ANIMATION SPIN
January 21, 2014 posted by Greg Ehrbar

“The Jetsons” on the Record

Two classic Jetsons LP records introduce Rosie, showcase Jet Screamer and take the family to the moon and more.

JetsonsColpix600

THE JETSONS
Original TV Soundtracks!
Colpix Records CP-213 (12” LP / Mono)

Released in 1962. Colpix Producers: Howard Berk, Hecky Krasnow. Series Producer/Directors: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Teleplay: Tony Benedict. Music: Hoyt Curtin. Running Time: 47 minutes.
Voices: George O’Hanlon (George Jetson); Penny Singleton (Jane Jetson); Janet Waldo (Judy Jetson); Daws Butler (Elroy Jetson, Jack Jetwash, Maid Rental Agent, Traffic Cop, Cameraman, Photographer, Maintenance Man, Security Guard, Musician); Mel Blanc (Cosmo Spacely, Jimmy); Jean Vander Pyl (Rosie, Jane’s Mother, Stella Spacely, Secretary, Agnes, Blanche Carte); Howard Morris (Jet Screamer); Don Messick (Jack Star, Reporter); The Randy Horne Singers.
Stories: “Rosie the Robot” (9/23/62), “A Date with Jet Screamer” (9/30/62).
Songs: “The Solar Swivel,” “Eep Opp Ork.”

Some critics have mislabeled The Jetsons as a mere sitcom with a futuristic twist, but that’s as shortsighted as saying the same for The Flintstones. In fact, The Jetsons has entered the contemporary vernacular as a term for far-flung, fantastic visions of tomorrow, which in previous generations might have been Buck Rogers or Jules Verne. Like The Flintstones, the basic idea is that people are people no matter what century, but in the case of The Jetsons, there is a prescience about the original 24 episodes that continues to amaze.

Much has been said about how many modern conveniences have come to pass that were outlandish in 1962. Some of these predictions can be attributed to the Hanna-Barbera creative team doing their homework with sources like Popular Science magazine. Star Trek is frequently cited as a catalyst for its young fans to grow up and make the gadgets reality; the same might be said for The Jetsons.

However, it’s human nature that is most interesting to compare, now that we really live in the 21st century. Work hours and work days are usually not as comically short as George Jetsons’, but we have more leisure, and forms of entertainment than ever, yet still complain that “there’s nothing on TV” even with 300 channels, 200 DVDs and thousands of DVRs and streams to watch.

Jane Jetson is weary of pushing buttons, also for comic effect, but the dependence on computers and machines and their frequent breakdowns are endlessly frustrating. What technology has done to the Jetsons and to us is to speed up our lives and increase expectations of getting more things done faster. Devices that cannot keep up are ready for the scrap heap, as Rosie’s rental agency saw her. Taken this way, The Jetsons is a visionary marvel indeed.

Generations raised on home video have no idea how ecstatic we were to have two half-hour episodes of The Jetsons, Top Cat and The Flintstones on records. Even though the theme songs were missing (which would have required additional fees and possible contract issues), what a thrill it was to play these records whenever we wanted!

Like the Top Cat album, Colpix presented two episodes of The Jetsons with the original music, laugh tracks and no narration. While the episode selections for the Colpix Flintstone and Top Cat albums are anyone’s guess, choices for The Jetsons were more logical: the first two in the series—and also two of the best.

Rosie the Robot was the pilot, so a lot of general information is provided about the characters and their world. We learn, among other things, that the Jetsons live in a three-bedroom apartment, George is a digital index operator and Jane’s age is 33. At this point, Spacely barely knows George and has never met his family—even though he knows Jane’s age and mentions it when he meets her, which seems weird.

Besides getting acquainted, the first episode of course introduces Rosie (it’s really not “Rosey,” is it?) the Robot maid in a archetypical sitcom story of the boss coming to dinner. Spacely is incensed at George’s extravagance in getting a maid but her delicious dessert changes his mind, just as it also happens in dozens of Amelia Bedelia books.

The second episode, “A Date with Jet Screamer,” is a joy for record collectors because it has two great Hanna-Barbera songs with all the great brass musicians in Hollywood blaring at their best. It’s also a wonderful showcase for Janet Waldo, who doesn’t always get enough to do as Judy, at least to Janet Waldo fans like me.

This episode was a gold mine for H-B music and sound effects editors, as everything from the show-biz music stabs to the famous “Jet Screamer” entrance were ubiquitous in other H-B series and records.

All I know is that for decades, one of the ongoing quotes in my family is, ”I feel…I feel…I feel…”

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Eep Opp Ork”

Howard Morris sings the main version and as the episode closes, Janet Waldo and George O’Hanlon do the finale in one of Hanna-Barbera’s most iconic songs. Listen for Janet Waldo’s trademark squeal. Jetsons fans will also note that I did my best to fix that weird cut in the “come on fly with me” bridge (both the show and the album had the same odd cut). Ooba dooba!


JetsonsMoonHBR-600

Hanna-Barbera Presents
THE JETSONS in FIRST FAMILY ON THE MOON

Hanna-Barbera Records – Cartoon Series HLP-2037 (12” LP / Mono)
Columbia Special Products – P-13903 (12” LP / Mono)

Released in 1965; reissued in 1977. Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Director/Writer: Charles Shows. Songs: Peggy/Charles Shows, Stan Farber. Song Arrangements: Joe Leahy, Al Capps. Underscore: Hoyt Curtin. Underscore Arrangements: Ted Nichols. Underscore/Sound Effects Editor: Milton Krear. Engineer: Richard Olsen. Mastering: Joe Leahy, Dave Diller. Art Direction: Harvard Pennington. Cover Art: Don Shepard, Harvard Pennington. Hand Lettering: Robert Schaefer. Running Time: 35 minutes.
Voices: Don Messick (George Jetson, NASA Tech); Penny Singleton (Jane Jetson); Janet Waldo (Judy Jetson); Daws Butler (Elroy Jetson, Astro, TV Reporter, Spacely, Conway Dinwoody, Colonel Culpepper); The Hanna-Barbera Singers (including Al Capps, Ron Hicklin, Stan Farber).
Songs: “The Jetsons,” “Moon Madness,” “Space Crazy,” “Rocket Jockey (The Astronaut)”.
Background Music Sources: The Jetsons, Jonny Quest, The Magilla Gorilla Show.

Let’s start by confronting the elephant in the Jetson living room. Don Messick plays George on this record instead of George O’Hanlon. There are any number of possible reasons. Perhaps O’Hanlon’s agent asked for more than the budget allowed, since he could likely make more by doing one of his numerous on-camera appearances. It may also be because of scheduling, since this (and virtually all) children’s records are recorded in limited sessions that just couldn’t accommodate him.

One other theory of mine is that O’Hanlon was going to record separately but couldn’t, so Messick filled in during a different session than the rest of the cast. How else could one explain why Daws Butler voices Astro? Messick himself had not recalled voicing George on the this record when I first showed it to him—and he still signed it “Don Messick — Astro.”

Of course, Don Messick is no slouch and he creates a very different, more nervous George, more in the Dick York vein. This approach fits the story, in which George is the only one against a trip to the moon, for fear of his life and that of his family—but mostly just plain fear. (Col. Culpepper: “Jetson, what is your position right now?” George: “My position? Well if you must know, I’m kneeling!”) Messick scores with lines like this.

The story is overall one of the better, less padded of Charles Shows’ HBR scripts, with plenty of comic adventure—though not as much as what is shown on the album cover. As mentioned in earlier Animation Spins, the print work and the recording are done separately. Usually the print requires more time. Both Ron Dias and Willie Ito (who did the first wave of H-B covers) told me that they rarely heard any of the records, so the covers don’t always match. There was too much going on at too fast a pace at the H-B studio.

The First Family on the Moon cover art by Don Shepard and Harvard Pennington (above) is truly spectacular, depicting a wildly imaginative encounter with wacky moon creatures. That may have disappointed some kids when, on the record, the Jetsons spend a few minutes on the moon alone. It’s more accurate, but less fun (sort of like the real moon landing seemed to many kids).

JetsonsMoonCSP-250I even enjoy the vibrant, volcanic hand-lettering by Robert Schaefer. I spent many childhood hours admiring this album cover. The 1977 Columbia Special Products reissue cover art (at right) represents the record’s story more correctly, though like the other Columbia reissue art, it’s bland, slapdash and completely dependent on model sheets.

By this time in the short HBR Cartoon Series history, the songs were becoming increasingly distanced from the story segments. Budget not allowing the theme song, there’s a groovy but different “Jetsons” song with some space-pop tinkling, though imprecise “celeste” work. It contradicts the very premise of the story with the lyric, “They spend weekends on Mars.” If that were so, why is it such a big deal to go to the moon? Interplanetary travel did seem more common on the TV series, so maybe the song is more correct. Again, it the HBR universe, one hand does not always know what the other is doing.

Two subsequent songs seem very anti-space travel, but the song that closes that album is downright bizarre in a “Ground Control to Major Tom” way. What happens to the “Rocket Jockey” after something goes wrong and he keeps yelling “Help!” to the song’s fade? Would Sandra Bullock know?

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“George Launches the Moonbeam One”
Another of those great sound effect symphonies from the great H-B editors! I got so much mileage out of this stuff in school plays and recitals! Editor Milton Krear timed the dialogue and effects beautifully to maximize the comedy of the sequence.

13 Comments

  • Thanks for posting these. The Hanna-Barbera Records have been overlooked, ignored, forgotten for many years and it is wonderful finally to get some detailed information about their production and the voice talent involved (although I generally figured it out from listening carefully to each voice).

    I agree with your comments about the Jet Screamer episode and about Janet Waldo–truly one of the heroines of the HB legacy. I think this Jetsons episode is the only time she actually sang for a cartoon–when she did “Alice in Wonderland” someone else performed her songs. Of course, Howard Morris was inspired as Jet Screamer. Janet’s appreciation of his talent is discussed in the Commentary that she provides for the episode on the DVD.

    It is truly a shame that the great TV theme music never made it into the record versions of the H-B shows. That is one thing that I have fixed on my playlists–matching the opening and closing music with the albums.

    One of the perplexing aspects of the HBR recordings of the 60′s is the frequent replacing of original voices with others. It takes a lot of listening to adjust to Don Messick as George Jetson and Daws Butler as Spacely. I’m so glad Penny Singleton was available to record Jane’s voice. Another curious aspect of “First Family on the Moon” is that Judy is barely involved in the story at all, and Janet Waldo has so few lines that I had to listen to the story a few times before I realized that she was there for some of it. I think more could have been done with her character–and the Jetsons should have remained on the Moon longer than just a couple of minutes. The last part of the story has some good suspense, but it feels rushed…probably because too much of the earlier part of the story is repetition of George’s reluctance to go to the moon. The whole premise is a little redundant for the Jetsons–in the television shows, a trip to the Moon is a mundane event. And that “Rocket Jockey” song is a truly bizarre way to end the recording… (like one of those “don’t try this at home, kids” warnings)

    Still and all, it’s a fun listen, and a great opportunity to spend more time with “the first family of the future.”

    There was one more Jetsons album that I am aware of–a Golden LP release titled “The Jetsons–New Songs of the Family of the Future.” All of the voices are substitutes–and the voice actors are all quite good, just not the same as the original ones. Jane has a very pleasant speaking and singing voice, and the young lady voicing Judy does an interesting take on “Eep Opp Ork”. The voice of George does not sound anything like George O’Hanlon, but the actor still does a creditable job and seems to be trying hard to do justice to the character. One of the songs deals with sibling rivalry between Judy and Elroy–an issue that I can’t think of ever arising on the show, as their ages were so far apart. There’s also a great song based on one of Rosey’s lines from the show–”Never Fear, while Rosey’s Here.”

    • Hi Frederick,

      Isn’t it great to be able to discuss these records like this? They mean a lot to me, and it’s so gratifying to meet people who feel the same way. I agree about Janet Waldo’s few lines on “First Family.” She sure does a lot with a little, though. When Elroy accidentally does a “Gravity” and floats out into space, Judy’s “Mother! Dad! Look!” has a true sense of alarm. What a wondrous talent she is.

      As for Janet’s singing, the only other time I can think of when it was her voice and not a ghost singer was on the Liberty/Sunset record, “Shazzan and the Evil Jester of Masira.” I plan to feature that album as well as the Golden Jetsons (I actually met the “Golden’ George, Herb Duncan, and he had never heard the record until twenty years later when I made him a tape!)

    • I see someone uploaded one of those Golden LP tracks here, not bad really, and their take on “Eep Opp Ork” was interesting if not extremely different in a jazzy sort of way.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1J8VTaihlQ

    • Greg, I’m curious, what kind of “Shazzan” style song, music wise, did Janet sing on that, considering the theme was instrumental, and no songs were in “Shazzan!”:)

  • I love your posts. So much fun to read. And yes, to answer your question is “Rosey.” But don’t feel bad — even HB got it wrong in the 80s remake. :-)

    • Thanks, Scott, that means a lot to read the nice words.

      So it really is “Rosey?” The 1985 title card spells it that way, as well as most of the online episode listings and the DVD set. But the records spell it “Rosie.”

      It’s like “Hermey the elf” and “Herbie the elf.”

    • That confuses me plenty too! It’s never accurate.

  • “Some of these predictions can be attributed to the Hanna-Barbera creative team doing their homework with sources like Popular Science magazine. Star Trek is frequently cited as a catalyst for its young fans to grow up and make the gadgets reality; the same might be said for The Jetsons.”

    I certainly saw that with the use of a “home theater” setup in a few episodes like in “A Date with Jet Screamer”. In ’62 you didn’t really had that at all when all you had in the living room/den was TV set just sitting on the floor, maybe a separate HiFi or Stereo console placed nearby, but that was about it. The show practically predicted our interest in wanting miniature cinema-wide screens and practically an entire room separate from the living from just for that sort of visual entertainment. Of course it took another 30-40 years for much of that to be fully realized.
    http://public.media.smithsonianmag.com/legacy_blog/jetsons-nite-out-470×251.jpg

    “However, it’s human nature that is most interesting to compare, now that we really live in the 21st century. Work hours and work days are usually not as comically short as George Jetsons’, but we have more leisure, and forms of entertainment than ever, yet still complain that “there’s nothing on TV” even with 300 channels, 200 DVDs and thousands of DVRs and streams to watch.”

    That is something to think of. We brought it on ourselves that we have this much free time to loathe at what we should be thankful for.

  • If “The Flintstones” was, as they say, based on “The Honeymooners”, then “The Jetsons” chose as its template, the well-known “Blondie” comic strips, movies, radio and television series. And it was probably no mere fluke nor coincidence that they retained Penny Singleton–who had played “Blondie” in a strong of Columbia B-pictures and on radio, to play Jane.

    As for Rosie–or, if you prefer, Rosey–that character seems to owe a lot to “Hazel”, the sassy maid of Ted Key’s panel cartoons in “The Saturday Evening Post”. At the time that “The Jetsons” was being readied for ABC, “Hazel” was being produced–by Screen Gems, a Columbia subsidiary, take note–for NBC, with Shirley Booth in the title role.

  • Don Messick, aka Astro, being now George Jetson with Daws Butler as both Elroy AND now Astro, is a kind of “promotion” (which even Mr.Spacely couldn’t offer! Ha!) Also, the comment made about George sounding like Dick York maybe added with, “in a Dick Sargent position” (of being played by a”second actor”.) I had a lot of those HBR records with replaced casts in the 1960s. And agreed about Janet Waldo and how insuffiecently she was featured, still, there’s the Alice in Wonderland and Shazzan records.

  • I also loved Janet on the classic “Hot Rod Granny” album.

  • GREAT post, Greg! Thanks so much!!
    (And thanks for fixing that pesky Jet Screamer edit! That’s bugged me for years, too.)
    I sure wish H-B would reissue their old LPs on CDs… *sigh*
    - William Carroll
    Denham Springs, Louisiana

    • I sure wish H-B would reissue their old LPs on CDs… *sigh*

      Let alone stick them on iTunes if that’s all they could do. That usually is an easier option if they don’t feel like pressing discs.

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