Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Jetsons – Elroy’s Mob

The “Elroy’s Mob” episode of The Jetsons may be best known for one scene—when Kenny Countdown is watching “the billionth rerun of the Flintstones.” It’s a throwaway gag but it’s probably the most subtle commentary on TV cartoon programming.

When this cartoon first aired in 1963, there weren’t a billion reruns of The Flintstones. Not even hundreds. Episodes had been repeated during the season they aired exactly once to fill up the summer prime time schedule. But other cartoons, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, and many of the other old theatricals, had been repeated endlessly on morning and afternoon kids shows. That’s where the money was. Hanna-Barbera knew that; the company built itself on syndicating Huckleberry Hound in 1958. So it was The Flintstones ended up in syndication in 1966. Today, in the Jetsons’ 21st Century, it seems like there have been a billion reruns of Fred, Barney, Dino and the rest. When this cartoon was made, that was nowhere near the case.

The cartoon may be set in the future but there are still ‘60s reference-puns that those of us around then got. The crooks in this one are pretending to be a crew shooting “The Unspaceables” (“The Untouchables”). And the TV news reporter who just happens to be in the Jetsons’ neighbourhood to interview them is “Chet Sprinkley” (NBC’s anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley). No disrespect meant to writer Barry Blitzer, but these are weak. The Flintstones was ever worse for this; trying to make a comedic name by adding “stone” or “rock” or something like that. That doesn’t take any creativity, any more than adding arbitrarily adding “space” or “moon” to a name on The Jetsons.

It seems as if Blitzer had the Flintstones on his mind when he wrote this cartoon. When Jane tells George to have fun with Astro, he responds: “Fun? I could have more fun with a sabre-tooth tiger.” A what? Doesn’t that joke belong on the other series?

The plot of “Elroy’s Mob” includes a really quaint concept—parents feeling shame because of something their child has done and (probably more importantly) how will it reflect on them. “What will I tell the PTA?” Jane wails as she’s told her son is now considered a mobster. It also includes a bit of a scary concept. You may have noticed police officers infest The Jetsons series. They’re here in this episode, too. Elroy and Astro are told by patrol cops to get home because “it’s after curfew.” Is the future so ridden with crime that police are everywhere and a curfew is necessary?

A quick plot summary: Elroy brings home Kenny’s weekly magna-proofed (unerasable) report tape from school after Kenny switches them (four Ds, an F and an H) but his parents won’t believe it’s a mistake. When Kenny confesses via visiphone, George and Jane go to apologise but found Elroy and Astro have run away. The boy and dog get conned into helping Muggsy Megaton rob a jewelry store. Muggsy and his gang hide out at the Jetsons’. Astro gnaws through the rope tying him up and fetches the police who make the arrest. Astro histrionically explains to a TV interviewer how he helped catch the criminals. I like how Astro’s the hero here. Hmm. Cumbersome heroic dog that pronounces every word starting with an “r.” It appears that idea got filed away at Hanna-Barbera for future use.

Fernando Montealegre, Rene Garcia and Fernando Arce painted the backgrounds.



Sorry Elroy’s in the way, but you can still see the architecture in the background.



Elroy’s bedroom.



The animators of this cartoon are Carlo Vinci and Hugh Fraser. I can’t pick out all of Carlo’s work here, but it’s safe to say the side-to-side wagging heads and the walk cycles with the swinging butts are his (he animated the Flintstones scene in this one). Fraser is always tough for me, but the drawing below is definitely his. He drew a weird take where the eyes would stretch up. He doesn’t go as overboard here as he did in some of the TV Popeyes he animated in 1960.



And here’s a neat vibrating bash take.



This rubbery-nosed head shake ends with George’s little eyes.



A shock take. It reminds me a bit of those fuzzy-hair takes that Jim Tyer drew at Terrytoons.



Some exits.



Camera error! Look at the kids’ eyes. This was part of a cycle so it shows up at least twice in the cartoon.



Laughs? Well, I still like the gag where Astro describes the criminal to a sketch artist, who ultimately draws a picture of the desk sergeant. Old, obvious? Yeah. But I laughed anyway.



Shep Menken guest stars as the voice of Muggsy Megaton. He’s one of those H-B bad guys with his hand in his pocket. Menken also plays the court sketch artist and Chet Sprinkly. Don Messick also guests as Astro, the giggling gorilla and various other characters. Janet Waldo gets to do an extra voice and appears as Miss Brainmocker, the robot teacher.



Hoyt Curtin’s score includes “Rise and Shine,” the original Flintstones theme, when Kenny is watching Fred land on Barney in the swimming pool.

Other credits:
Animation Director – Charles Nichols.
Layout – Irv Spector, Willie Ito, Jacques Rupp.
Camera – Frank Paiker, Norm Stainback, Roy Wade, Chuck Flekal.
Film Editor – Greg Watson, Joe Ruby.
Story Supervision – Arthur Pierson.
Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.

Willie Ito and Joe Ruby are still with us.

17 comments:

  1. "It seems as if Blitzer had the Flintstones on his mind when he wrote this cartoon. When Jane tells George to have fun with Astro, he responds: “Fun? I could have more fun with a sabre-tooth tiger.” A what? Doesn’t that joke belong on the other series?"

    Looks like George has been watching too many reruns of "The Flintstones."

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  2. Both George and Fred had perpetual problems with their bosses, but George's lack of control quite often extended to his home life, and that's again true here, where he's tied up by Muggsy Megaton and his gorilla, and Astro's the one who has to save the day. It makes for a good bit with Astro -- who was the funniest character of the series -- but it did overall mean a weaker lead character than Fred Flintstone, and "Elroy's Mob" turned out to be the last first-run episode of the one-season series (until the poorly done revival two decades later).

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  3. (here comes a rant)

    Speaking of, this reminds me about one of my biggest pet peeves of the revival in the '80s: I hated it when Elroy was treated as some genius in the new episodes. The whole point to a kid his age learning stuff like astrophysics is in the future, EVERY kid would and it wouldn't be anything special.

    Also, in an episode of the new series, Kenny Countdown's father made another appearance where we find out he's an ... astronaut. really? Just because his last name is "Countdown"? Ugh. Again, they should be treating names like "Jetson" and "Countdown" like "Smith" and "Jones."

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    Replies
    1. Yes, but you have to admit that the whole reunion of the all of the voice actors and most of the crew was pretty awesome. You don't get stuff like that nowadays - They would change the actors. Though, Daws Butler did mention somewhere they had auditioned all of them again.
      There were also episodes that couldn't have been made in the 1962-63 TV session. Like "The Cosmic Courtship of George and Jane":
      Judy: "If you had any respect for our mother, dad you'd marry her right away. Then she can divorce you!".

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    2. True! Plus the world got to see John Kricfalusi in action.

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    3. I also liked that Judy was central to about half of the stories of the 1980s.SC And that Frank Nelson got to guest in some of these.

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    4. Pokey I loved the fact that Rosie was a part of the main cast. In the original show she was in only 2 episodes!

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    5. The remake series was pretty good about retaining recurring characters (Henry, Mrs. and Arthur Spacely, Cogswell and Harlan, Rudy) and incidental ones (Mr. Tweeter, Grandpa Jetson). But it seemed that Spacely was in virtually all 65 episodes, and was even more cruel and ruthless than in his 1962-63 appearances. The fact that Mel Blanc's voice power was diminishing didn't help, either.

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    6. On the other hand, Mr. Spacely got his share of comeuppance as well.

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  4. SHEPARD MENKEN?!! I always thought that was Herschel Bernardi! Wow!

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  5. YOWP, Why was Rosie featured in only two episodes from the original show?

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    1. I suspect because there was nothing for her to do. However, she was important to Marx toys because it made a Rosey toy and was miffed to learn she wouldn't be a regular character. I suspect that's the only reason Rosey ended up in the closing animation; to make it seem she was around more than she was. As a kid, I never noticed how many storylines she was in.

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    2. In the 1980s one, she was certainly featured in more, including one where George accidentally ticks of a Frank Nelson-voiced robot who then declared Code Red say Rosie turns againgst George. Kind of ironic in two ways, as Nelson (this was 1985), died the next year, and as far as I know unlike the Flintstones (the only early 1960s Hanna-Barbera show I know of him ever appearing) he was imitated, in "Las Venus" (which was covered during one of my own trips to Sin City). "Code Red! Code Red!"SC

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  6. drmark7@juno.com

    Greetings YOWP!

    I'd like to add this to your comments on ELROY'S MOB:

    "Elroy's Mob" was one of the first Super 8mm home movies I owned. c.1968.
    It was silent, black and white and only 3-4 minutes long. I also had a 3
    minute TOP CAT and 10 minutes of THE FLINTSTONES "The Gruesomes" in FULL COLOR! Projected them all 100s of times. By the mid 70s, I had advanced to sound and had the (nearly complete) JETSONS- "A Date With Jet Screamer" episode. Columbia actually released a lot of Hanna Barbera's Screen Gems stuff in 8mm for home collectors. And for some reason, the Trans-Lux HERCULES cartoons.

    They also supplied these same 8mm movies to little coin-operated, kiddie rear projection booths you might find in the lobby of a departments store and could sit in and view several titles for a dime or a quarter. "KIDDIERAMA"- Those were the days my friend...

    http://www.billyseven.net/kiddierama/kiddierama.html

    My Best, Mark

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  7. One thing always bothered me in this episode, the audio mistake when Mugsy is threatening the Jetsons - the voice of the short little crook (did he have a name?) comes out of Mugsy's mouth saying "Show them what we are going to do to them Chuckles" to the gorilla. They really got sloppy on the last episode.

    Also a number of websites say that the Flintstones clip is from their first episode "The Swimming Pool" but not only does this never happen in that episode, Fred and Barney's character design is from later in the run (contemporary to the Jetson's).

    Although I love that the first thing Astro does after chewing his way out of the ropes is hide under the couch! Astro really is a dog!

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  8. The crooks stole this episode, especially the perpetually amused Chuckles ("Ten thousand gorillas, and we get stuck with a giggler.") But it always bothered me that the report tape never seemed to mention the student's name, leading George and Jane to think all that negative feedback was attributable to Elroy. But then, we wouldn't have an episode. One does feel very sorry for Elroy when he's being punished- and Astro gets punished, too. George was really being harsh.

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  9. Speaking of Tyer and television budgets,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZWinNESjzc

    Of course, Tyer never knew the meaning of "limited" and "animation" in the same scentence.

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