Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Original Jetsons

This is an interesting show. You can see from the layouts that real professional cartoonists are drawing it.
The design and balance is good.
It's a great concept- a sitcom family in space, where you make fun of all the futuristic gadgets.
The only problem is, the show never took advantage of its core elements. It's way too conservative.
The poses are bland, the gags are slightly silly but not outright funny and the animation is extremely conservative - even compared to the Flintstones or Yogi Bear.
As a kid, I loved Hanna Barbera and anything to do with space and the future, so I watched the show a million times.
This is how they hang people in the future. At least that's funny.
Even Carlo Vinci underanimates in this series. It makes me think that someone at the top actually told everyone to take all this great talent and the appealing designs and raw concept - but don't do anything too fun with it.

Something weird happened at HB in the 60s and to this day I can't understand how they squandered such amazing resources. I would kill to work with raw material like this.

23 comments:

RooniMan said...

It makes me wonder too, why they threw all the good things away in favor for crap.

Paul B said...

layouts are great, but the final inking waste a lot of guts.
What do you mean when you talk about balance in designs?

I made a construction from the Porky's lamp. Wanna see it?

Porky Lamp

Roberto Severino said...

I think Top Cat had all the same problems that the Jetsons had. Great designs and appeal, and some very funny dialogue, but Ken Muse never really took advantage of that to make the animation funnier. He just stuck to the layouts and didn't really add much of his own style to it. Sure, his poses are very well drawn, but most of his animation on that show wasn't really that funny. Illustrated radio, except without the interesting animation that the earlier H-B cartoons had.

Compared to something like Touche Turtle or Magilla Gorilla, the animation in The Jetsons and Top Cat is genius. Think about it that way, John, and even Magilla is genius compared to awful crap like Scooby Doo and Yogi's Ark Lark.

Patrick McMicheal said...

Jetsons had probably the BEST opening theme song EVER, musically speaking!!! Powerful, intricate and complex music that was swift and precise...extremely hard to play for even the best musicians! It had some cool jazz elements too. And great gags in the sequence that I still remember 40 years later.

stevef said...

I always felt like The Jetsons got treated like a rented mule. DOesn't make sense. Some if the stories were fun, though. That "propeller" shot is from the one where the indestructible suit is destroyed when Jane runs it through the wash.

Scrawnypumpkinseed said...

Yeah, that was something that turned me off to the series as a child, the animation was very slow and stiff.

Although for some reason the show was always in black and white when i watched it. We didn't have a black and white television set and the show was animated in color as far as I know. Its still a mystery!

Martin Juneau said...

The Jetsons is one of this TV cartoons who was showed at our local NBC network each weekends early in the mornings. I watched it everytime mostly for the Spacely grunts and the gadgets. And i confess, the animation and balance is inferior to Yogi Bear, Quick Draw of the Flintstones.

The Butcher said...

Did they really live in space? I always thought it was just future Earth where all the buildings, for reasons unexplained, were thousands of feet in the air.

John A said...

Two things started happening at Hanna-Barberra after the Flintstones became such a smash hit,Instead of taking more risks, the artwork on the other shows became more static and standardized, and the storylines became carbon copies of average live action sitcoms. The shows became very cookie cutter in that the same situations would pop up on other shows, just the characters and settings would change. Instead of each show being fully fleshed out and unique, the exact same character types would just be plugged into a new show. This didn't happen with a show like the Flintstones where the entire world they inhabited was part of the show. While the show focused primarily on Fred and Barney,and usually their wives, the other characters, even some of the neighbors and Lodge brothers were well thought out and made Bedrock seem more like a real place.Poor George Jetson, on the other hand, doesn't have a single friend other than his domineering boss. Considering that the show is based in the future, most of the gadget gags are fairly routine, and lack the basic humor of the animal-prop gags that were used in the Flintstones. The futurististic design of the show was pretty solid, though, and I think it influenced a lot of other modern design. It also had its share of great but underdeveloped characters.But Ultimately, this is a show that should have spent a little more time in developement, it might have lasted for more than one season.

HemlockMan said...

I remember my mom being very excited when she first heard about the coming cartoon show THE JETSONS. At the time we all adored THE FLINTSTONES and the argument was that it would be as much fun as that show.

But it wasn't.

The Art of Bob Chambers said...

I suspect the move to their new studio in '63 had something to do with it...

aalong64 said...

I always wanted to like the show, and I thought George was a fun main character. George's voice was great-- unique and recognizable, but at the same time, it also had that 'everyman' aspect. Actually, all the characters were pretty nicely designed and voiced.

I loved the music, and sometimes the ideas were kind of funny, but I would never laugh out loud watching it. I might crack a smile occasionally, but it just wasn't that funny.

dan said...

The writing of that show was simply awful.It was filled with really lame ideas that could have come out of a third rate comic.

JohnK said...

I don't know if it was any more lame than modern sitcom cartoons, but the execution definitely was.

They had great voices though.

J Lee said...

It also seems like -- being their first series and without any past shortcuts or standards to fall back on -- The Flintstones, and the syndicated stuff like Huck and Yogi, played out the same way the theatrical cartoons did. They evolved from episode to episode, as the staff decided what worked and what didn't. Long-term, they might not have evolved in the right way, but it's still easy to tell an early episode from Season 1 of "The Flintstones" or an early Huck or Yogi episode from one later in the year, just as you can tell a 1940 Bugs or Daffy from the same characters five years later.

With the Jetsons and with Top Cat, it's as though the studio decided they'd do all the tweaking beforehand, so that the characters came out looking, sounding and acting exactly the way they thought they should, with no changes allowed. Other than George and Jane buying Rosie and adopting Astro in the first couple of shows, you really can't tell Episodes 1-2 from Episode 21-22, based just on the designs alone, because everything is cemented into place, and as time went on, you'd see less and less on-screen development not just at H-B but at all the other studios.

melina bee said...

hi; new here and so happy to learn you have a blog. Been a huge fan of your work since childhood (yes, Ren and Stimpy, but I was a very artistically dedicated preteen...) You are so talented and it's also great now to hear your opinions on other work too.

Tony W. said...

This is kind of off-topic, but check out this awesome View-Master ad featuring two off-model Yogis (check out the snout of the upper-left one): click

MDG14450 said...

I wonder if after their initial success, HB realized that they didn't need to make great cartoons--just great presentations. So they threw everything into the initial concept (characters, designs, voices) and let the shows go on autopilot once they were picked up.

J C Roberts said...

How much of a letdown was it to get involved in the revived version, perhaps hoping to inject some those qualities, only to have it be so heavily 80s and still not live up to the premise or the original HB spirit?

JohnK said...

I actually had a lot of fun and some creative freedom on it.

Click the "Jetsons" label and you'll see posts about it.

Brian O. said...

Assuming you have the qualified talent and can do much of the production stateside, how many dollars will it take to produce a 6-minute short like early Flintstones using modern technology?

I'm asking you specifically because you wouldn't squander finances like big studios and their features.

Brian "Ayavaron" Jeffrey Ross II said...

I just finished reading the autobiography of Joseph Barbera the other day and have two things to add to this discussion.

1) Around the time HB was making Top Cat, Barbera himself became much more interested in written word than cartoon gags. He noticed that his own Top Cat scripts were mostly dialogue and his solution to give it more cartoon charm was to have some scenes reanimated so that Top Cat could speak while holding either a golf club or telephone. OH THAT IS WACKY, TOP CAT. ALWAYS BEING ON THE PHONE! OR PLAYING GOLF!

2) The entire time I was reading, I was paying careful attention to see if Barbera would ever mention Ed Benedict and the closest he ever comes to that is on page 142 where he mentions he handed his design for Top Cat to "Ed Benedek" for finish. This seems to imply that a) Barbera believed or wanted readers to believe that he is responsible for those character designs and b) Fucker couldn't be arsed to remember the name of his best character designer. How sick is that?

John K, if there's any interest, I can scan some highlights in case you'd like to share them on your blog.

kurtwil said...

Per Brian's comments, perhaps that is why HB became more of a script driven than visual driven animation producer.

Perhaps that's because in part it's easier to bang words out on a keyboard than it is to sketch a communicative character pose?

Meanwhile, as Disney, Classic Warners, Ralph Bakshi, JK and a handful of others have proved over and over and over, scripts don't work well for describing or embellishing animation.