Saturday, 26 January 2019

Joys and Vexations of the Future

Remember the days when everyone looked forward to the future?

Today it seems everyone is negative about what lies ahead for the world. There was a time where people were hopeful that the wonders of technology would make our lives better. Today some are worried about technology enslaving lives.

But let us go back to the future, to coin a phrase. The Jetsons was kind of the culmination of all those magazine stories and industrial short films of the 1950s about the marvels and wonders of tomorrow. Push button food! Flying cars! Minimal work weeks! Tex Avery used the concept to make animated spot films. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera used it to make an animated sitcom.

Hanna and Barbera were great borrowers. For The Jetsons, they borrowed from themselves. They took the concept of The Flintstones (putting modern suburbia in the Stone Age) and inverted it (putting modern suburbia in the World of Tomorrow). Newspapers across the U.S. published previews of the series. Some of the bigger papers did feature stories, no doubt assisted by Arnie Carr’s publicity department at Hanna-Barbera.

This is from the San Francisco Examiner of December 9, 1962. Joe Barbera has some interesting money quotes. Jimmy Weldon recently revealed on Stu’s Show that Daws Butler made $350,000 in residuals in 1963 alone. My thanks to Kerry Cisneroz for sending me a copy of the publicity drawing with the story.

The Jetsons
They Vacation on the Moon

By Dwight Newton
BILL HANNA and Joe Barbera are a couple of kooks—never conventional, always far out or far in.
Two seasons ago they ventured far inside Paleolithic times to bring forth a Stone Age cartoon series, "The Flintstones."
This season they have gone far out, 100 years or so hence, to create and unreel a giddy cartoon frolic called "The Jetsons," (Sundays, 7:30 p.m., channels 7-11-13-47).
As "Flintstones" was a prehistoric "Honeymooners," the new "Jetsons" is a space age "Father Knows Nothing."
George and Jane Jetson have two young'ns, teen-age Judy and small fry Elroy. The Jetsons' joys and vexations are the same as any of today's tract dwelling families with commuting fathers, but the settings and solutions spring from the wildest dreams of Hanna-Barbera science fiction comedy writers.
"And they've got to be real wild," said Barbera when I dropped by his bustling cartoon factory. "Things are moving ahead so fast these days that anything you think of, it is here."
The Jetsons and their friends drive automobiles that fly, live in space pads, have mechanical maids and take vacations on the Moon. They use slide walks, enjoy wall to-wall television, exercise by pressing push buttons and travel by air tubes.
Save for George Jetson's boss, C. D. Spacely, president of Spacely Sprockets ("Easy on the Pockets"), nearly everyone is slim because, said Bill Hanna. "There are not going to be any fat people 100 years from now."
Plump Mr. Spacely is voiced by Mel Blanc who also does squat Barney Rubble on "The Flintstones." Jane Jetson is voiced by Penny Singleton, the former Blondie of the movies, and daughter Judy is Janet Waldo, the Corliss Archer of yesteryear's radio.
George is George O'Hanlon, a noted off-camera vocalizer, and little Elroy is Daws Butler whose previous voicing credits include a hound named Huckleberry, a bear named Yogi and a horse named Quick Draw McGraw.
"Huckleberry Hound," Yogi Bear" and "Quick Draw McGraw" were also Hanna Barbara creations as was "Ruff and Ready," [sic] their first independent effort. Before that, for 20 years they labored at Culver City, where in 1937 they invented "Tom and Jerry" for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. How times have changed!
"Daws Butler was with us there and in a good month we made $250," recalled Barbera. "Last year we paid him $80,000 and he got a lot more from residuals."
At MGM, Hanna and Barbera produced eight short cartoons a year at a cost of about $60,000 for six minutes. They can knock out a half-hour "Jetsons" or Flintstones" for around $65,000. They do it by eliminating intricate details—falling leaves, rippling water, cobwebs, etc.—and by using an efficient assembly line production system that has revolutionized the animated cartoon business.
When they evolved the system for TV they tried to sell it to MGM but the brass there figured they could never meet a weekly TV deadline.
"MGM turned down this whole project, fortunately," said Barbera. "That was our lucky break. We were turned down by nearly every other outfit in Hollywood and then we made a deal with Screen Gems in 14 minutes."
Five years ago they launched "Ruff and Ready" with a staff of five people. Now, they employ 250 people, half of them artists working at home. Next month they move into their own new $1 million building.
You financed it by watching a hound, a bear, a horse, a Stone Age foursome and a Space age family.


  1. George O'Hanlon--"a noted off-camera vocalizer"? Evidently, the author of the article didn't know about the "Behind the Eight Ball" series of short subjects from Warner Brothers which featured O'Hanlon on camera as the character of Joe McDoakes, or about O'Hanlon's appearance as Charlie Appleby in the "I Love Lucy" episode "Lucy and Superman."

    And Mr. Spacely's middle initial is "G."

    Despite being cancelled on prime time after only one season, "The Jetsons" remained popular. They were rerun on Saturday mornings throughout the 60's and 70's. Gold Key issued a comic book series that ran until 1970. They even had a cameo in "The Flintstones at the New York World's Fair." And although the 80's output may be considered of dubious quality, the fact that extra episodes plus three feature-length films were added to the series after all of those years testifies to the durability of the original series.

    1. And in the 1990s-2000s, if not in the late 80s at least in the wake of the revival, which John Kricfalusi and his later Spumco team worked on, a series of Jetsons comics (even picked up an issue at Las Venus---I mean, Las VEGAS!). I've been worried about technology on automobiles taking over..a part of what Yowp mentioned...LOL:)I saw the Jetsons has a baby in its original run..SC

  2. ..and don't forget that "Little Elroy" sounds just like "Beany" from the original puppet version of "Time For Beany" in 1949! Daws did the voice of Beany and was his puppeteer.

  3. When people envy the Jetsons, I think they envy the technology more than the fashion and architecture!

  4. If the Jetsons didn't have the tech to deal with space junk, volcanic ash, flying birds, etc., they'd be (literally) grounded and might have their names be the Carsons (named after the car, not (necessarilly) be descendants of the real-world Carsons). LOLXD

  5. George O'Hanlon was also in a really weird 50's movie called Bop Girl Goes Calypso.