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After years of development for the big screen and the small screen, Hanna-Barbera’s futuristic cartoon The Jetsons will be reborn on ABC as a live-actino multi-camera comedy. Robert Zemeckis and Jack Rapke will act as executive producers, and Gary Janetti, whose writing and producing credits include Family Guy and Will and Grace, will also executive produce and write the show. While there aren’t many other details out, the news is yet another chapter in Warner Bros. saga to bring The Jetsons back into today’s pop culture.

Bringing The Jetsons to the TV screen is probably the easiest way to introduce the show to a new audience because The Jetsons has threatened to come to theaters many, many times. Even Kanye West tried to bring The Jetsons to the big screen as the film’s creative director. Currently, Warner Bros. seems to have settled on an animated Jetsons movie, with Sausage Party co-director Conrad Vernon hired to bring the space-age family to the big screen. But despite Warner Bros. finally finding a way to go forward with their long-suffering Jetsons film, the question still remains: What’s so difficult about bringing a simple Hanna-Barbera cartoon to the big screen? For some possible answers, let’s turn to The Flintstones.

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The Flintstones Effect

The Flintstones is both the best and worst thing to happen to The Jetsons’ chances of big screen development. The 1994 film adaptation of The Flintstones, executive produced by Steven Spielberg no less, is one of the best cartoon-to-live action adaptations ever. Yes, I said it — one of the best ever. The film took what was fun about a good episode of The Flintstones and blew it up into a feature-length story. It also doesn’t hurt that The Flintstones is loosely based on The Honeymooners, meaning it’s already ripe for more storytelling with a more adult bent. That’s why it’s not out of place for Fred to be seduced by the good life of upper-management at the rock quarry, get partially indicted in a fraud scheme, be charmed by the dangerous Miss Stone, and save his and Barney’s kids from nearly getting killed.

The Jetsons, on the other hand, doesn’t have the appearance of being just as adult, despite the fact that the first season of The Jetsons cartoon was pretty adult by ‘60s standards, just like The Flintstones. However, it was also less exciting that The Flintstones and was cancelled before getting revived in the late ‘80s. By that time, though, The Jetsons was purely for kids and therefore, it was void of much of the grit that could translate into box office success.

Where The Flintstones makes things even worse for a possible Jetsons film is how much Warner Bros. ran the live action Flintstones franchise into the ground. After the runaway hit of the first film, Warner Bros. played their hand when they released The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas in 2000, which, to be kind, certainly wasn’t as stellar as the original. Warner Bros. continued to ruin the appetite for live-action adaptations of its properties with its Scooby-Doo films in 2002 and 2004. Even though the first Scooby-Doo film was a success with hardcore fans, it drew mixed reviews at best. The sequel, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, was both a critical and box office dud. Therefore, the ability for Warner Bros. to pave the way for a live-action Jetsons, a cartoon property that started out as being The Flintstones’ less-popular, space-age sibling, has been hampered by its own previous films. (However, that doesn’t mean Warner Bros. isn’t going to give up on bringing Hanna-Barbera cartoons to the movie theater, what with a new Scooby-Doo live-action film, S.C.O.O.B., slated to come out sometime next year.)

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The George Jetson Problem

The difficulty in bringing The Jetsons to screen might simply lie in the character of George Jetson himself. In short, George just is annoying. Fred has his own list of frustrating qualities as a character, but he’s lovable in the sense that he’s self-aware. Unlike George, Fred knows he’s a bumbling fool and feels grateful to have the life he’s managed to cultivate for himself. He recognizes who he is as a person, and that’s actually quite cool. He might be an idiot, but Fred is a smart idiot on some level.

On the other hand, George is not only a whiny man, he’s also a man who doesn’t realize he’s the very idiot his employer Mr. Spacely believes him to be. He’s the image of a man who is trapped in his own ineptitude, but lacks the awareness to get himself out of his self-made hole. He seems like he’s always annoyed with his well-meaning family and hates his dog, Astro. There’s never an episode where George seems like he’s actually at peace with life. It’s George’s attitude that makes The Jetsons cartoon show hard to watch.

However, there are still things about The Jetsons that keeps the collective imagination rapt. Despite my personal hatred of George Jetson, there are elements surrounding George that are awesome.

THE JETSONS, Rosie, Judy Jetson, Astro (dog), George Jetson, Jane Jetson, Elroy Jetson, cartoon tele

Making The Jetsons Cool Again

If there’s anything fun that came out of the late ‘60s, it’s pop culture’s obsession with the space race. There have been several cartoon shorts from the ‘40s and ‘50s that espoused on the glories of the America of the future, but The Jetsons capitalized on the space age obsession in a way that captured everyone’s imagination, in a similar way The Flintstones made cro-magnum times undeniably cool. Who doesn’t love the idea of a world in the sky? Who doesn’t want flying cars? Who doesn’t love the unique sass and wit of Rosie the Robot?

The space race background for The Jetsons probably wasn’t used with the same level of creativity as the 1960s caveman aesthetic was with The Flintstones. While The Flintstones was rife with jokes and sight gags, such as the poor animal vacuums and trash compactors saying, “It’s a living” to Hollywood stars “Flintstone-ified, such as Cary Granite and Gina Lolabrickida, The Jetsons doesn’t have many, if any, memorable pop culture moments.

Well, except for the absolute best episode of The Jetsons,

Probably the best blending of 1960s pop culture with the space obsession of the time is the episode “A Date with Jet Screamer,” where George’s daughter Judy wins a date with pop star Jet Screamer, a character who seems like a mix between Frankie Valli and Elvis Presley. This leads to an overprotective George to tail Judy while she’s on the date to make sure Jet doesn’t try any funny business. What could have ended with Judy in tears at her dad ruining her date turns into a moment when George himself helps inspire Jet’s brand new song, “Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah.” At the end of the date, George himself is a huge fan of Judy’s crush.

This episode is probably the best example of what The Jetsons is — it’s a show that, like all family shows, exaggerate the everyday moments families have, but with a fun, futuristic backdrop. In fact, this episode should be used as one of the inspirations for a fun Jetsons movie.

Piggybacking off of that, here’s what I’d do if any studio asked me for advice on how to make a great Jetsons movie. Because I am able and willing to take your calls.

Continue Reading How to Make a Jetsons Reboot Work >>

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