Saturday, 8 August 2020

Astro By Nicholas

If you’ve visited our sister blog, Tralfaz, you’ve seen the masthead with the Jetsons’ Astro (né Tralfaz) on a circular dog-walk treadmill. It comes from Millionaire Astro and is one of a pile of scenes drawn by one of my favourite Hanna-Barbera animators, George Nicholas.

Nicholas arrived at the studio from Disney where he had worked on shorts. Before that he was an animator for Walter Lantz.

The original H-B animators could be pretty distinctive and came up with some funny poses. Unfortunately, as the studio added more and more work, the animation got more and more lacklustre. Still, Nicholas did his best. He loved beady-eyed, wavy-mouth expressions and you can see it in this cartoon.

I haven’t determined how much he animated—I’m not good at picking out H-B animators after about 1960—George Goepper and Bill Keil also handled scenes in this cartoon. But let’s look at part of the last third.

First up, Astro runs into a park, begging Elroy to save him from the dog catcher. Nicholas liked drawing cashew shapes for partially closed eyes. And he goes in for bending the muzzle and flopping down an ear to add to the expression.

Astro is shocked in court.

A defeated Astro is taken away by J.P. Gottrockets, who has been awarded the dog by a Jury-Vac (Gottrockets must be a futuristic J.P. Gottrocks from The Flintstones.

Astro’s expression after learning he will, here forth, be known as Tralfaz.

Here he is on the dog walk.

An in-between of him upset that he’s not at home with the Jetsons.

And angrily chasing Gottrockets.

You can read more about George Nicholas in this post.

As for the name Tralfaz, it had been imported by Mike Maltese from the Warner Bros. cartoon studio. The word had been used there, but dated back even further to Cliff Nazarro’s double-talk act. Read more here and in this follow-up post.

Astro, was more or less, created by Tony Benedict. Iwao Takamoto designed the dog first, then Tony jumped in to create stories for him and give him his personality. Tony was also the creator of Alfie Gator in the Yakky Doodle cartoons and had a hand in the evolution of Hairbrain Hare to Touché Turtle (Hanna-Barbera was never a place to waste ideas so Hairbrain was the basis for Ricochet Rabbit). Tony worked on the last of the Huckleberry Hound cartoons and is still with us. He has a book coming out which we’ll let you know about in good time.


  1. Hanna-Barbera did use Nazarro -- minus any Tralfaz reference -- for a running gag in "The Goose Goes South", one of their last MGM cartoons before they got locked into Tom & Jerry. Don't know if by 1962 they would have remembered that or Tralfaz being part of Nazarro's bit over two decades earlier.

    1. Nazarro's double-talk was so fast that any of his "words" were likely undecipherable, even at the time his career was at its peak.

  2. Always a treat to see a new post here. Certainly looking forward to Tony Benedict's book. Thank you very much!

  3. Abe Levitow took George Nicholas over to England to work on Dick Willams' "A Christmas Carol" for ABC and Chuck Jones.

  4. I like the simplicity of the bg in the last picture!

    1. Monty did some of the backgrounds, Fernando Arce painted some others and Rene Garcia did the rest. I don't know is responsible for that one. In the actual scene, there are some tree overlays, something rarely done on the short syndicated cartoons.

  5. Ranmks, Rowp!
    -Astro, not Tralfaz, or that later Great Dane with the SD initials who recently got the latest of his videos!

  6. MoeLarryAndJesus10 August 2020 at 10:45

    I've been calling people Tralfaz for 50 years.

  7. There's some great Nicholas animation in the 4th-season episode of THE FLINTSTONES titled "Ten Little Flintstones"