Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera evidently wanted to make the Jetsons episode A Date With Jet Screamer a special cartoon. The episode comes to a complete stop for a one-minute, 45-second song. Instead of cycle animation of Screamer singing and cuts to various shots of the audience screaming or snapping fingers, the studio brought in Bobe Cannon to work on a special sequence of images, some abstract, to be shown during much of the song.
Cannon’s animation career began at Warner Bros. where he was eventually put into the new Tex Avery unit in 1936. But his best-known work was at UPA, where he won an Oscar for Gerald McBoing Boing and directed some lesser cartoons featuring children.
Hanna-Barbera had many competent, veteran artists—even some from Disney—so Cannon’s hiring for one cartoon is puzzling. However, he ended up working with layout artist Jerry Eisenberg to create a sequence that’s likely unique in the studio’s life.
Frame grabs don’t give you anywhere near the full effect of the animation. The sequence opens with some symbols representing guitar playing with the lyrics moving across the screen, growing and shrinking.
Jet and Judy fly behind some kind of odd space fence and then meet “a man with a funny, funny face” whose body changes into the song lyrics.
“Come on, fly with me!” sings Jet. He sails from frame bottom to top with blue, star and planet-filled space in the distance.
Howard Morris voices Jet Screamer in his first job for Hanna-Barbera (his first cartoon work may have been in a public service short called Stop Driving Us Crazy!, made in 1959 and released in early 1960). Morris’ hiring is interesting. Joe Barbera didn’t go with a young, rock-and-roll sounding guy or even Duke Mitchell, who sang for Fred Flintstone during the 1960-61 season of The Flintstones. At the time, Morris was known mainly for over-the-top performances as part of Sid Caesar’s cast (his work on The Andy Griffith Show came the season after The Jetsons left prime time). Whatever reasoning resulted in his hiring, it’s hard to think of anyone else voicing Jet Screamer.
Because the end credits were lopped off all the original Jetsons shows when they were revived for syndication in the mid-1980s, there’s no indication who was responsible for the background art in this cartoon.
These young people are going into a lounge where Jet Screamer is performing live but the shot at the end of the song shows them all on a couch watching a big screen TV. Maybe this is a spill-over room or something.
This is a cloud that George (animated by Carlo Vinci) hides behind.
How’s this for a futuristic piano?
Judy’s expression. Hey, in the future, they still have newspaper photographers with little “press” tickets in their hats while taking pictures with flash cameras. Ret-ro!
A Date With Jet Screamer was the second Jetsons show to air, on September 29, 1962. Variety reported “a major upset” in the ratings, with the show winning the 7:30 p.m. time slot. It had an 18.9 share compared to 16.9 for the first half of Disney on NBC and 15.9 for the season premiere of Dennis the Menace on CBS. All those numbers are comparatively small. Compare them to Bonanza’s 31 audience number later in the evening. As it turned out, cartoon-loving kids aside, viewers already had one modern-family-in-different-era show and didn’t want another. By the end of the season, Uncle Walt’s wonderful world won the ratings war, and George, Jane, Judy and Elroy were dispatched to Saturday morning reruns. Despite some initial promise, and good work by Bobe Cannon, Jet Screamer would scream in prime time no longer.