Hanna-Barbera (September 23, 1962 – March 3, 1963), Warner Bros.(May 11, 2004), four discs, 629 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original aspect ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0, Not Rated, Retail: $39.98
The Jetsons are a classic Space Age family – George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, Rosie, and Astro – and they have finally arrived on DVD with the original 24 episodes from the show’s classic first season.
The Sweatbox Review:
With the success of The Flintstones on television, the creative team of William Hanna and Joe Barbera began to think of another successful formula for primetime television. Since the Flintstones were a Stone Age family, they decided that their next sitcom family would be a Space Age family set in the future. The creative idea behind The Jetsons was to try and figure out what family life would be like in one hundred years. The Jetsons came around at a time when people were optimistic about the future, and it was a time of great scientific achievement. The future was seen as a time where would own flying cars, robots would do everything for us, we would be eating pills, and working less. For any kid growing up on sci-fi flicks from the fifties, it was not a stretch of the imagination to believe in flying cars in just a few short decades. In fact, I can remember when I was a kid and I believed there would be flying cars by the year 2000. So, here were are in 2004, and still no flying cars, except those we find in cartoons and other movies. However, many of the other inventions only imagined in those days are commonplace nowadays.
The Jetsons is about an average family living in 2062 (one hundred years after the original aired). The family is made up of father George, mother Jane, their teenage daughter Judy, and their six-year old son Elroy. Besides them, there is also the robot maid Rosie, and their dog Astro. Together, they end up in hilarious situations, and they learn that they cannot live without one other. In a sense, humanity has not changed much in one hundred years, and the great thing about this family is that they could be living in any decade. George is constantly griping about his (3-hour a day) job at Spacely Sprocketts, and is constantly getting fired by his boss Mr. Spacely. Jane hates housework, and loves shopping, much to the horror of her husband. Judy, like any regular teenager, loves rock music and boys. Elroy is a smart kid who loves playing with gadgets and with his dog Astro.
The Jetsons premiered on primetime in 1962 in an extremely competitive timeslot, opposite the popular Wonderful World of Disney. The network was trying to repeat the success The Flintstones had had on primetime, but the show failed to deliver in ratings. After a full season, the show was cancelled and probably would have been forgotten if it hadn’t been for a new timeslot and reruns. For the next two decades, the original twenty-four episodes played in reruns on Saturday mornings, where it became a sensation. The show spawned a popular comic book, toys, books, and other popular memorabilia (something that Hanna-Barbera has always managed to do well). After almost two decades, the show’s creators made an additional order of over fifty episodes to create a syndication deal, which also became very popular. The original voice actors all returned for the show, and little changed, except for the permanent addition of Rosie, Astro, and a few new characters. The show was so popular that in 1988, The Jetsons hit the big screen in their first feature film. There were also some very popular made-for-television movies, including the memorable one where the Jetsons meet the Flintstones.
It has been over forty years since the original show was released, and The Jetsons has finally made it to home video. The Jetsons: The Complete First Season, is part of the second wave of the Hanna-Barbera Golden Collection which started in March with the release of The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? and continues this month along with Jonny Quest. It is great to see such a great cartoon get its due on DVD and I hope this is the first of many more releases. As far as Hanna-Barbera goes, The Jetsons is one of my favorite cartoons along with The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo. When I was a kid, I always loved to watch the show and imagine what the future would be like with its many robots, flying cars, and wall-sized televisions. Looking at the show now, it seems like many of the imaginative gadgets have come to life, from moving walkways to the Internet.
The episodes are spread out on four, single side discs. Instead of commenting on all twenty-four episodes, here are some highlights from each disc.
Rosie the Robot – This was the first episode of The Jetsons, and it aired on September 23, 1962. This is the episode where we first meet the Jetsons and Rosie the Robot when she is purchased by Jane. Jane is tired of punching buttons and her mother suggests she gets a free trial robot. Meanwhile, at his work, George gets the guts to ask Mr. Spacely for a raise only to have him invite himself over to dinner at George’s house. At the robot store, Jane is immediately taken with Rosie, a homely old robot. At home, Elroy and Judy become enamored with Rosie, but then George arrives and is afraid Mr. Spacely will think he’s rich and refuse his request for a raise. This is a great pilot episode, and it is immediately apparent that this family always stays together and they all love one another. Note this is also the first time George gets fired, which becomes a regular occurrence on the show.
A Date With Jet Screamer – This was the second episode, and we finally got to know Judy Jetson. Judy loves two things: boys and music. So, it is not a surprise that she has her music idols, and one of these is Jet Screamer (“Baby, baby, baby, ah, ah, ah!”) who is having a contest to find his next hit song, and the winner gets a date with him. Judy tries, but her father doesn’t want her to win, so he switches her lyrics with Elroy’s secret language notes (Eep, Op, Ok, Ah, Ah). To his surprise, Judy wins the contest and goes on a date with Jet, but George doesn’t want his little girl to go unsupervised so he follows them. This episode has the typical, father-is-jealous-of-his-daughter plotline, and it works well. This is a classic episode and is one of the most memorable, with the music and the great animation. Joe Barbera loved the animation in this episode so much, that he used this episode to show the studio what the show would look like. He was right, and it features some great animated sequences.
Disc One Episode List: Rosie the Robot, A Date with Jet Screamer, The Space Car, the Coming of Astro, Jetsons Night Out, The Good Little Scouts, and The Flying Suit.
Rosie’s Boyfriend – It is interesting to find out that Rosie the Robot is only featured in two classic episodes. This could be because Jean Vander Pyl, the voice of Rosie and other characters, also worked as the voice of Wilma on The Flintstones. When the show returned in the 80s, Rosie became a regular cast member. In this episode, Judy has fallen in love, and Rosie makes fun of her behavior, only to fall in love with a robot named Mac. Mac is owned by Henry Orbit, the apartment manager, who is also a regular character on the show. However, things turn bad for Rosie when Mac is deactivated for being too distracted, leading Rosie into a deep depression. This is a very funny episode, especially when Jane decides to take Rosie to the robotologist.
A Visit from Grandpa – Grandpa (Montague) Jetson is 110 years old (which would make him born in the 1950s), and he comes to visit his grandson George. He is an active and youthful man who drives the town policeman crazy with his driving and happy-go-lucky nature. The family is unable to keep up with his energy, so they send him to the park to walk Astro. When Grandpa calls someone to get a “license”, the family begins to think he is getting re-married, which leads to a hilarious conclusion. This is a highlight episode because it features those classical misunderstandings, and because grandpa is a great character to watch.
Disc Two Episode List: Rosie’s Boyfriend, Elroy’s TV Show, Unilab, A Visit from Grandpa, Astro’s Top Secret, Elroy’s Pal, and Test Pilot.
Millionaire Astro – Astro the loveable dog was introduced in the fourth episode, The Coming of Astro, where he had to challenge a robot dog for the approval of George. In a sense, Astro is the direct ancestor (or is it descendant?) of Scooby-Doo, right up to the voice actor and mannerisms. In this episode, The Jetsons find out that Astro belongs to a billionaire who is reclaiming him, leading the Jetsons to court. Astro is a special dog, and he holds a special place in the Jetsons heart, as this episode shows. Even though he has everything he wants with the billionaire, he still needs the love the Jetsons can give him.
Miss Solar System – This might be the best episode showing George and Jane’s love for each another. Jane buys a new dress (with a great machine that just adjusts the dress perfectly and only in a few seconds) and asks for George’s opinion. However, George is distracted by a female movie star on television who is going to be at the Miss Solar System pageant, and ignores Jane. Jane, furious at George, decides to enter the contest, and is accepted representing the Western Hemisphere. At the same time, Mr. Spacely forces George to go to the pageant as his assistant since he’s going to be a masked judge. What makes this funny is George’s reaction to his own wife when he sees her (both are masked and don’t recognize each other). By the end, they confirm their love and affection for each other in an endearing moment.
Disc Three Episode List: Millionaire Astro, The Little Man, Las Venus, Jane’s Driving Lesson, G.I. Jetson, Miss Solar System, and TV or Not TV.
Elroy’s Mob – Elroy gets his report tape from school and finds out he has gotten straight A’s. Another kid in the class, who is watching a billionth rerun of The Flintstones on his wristwatch (those exist now!), switches his tape for Elroy’s. When George finds out that Elroy failed all his classes, he sends him to his room to Elroy’s bewilderment. By the time George finds out that Elroy was telling the truth, Elroy escapes from home. He soon encounters a dangerous criminal who uses Elroy to rob a jeweler. Now, Elroy and Astro put their own family in danger when the criminals use their house as a hideout. It is up to Elroy and Astro to save the day. Elroy is a cute character, and this episode demonstrates his friendship with Astro, as well as his intelligence.
Disc Four Episode List: Private Property, Dude Planet, and Elroy’s Mob.
I have always loved The Jetsons so I really enjoyed watching these episodes again. One of my favorite things about the show, are the ingenious inventions and contraptions that exist in the future. No one walks, and they use moving sidewalks and flying cars to get around. They eat flavored pills, have tread mills for walking their dogs (before tread mills existed), and use robots for everything. Many things we take for granted today like cell phones, large screen televisions, and the internet exist in the show even though they were only a dream in the 60s. However, the show would not have been so popular if it hadn’t been for the great characters. Hanna-Barbera really knew how to create great characters for television, and it really is about this family that is a little crazy, but that really cares for one another.
Is This Thing Loaded?
I actually enjoyed some of the special features on this set more than the ones on The Flintstones set. Some of the features are essentially the same from the other Hanna-Barbera sets including one about “Space Age Gadgets” used in the show (The Flintstones had “wacky inventions”) and a small featurette about the origin of the series. One plus for this release is the addition of a commentary track on the first two episodes with Janet Waldo. There are also trailers for other “Family Favorites” including The Flintstones (where a shot of the upcoming Tom & Jerry set is included), Scooby-Doo Where Are You?, Jonny Quest, and Samurai Jack. The Flintstones release had a ton of original Flintstones commercials, which are not present on this release for The Jetsons, despite several products. However, The Flintstones have always been more popular, so it isn’t a surprise.
“The Jetsons: Family of the Future” (8:43) is a short featurette about the origins of The Jetsons. It features early and recent interviews with Joe and Bill about their inspiration for the show. They talk about how they wanted to take the traditional sitcom family to the 21st century just like they had done with The Flintstones and the prehistoric age. They also talk about the strange things they invented to put on the show, and how many of them exist today. There is also a small interview with Janet Waldo, the voice of Judy Jetson (and tragically the only cast member still alive after the passing of Jean Vander Pyl last year) where she talks about the process of recording the voices.
In “Nuclear Family Album”, we get a short biography on George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, and Astro which features clips and other interesting facts about the characters. There is a “play all” feature in this section. Please note that the words at the bottom of the screen change a few times during the span of the clips. This happens whenever comet passes through the bottom of the screen.
“Space Age Gadgets” is another short (4:50) featurette about the gadgets used in the future. It’s a narrated clip show featuring many different gadgets that were used by the characters in the show. It goes character by character showing the different innovations that they used.
“Rosie the Robotic Maid” (3:33) runs like a commercial for robots showing how Rosie changed the life of Jane Jetson. It begins at the dawn of time when women did all household chores (showing Wilma from The Flintstones) and goes to the 21st century when Jane still doesn’t have too much free time (it takes too many seconds to cook up a meal!). It’s not a particularly great featurette, specially considering that Rosie is only in two of this season’s episodes. This is basically filler.
Finally, there are the two audio commentaries on “Rosie the Robot” and “A Date with Jet Screamer” with Janet Waldo. At 86 years of age, Janet fondly remembers her days as Judy Jetson on the show. She spends most of her time on the commentaries talking about the other actors on the show and what voices they did. She talks about Joe Barber and his style of directing the voice actors, as well as some of her favorite episodes and memories from the show. She spends the rest of the time either talking about how she wishes certain appliances existed, or being quiet. At many points during the episodes, Janet remains silent and she even admits she gets sucked right into the episodes and forgets to talk. So, unless you really love the show and want to learn more about the other actors of the show, you can skip this.
The Jetsons is being released as a complete season set, much like March’s release of The Flintstones, and both are spread out on four discs. One major difference is that The Jetsons only ran for twenty-four episodes, unlike The Flintstones’ twenty-eight. On The Flintstones release, the fourth disc had two-sides to accommodate extra episodes, but The Jetsons has four single-sided discs. The discs are housed in a cardboard case that folds up to hold the four discs and an episode listing. The cover features a stencil of the family members. All of this is covered by a plastic slipcase covering the stencil drawing like an animation cell. This is a clever and elegant design for the set and fits well with the other Hanna-Barbera Golden Collection releases thus far. There is a number 1 on the spine of the box which hopefully indicates a future second release.
Ink And Paint:
The Jetsons is shown in the original 1.33:1 television aspect ratio. For a forty-year-old show, the image is not that bad. It is comparable to The Flintstones set that was released two months ago. The image is not always clean, and sometimes I felt that not much time was spent cleaning up the image. The print is full of dust and fragments that are present, but aren’t too distracting. Overall, it is not bad, and the colors are still bright (in most places) and with great contrast. It is what we have come to expect from a show this old, although a restoration would have been appreciated.
I think all of these episodes were picked up from the syndication package from the 80s and they all use the title cards that came from the 80s. While I cannot remember what the original title cards used to look like, the ones used here feature Orbity who was not present in the classic episodes. On an interesting note, according to the commentary by Janet Waldo, many of these episodes have extended scenes not shown in the original broadcast (although probably shown in reruns and on syndication). The set features a total of 629 minutes.
The audio is presented in an English mono track, much like the original show. The sound sometimes can be inconsistent with some episodes being louder than others. I found myself turning the volume way up to get the full impact of the sound. Overall, the sound is good for this type of release, but nothing special. The track could have been upgraded, but I don’t know how much of a difference it would have made. I did notice that in the menu, the surround feature is used when the cars drive by, but this same effect is different in the show. There are two commentaries on the first disc, and English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also included.
The Jetsons is a classic show and it holds a special place in the history of American pop culture. The characters on the show prove to be as relevant today as they were forty years ago when the show first premiered on television. At the heart of every story are the family bonds that tie a family together. They may go through some crazy and humorous adventures, but their love for one another ultimately always brings them home. I commend Warner Bros. for once again delivering a DVD for one of their classic Hanna-Barbera properties. I look forward to seeing the next release and hope we do not have to wait too long for the next season.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?