Saturday, March 18, 2017

G.I. Jetson

Attention! Look at the picture on the right. It’s Fred Flintstone!

Actually, it’s not. It’s an incidental character in The Jetsons episode “G.I. Jetson.” But Hanna-Barbera was borrowing an awful lot from itself by the time this cartoon was made in 1962 (it aired early the following year). There’s a character who sounds like Huckleberry Hound. We get the gag where George Jetson presses the wrong button and dresses as Jane to the amusement of the laugh track. And writer Barry Blitzer re-uses much of his own plot from the earlier Uniblab cartoon.

Uniblab, if you’ve forgotten, was a humanoid computer brain hired by Cosmo Spacely (over Jetson) to be the manager his office. In this cartoon, Spacely hires him (over Jetson) to be the Sergeant of the Space Guard Reserve which he and Jetson are in. Once again, Uniblab conducts some shady, illegal gambling (marked playing cards of the future give off a hi-fi signal). George again mouths off to him about Spacely as Uniblab captures it on a microphone (the difference is there’s a camera broadcasting it to Spacely). Again, Henry comes to the rescue by screwing with Uniblab’s innards (a wrong battery this time instead of high-alcohol oil). And, one more time, Uniblab’s out of control when Spacely has the robot/computer show off for the higher-ups. The original Uniblab cartoon is pretty funny. This is just a stale carbon copy—or whatever they have in the future instead of carbon copies.



Just to back up a bit, Blitzer’s story opens with George having a nightmare about Spacely being Satan. After being woken up, the Western Universe boy comes flying to the Jetsons’ apartment with a Tele-Tape (in a 1960s reel of tape). George thinks it may be something telling him he won the Venus Sweepstakes. Nope. It’s a World War Two-like “Greetings” announcement that he has to report for two weeks of training (“Your number came up, but it isn’t the sweepstakes,” observes Elroy). The Visi-phone rings and it turns out to be Spacely in uniform on the other end, telling him he’ll be Jetson’s commanding officer in the reserve. About half-way through the cartoon, Spacely introduces Uniblab and the plot carries on.

You might be wondering why Spacely would bring in the robot, considering how that caused a disaster in the climax of the previous cartoon, and why Jetson would be so loose-lipped about Spacely around Uniblab, as the mechanical man snitched on him to his boss last time. Wonder all you like. I can’t answer those questions, any more than why Hades is “up there” instead of down below.



The people making this episode would have been pretty familiar with radio comedies on the air during World War Two that burst forth with military gags, comments about K.P., dense commanding officers, lousy food, ill-fitting uniforms and so on. We get a sequence of them here, with future-age sight gags added. A guy who can’t read the chart for the Eye Test is declared rejected by a computer voice (Mel Blanc), ejected into a rocket and sent away. A dope who can’t pass the I.Q. test—he pounds a round peg into a square hole—is deemed officer material. The “uniform” gag is on Henry; the clothing machine doesn’t dress him properly (none of them ever seem to work on The Jetsons). Add an army hair-cut gag, popularised after Elvis Presley’s induction into the U.S. military in 1958.



As for the K.P. gags, basically they’re a switch on some standard Jetsons futuristic routines. Robots or machines do everything; all humans do is press a button and complain about how it’s too much work. And potatoes aren’t peeled. They’re pills, so they’re smashed.



The reserve training takes place at Camp Nebula. Naturally, it’s not on the ground; it floats in the atmosphere. Here’s the background drawing cobbled together from various frames.


I have no idea who the background artist or the layout man were in this cartoon, thanks to credits that were removed 30 years ago for syndication. Here are an interior and the design of the Space Guard transport ship. Red is an unusual colour for the show (note the mobile hanging), though it’s quite appropriate in George’s Hell/dream sequence. Some affiliates broadcast the series in colour.



The regular voice cast is augmented by Don Messick as Astro, Uniblab and Colonel Countdown, and Mel Blanc as Spacely and a bunch of other voices. Blanc may have the best line in the cartoon as General McMissile complains that Uniblab “cost the government millions, enough for two officers clubs.” Blanc shows why he was the best in the business. He plays Spacely and the general. Both are authoritative characters who yell a lot, but he found two different voices for them (the general has a slight accent as well). Janet Waldo gets to play a Visi-phone operator and I detect Howard Morris in two lines as the Visi-phone voice in the kitchen patrol building.

Besides a play on Western Union, there’s one other pop culture reference in this cartoon. George screams for help from Elliot Nesteroid, a spoof on the main character on The Untouchables which, coincidentally, was airing on Tuesday nights on ABC at the time The Jetsons were in prime-time on the same network.

17 comments:

  1. My theory as to why Hades was up in the sky: The Jetson are living in the true Hell. I'll send you my 300-page fanfic all about it.

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  2. YOWP :D:D:D:D It does look like Fred Flintstone.

    I wonder if this and ''Uniblab'' were rip-offs of a live-action sitcom, where the main character and his friend got an ambitious coworker drunk so he could get fired.

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    1. I can't think of too many sitcoms in the 50s, early 60s where main characters deliberately got drunk. I suspect network censors would stop it, especially if it involved father figures.

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  3. I absolutely love your blog! Is there any way to follow and receive notifications of new posts via email?

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    1. See the right side bar. I hope I set it up correctly.

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  4. "Spacely's a Stupe!" Seeing the character with Daws Butler's Huckleberry voice made me think decades ago that Daws should have been credited or Don Messick or Mel Blanc were doing that voice LOL!

    With Howard Morris very briefly featured, it's no wonder he was not credited on that particular episodes end credits.

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    1. I remember of the scene in which George was gossiping about Mr. Spacely to Uniblab (this scene was animated by the Disney disciple George Nicholas), and Uniblab was recording the George's gossips... until a certain Mr. Spacely discovering all that state of things.
      And at this scene, I can see George talking with that frog mouth (courtesy of George Nicholas, who animated this scene).


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  5. Who animates this episode of the Jetsons?

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    1. Bill Keil does the first act, in George's dream and the apartment. George Goepper does the middle act, with the orientation, marching and KP gags. George Nicholas does the rest of the episode. Goepper, Keil and Nicholas also teamed up in "Jetson's Night Out" (with others), "The Flying Suit" (with others), "Astro's Top Secret", "Millionaire Astro" and "Dude Planet".

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  6. Blitzer wrote a pretty good service comedy, or parody thereof- not surprising, since he wrote many SERGEANT BILKO episodes. Most kids watching this episode rerun on Saturday morning in the 1970s and 80s would never get the routine about Henry wanting to write his congressman to complain about the camp.

    The 'dumb' solider who's rewarded for smashing a square peg into a round hole by being promoted to officer always cracks me up.

    While George lacked a best buddy in the Barney Rubble mode, Henry was a decent sidekick/co-conspirator for him in this episode.

    The episode ends with Spacely threatening to make George's life miserable (more than ever) when they return to civilian life. George doesn't seem too upset.

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    1. It's unfortunate, Howard, I don't like this as much as the original Uniblab cartoon but you're right in that the George-Henry dynamic is a nice change and actually works better here than in the other Uniblab episode where Henry shows up out of nowhere to do a favour.
      Thanks for the animator ID. I'll have to watch the second half again for Nicholas.

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    2. Nicholas animated the stills of the card game with Uniblab; George and Henry changing his battery; and the general pinning the medal on him. The curved mouths and heavy eyelids are good indications.

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  7. Per IMDb:
    BACKGROUNDISTS: Bob Abrams/Lee Branscome/Art Lozzi
    LAYOUTERS: Richard Bickenbach/Bill Perez/Tony Sgroi

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    1. Hi, Doz. Unfortunately, I have no idea where they got their information, whether it was from the HB files, an old black-and-white affiliate reel or someone's guess. I try not to go with on-line databases as sources as I've been burned too often.
      As you probably know, the Jetsons DVD has credits from one episode spliced onto all of them.

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  8. Do you have a link to the music where we first see George driving through Space Hades?

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