Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Jeer

A Jetson Christmas Carol
(Hanna Barbera; 1985)
Subject yourself to this retelling of the already tired Dickens tale and you may root for Mr. Spacely’s Scrooge before the Christmas spirit gets the best of him.

The story barely follows the story arc of Dickens’ hoary holiday heartwarmer. George Jetson, the comic everyman of the 2062, stands in for Bob Cratchit, with his boss, Cosmo G. Spacely, president of Spacely Space Sprockets, as Scrooge.
Spacely wants Jetson to work late on Christmas Eve. The boss’ demand is supposed to be seen as a heartless act of cruelty on par with Scrooge’s abhorrent treatment of Cratchit in the source material.

If the reader is at all familiar with the upper middle-class/retro-futurism of Orbit City, the setting of The Jetsons, then the reader also knows it’s no analog to Victorian London. Please apply that same math to the Spacely::Jetson equation.

Meanwhile George’s wife Jane and the kids, Judy and Elroy, head off to the mall to finish their shopping. Again: The Jetson family wants to finish their shopping. None of the Jetsons will greet a bare floor beneath the tree come Christmas morn.

Astro, the family’s talking dog, gets into the gifts already under the tree, breaks a toy and accidentally swallows a sprocket – a sprocket manufactured by Spacely Sprockets. The dog is in a bad way and may die. And because it’s 2062, there are no 24-hour emergency veterinarians.

Spacely has his Scrooge moment, visiting a past where he is supposed to be depicted as a selfish young man. Instead, he seems like a pretty reasonable guy. He meets and falls in love with his future wife and is working hard to be a successful business owner.

Not to get all objectivist on The Jetsons, but what’s wrong with Spacely’s motives in his early life? The implication is greed and the eventual disregard for those he loves. But in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge has no one and may die unloved and unremembered. We know that Spacely is married to the same woman he met years ago as a teen and based on the Jetson family’s standard of living, Spacely pays a respectable wage to his employees.

The alternate future via Christmases Present and Yet-to-Be has Astro dying and the Jetson family suing Spacely for all he’s worth and using their litigious wealth to purchase a mansion and fancy clothing.

Pardon us if we feel that this whole setup makes George Jetson seem like a bit of a jerk. Spacely didn’t cram the sprocket down Astro’s throat, and it was an act of pure chance that nobody is home to get help when the dog is in need.

Regardless, Spacely is moved to bring his personal vet to the Jetson home, Astro is saved and Spacely gives Jetson a raise. The viewer is excused if overcome by the urge to grab Spacely by his future lapels and slap some sense into him.

The problem here isn’t that A Jetson Christmas Carol feels cheap and lacking sincerity. (It is both of those things.) A Jetson Christmas Carol comes off as if it were written by a kid who only ever watched the dozens of bad imitations of A Christmas Carol that television has churned out over the decades.

Dickens’ story is sentimental hogwash for sure – a template for too easily converted villains to come. But at least Dickens gets the tone right by keeping the Cratchit family broadly sympathetic and Ebenezer Scrooge dry and despicable till the last act. The folks behind this Jetson conversion didn’t even get that right.

Reference material: You'd be better off watching the Disney adaptation from 1983 which packs plenty of charm by comparison. However, if you must watch the Jetsons version, you can see the whole thing here. You'll need to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas twice just to get the taste out of your mouth.

[Orbit City image sourced from; London street scene sourced from]