Someone, no doubt, has a list of how many of the Jetsons prime-time cartoons featured the phrase “Jetson, you’re fired!” The number is probably smaller than people think, but because the cartoons have been run over and over and over for 50-plus years, it seems like a lot.
This cartoon features that particular phrase, along with what’s now a tired old plot point of dangling a company vice-presidency as a reward, something which strikes me as something peculiar to the 1950s and ‘60s as desirable.
“Astro’s Top Secret” has its moments; a ‘60s Jetsons episode featuring Astro always has something worth watching. I like the eager Harlan, Cogswell’s assistant, who enthusiastically throws himself into the role of corporate spy by incorporating secret agent cliché dialogue into his spiel because, well, that’s how spies talk. That great comic actor, Howard Morris, provides Harlan’s voice, as well as that of the mock-serious narrator who appears in the first part of the cartoon. There’s a neat bit of timing when Cogswell grills Astro in a dark room under a spotlight. Astro quickly whips out a pair of sunglasses. “No cheating!” says Harlan, who grabs them away. And there’s a vaudevillian bit of corn when Cogswell tells Astro to start talking. So he does. In rowrs, bow-wows and woofs. Cogswell has his assistant Moonstone read back the transcript. “Bow wow, wow wow wow. Wow wow wow, wow...” says Moonstone. You can probably see the gag coming a mile away but it’s funny. Don Messick plays both Astro and Moonstone, but the two characters sound completely different. Astro always sounds exuberant. Moonstone is clinical and earnest as he reads back the indecipherable dog talk. Messick’s a real master.
The story revolves around the old misunderstanding routine. Spacely threatens, yet again, to put Cogswell out of business. Meanwhile, Astro swallows Elroy’s toy space car. Cogswell’s spy, Harlan, sees Astro flying around (powered by the car in his stomach), thinks George Jetson has developed an anti-gravity device, dognaps Astro, who escapes. Cogswell, Spacely and Astro all end up back at the Jetson’s home where the car pops out of the dog. Misunderstanding ended. The ending has Astro swallowing a mini-computer. Yet another misunderstanding at the fade out.
George Nicholas is one of the animators in this cartoon. I can’t pick out the others (see Howard Fein’s always helpful comments below). The characters on this show aren’t designed to have big mouths and floppy tongues, like when Nicholas animates Fred Flintstone or Yogi Bear, but they do have beady eyes and wavy mouths that Nicholas liked to draw.
The cartoon is really inconsistent when it comes to takes. Below are two extremes. They’re a real take because the animator starts with a regular drawing of Astro, then expands his eyes for a number of frames so you get the effect.
Time for some examples of dry brushwork on characters quickly leaving the frame. The characters become outlines or partial outlines to make the exit appear quicker. I’ve always liked the effect. The first two are consecutive frames of Harlan. The final two features the old “Follow that car” gag with the car taking off before the person gets inside. This time, it’s “Follow that dog!” It still works.
Here are some exteriors. I haven’t had time to check to see which other cartoons used the establishing shots of the Skypad Apartments and Spacely Sprockets buildings. The background artist is unknown.
Inventions? Well, there are plenty of visiphones in this cartoon. There’s the golf course that consists of floating platforms of grass (Spacely has a putter that converts to a number 3 driver by pressing a button; balls that drop off the platforms sprout parachutes). Most of all, I really like the sandwich maker in Spacely’s office. Oh, and dig that home computer—with a tape! It must be future retro.
Odds and sods...
● Judy does not appear in this cartoon. However, Janet Waldo makes an appearance as Marilyn, the sexy temptress dog. She talks just like Astro, pronouncing all words with “r” at the start.
● George makes $1,000 a week.
● Spacely and Cogswell drive past the same set of golf greens ten times before the scene changes.
● Music in Hanna-Barbera cartoons was strictly for mood, it wasn’t scored with the drawings in mind like in theatrical cartoons. But there’s one scene where a golf ball hits Spacely on the head and bounces into the hole. Each bounce is accompanied by a declining music stab, so the music matches the animation.
● Several scenes have characters walking behind overlays. It’s nice when Hanna-Barbera cartoons go to the trouble of doing that.
It appears Jerry Eisenberg laid out part of this cartoon. The drawing below matches the visiphone frame above.
The story is by Tony Benedict, who had an affinity for Astro. This isn’t as strong as some of the others featuring Astro, but it’s a pleasant enough half hour to watch.