There’s a wonderful naïveté about rock and roll of the future in what’s arguably the best-known of all the Jetsons cartoons. Rock star Jet Screamer is a clean-cut young guy. Remember, the cartoon was made before the British Invasion, let alone the long-haired, strung-out musicians and singers at the end of the 1960s. There’s no hint of sex, drugs or even rock-and-roll—or just barely one. The arrangements are a big band/jazz mix that Hanna-Barbera musical director Hoyt Curtin loved. Jet’s signature dance is the swivel, a parody of the twist. And the contest aspect of Harvey Bullock’s story (not to mention George Jetson as the anti-rock-and-roll father) faintly echoes that satire musical of the day, Bye Bye Birdie.
This cartoon may have the best artwork of any Jetsons episode. Unfortunately, the original end credit animation was chopped off when the series went back into syndication in the 1980s so I can’t tell you who is responsible. Jerry Eisenberg told me he worked on the cartoon and laid out the “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah” sequence with Bobe Cannon, who was brought in by Joe Barbera to work on it.
Here are some of the interiors. Notice the transparent panels on overlays in the first two frames below, how the foliage is handled in the third frame and the geometric shapes in the final one.
Note the drum kit. Yes, George plays the drums. Of course, he never played them before this cartoon and never played them again after. And if it strikes you as being out of character, well, you’re right as far as I’m concerned. It’s a contrived plot device, just as George’s instantly evaporating dislike for Jet Screamer.
Getting back to the artwork, there’s a rare use of shadows in this cartoon.
Even when Jet swirls inside the scene, a silhouette of him forms. Clearly, the attitude in this cartoon was “This is prime time. Let’s make the art special.”
Some inventions of the future don’t look terribly futuristic to us today. Computers are still huge things with punch cards. And people still mail letters.
As for inventions of the future: the old stand-by, the Visiphone.
A satellite tracker, kind of a GPS in reverse.
A big screen TV.
A home paper shredder.
A conveyer contraption that automatically showers and dresses kids.
A robot sweeper (Rosey must be off for the day). Wasn’t there one of these things in Doggone Modern, the Chuck Jones cartoon for Warners?
A two-way radio to talk to people. Evidently, cell phones don’t reach Outer Plutonia. This is the same sort of thing Augie Doggie had to contact his buddy on Mars in Mars Little Precious.
Another example of the Instant Watch Syndrome, when a watch is only worn for a portion of the cartoon necessary for the plot. This one uses the famous Señor Wences “S’all right” routine, best known from the ending of the Quick Draw McGraw Show.
And my favourite invention of the future that belongs in the ‘60s: George’s automatic chair pulls him behind a screen and he emerges with a cigarette and a drink. Younger people today don’t understand how perfectly normal smoking was back then (the U.S. Surgeon General’s report that caused a big fuss in the media didn’t come out until 1964). And then there’s the attitude today that if a kid sees something like this, they’ll take up smoking and drinking.
The cartoon contains a reference to “My Fair Lady” (George reciting “The rain on the plain”), the Indy Race (in the future, it’s the “Indianapolis 500,000”), and the shrinking work-week (down to three hours a day in the Jetsons’ time). And there’s the ubiquitous traffic cop, proving there’ll be some kind of police state in the future. Almost every Jetsons show seems to have police showing up.
Ken Muse animates a good portion of the first third of the cartoon. He didn’t quite have the hang of the characters; Jane’s head looks really odd in some of his scenes. He also animates George’s head outside the bubble of his car. How can that happen?
One other animator I can pick out is the great Carlo Vinci. This drawing of Judy, face-forward, with legs stretched, is pure Vinci. Nobody else at Hanna-Barbera drew like that.
As for the Eep-Ork sequence, we’ll save that for another post.