So, this week, the Jetsons return to the public spotlight with the forthcoming direct-to-video animated feature, The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-Wrestlemania, coming on Tuesday:
And yes, there is a review for this from me coming up next week.
But with the forthcoming release, let’s go back and look at the first Jetsons movie….if you don’t include the previously reviewed The Jetsons Meet The Flintstones or Rockin’ With Judy Jetson, at least what the advertising for this was implying, this is Jetsons: The Movie:
Jetsons: The Movie is a 1990 American animated musical comic science fiction film produced by Hanna-Barbera and released by Universal Pictures on July 6, 1990. Based on the cartoon series The Jetsons, the film stars the voices of George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton and Mel Blanc, all veterans of the series, in their last voice-acting roles.
The most interesting thing about this movie is how it was brought into existence, for those that don’t know, The Jetsons debuted first in 1962 in primetime two years after the success of The Flintstones on ABC, the series only last one season in its’ original state while The Flintstones continued on for three more years.
In 1985, nearly 25 years after the debut, the show was brought back into the profitable syndication format and the series found new success garnering two additional seasons and 51 more episodes to the 24 previously aired for 75 episodes total.
After the series ended, Hanna Barbera gave the greenlight to the Jetsons movie and that’s where the trouble begins in terms of the production.
A major problem that arose during production of the movie was the advanced age and poor health of many of the voice actors from the series; all of the major cast members except Don Messick were over 65 years old by this point. Daws Butler, the voice of Elroy, was the first to die; he died in 1988 of a sudden heart attack and did not record any lines for the film. To replace Butler, voice coordinator Kris Zimmerman brought in her then-husband Patric, then a relative unknown, to fill the role of Elroy. George O’Hanlon died of a stroke on February 11, 1989 after he finished recording; Romano later recalled that he could record only an hour at a time due to ill health and had his final stroke while at the studio. Mel Blanc, the voice of Mr. Spacely, would also die during the film’s production on July 10, 1989, following a long battle with emphysema and coronary artery disease brought on by age and decades of smoking. Jeff Bergman, already on the payroll for bit parts in the film, filled in parts left unfinished when Blanc and O’Hanlon died; the film is dedicated to the memory of O’Hanlon and Blanc.
I mean, my god, something that should’ve been easy to do turned into the animated equivalent of the Poltergeist curse where cast members just started dying off in random periods of time.
Because of this, Jetsons: The Movie was originally slated for a 1989 release, but was delayed to avoid competition with Disney’s The Little Mermaid, United Artists’ All Dogs Go to Heaven (which were both released on the same day), Universal’s own Back to the Future Part II and Warner Bros.’ National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Universal released The Wizard in its place and then, Jetsons: The Movie finally was released to theaters on July 6, 1990, the same summer when a far superior animated TV series adaptation, Ducktales: The Movie, was released.
So, what did we end up getting with the Jetsons’ theatrical film debuts? Let’s take a look:
The film opens up with arguably the best thing about it….the Universal 75th anniversary logo:
Okay, maybe not the best thing about the movie but still, that’s a classic intro and if I’m not mistaken, this was only the third movie to use such logo following the first film to use it, Back To The Future Part III and the second, Ghost Dad.
In the late 21st century, Spacely Sprockets and Spindles has opened a new mining colony on an asteroid.
A place that has never been mentioned in the TV series before nor would it ever be mentioned again in any other Jetsons related projects in the years after this movie came out
The proposed project is meant to increase productivity at 1/10 the cost of making the items on Earth. However, the factory continues to be sabotaged by someone or something.
And trust me, when you see what these things are, that’s where the movie really takes a downward spiral.
The film begins with, of course, the Jetsons intro, done very well by John Debney, in his first score he ever composed for a feature film, and in fact, his score may be the truly best thing about this movie:
The CG effects on the other hand…they’re kind of a mixed bag, a lot of it does look fake like the earth in the intro but then other times, like in the very first scene where you see Orbit City in the dense smog in the air with Debney’s music playing in the background, it actually holds up fairly well. In fact, the overall animation is essentially a mixed bag too, some of it looks pretty generic while other times, it’s actually pretty impressive and manages to hold up well…too bad the script can’t do that either.
As Cosmo Spacely (voiced by Mel Blanc and Jeff Bergman) checks up on the “Orbiting-Ore Asteroid” again, the latest head of the factory, Alexander Throttlebottom, has run off, making it four vice presidents of the new plant that Spacely has lost so far.
Think about that, four vice presidents lost since this thing opened up? You would think that Spacely would’ve gotten the hint and think to himself, “hmm, maybe I should actually send more people there to figure out what the hell is going on?” But no, instead, fearing for his company (and profits), Spacely names George Jetson (voiced by George O’Hanlon and Jeff Bergman) as Throttlebottom’s successor and sends George and his family to the plant.
And while watching this movie, you start to kind of useless George Jetson really is, his whole job is essentially to just push a button to get everything going and then he can just relax and sleep all day….just imagine what that would be like to have that kind of a job. But that basically means that Spacely only hires one person in his entire company to do that one job. What happens if the robots ever break down or the machines don’t work? Does Spacely expect George to fix it even though he’d probably make it even worse? Does he just call the Jetsons’ super to come in and do the job, remember Henry Orbit and his robot assistant? Where are they in this movie? This movie has me asking so many questions about how this world works?
ANYWAY, back to the movie, while the family is thoroughly upset at being thrown from their normal life style (and the plans that they had that day), they set up apartments on the adjoining apartment community to the Asteroid and its neighboring shopping complex…which was not even included in the opening scene…what, did they build it in a day?
While it takes the family time to adjust, Elroy Jetson (voiced by Patric Zimmerman) meets a robot boy named Teddy-2 (voiced by Dana Hill), whom he first is at odds with, but eventually befriends.
Which by the way, that whole subplot is like wrapped up in an average of five minutes, they meet, the robot is better at him in basketball, they disagree, something happens where Elroy saves his life at the plant, and suddenly, they’re friends, it is literally the animation equivalent of the way Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly become best friends in Step Brothers, it just happens in an instance.
Teddy-2’s father, Rudy-2 (voiced by Ronnie Schell), is the plant engineer and shows George around. Meanwhile, Judy Jetson (voiced by Tiffany)…
…and that is another one of the big problems with this movie that I have yet to bring up. Janet Waldo, the original voice of Judy Jetson, recorded the part for this film but her voice was later replaced by singer Tiffany. Studio executives hoped that Tiffany would attract a younger audience. Displeased with the casting change, voice director Andrea Romano had her name removed from the finished film. Tiffany said her singing voice was what initially drew the attention of Barbera. Tiffany sang three songs used in the film (“I Always Thought I’d See You Again”, “You and Me” and “Home”), which are on the soundtrack album along with “Jetsons’ Rap” by XXL and tracks by other artists. Tiffany did not write any of the songs, but she cited “I Always Thought I’d See You Again” as one of her favorites to sing.
So, basically, Universal tried to appeal to the kids of 1990 by getting somebody who peaked in 1987 and by 1990, her career was already considered done…and today, she makes a living starring in terrible films from The Asylum. I mean, honestly, why stop there? How about we get the New Kids On The Block to play Elroy…I mean, everybody in New Kids On The Block, have them do a few lines each and just get them all in there, that’ll show how we’ll appeal to the kids….Yeah, Janet Waldo pretty much got screwed over in this case.
In fact, a lot of the music in this sounds like they are trying to appeal to what a kid from 1990 listens to. When the movie came to DVD in 2009, I really did think that Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus contribute to the soundtrack…I know, it’s physically impossible but really, listen to these songs and tell me you don’t here Bieber or Cyrus:
Yeah, maybe, it’s just me but you get my point, there were parts where this kid sounded like both Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus in these two different songs…and also, this soundtrack is all over the damn place. Not only the Tiffany songs, not only these two songs but the song that ends the movie is…again, we’ll get to that.
Again, back to the movie, Judy Jetson is having a hard time adjusting, and accepting the fact that she lost her chance at a date with rock star Cosmic Cosmo (voiced by Steve McClintock) (which a friend of hers later takes), but soon feels better after meeting a teenage boy named Apollo Blue (voiced by Paul Kreppel)…or hell, just call him what he really is, Captain Planet, he literally looks like Captain Planet except painted blue and voiced by not the same actor as Captain Planet but pretty damn close. Again, that does tie into what this film ends up becoming but we’ll get to that in a bit.
George soon figures that he’s ready to set the plant running again, and Mr. Spacely is all set to see the plant working full-throttle, and soon to churn out the one millionth Spacely Sprocket. However, the opening day festivities give way to panic as the factory is sabotaged once again. Literally the next day, George and Rudy-2 try to fix things, but the problems persist…or to be honest, George basically just says “hey, that was just a glitch on the first day, surely it can’t go wrong again on day 2” and not even fixing anything, starts the plant up again and of course, it goes wrong and leads to a pointless comedy setpiece. I swear, you could put the Benny Hill music over the scene where George is carrying the sprockets and ends up falling onto the packaging machine and the image would just be complete, it’s just how that goes.
It gets so bad to the point that Mr. Spacely heads on up to check on things. Thinking he has to take charge, George stays overnight, only to fall asleep and be taken off by the mysterious saboteurs…and at this point, your patience with George begins to get really testy. He makes such a big deal about going out after the plant closes to see what the problem is and he falls asleep, you couldn’t trust this guy with the Oscars, let alone a friggin’ plant. In fact, there’s a new conspiracy theory, the guy who fucked up the Best Picture award, he wasn’t tweeting, he was sleeping on the job and one of these creatures swapped the envelopes.
Elroy, Teddy-2, and their neighbor Fergie Furbelow (voiced by Russi Taylor) sneak into the plant, and meet Squeep (voiced by Frank Welker), a member of an adorable-looking alien race known as Grungees….aka, reject Gremlins. I swear to god, they look like the Gremlins that Warner Bros. rejected for the original movie as well as The New Batch.
But then, we come to where this movie really falls apart…
Squeep tells them (with Teddy-2 translating) that the factory is actually drilling into his people’s community, which is based inside the asteroid. Soon, Jane, Judy, Apollo, Rudy-2 and Astro show up, and realize what is happening as well.
In other words, the third act of this movie turns into a friggin’ PSA about the environment. For the next 15 minutes, it’s nothing but trying to convince us that this is wrong, this is insane, and we get the whole ‘who’s the real monster here? The creatures or humanity?’ But then again, they aren’t throwing it as hard in your face as they did with Pokémon The First Movie with its’ hypocritical message about how enslaving Pokémon is wrong and yet Mewtwo’s evil plan is to enslave Pokémon….hypocrite.
George is found hog-tied in the Grungees’ colony, and although he soon realizes just what the factory is doing, Spacely doesn’t. Seeing his factory at a stand-still, he starts it up (despite that it’s the night) (after disconnecting Rudy-2, who tries to stop him), nearly burying Elroy and Squeep alive under rubble, and prompting everyone in the asteroid to get top-side.
And keep in mind, George had been so centered on himself and is so onesided on this issue. So, had Elroy not been buried under that rubble, he probably wouldn’t have had the big turnaround he has towards the end….also, I think this might be the first Hanna Barbera project to have somebody say ‘Thank god you’re alright” instead of “Thank gosh you’re alright”.
Meanwhile, everybody gets up to the top of the orb where George manages to shut down the factory and show his boss exactly what he’s doing. And the way he shuts the factory down is where the film officially loses its’ mind, basically Spacely builds a maze to get to the center of the emergency shutdown system so that nobody touches it and it’s just ridiculously stupid, even for an animated movie, it’s stupid.
After some talk (and let’s be honest, more preaching), when George finally stands up to his boss, telling him that all he cares about is money, they come to an agreement: the Grungees will run the plant, and create new Spacely Sprockets through recycling old ones (thus stopping the further destruction of the Grungees’ homeworld).
Although, they still cut to the drills destroying their homes. So, this whole resolution doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you see that the drills are still doing what they doing in the first place. They didn’t even create new animation to make the scene make more sense. How do you miss that?
Spacely Sprockets reaches the millionth sprocket, and when George asks about being vice president, Spacely retorts, stating that “he’s lucky that he’ll be getting his old job back”. Only when pressured by everyone else does he reluctantly promote him to vice president (without a raise). However, George knows that with the Grungees now running the plant, he is no longer needed as head of the Asteroid and will have to return home. The Jetsons then bid their new friends a tearful goodbye, including Fergie, who attempted to stow away aboard the Jetsons’ car. They then head back to their apartment on Earth. As the family passes over the factory, the Grungees arrange themselves to form the words: “THANKS GEORGE”, as a final grateful goodbye to him for saving their home.
And thus we end the movie with, of all things, a Jetsons rap, I am dead serious:
So, that’s Jetsons: The Movie, wow, was this bad or what?
The movie is just all over the place, the animation is a mixed bag that works sometimes and other times it doesn’t, the CG is a mixed bag that works sometimes and other times it doesn’t, the voice work is all over the place, there are literally points when Spacely and George are talking and you can hear Jeff Bergman’s replacement voice on one line and then George O’Hanlon or Mel Blanc on the very next line, the story doesn’t work, it turns into a PSA in the third act, the songs are bad, the overall score is the best thing about this movie.
And also, the film itself kind of got screwed over solely on the release. The movie did poorly at the box office because while they were making this movie, animation had taken this big boom with Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, and even The Simpsons changing the game and launching the world into the second golden age of animation. Jetsons: The Movie and, unfortunately, Ducktales: The Movie and even The Rescuers Down Under all got lost in this void in 1990 that would change a year later once Beauty & The Beast became the big hit it was.
Bottom line, there’s a much better Jetsons related project that came out in 1990 and for the people who were lucky enough to see it when it was at Universal Studios Florida, you know exactly what I’m talking about:
See, you don’t need a movie that’s all over the place when you’ve got a five minute mini movie that had more excitement and much better animation to it than anything in this movie.
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