference in his hands in the pose to the right. There are some similar odd shapes in part of the first act of the cartoon.

There’s always a gadget on the show that doesn’t seem to work. In this cartoon, it’s a machine that dresses you according to the buttons you press (patent pending). George selects a “white button-down radiation shirt, grey flannel space suit, and black solar moccasins.” That isn’t what he gets.



In the next part of the cartoon, set in Spacely Sprockets, Miss Gamma presses a button to send George through a trap door in the ceiling to Mr. Spacely’s office above (a system that has a few bugs in it). The ink and paint department got out the dry brush again. Note the hair style Miss Gamma has.



If you’re a Jetsons fan, you’re familiar with the rest of plot. Spacely announces he’s spent $5,000,000,000 on Uniblab, who’ll be the new office supervisor, while George Jetson gets rewarded for his years of service with being the robot’s assistant. Uniblab turns out to be a sociopath, breaking all the rules when Spacely isn’t looking but is a model of butt-kissing efficiency when Spacely’s watching. He’s a shady gambler, too. Uniblab’s secret tape recording (tape!) gets Jetson fired. Jetson gets some unexpected help from Henry, his building superintendent, who puts “spring tonic” in Uniblab’s oil, causing the drunken robotic computer to embarrass Spacely in front of his company’s board of directors. With Uniblab gone, George gets his job back. Well, Uniblab isn’t really gone. The Jetsons learn (you can see it coming a mile away) Henry has hired Uniblab as his holiday replacement. (Uniblab now takes on the persona of a jerk landlord, chirping “Raise the rent! No pets!”).

The last time we chatted about this cartoon, we mentioned the work of Hugh Fraser, one of a number of ex-Disney artists at Hanna-Barbera at the time. Howard Fein is the Jetsons/Flintstones animation expert around here so I’ll spare myself some embarrassment by misidentifying the animators. However, this frame to the left gives you a bit of an idea of Fraser’s work on the series. He seemed to like pinhole pupils in eyes and lots of little curved shapes for the mouth. George gets stretched around, especially in the in-between drawings, in some of Fraser’s scenes in this cartoon. As an aside, I wish I knew who did the layouts and background art in this cartoon. The ovular shape of the Jetsons’ apartment and other buildings in the series result in a lot of curved walls or wall dividers. It certainly gives the show a futuristic look.

Here are a couple of ghost exits frames. First, Judy, then Buddy Blastoff’s car. Chicken in the oven!!



Carlo Vinci lends his expertise to portions of this half-hour as well. Carlo had certain ways of drawing things, especially when it came to angles of body parts, that appeared in various series over the first few years of the studio’s life. One example is when Uniblab drops Jetson in front of the Unilube supply room. Here’s an interesting Vinci effect. Instead of an eye-take for emphasis in one scene, he simply enlarges Henry’s head.



And there’s a head-shake that’s unmistakeably Carlo’s. He did a lot of three-drawing shake cycles. This one is four. His shakes always have some parts of the face (generally the nose or eyes) pointing in a different direction than others. The shake is very rubbery.



And because we’re dealing with a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, let’s give you one of those endless, run-past-the-same-stuff-in-the-background loops. Here’s an eight-drawing run cycle of George and Uniblab. It takes 24 drawings to go past the same chair in the little alcove or whatever it’s supposed to be. Hugh Fraser again.



The establishing shot of the Spacely Sprockets building is the same one used in “The Flying Suit.”



Besides the regular voice cast, Mel Blanc and Don Messick appear, Don M. giving us a great characterisation of Uniblab. Blanc, of course, is Cosmo Spacely. Both play members of the board of directors. Hoyt Curtin’s cues are excellent as always, with a fine piece of electronic music to open the cartoon that must have been cutting edge in 1962, a nice off-key muted trumpet cue when Uniblab weaves around drunk, and a big band build up to end the cartoon.

10 comments:

  1. To quote drunken Uniblab, "WHOOPEEEE!!!!" And "Spacely's a stupe! Spacely's a stupe! Spacely's a stupe!" "I'm inclined to agree".

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  2. This is one of my favorites as well. The best Jetsons episodes are the ones in which technology is more of a nuisance than a luxury. It helps that the "Uniblab" situation is so relatable...most of us have had that one co-worker who's a two-faced brown noser.

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  3. Also, while I'm not a big fan of the 80's Jetsons series, one of those episodes stands out to me as well as this one. George ticks off a pompous robot at the gym, and the robot issues a "Code Red" against him to any robotic or digital entity. It makes George's life a living hell, because everything technological runs smoothly as usual for everyone but him.

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    Replies
    1. One of Frank Nelson's very last roles as he died the next year (1986), and a very good one...one of my favorite newer Jetsons.

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  4. There was also the followup, where Uniblab was in the Army, as Jetson, Spacely and Henry did some Reserves work. It was pretty much a repeat of this episode.

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  5. 5/15/16
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    Loved this episode when I was a child. I loved it when George gets pissed off at Uniblab for getting him fired:
    "Why you, you, you....UNIFINK!"
    Also: why does George strangely resemble Pearl from "Steven Universe" when accidentally wearing Jane's clothes in drag? It must be the pointy nose! That scene of him in drag was always a laugh getter for me.

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  6. It's amazing the long running joke the Uniblab episode established. Back around 2000 at a broadcast cluster where I worked, the engineer rolled some weird gadget just outside the newsroom. Yep, it was on wheels. It was something he was going to eventually take to the transmitter site. Our News Director ran down the halls yelling, " It's the Uniblab.!! Out of various control rooms, voices were heard saying " Spacely's a fink...Coffee Break...Coffee break ". Has to be one of my all time favorite Jetsons Eps.

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  7. It never fails to amuse me how cartoon characters, who almost always wear the same thing during the day, have a large wardrobe to choose from (or loads of clothes to iron) when the plot calls for it. The Jetsons dress-o-matic', or whatever you want to call it, not only puts George in drag put gives him a feminine hairstyle too!

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  8. Ok-I haven't watched the Jetsons in years but I swear I remember an episode where they show them having breakfast and Judy is clearly drinking coffee. It stood out to me cuz she was supposed to be a kid and I didn't know if it was an animation flub (like they meant to give the coffee to Jane) or they just thought "Well, Judy's sixteen! She's old enough to drink coffee!" Does anyone else remember this scene or what episode it is in?

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