Review by KC Carlson
One of the biggest pop culture clashes in history is now available on DVD, thanks to the fine folks at Warner Archive. Will history ever be the same when the Jetsons accidentally time travel to the prehistoric past and meet the Flintstones and the Rubbles? And will the future residents ever get back home when the time machine malfunctions and delivers the Stone Age families to the far future? Guess you have to check out the The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones DVD for the answer!
The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones originally aired on TV in 1987 as part of the Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 series of made-for-syndication two-hour films starring the most popular stars from the Hanna-Barbera studios. That series included several movies featuring the Scooby-Doo crew, a few with Yogi Bear, and even solo outings for Huckleberry Hound and Top Cat. The Jetsons returned in Rockin’ With Judy Jetson in 1988.
Voice Your Excitement!
One of the best things about this film is that most of the original voices were still alive to participate. All of the original Jetsons cast is here: George O’Hanlon as George, Penny Singleton as Jane, Janet Waldo as Judy, Daws Butler as Elroy (and Cogswell and Henry Orbit), and Don Messick as Astro (and several other roles). On the Flintstones side, we have Mel Blanc as Barney Rubble (and Dino and the Jetsons’ Mr. Spacely), Jean Vander Pyl as Wilma (and the Jetsons’ Rosie the Robot), and John Singleton as Mr. Slate (and others).
Henry Corden voices Fred Flintstone; he took over the role from Fred’s original voice, Alan Reed, who passed away in 1977. Interestingly, Corden first performed as Fred’s singing voice in 1966 in both The Man Called Flintstone and the HB version of Alice in Wonderland (in which Fred and Barney played the Caterpillar). [Note to Warner Archive folks: the HB Alice in Wonderland would be an excellent choice for a future Archive release as a “lost” HB production.] Corden also had a long career as a live-action actor. Monkees fans know him best as the landlord (Babbitt) on The Monkees TV show. In a weird twist of fate, Cordon voice dubbed Jackie Gleason (the original inspiration for Fred Flintstone) for the TV version of Smokey and the Bandit, replacing the original profanity with nonsense phrases (“scum bum”).
Julie McWhirter voices Betty Rubble in the film, one of many actresses who have played the role since the original. Bea Benaderet passed away in 1968 (although not many remember that June Foray actually voiced Betty in the Flintstones pilot before Benaderet took over the role). Benaderet and Foray also did many voices for the classic Warner Bros. cartoons (largely uncredited at the time). Both actresses portrayed Granny over the years, and if you get the chance, you should check out Benaderet’s tour de force performance as the crazed bobby-soxer in the Bugs Bunny cartoon Little Red Riding Rabbit. Benaderet stopped playing Betty Rubble in 1964 because of her starring role on Petticoat Junction. (She also appeared on Beverly Hillbillies.) Gerry Johnson voiced Betty Rubble on the final two seasons of The Flintstones.
The reason that I am talking about voices so much is that I was very pleased to see Andrea Romano’s name in the credits as Casting Director, a fairly early assignment. These days she’s usually voice directing pretty much all of the DC Comics animated projects, as well as such great (and classic) series as SpongeBob SquarePants, Duck Tales, Tiny Toons Adventures, Animaniacs, Ben 10: Alien Force, and many others. I am in awe of her amazing career and all the voice actors she’s worked with. I hope, if or when she should ever retire, there’s a book either by or about her packed with anecdotes.
Epic in Three Acts
As for the movie itself, the 92-minute feature pretty conveniently divides itself into thirds. The first half-hour establishes the two different eras and all the characters. (Notably, this story most likely takes place before the birth of Pebbles or the adoption of Bamm-Bamm, as they do not appear, nor are even mentioned.) We see the animal-assisted non-tech of the Stone Age, as well as the (frequently malfunctioning) hi-tech of the far future. (Ha. Far Future… Although not specifically mentioned here, The Jetsons series was originally set in the “far future” of 2062! Only 50 more years to develop flying cars! Get on the stick, GM!)
This information is far more important to the plot than the nonsense about Fred and Barney trying to raise money in a high-stakes poker game to take their wives on vacation — although this gives us a chance to see Fred in disguise (because their boss Mr. Slate is also a player — and the boys are supposed to be working late) as a high-roller and Barney (in drag, with a wig that’s bigger than his entire body) as his moll! Meanwhile, George has to go on an undercover mission at Cogswell Cogs (disguised as a robot dog!) to find out how Cogswell is discovering Spacely Sprockets’ corporate secrets. (Hint: George’s work computer has a male personality and Cogswell’s has a female personality…) The important thing to watch for in the first act is that Elroy is building a Time Machine with the building’s handyman, Henry Orbit — and that nothing that Henry builds ever works right.
In Act Two, we find out that the time machine — which looks like an erector set on acid — actually does work — by discovering that six-year-old Elroy has a sexy harem girl in his bedroom! After successfully sending her back to her home time period, George decides that it might be fun for the family to take a trip into the future, just for kicks. Off they go — except for a really bad animation error which shows in a close-up that the machine is clearly set for PAST, while Elroy confirms in a voice-over that the machine is set for FUTURE. (Which shows you just how fast they were cranking this animation out back then. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there also at least one scene in the film where characters’ mouths are animated as though they are talking — but nobody is actually saying anything! Oops!) After cutting to the next scene, we see the time machine set for FUTURE for just a split-second — before Astro accidentally bumps the machine and the lever falls into the PAST setting. You can guess the rest.
Upon arriving in the past, the Future folks and the Stone Age folks are initially afraid of each other (Astro: “Run for your rives!”) and don’t think they can communicate with each other. Until the women take charge:
Wilma (to Jane) : “I love your dress!”
Jane (to Wilma): “Who does your hair?“
Who says there’s no universal language? But sadly, the time machine is now broken, so the Jetsons are stuck in the Stone Age for awhile.
Judy Jetson, Jane Jetson, and Wilma Flintstone
There’s a bunch more nonsense with Fred and Barney using George’s future tech to impress Mr. Slate and get their jobs back. (They were fired after being exposed during the poker game.) More interesting is Judy (going “native” in a cute midriff-baring prehistoric frock with her ponytail tied up with a bone) checking out Stone Age boys and meeting up with “punk” musician Iggy (voiced by Jon “Bowzer” Bauman from Sha Na Na). The two have a musical interlude together, although it sounds more like 50s rock and roll than punk, perhaps because the song, “Bedrock Rock”, was written by Hoyt Curtain and William Hanna, who wrote most of HB’s classic theme songs together.
One of the best things about this film is seeing the characters in each other’s time appropriate clothes. Elroy ends up looking like Bamm-Bamm with fur shorts and a strap, while Jane has a characteristically purple cave-frock modeled after Betty’s style. Yet somehow in all that humidity, her hair still has her perfect flip. And George, as always, just looks like a skinny doof. Here’s a preview clip that shows the two groups interacting — and switching places:
Act Three begins when the time machine starts working again (after Barney hits it with his club a few times), but instead of taking the Jetsons home, it takes just Fred and Wilma and Barney and Betty into the future, meaning the Jetsons are trapped in the past — without a time machine! Dino gets left behind to continue his ongoing rivalry with Astro!
The Flintstones try hard to adapt to the future — Wilma and Betty can’t master the futuristic cooking or make-up and hairstyling machinery until Rosie the Robot takes pity on them and takes them under her wing (or mechanical arm). Meanwhile, Fred and Barney get caught up in the ongoing feud between Spacely and Cogswell. Fred eventually becomes a media sensation (for being millions of years old). Futuristic versions of Johnny Carson and Joan Rivers (Jet Rivers) fight over Fred for a guest appearance on their late-night talk shows — a reference that few in this audience will ever remember. Barney becomes a spokesperson for Cogswell, taking away even more of Spacely’s customers. And Fred gets so angry with him that he actually throws him out of a window.
Meanwhile, back in the Stone Age, George also becomes a media sensation as a “flying man from out of this world”, gets his own show in Rock Vegas, and becomes so rich that the Jetsons end up owning about half of downtown Bedrock. Judy begins managing Iggy’s band, but she breaks up with Iggy after he’s distracted by groupies. But none of this makes them happy, and all the Jetsons want to do is go home.
Back in the future, Henry and Rosie are trying to get the time machine working again — they eventually discover that it’s just in the not-previously-shown “off” position. (And yes, the final act’s resolutions have a distinct lack of logic or motivation attached, but by this time you’re already fully engaged, so it all kind of washes over you anyway.) Rosie goes back in time to retrieve her family (after a time-wasting trip to the Middle Ages), and eventually, she retrieves everybody (plus Fred’s car and Dino) and brings them back to the future.
After an especially frantic final few minutes (pacing problems, anyone?), and after the two least likely characters save the day (a HB tradition), there are still some complications to come, and the whole film ends pretty much as how you would expect it to — except for one last logic-defying, face-palm moment which I’m sure the creators meant as a “awww, that’s so nice” moment. (Kids will eat it up!)
And you know what? It really doesn’t matter. Where else are you gonna watch the Flintstones and the Jetsons sharing an epic adventure together? Nowhere, that’s where. Would I like the dialogue to be tighter and the plot to actually make sense? Sure. But — it’s the Flintstones and the Jetsons! I can already see the entire world’s population of 6-10-year-olds lining up to kick me in the shin. It’s not worth it.
Seriously, it’s a really fun film. Kids will love it and adults won’t hate it — even after they’ve seen it 47 times. Despite Warner Archive’s usual claims of non-remastering, this print and transfer look great! When Icon meets Icon, everybody wins. The Jetsons Meets the Flintstones is one for the ages! (Warner Archive provided a copy for review.)