Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Jetsons – The Little Man

“Rook at the rimp! Rook at the rimp!” That’s about all anyone recalls from the Jetsons episode “The Little Man.”

One of the things I like about the series is the futuristic inventions, all based on something grounded in the present (egs., a visual telephone, robots, a machine that dispenses food pills). There really isn’t much of that in this episode. There’s one machine that shrinks everyone. Other than that, this episode consists of a bunch of short jokes and short puns. Oh, and there’s the standard, Hanna-Barbera I-don’t-believe-what-I-see traffic cop. I wish I could get more excited about the plot, but I can’t.

The first few minutes of the cartoon are spent in another Spacely vs Cogswell battle. It sets up the plot but, boy, talk about two unlikeable characters. And the laugh track. “Quite, Spacely! Can’t you see I’m putting?” says Cogswell. The laugh track thinks that’s funny. I don’t get the joke. I feel bad for the studio because, if this was a situation like The Flintstones, ABC imposed the laugh track on them. Cogswell smacks Spacely with a golf club that smashes through the Visiphone and Spacely bops him with a bowling ball.

Next sequence: George Jetson shows he’s more than just a button-pusher. He’s an engineer who can fix mechanised hardware and accurately diagnose its problems. With that kind of talent, he should be a company vice-president! (Actually, this is one cartoon that avoids the “Vice President Jetson) bit). Anyway, Jetson is correct when he says the Mini-Van, a reducing machine, can’t un-reduce anything. Jetson is shrunk to about six inches tall. Let the puns begin! Spacely: “Are you trying make me look small in front of Cogswell.” It turns out the machine doesn’t work because it has a worn-out (on a new machine?) Cogswell cog and needs to be replaced. Apparently, no other cog will do and they cannot be bought retail. “Oh brother, I had a feeling I would end up on the short end,” says George.

The laugh track chuckles away when the next scene starts, showing Jetson’s car flying on its own. There’s a scene where Jetson stares straight at the camera. There are a bunch of them in this cartoon, including the policeman in this sequence. My guess is Hugh Fraser is the animator for a good portion of the cartoon up to now. Later, I spotted a Carlo Vinci rubbery head-shake take like in one of the early Yogi Bear cartoons. The third credited animator is Dick Lundy.. Oh, yes, the ubiquitous traffic cop. His cruiser smashes into the back of George’s car which stops suddenly. “Rassin, drassin, rassin,” grumbles the officer who evidently is a fan of Muttley cartoons (Don Messick, who voiced Muttley, also does the cop). “Pull yourself together, O’Ranium,” he says to himself after seeing the small Jetson. “You’ve been working too hard. When I start seein’ little guys flyin’ around, it’s time to retire to that chicken ranch I have up on that asteroid.

Next sequence: George at home. Jane doesn’t catch on right away that George has shrunk. And then... the take is a two-drawing cycle, animated on twos.

Pun: Jane: “You look like an insect.” George: “Do you have to bug me, too?”

Now a bunch of too-small jokes that would work with any character that has been shrunk in size. George can’t control a turkey leg and falls off the dining table. He is covered in salt. He can’t control a milk glass and lets the glass fall on top of him. He finally drinks the milk out of a baby bottle. He’s swallowed by the powerfully-snoring Astro. He showers in the sink. He sips coffee from a cup through a straw. He’s licked by Astro and sails into the coffee cup.

The next sequence is fairly straight-forward. At Cogswell’s head office/factory, George gets past two guards (with ‘C’ for ‘Cogswell’ on their belts) due to his height but is caught by Cogswell, who taunts him with the necessary cog. George is crafty, though (at least in this cartoon). He kicks Cogswell, Cogswell drops the cog, and George escapes with it. That’s despite Cogswell’s attempt to use a fly swatter on him; Jetson goes right through it (“After a century of brilliant scientific progress, you’d think someone would invent a decent flyswatter”) then a golf club; it wraps around Cogswell’s neck after missing him (“I knew I should have used a five iron”); finally, he gets out from under a glass by sticking a pin (where did THAT come from) in Cogswell’s hand.

Back at Spacely Sprockets, George fixes the machine and become regular size again. Meanwhile, Spacely shows up in overalls and, with an Austrian accent, pretends to be a repairman to fix Mini-Van. Spacely looks at Cogswell’s butt. “I’d recognise that sneaky Cogswell anywhere.” George activates the machine, the two jerk tycoons become shrunk, the Mini-Van malfunctions and can’t be fixed for a week when a new fuse arrives. Spacely and Cogswell spend the rest of the scene bashing each other over the head with playing cards.

Back at the Jetson home. What’s for dinner? Shrimp! “Rook at the rimp! Rook at the rimp!” adds Astro as a variation on the Jetsons’ B-theme plays to end the cartoon.

No surprises on the soundtrack when it comes to music; you’ll recognise all the music. Besides the regular voice cast (O’Hanlon, Singleton, Butler and Waldo) and recurring characters (Blanc as Spacely, Butler as Cogswell), Messick does some incidental characters. The secretary with two lines at the start of the cartoon is Penny Singleton.

The team of Dick Bickenbach, Bill Perez and Tony Sgroi handled layouts, while backgrounds are by Art Lozzi, Bob Abrams and Lee Branscome.

Go to this post and see some storyboard drawings and the opening background. Alex Lovy did the boards while Tony Benedict came up with the story.


  1. As usual, your analysis of the animators is correct. Vinci and Fraser were joined by Dick Lundy.

  2. As the entry that Yowp links to says, Tony Benedict wrote the episode. The third (1987) series had an similiar episode titled "Boy George" after te decade's transvestite singers. (The second edition of the show was 1985). "LOok at the rimp, look at the rimp> Waldo and SIngleton actually sounded very not surprised at Yowp's guesses. It would be mine,too, that Penny would be the conundrum voice.SC

  3. YOWP, I disagree. Spacely and Cogswell were two of my favorite characters, especially having in mind who played. Yes, the I'm putting isn't funny, but it isn't nearly as unfunny as that juice joke from a ''Pixie and Dixie'' cartoon ''High Jinks'' that had two of the characters giggling with glee.

    George's "I hope the boys don't come by" line, while he is drinking milk, strikes me as very bizarre. He never seemed to socialize with anyone other than Henry. He always struck me as a kind of a guy who doesn't have any friends.....Yes. I realize that the writers did that so they could concentrate on his family relations.

    I think the secretary is Janet Waldo.

    1. This is actually one of my favourites for the same reason. Spacely and Cogswell really are the best thing in the series, at least to me.

  4. On the plus side, the idea of future technology being able to shrink things at least is a little more plausible than when it was used in Season 5 of "The Flintsones", when Fred's diet drink has an unintended side effect (of course, you're not exactly going to Fred & Barney for historical realism, but the shrinking gag there felt more like the writers running out of Stone Age-based ideas and throwing any concept they could find at the viewers, including one recycled from George Jetson).

    1. Not to mention that Benedict also wrote "Itty Bitty Freddy", the episode to which you refer. But at least the storyline shifted to using Fred's shrinkage as a get-rich-quick scheme and an Ed Sullivan parody.

  5. That gag with George threatening to use a needle to escape being trapped by a glass reminds me of tweety(?) doing the same thing in a Warner Brothers cartoon.

  6. Just a quick note, I'm pretty sure the machine was called "Minivac" (a play on Univac) as opposed to Mini-van.

    I like the detail of Spacely's car keys on the desk when Spacely says he's going to "clobber Cogswell at Pinochle".

  7. Amazing that George can carry a pin that is 2/3 his height undetected. What would he need it for except to jab palms?