Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Say, That's Clinker-bell

Dave Detiege is best-known to animation fans as a writer at DePatie-Freleng and, before that, one of the latter-day storymen at Warner Bros. responsible for less-than-memorable cartoons such as “Mother Was a Rooster” and “Good Noose.”

David Sam Detiege joined Walt Disney in 1942 at age 16 (if newspaper clippings are correct) and eventually became a writer in the Jack Hannah unit during the early 1950s. He also co-designed Fresh-Up Freddie for the studio’s 7-Up commercials. In 1954, he formed Bankson-Detiege-Jackson with writers Budd Bankson and Larry Jackson (PTA minstrel shows, a specialty) to produce TV shows, their first effort being a kids puppet series called “Sir Gadzooks.” Four years later, he and new wife Phyllis set up Detiege Productions. He also wrote a book called “Waldo, the Jumping Dragon.”

He never worked at Hanna-Barbera at the time. I suspect there was a pretty good reason. The reason was the Cloudhoppers.

We mentioned in a previous blog post that the lawyer who represented Cambria Productions in a lawsuit against Hanna-Barbera had been involved in other litigation against the studio. In that case, Detiege was his client. The story is in Daily Variety, November 30, 1962.

450G Piracy Suit Hurled At "Jetsons"
Breach of contract and invasion of common law property rights are charged in $450,000 damage suit filed by Detiege Productions Wednesday against Screen Gems, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and ABC in Superior Court which asks additionally for an accounting of profits.
Complaint filed by attorney Irwin O. Spiegel claims the Hanna-Barbera tv cartoon series, "The Jetsons," infringed on Detiege's program, "The Cloudhoppers," which had been submitted to ABC in 1961 in "narrative, dramatic and pictorial form." Complaint specifically stated that two episodes of "Jetsons" featuring a mechanical maid called "Rosie" that "copies and imitates plaintiff's original cartoon character called Clinker-bell, a robot maid with distinctive visual and mechanical characteristics," and that same relationship with other characters existed.
Detiege also wants accounting of profits from merchandising contracts for the manufacture and sale of various products allegedly based upon plaintiff's program for mat[erial].

What happened to the lawsuit? Variety doesn’t say so we may never know. I can’t see Detiege winning the case, simply because “The Jetsons” is a time-inversion of “The Flintstones.” Hanna-Barbera stole from itself (and not for the last time). Incidentally, I haven’t found any evidence Detiege copyrighted his Cloudhoppers characters or story synopses. For what it’s worth, Larry Markes wrote the teleplay for the Jetsons’ debut featuring Rosey. Markes wrote sitcoms but, interestingly, “Hazel” wasn’t among them.

We’ve reprinted a bunch of newspaper articles on the impending arrival of the series, but missed this one from the TV Key syndication service. ABC took a chance on “The Jetsons” in prime time after “Top Cat” and a bunch of other new prime-time cartoons failed the previous season. And Arnie Carr, or whoever at Hanna-Barbera provided the information, pushed one of the things that had made “The Flintstones” a success—the gadgets. This was in a newspaper dated September 5, 1962, by which time Marx had signed a deal to make Rosey the Robot toys.

New Cartoon Series Set By ABC


HOLLYWOOD - The big duds last season were the animated cartoon series. This fall only one new one sneaks in, “The Jetsons,” beginning Sunday, Sept. 23 on ABC.
Are the grownups going to push the kids aside to watch “The Jetsons,” a family who live in the next century? Of course, Hanna and Barbera, producers of “Huckleberry Hound” and “The Flintstones,” hope the little darlings will dial in “The Jetsons” to see how life is 100 years from now and kindly include their parents.
This could happen because “The Jetsons” may attract would-be inventors and dreamers. The show is going to be full of mechanical gadgets that we don’t have around yet. The writers are sitting up all night playing Thomas Edison. What will be possible in 2062?
Here are a few inventions the writers have come up with so far: a seeing eye vacuum cleaner that will occasionally lift the rug and sweep dirt under it; a mother-in-law car with a rear seat which moves out and up behind the car; a prober pill that will flash reports on a screen as it rolls through a person’s innards. Medically the writers can go crazy over gadgets and may have to restrain themselves.
Push Button Dominates
The dominating influence will, of course, be the push button. There’ll even be push buttons exercises for weak fingers. Maybe the forefinger will double in size. For instance, Jane Jetson pushes buttons for food, reading and transportation. When she sends Elroy, age 8, to school she merely pushes the button labelled grammar school, and off he goes down the chute of the Sky Pad Apartment. If it’s raining she’ll spray a raincoat on the boy. If she pushes the wrong button for him, Elroy will soon return, marked Reject.
The Sky Pad Apartments are equipped with “high level, adjustable living.” The Jetsons can adjust their apartment at any level and can even rise above the log or smog. The showers are like our car wash establishments. Father Jetson will step on a slidewalk moving into a shower. Then he’ll enter a dry spin and end up in the talcum and finishing touch area. If he feels tired at the end of a day, he’ll take a “husband pacifier.” Soft music is heard, cocktails are whipped out and the man is soothed by gentle murmurs.
When George Jetson wants entertainment he’ll attend a football game where the players are robots who come apart at the seams with a jarring tackle. The coach merely pushes buttons and in rush Sullivan and Wojahowski, fighting robots to the bitter end.
The idea with “The Jetsons” is to have reasonable inventions that could come from our present culture.
Dress Try-on Trick
Designers have already made dresses of paper that can be worn once and thrown away. That will be old hat in the future. In this series Jane Jetson will go shopping, but instead of trying on dresses, she’ll merely take one to a mirror that will show how she looks in the dress. The telephone will have a TV screen so Jane Jetson can put on a “morning mask” if she doesn’t want to be seen without her makeup on.
While the gadgets will be the come-on, the family will still be the endearing factor. They have real hearts and they don’t eat pills instead of food. George Jetson it hard working and lovable, especially by his big dog Astro who has his own way of talking and always sits next to George.
Then there's wife, Jane, 33, a little homemaker, always pushing buttons and always talking to her mother. Judy, 15, and Elroy, 8, round out this All-American family of the future.
One thing hasn't changed—the humor. Evidently it’s the same 100 years from now. No one’s figured out what the gang will laugh at then.

“The Jetsons” has survived over 50 years and may be around 100 years after its creation to prove Witbeck correct. We can’t say the same thing for Clinker-bell.

Note: Tom Ruegger adds some excellent background about Dave Detiege in the comments.


  1. The possible reason there were only 2 episodes featuring Rosie in the original run?

  2. I was thinking a while back how close the Jetsons were to Hazel: Rosie is Shirley Booth! Hollywood is so incestuous...

    1. The Screen Gems connection would have made throwing a Hazel-style robot into the mix a natural, especially after the show's Season 1 success on NBC (No. 4 in the Nielsens, despite an oddball time slot between Dr. Kildare and Sing Along With Mitch).

    2. I'm surprised that the connection wasn't mentioned.... Let's see
      George, Jane, and Mr.Spacely=Blondie (with Penny Singleton as the Blondie-Jane connection)
      Judy=Corliss Archer from the radio an TV (Janet Waldo as both characters!-Well, most of the CA run.)

      Sorta like Top Cat previously had a Sgt.Bilko connection with Benny=Pvt.Doberman (Maurice Gosfield), not to mention the show itself!

      On the other Astro begat the rather inferioir Scooby-Doo, with the same actor, Don Messick and similar voices..

    3. Surprised? Why? Virtually no one did compared the two when the Jetsons first aired. It has similarities to almost any family sitcom of the '50s. Of course, the Jetsons was developed before any actors were hired and Penny Singleton was the second choice for Jane.

  3. "a prober pill that will flash reports on a screen as it rolls through a person’s innards." Done.

  4. Anon, I wish I could remember the source, but Jean Vander Pyl said Rosey was her version of Shirley Booth.
    GT, I think the writers simply decided to focus elsewhere for plots. No one thinks of Rosey being absent from the show because she was in the end credit animation every week.

  5. Dave Detiege did indeed work at Hanna-Barbera. 1983. I worked there then. Dave worked right down the hall. In fact, Dave's last job was at Hanna-Barbera. He was working with Friz Freleng on "The Pink Panther and Sons" TV series at the time of his death. If I'm not mistaken, Dave actually passed away at the Hanna-Barbera building at 3400 Cahuenga Blvd.

  6. Dave Detiege also wrote the story for one of the best (and one of my favorite) post-1960 Bugs Bunny shorts, "Prince Violent".

  7. The scenes shown on this topic are from the first episode of the Jetsons classical series (Hanna-Barbera/Columbia Pictures, 1962-63): Rosie The Robot, which was animated by the Disney disciple Hugh Fraser.