While the Flintstones live in a world with machines powered by birds and dinosaurs, the Jetsons live in the year 2062 in a futuristicutopia (100 years in the future at the time of the show's debut) of elaborate robotic contraptions, aliens, holograms, and whimsical inventions.
The original series comprised 24 episodes and aired on Sunday nights on ABC beginning September 23, 1962, with primetime reruns continuing through September 8, 1963. At the time of its debut, it was the first program ever to be broadcast in color on ABC-TV. (Only a handful of ABC-TV stations were capable of broadcasting in color in the early 1960s.) In contrast, The Flintstones, while always produced in color, was broadcast in black-and-white for its first two seasons. Following its primetime run, the series aired on Saturday mornings for decades, starting on ABC for the 1963-64 season and then in future seasons on CBS and NBC.
The Jetsons are a family residing in Orbit City in the year 2062. The city's architecture is rendered in the Googie style, and all homes and businesses are raised high above the ground on adjustable columns. George Jetson lives with his family in the Skypad Apartments: his wife Jane is a homemaker, their teenage daughter Judy attends Orbit High School, and their early-childhood son Elroy attends Little Dipper School. Housekeeping is seen to by a robot maid, Rosie, which handles chores not otherwise rendered trivial by the home's numerous push-buttonSpace Age-envisioned conveniences. The family has a dog named Astro, which talks with an initial consonant mutation in which every word begins with an "R", as if speaking with a growl.
George Jetson's workweek is typical of his era: an hour a day, two days a week. His boss is Cosmo Spacely, the diminutive yet bombastic owner of Spacely Space Sprockets. Spacely has a competitor, Mr.Cogswell, owner of the rival company Cogswell Cogs (sometimes known as Cogswell's Cosmic Cogs). Jetson commutes to work in an aerocar that resembles a flying saucer with a transparent bubble top. Daily life is leisurely, assisted by numerous labor-saving devices, which occasionally break down with humorous results. Despite this, everyone complains of exhausting hard labor and difficulties living with the remaining inconveniences.
The Jetson family (clockwise from upper left) — Rosie (robot), George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, and Astro the dog.
George Jetson: age 40, is the main character and protagonist of the series. He is a loving family man who always seems to make the wrong decisions. He works at Spacely's Sprockets turning the Referential Universal Digital Indexer (R.U.D.I.) on and off. He is married to Jane and together they have two kids, Judy and Elroy.
Jane Jetson: age 33, is George's wife, mother of their two children, and a homemaker (although it is Rosie who does most of the work). Jane is obsessed with fashion and new gadgetry. Her favorite store is Mooning Dales. She is a dutiful wife who always tries to make life as pleasant as possible for her family. Outside of the home, she is a member of the Galaxy Women Historical Society and is a fan of Leonardo de Venus and Picasso Pia.
Judy Jetson: age 15, is the elder child in the Jetson family. A student at Orbit High School, she is a stereotypical teenage girl whose prime interests include: clothes, hanging out with friends, and revealing secrets to her digital diary. Singer Tiffany did the voice of Judy Jetson in the 1990 movie.
Elroy Jetson: age 6½, is the younger of the two children in the Jetson family. He is highly intelligent and an expert in all space sciences. A mild-mannered and good child, Elroy attends Little Dipper School, where he studies space history, astrophysics, star geometry and math. Elroy loves his dog Astro and is always there to support him when George loses his patience with the family pet.
Rosie: is the Jetsons' household robot. She's an outdated model but the Jetsons love her and would never trade her for a newer model. Rosie does all the housework and some of the parenting. She is a strong authoritarian and occasionally dispenses pills to the family. Excluding a scene from the closing credits, Rosie appears in only two episodes of the original 1960s show, but makes many appearances on the 1980s show.
Astro the Dog: Astro is the Jetsons' family dog. Prior to being a Jetson his name was Tralfaz and he belonged to the fabulously rich Mr. Gottrockets. Astro is one of George's best friends (next to his work computer, R.U.D.I.) as well as Elroy's best buddy. He is able to speak in a rough sounding English resembling dog barks and growls, a manner of speaking which voice actor Don Messick would later reuse for the role of Scooby-Doo.
Orbitty: is an alien with spring-like legs who was the second pet of the Jetson family. He has the ability to express his emotions by changing color. This character was introduced in the 1980s version of the series, but didn't appear for the third season (except for one cameo) or any of the movies.
Mr. Spacely: is George's boss and owner of Spacely Space Sprockets. His company was founded in Newfoundland in 1937, where it continued to prosper until massive surface pollution necessitated a move to the elevated platforms seen in the series. He is a "little person" with black hair and a bad temper, and is the main antagonist of the series. Spacely always comes up with ideas to bring in more business, but they backfire. George, whom Spacely has known since childhood, gets blamed for most things that go wrong. A series' running gag involves his kicking George out of his office shouting, "Jetson! You're fired!", however Spacely would later give George his job back in the end of the episode, and if he was very happy with George, promote him to vice-president of the company. Mr. Spacely is sometimes helped out by Uniblab, the company's robot assistant.
Mr. Cogswell: is Spacely's big competitor. He owns Cogswell Cogs company and causes a lot of trouble for Spacely and George. To a lesser extent Cogswell is another of the series' antagonists. He and Spacely are always finding ways to bring each other's businesses down. Cogswell has often tried to steal Spacely's ideas and make them his own to gain an advantage (only for it to backfire on both bosses). He's also not above firing his employees when any little thing goes wrong. Mr. Cogswell's first name, "Spencer", is revealed in the 1980s version of The Jetsons.
R.U.D.I.: is George's work computer and one of his best friends, next to his dog, Astro. His name is an acronym for Referential Universal Digital Indexer. He has a human personality and is a member of the Society for Preventing Cruelty to Humans.
Henry Orbit: is the Jetsons' apartment's repair man. He is always helpful and always in a good mood. His robot Mac has a crush on Rosie.
Montague Jetson, George Jetson's kindly but eccentric grandfather, who constantly annoys the cop every time he meets him — Howard Morris
Mrs. Stella Spacely, Cosmo Spacely's overbearing and snobbish wife and Arthur Spacely's mother — Jean Vander Pyl
Uniblab, George's mortal enemy — an obnoxious robot who was also his supervisor at work. Appeared in two 1960s episodes, "Uniblab", where he becomes George's supervisor, and "G.I. Jetson", where he becomes the Sergeant of George's platoon. "Cost the government millions ... enough for two officers' clubs", said General McMissile (nicknamed "Old Blast Off"). A pun of UNIVAC;- Don Messick
In later productions, Jeff Bergman has voiced George, Elroy, and Mr. Spacely. Bergman completed voice work as George and Spacely for Jetsons: The Movie (1990) after George O'Hanlon and Mel Blanc died during production. Controversially, Janet Waldo was replaced — after recording all of her dialogue — by then-popular singer Tiffany for Jetsons: The Movie. Lori Frazier has provided the voice of Jane Jetson in television commercials for Radio Shack.
The show's original run consisted of 24 episodes that first aired on ABC from September 23, 1962 to March 17, 1963. In 1984, Hanna-Barbera began producing new episodes specifically for syndication; by September 1985, the 24 episodes from the first season were combined with 41 new episodes and began airing in late afternoon time slots in 80 U.S. media markets, including the 30 largest. The 41 new episodes were produced at a cost of $300,000 each, and featured all of the voice actors from the 1962–1963 show. Starting in 1987, ten additional "season 3" episodes were also made available for syndication.
The series' theme song, by composer Hoyt Curtin, became a pop hit in 1986.
Thirty years later, Time said: "In an age of working mothers, single parents and gay matrimony, George Jetson and his clan already seem quaint even to the baby boomers who grew up with them." Conversely, Jeffrey Tucker of the Ludwig von Mises Institute has argued that "The whole scene — which anticipated so much of the technology we have today but, strangely, not email or texting — reflected the ethos of time: a love of progress and a vision of a future that stayed on course ... The Jetsons' world is our world: explosive technological advances, entrenched bourgeois culture, a culture of enterprise that is very fond of the good life."
In the first episode of the 1980s episodes, an alien named Orbitty joined the family after Elroy discovered him on a field trip to an asteroid. Orbitty speaks in his own garbled dialect, has coil springs for legs, and changes colors according to his mood.
Various appliances appear in the 1980s episodes such as Memo-Minder and Di-Di, Judy's diary, which is shaped like a giant pair of wax lips.
Other differences include the following:
The original 1960s episodes are distinguished by 1960s design motifs, music, and references (similar to The Flintstones and other Hanna-Barbera shows of that period). The 1980s version had a custom soundtrack with new sound-effects created by synthesizer.
Whereas the 1960s stories were basically 1950s sitcom plots in a futuristic setting, the 1980s stories delved into fantastic, sci-fi cartoon territory.
The 1960s version was more adult oriented than the 1980s version, which was aimed at younger viewers.
The 1980s opening credits contain a re-recorded version of the original Jetsons theme song, which features the use of synthesized drums and synth lead tracks typical of 1980s music.
The 1960s closing credits were similar to the closing credits scenes from The Flintstones, which feature the family getting ready for bed as well as a disaster with their pets. In The Jetsons, George is walking Astro on a treadmill, Astro chases a cat, and then both animals jumping off after the treadmill malfunctions. The 1980s version had to accommodate a larger production staff, including dozens of voice actors, and this closing credits segment was replaced with static multicolored backgrounds with pictures of The Jetsons arranged next to numerous credits. The 1960s episodes were rereleased with the redesigned closing segment (containing fewer production staff credits than the 1980s episodes, but has more names than the original closing scene which left several people uncredited) but are usually seen rebroadcast with their original credits segment.
The 1960s episodes do not contain title cards. When the 1980s episodes were made, title cards were also made for the 1960s episodes, which explains the appearance of Orbitty in the title cards of the 1960s episodes. (Orbitty also appears in the 1980s closing credits, which style was also used for the 1960s episodes).
The backgrounds in the 1980s version contain vivid colors, and are more detailed than the 1960s version.
While the 1960s episodes referenced rockets and other "space age" theme devices, reflective of the real-life U.S. space program which fascinated America, the 1980s episodes leaned more towards how computers would influence life in the future.
In the 1980s version, Rosie the Robot appears more often than in the 1960s (when she only appeared in two episodes). Astro is also featured more prominently.
The original spelling of Rosie's name is "Rosey", as featured in the 1962 premiere "Rosey the Robot". Her spelling was modified to "Rosie", as featured in the 1985 episode "Rosie Come Home".
Instead of the buttons, knobs, dials, and switches in the 1960s version, the 1980s version uses flat buttons and brightly lit consoles.
Paramount Pictures first tried to film a live-action version of The Jetsons in 1985, which was to be executive produced by Gary Nardino, but failed to do so. In the late 1980s Universal Studios purchased the film rights for The Flintstones and The Jetsons from Hanna-Barbera Productions. The result was Jetsons: The Movie.
In May 2007, director Robert Rodriguez entered talks with Universal Studios and Warner Bros. to film a live action film adaptation of The Jetsons for a potential 2009 theatrical release, having at the time discussed directing a film adaptation of Land of the Lost with Universal. Rodriguez was uncertain which project he would pursue next, though the latest script draft for The Jetsons by assigned writer Adam Goldberg was further along in development.
In the late 1990s, George, Jane, and Astro appeared in ChristmasRadio Shack commercials. Judy, Elroy and Rosie were mentioned.
In 2003 New Zealand ISP Xtra used The Jetsons as part of an advertising campaign with George Jetson promoting the benefits of broadband Internet. The advert ended with George saying, "Broadband is the way the future, but some people will never get used to progress", and an image of Fred Flintstone using a stone shaped computer with a real mouse.
The Jetsons have appeared three times in Family Guy.
Rosie appears in the Futurama movie Bender's Game; she has been sent to the Hal Institute For Criminally Insane Robots after murdering Elroy and Astro.
The Jetsons were seen in a Cartoon Network Rap in 1995.
The Jetsons appeared in a Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law episode "Back To The Present".
The Jetsons characters were main characters in a parody of I,Robot done by Robot Chicken,where Rosie is accused of murdering George.
The Jetsons(along with Mr.Spacely and Rosie)appeared in a Met Life commercial in 2012.
The Jetsons' Space Race (part of "Hanna-Barbera’s Cartoon Carnival") (CD-i, 1993)
Flintstones Jetsons Time Warp (CD-i, 1994)
Home video releases
On June 28, 1990, Hanna-Barbera released six episodes from the show on home video.Warner Home Video released season 1 on DVD in Region 1 on May 11, 2004; upon its release, James Poniewozik wrote it's "as much about New Frontier 1962 as about the distant future. Its ditzy slapstick is like the peanut-butter-and-jelly mix Goober Grape—if you didn't love it as a kid, you're not going to acquire the taste as an adult—and the pop-culture gags ... have not aged well. But the animation is still a classic of gee-whiz atomic-age modernism."
The review of the DVD release from Entertainment Weekly said the show "trots through surprisingly dated sitcom plots about blustery bosses, bad lady drivers, and Elvis Presleyesque teen idols, all greeted with laugh tracks" but points out "it's the appeal of the retro-prescient gadgets (recliner massagers, big-screen TVs, two-way monitors) that still carries the show." Season 1 was released on DVD in Region 4 on July 5, 2006. Season Two, Volume 1 was released on DVD almost three years later, on June 2, 2009 for Region 1.
On November 8, 2011, Warner Archive released The Jetsons: Season 2, Volume 2 on DVD in Region 1 as part of their Hanna–Barbera Classics Collection. This is a Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) release, available exclusively through Warner's online store and Amazon.com.
Forbes magazine valued Spacely Sprockets at $1.3 billion, on its "The 25 Largest Fictional Companies" list.
In January 2009, IGN listed The Jetsons as the 46th best animated television series.
The music video for the Kanye West song "Heartless" features George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, Astro, and Rosie done as portraits. This footage is based on Kanye West's actual apartment decor, which includes large portraits of the Jetsons in the den.
Some of the lyrics of the Alphaville song "Forever Young", contain some references to The Jetsons, including George inviting Jane to dance.Hoyt Curtin (who composed the series theme song) said that the song fit well with his re-recording of the theme song, as well with George and Jane Jetson.