Length: 82 minutes
Release Date: July 6, 1990
Directed by: William Hannah and Joseph Barbara
Genre: Animation / Family / Comedy
Animated films often borrow heavily from the heyday of American cartoons and classic images such as those created by Hanna-Barbera. “Jetsons: The Movie,” released in 1990, brought one of the iconic families created by that studio to the big screen for viewers everywhere. Now available on VHS and DVD, the movie retains much of its storytelling and family-friendly chops with a message that seems just as poignant in today’s society as it did when it was released.
“Jetsons: The Movie” picks up the cartoon family and places them in a whole new world as George Jetson (George O’Hanlon), his boy Elroy (Patric Zimmerman), daughter Judy (Tiffany) and Jane (Penny Singleton), his wife, along with pet dog Astro (Don Messick) pack up and move to a mining asteroid following George’s promotion. Many familiar faces from the series, including Mr. Spacely (Mel Blanc) and Rosie the Robot (Jean Vander Pyl) join the family on their big-screen adventure.
The voice acting performances of the cast are spot on, as they usually are in Hannah-Barbara productions. O’Hanlon reprises his television role with all the witless wonder that has defined the character for generations. Tiffany and Singleton are marvelous in their performances. Vander Pyl and Messick provide great support roles for the rest of the cast. Mel Blanc, best known for his work on “Looney Tunes” and in movies, continues his mastery of the voice acting profession. Zimmerman is the only voice that sounds a bit off at times, as though Elroy were struggling between young boy and puberty, but that may be intentional on the voice actor’s part.
The animation in “Jetsons: The Movie” is standard Hanna-Barbera fare. While a few scenes make use of more modern animation techniques, the vast majority of the film is stuck in the cartoon stylings of the late 60s and early 70s. This is a bit ironic for a movie set so far in the future. Those who love “Scooby Doo” and other Hanna-Barbera classics are likely to appreciate the adherence to time-honored methods of animating. The sound direction is perfect, with cartoonish effects and excellent voice dubbing maintaining pace throughout the film. Transitions are handled very well, attesting to the skill of the animation studio.
The script for “Jetsons: The Movie” is where most of the hiccups lie. Adults are likely to see every twist and turn from the second a storyline is introduced. Today’s children may find more humor than originally intended in the 1960’s-style dialogue delivered by the voice actors. The story develops quickly, though, with plenty of raucous humor for both parents and children alike. The straightforward approach to storytelling used in the movie helps children follow along. They are likely to miss some of the movie’s heavier-handed attempts at morals though, including the importance of recycling and habitat protection. These are some of the areas where the movie slips and falls short of a top rating.
The warm and enjoyable family-friendly nature of the film draws heavily from the experience of the two directors. Hanna and Barbera have been doing this for a very long time, and their expertise shines through with fun and believable characters as well as an approach that attempts to mesh important political messages with the limited background knowledge and attention spans of younger audiences. The result may not be perfect, but it is designed so cleverly that viewers are more likely to notice the morals of the film in retrospect instead of during the fun. This is likely an intentional choice on the part of the storied directorial team. They manage to coax some of the best work seen on the big screen out of the voice actors, including Mel Blanc, and their choice of transitions and other movie-style elements mixed with classic animation shows that their style has continued to develop over time.
“Jetsons: The Movie” spins a fun and fanciful tale of life in the future while still showing its age through jokes pulled directly from the ’60s and ’70s, with an animation style to match. This is likely to trigger nostalgia in older viewers while still having plenty of fun visual gags to please those who didn’t grow up along with the futuristic family. The movie is an excellent choice for a family film night or gathering of older viewers who remember the original series or the 80s reboot. Those more accustomed to modern animation, which features heavy influences from the works of Disney and overseas studios, may not find the same level of enjoyment in the classic animation and somewhat dated humor.
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