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