The Future of the Jetsons Movie is Disappointingly Animated

By  · Published on January 26th, 2015

Universal Pictures

I’ve wanted a live-action movie of The Jetsons for decades. In the late ’80s, when a lot of my favorite cartoons were heading to the big screen in one form or another, the trend was disappointingly more for animated features, basically extended episodes of what we saw on TV. I recall being a peeved kid. Even though the Masters of the Universe movie was terrible, something I knew at 10 years old, and even though I knew some of these projects couldn’t be worked out in live-action – DuckTales, in particular (though back then I might not have minded it using costumes a la Howard the Duck) – the futuristic world of The Jetsons seemed perfectly achievable by the end of that decade.

After all, it’d have been kind of like Back to the Future Part II without the time travel, and that arrived in 1989. Now, 25 years later, the effects necessary are even more available, but alas Hollywood apparently still can’t figure out how to do it. After years of development on a live-action adaptation (once set to be directed by Robert Rodriguez), Warner Bros. is simply going with another animated movie of The Jetsons.

According to Deadline, the studio has hired screenwriter Matt Lieberman for the feature, the style of which is unknown at this point – will they at least round George and family out as computer-generated characters? Lieberman also wrote the upcoming Short Circuit remake and worked on the next Scooby-Doo movie, which will also be animated following a couple (underrated) live-action versions of that Hanna-Barbera property.

It may be up for debate whether live-action movies based on Hanna-Barbera cartoons – and others – have harmed their brands and characters, even if the box office for the Scooby duo, 1994’s The Flintstones (though not the sequel) and the recent Yogi Bear have been favorable. Not to mention the success of the Transformers franchise. The idea of turning an old cartoon into a big budget movie is still always a gamble.

The Jetsons has more in common with Transformers than it does with even its spiritual cousin, The Flintstones. At least in cinematic appeal. It doesn’t have to be a live-action cartoon. It can actually be a legitimate blockbuster sci-fi flick, albeit something aimed at the whole family. There’s also definitely a big difference between a human family living in a future of flying cars and robots than the less-successful animated series adaptations like Marmaduke and Underdog. Even if it’s to have a talking dog and maybe a little spring-legged alien.

I really think Warner Bros. is making a big mistake here in dumping the plans for a live-action take, in part because I’m sure that’s what other fans besides me want to see and especially because Danny DeVito isn’t going to be around forever, and he’s the only man to portray Mr. Spacely in the flesh. Plus, just imagine the crossover potential of doing this live-action, rebooting a live-action Flintstones series and then eventually remaking the time-travel-based The Jetsons Meet The Flintstones down the line.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.