The Dick Van Dyke Show completely changed the sound and personality of George Jetson
Morey Amsterdam was the first cast to play the Space Age dad. It got messy after that.
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On May 18, 1962, a syndicated Hollywood gossip column broke some major news in the world of animation. The blurb declared:
Starring "voices" for the new "The Jetsons" animated cartoon series, now signed for Sunday nights on ABC-TV, will be Morey Amsterdam and Pat Carroll. Since they will be required to work only one day a week, Morey will continue as a regular on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Pat hopes to do the same on The Danny Thomas Show.
That's right, Hanna-Barbera, the studio behind the hit primetime cartoon The Flintstones, had a new out-of-time family in the pipeline. The Jetsons would take a look 100 years into the future, at a nuclear (no pun intended) family living in the incredible world of 2062.
And two popular sitcom stars were tapped to play the lead characters, George and Jane Jetson.
The actors behind Fred and Wilma Flintstone, Alan Reed and Jean Vander Pyl, were mostly known for the voice-over work, though Reed certainly had lots of live-action television on his resume. No knock on those two, but they were not at the level of fame and acclaim of Amsterdam and Carroll, actors with Emmy nominations and Emmy trophies. Amsterdam, alongside Rose Marie, was a comedy riot as writer Buddy on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Carroll had a similar scene-stealing, supporting role on Make Room for Daddy (a.k.a. The Danny Thomas Show) as Bunny. Bunny and Buddy — how perfect!
Alas, if you know The Jetsons, you know that Amsterdam and Carroll did not end up voicing George and Jane. In fact, their tenure on the project lasted a whopping two weeks. So what happened?
Like many Hollywood tales, it came down to contracts, money, and sponsors.
The two stars were "forced" off The Jetsons. Here is an excerpt from a subsequent trade column dated June 1, 1962:
Morey Amsterdam and Pat Carroll have been forced off as "voice" stars of ABC's new animated "The Jetsons" cartoon series. Too many sponsor conflicts, what with Morey being a regular on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Pat likewise on The Danny Thomas Show.
Big corporations like Proctor & Gamble and Kent Cigarettes sponsored The Dick Van Dyke Show in its first two seasons, around the time that The Jetsons would have been in development. Brands like Dodge and the American Tobacco Company were backing The Danny Thomas Show. In its single 1962–63 season, The Jetsons touted its sponsor, Scotch tape. Make of that what you will.
In the end, Morey Amsterdam was not allowed to do The Jetsons. And he was upset about it. He filed a lawsuit over it, in fact.
A UPI wire story in 1963 explained:
Actress Pat Carroll and comedian Morey Amsterdam filed $27,600 suit Friday claiming breach of their contract to do voice characterizations for a television cartoon series. Miss Carroll and Amsterdam contended in their superior court suit that they entered into a contract last April 28 with Hanna-Barbera Productions to do voice characterizations for the "Jetsons" and were to receive $500 a segment—with a guarantee of 24 segments for 1962-63. Both said the defendant, Hanna-Barbera, failed to use them for the voice work.
George O'Hanlon instead joined the cartoon cast as George. Penny Singleton, who had previously played the comic strip character Blondie, voiced Jane.
But imagine how different a Morey Amsterdam-voiced George would have been!