It’s not that often that an animated TV series gets an animated full-length feature film (and even less often when it gets a theatrical release). The Jetsons originally aired from 1962 to 1963, then again from 1985 to 1987 as a futuristic counterpart to The Flintstones. The Jetsons lived in the year 2062 in a futuristic utopia of aliens, holograms, and elaborate robotic inventions. The family consisted of George (the head of the household), Jane (his wife), Judy (their teenage daughter), Elroy (their young son), Astro (their dog), and Rosie (their robot maid). The Simpsons began as a series of animated shorts for The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987 and later premiered as a sitcom in the Fall of 1989, becoming a surprise hit for the FOX Network and has continued to air to this day. In this latest installment of Animation Corner, I’ll be taking a look back at two animated TV shows that went on to receive their own feature-length animated films, Jetsons: The Movie and The Simpsons Movie.
Directed by series creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, 1990’s Jetsons: The Movie centers on George Jetson and his family as they venture out to an asteroid colony after Mr. Spacely has named George the new vice president of Spacely Sprockets and manager of the sprocket factory at the colony. Featuring the voices of George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Tiffany, Patric Zimmerman, Don Messick, Jean Vander Pyl, Mel Blanc, Russi Taylor, Brad Garrett, and Frank Welker, this underrated film grossed only $20 million domestically during the summer, partially due to its opening in 1500 theaters (the other summer blockbusters were playing in many more theaters than that). The film was originally meant to open in 1989, but it was postponed until 1990 to avoid competition with The Little Mermaid and All Dogs Go To Heaven. Daws Butler (the original voice of Elroy Jetson) had died in 1988, and was replaced by Patric Zimmerman. Janet Waldo (the original voice of Judy Jetson) had recorded her part in the film, but was replaced by pop star Tiffany in an effort by studio executives to attract a younger audience. George O’Hanlon and Mel Blanc died during production in 1989, and Jeff Bergman was brought in to finish what little voiceover work was still needed for George and Mr. Spacely. The film has been praised for its environmental messages, features an early score by future Oscar-nominated composer John Debney, and is noted for its early use of CGI. Among the film’s accolades are a Young Artist Award nomination for Most Entertaining Family Youth Motion Picture- Animation.
Directed by David Silverman (one of the series’ producers, who also directed several episodes as well as animated all the original shorts for The Tracey Ullman Show), 2007’s The Simpsons Movie centers on the Simpson family (Homer, Marge, their kids Bart, Lisa, and baby Maggie) as they are exiled from Springfield after Homer pollutes the lake and the EPA places a dome over the town. When Russ Cargill of the EPA plans on destroying Springfield, Homer tries to redeem himself by trying to stop Cargill’s evil scheme. Featuring the voices of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Marcia Wallace, Maggie Roswell, Russi Taylor, Karl Wiedergott, Joe Mantegna, Albert Brooks, and Tom Hanks, this critically acclaimed film grossed $183 million domestically on a $75 million budget (it earned nearly $344 million internationally for a worldwide total of $527 million). Many writers from the early seasons were brought on to develop the film’s story, resulting in 158 drafts of the script being written over a number of years to ensure a solid film. Since the film was being continually re-shaped over a period of time, several cameos were cut out, including Kelsey Grammer as Bart’s longtime nemesis Sideshow Bob. Producer James L. Brooks chose longtime collaborator Hans Zimmer to score the film. Zimmer focused on creating a new theme primarily for Homer, but he did use Danny Elfman’s original theme for the TV show sparingly throughout the film. Among the film’s accolades are Best Animated Feature nods from the Saturn Awards, Annie Awards, BAFTA Awards, Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Satellite Awards, Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, the Producers Guild of America (PGA), and the Golden Globes.