Saturday, 10 December 2016

A Date With Jet Screamer, Part 1

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.


  1. The Judy vs George difference of opinion about Jet Screamer and his style of music can be traced back to the first talking picture-"The Jazz Singer" forsm oking i'm a non-smoker but kids even then didn't smoke and there are still some who still do without fear (and not just older folks..) This I believe was the first, and Janet Waldo and Howard Morris's first cartoon..:)

    1. I agree with you. Howard Morris' first cartoon was either this one or ''Beetle Bailey'' with Allen Melvin, because they were both released in 1962.

    2. Gene Deitch's "Munro", which released theatrically through Paramount and won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Subject of 1961, came before his work for Hanna-Barbera or in the King Features Beetle Bailey shorts (where IIRC, the pilot also was done in '61).

  2. For a long time I had the impression this was the first JETSONS episode because the characters don't look quite on-model yet, especially in Muse's animation of George. And whenever a character exited the apartment by pneumatic tube, the last word of whatever they said petered out with a speed effect like thi-i-i-i-s-s-s.

    The storyline hinted at an interesting father-daughter relationship between George and Judy that was largely eschewed in the remaining 1960s episodes. Some of the 1980s episodes, of which there were many more made, did return to that concept.

    In addition to Muse and Vinci (the only JETSON episode they teamed on), Jerry Hathcock did animation.

    This episode is famous for Curtin's trumpet fanfare that accompanied every entrance by Jet Screamer. It would also be used three years later as the default sound effect for Winnie Witch's spell casting, and in many other H-B series through the 60s.

    1. This was mentioned to be the first...BEFORE you even MENTIONED it, I was THINKING of Jet's sound being used for WInnie Witch starting in 1965...No ROsie might be due to a possibility that maybe this WAS the first, and they had created her and used her at the end (they could always have just used the same ending entirely but then we wouldn'ty have had the original different closings..though maybe the episodes were done, Rosie was included in the open and ending and the indivudal credits were used on the end..Baby bab Oh...JET SCREAMMMMMER!

  3. "There’s no hint of sex, drugs or even rock-and-roll—or just barely one."

    Isn't the whole reason George goes following Judy to make sure that nothing "wrong" happens between her and Jet Screamer? And Jet's line about "a string of beauties" referring to his collection of space cars causes George to imagine that Judy's hero is a playboy. If that isn't a reference to sex, what is? (I know that by today's standards it's extremely soft-pedaled; you really had to read between the lines like I'm doing now to pick up on sexual references in those early sitcoms--but still, it's a little bit there--which I'm guessing is what you meant by "just barely one" reference.)

    And as for George's sudden change of mind about the young singer--it's pretty evident throughout this episode that George, here at least, is quite egotistical--and when Jet flatters his vanity, George is on board and ready to forgive and forget. Remember one of George's final lines is "Your daddy's home and he's the star of the show!" This says to me that all along, he's been wanting to be recognized.

    1. Sorry, SC, I don't see them as a reference to sex. Then again, today we live in a society where people are preoccupied with sexual intercourse and don't comprehend the idea that there was a time a first date ended with little more than a kiss, which would have been more than enough for a prudish father.

    2. YOWP, you didn't really mention who Jet Screamer was based on. That's the thing I was waiting to find out in this cartoon. Speculations on other website say either Elvis Presley or Ricky Nelson.

    3. Yowp, you made possibly major error in your opening part: Yes, it was before the British Invasion but remember in the 1950s Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis weren't either to the anti-rock crowd or the fans clean cut----Ed Sullivan had to show Elvis from the waist up and Steve Allen and others wouldn't have Elvis or much rock at all before the 1960s! Therefore, in short that means Jet Screamer's based on the later, 1958-on clean cut stars. As for drugs..well, there was that one cigarette in the pre-1964 era, and even then it was n ADULT hands..

    4. Steve, you've entirely missed my point. I'm not talking about the '50s. I'm talking about the real future compared with the Jetsons' future.
      Georgi, I have no idea who he's based on, if anybody.

    5. At the outset---you did mention that this was made before the British invasion (which, like the Surgeon General's warning mention, happened the same year, 1964) and implied all rock was percieved AS BEING CLEAN CUT looking (although, of course, and as mentioned in your review, George, and real fathers didn't approve of rock..). Ricky Nelson and others of the time the cartoon was made may have been clean but in 1955, say, it was like the Beatles when rockers more extreme looking (think Elvis and those pork chops along his head and a "solar swivel" like the Jetsosns' that was MUCH mor extreme for the fifties, or the The Twist or the Swivel when the later post-Elvis/cleaned up rock came, which was in the early 60s when this episode was made. Therefore, with all due respect I believe you've missed this clay pony's point, but I hold all dogs owned by tartan argyle British hunters in very high regard. After all, to err is human (and animal)(nd maybe I erred. and to forgive is divine..not to be confused with Andy Devine.,:) (Now I'm waiting for a review of that circa 1968 Kellogs Rooster commercial)Steve

    6. In short, all of what I wrote about means simply that before the Twist era when the truly beloved and innovative episode first aired (and of course the show itself), rock stars simply just were not clean cut like Jet Screamer. But they definitely WERE by 1959, three years before this was made. Sorry for any confusion. As for who he may based on, Georgi, Howard Morris, a/k/a/ JET SCREAMER (trying to do a successful Judy/Janet Waldo like "teenage girl scream" in print here) played an Elvis type with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca in the 1950s on their Your Show of Shows. 'Member the Three Haircuts?
      THEY made a lotta records. So Jet may have been a solo act from the Three Haircuts, only cleaned up for post Elvis 1960s viewing (and referring to Bye Bye Birdie as mentioned at the outset of the review, they certainly used the typical nice guy rocker types there..)SC

  4. Nobody ever talks about "The Swivel", which is a terrific piece of music, re-used as an instrumental during the introduction of the contestants in the "Miss Solar System" episode. Wish I could get a free-standing recording of it.

    This episode also has my all-time favorite Jetsons' sound effect, the sound of "one anti-gravity floor, coming up!"

    1. Yeah, I'm guilty of it, too, Greg. The post is long so I didn't get into several different things.
      I guess Pete Candoli is playing on it; at least Curtin says he used Candoli on the show.

  5. "I didn't see any etcetera!" "Well watch it!".

  6. Yowp, as for smoking some young people today do recognize how common it was (and many certainly admire that era)