Saturday, 12 September 2015

Tralfaz? A Look at Millionaire Astro

The best character on the Jetsons? Is there any doubt that it’s Astro?

The humans on the show had to behave like recognisable sitcom humans, though they could be a little bit more exaggerated because they were cartoons. But a cartoon dog doesn’t have that restriction, so Astro could be more over-the-top. He’s ridiculously hyper-emotional. And he was voiced to perfection by Don Messick. Bill Hanna and/or Joe Barbera must have thought so much of the performance that they gave an almost identical voice to a lesser dog a few years later. A great dane. Forgotten his name now.


Tony Benedict came up with Astro, writing “The Coming of Astro” and “Millionaire Astro.” The latter is the cartoon that brought the word “Tralfaz” into the popular language. Tony says it came from fellow writer Warren Foster, who got it from Tedd Pierce when the two worked at Warner Bros.; Pierce had put it in a few cartoons. The line “Tralfaz? Yechhh!” from Astro is probably about the only thing most people remember from this cartoon.

What futuristic inventions did Tony come up with?

Robot secretary, Miss Rivets. There are stories datelined Japan about robot clerks; perhaps a secretary isn’t far behind. By the way, not only does Mr. Spacely not appear in this cartoon, neither does Mel Blanc. Hal Smith and Don Messick are the only actors outside of the regular cast in this cartoon.

George tells Miss Rivets that he’s going “to relax in a nice, hot tub of sound waves.” We await that invention.

Here’s a variation on the treadmill dog walker seen in the closing animation. The fire hydrant finds its way into the plot.

The tanning bed.

Sorry, Google, but you didn’t think of the driverless car. Or one that operates by voice recognition. Tony Benedict has it in this cartoon. Unfortunately, it’s not a smart car as it ultimately crashes into a building. Google, take note.

And the Jury-Van. I like how it has an eyeball that can watch people in the courtroom. It also has Don Messick’s Uniblab voice. If one of these existed today, all you’d need is one controversial decision and people would be screaming for human jurors again. I wonder if the Jury-Vac can have a split decision?

Due to credit shearing in the 1980s, the correct artists aren’t enumerated at the close of the cartoon any more. I can guess at a couple. Here’s a lovely background of the Gottrockets estate. In the story, he’s “J.P.” but in this drawing, he’s “G.P.” Maybe he inherited the property.

I can’t snip this one together without a massive colour change, so here’s an interior in two parts. I love the eyeball shapes, although this reminds me more of the early ‘60s than the future. Bcakgrounds in this episode are credited to Fernando Montealegre, Fernando Arce and Rene Garcia.

The transport tube in the partial BG above is on an overlay. Here are some establishing shots. The background artists on Jetsons went in for blues and purples, didn’t they? I haven’t checked to see if the first two were stock shots.

George Nicholas handled the animation in part of the cartoon. Here’s his Astro, with jagged mouth and beady eyes.

One animator has Withers the lawyer dash out of the scene in an outline. Bill Keil and George Goepper also animated this cartoon.

One of the animators apparently was a little too used to drawing Huckleberry Hound. Look at Astro in this frame when the animator turns him.

Silhouette in foreground.

Miscellaneous dogs of varying shapes. Layouts are by Jerry Eisenberg, Iwao Takamoto and Jack Huber.

How often did Astro turn to the audience and talk to it? He does in this cartoon. After a pile of steaks cascades onto his plate, Astro looks at us and says “Row arout rat?”

Tony gives us the “stars-in-the-eyes” sight gag. I’m trying to remember what other Hanna-Barbera cartoon used it but am coming up blank.

Finally, a couple of endless run cycles. First, George running past the living room couch. There are six drawings in the cycle, one per frame. It takes 24 drawings for the cycle to reach the starting point again. The version in the cartoon is a little faster.

And here’s Astro in the Spacely Sprockets garage (don’t ask me how he got there), running to greet George. This cycle features four drawings, two frames each. This cycle also take 24 frames to reach the same space apartment in the background. Once again, it’s slower than in the actual cartoon. It looks like Astro’s running in mid-air to me.

It’s nice to see Astro getting the spotlight in one of the Jetsons half-hours. The Tralfaz cartoon definitely isn’t “yechhh!”


  1. Actually, the line I loved and remember about this cartoon is:
    Lawyer: I object your honor! The witness is a dog!
    Judge: Overruled. The court is not interested in the witness's character
    Lawyer: But, you honor! I mean he's a real dog! You know..bow wow, wouf wouf.

    By the way, I think the judge and the lawyer (forgot his name) were both played by Daws Butler.

  2. TRALFAZ!! RECCCCCCH! (Astro-ese) (Tralfaz the SISTER BLOG to this..NO YECH THERE!)

  3. The 'stars in eyes' gag was also used in the Season 4 FLINTSTONE episode "Son of Rockzilla" when Fred is conned into believing (not for the first or last time in the series) he's suited for show business.

    Another Astro-centric original episode written by Benedict is "Astro's Top Secret", although Spacely and Cogswell take up most of the screen time.

  4. Tralfaz was used earlier. When I was in Army the 1960's we picked it up from a Donald Duck comic and then used it to confuse new technicians. We would append it to real electronic words and make up things like Tralfaz Synchro Phantastron. Later one of my friends named his consulting company TSP Corp as a play on this.

  5. Astro iks also a Great Dane, so him and that other both, just different sizes and colors.