After Hanna-Barbera proved that a prime-time cartoon sitcom set in the Stone Age could be successful, they set their sites on the faraway mid-21st century. In the middle of a futuristic world where flying cars buzzed the skies and robotic maids tended to the chores, they plopped down a typical family, The Jetsons.
Debuting on prime-time in 1962, The Jetsons followed the daily life of patriarch, George Jetson, a dedicated employee of Spacely Sprockets. George was a competent worker but could never seem to please his over-demanding boss, Cosmo Spacely, who required inhuman amounts of overtime and expected George to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks – or face certain termination. No pressure.
At least when he finally made it home at night, George had a loving family waiting for him. His wife Jane was a stereotypical stay-at-home housewife. Jane loved her husband – and his credit cards, which she tried to coax from him at every opportunity so she could go on a shopping spree. Their two children were teenaged daughter Judy, who liked boys and popular music (in that order), and precocious six-year-old son, Elroy, a computer whiz. Luckily for Judy, she didn’t have too many domestic chores to occupy her time; they were handled most efficiently by a robotic nanny/housekeeper named Rosie, who sported a thick New York accent. And no matter the century, no household is complete without the family mutt. In the Jetson’s home, man’s-best-friend duties were carried out by Astro, a lovable canine with a speech impediment (“Rokay Reorge”).
The Jetsons benefited from some of the best voice actors in the business. George O’Hanlon portrayed George, Daws Butler played Elroy, Don Messick (who would later play another speech-impaired dog named Scooby-Doo) lent his vocal cords to Astro, Man of a thousand voices Mel Blanc played Mr. Spacely and Jean Vander Pyl (Wilma Flintstone) gave voice to Rosie the robot.
Considering their beloved stature in the cartoon world, it might come as a surprise that The Jetsons only lasted for a single season in prime-time, with only 24 original episodes ever produced. They found longevity in the Saturday morning lineup, however, where they would remain for 14 years. Finally, in 1985, Hanna-Barbera decided it was time for the futuristic clan to finally get some new episodes and a bit of a face lift. They added a new character named Orbitty (a futuristic alien pet), and strayed a bit from the sitcom feel into a more 80s sci-fi cartoon style.
After more than 30 years on television, The Jetsons would finally make the leap to the big screen in 1990, with their first feature film, The Jetsons: The Movie. The film featured the entire original cast from the series, although, sadly, it would also mark the final performances of both George O’Hanlon and Mel Blanc who both passed away shortly after it was completed.
And yet, The Jetsons continue to live on. Like their prehistoric counterparts, The Flintstones, their popularity remains strong to this day. And likely, by the time we reach the era where flying cars are passé, and watch television on a strange box that has yet to be invented, there will still be those original 24 episodes of The Jetsons being broadcast and enjoyed by generations of new fans yet to be born.
If you’ve long been a fan of this celebrated cartoon family, we hope you’ll share your thoughts and recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to Hanna-Barbera for another memorable series.