Voice actress Janet Waldo discusses Rockin' With Judy Jetson from Warner Archive
Actress Janet Waldo got her start with minor film roles and radio acting in the 1940s, but her real calling came with a role in the seminal animated TV series The Jetsons as Judy Jetson. The long-running series also spun off into several animated TV movies, one of which is Rockin' with Judy Jetson, which was just released on DVD for the first time on August 16 through Warner Archive. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Janet Waldo over the phone about this new DVD release. Here's what she had to say.
I was going through your filmography and I read you did some radio and a few live-action movies as well. I was curious how you originally came across voice acting?
Janet Waldo: Well, I was brought to California to do film. I did do a number of films, bits and pieces, and Silver Stallion was one of them. I think I was doing that in between options, but the best thing that ever happened to me was discovering radio. I was totally relaxed doing radio, and, actually, Bing Crosby introduced me to radio, because he did a radio show and invited me to see his radio show. I thought, 'Hey, this is great. You don't have to wear makeup or memorize your lines. You don't have to wear false eyelashes.' When I came to California, the first thing they did was send me into the office and redo me, and that's what they did. I have some wonderful pictures, but I found it inhibiting to me, because it's so much about how you look. I was scared of that, but I did a lot of stuff.
Can you talk about your initial thoughts about The Jetsons and this wonderful character, Judy? Can you talk about what one goes through in creating a voice like that? Did you draw on other people in your life for that voice?
Janet Waldo: Well, Judy was a cinch, because I just did my own voice. I just did Judy, but I worked with all sorts of people who were doing lots of other voices. I really, really learned from them and wanted to do other voices. I talked to Joseph Barbara, and actually, he auditioned me on the phone a couple of times for other characters, thinking I could do other voices. He said, 'Make me a tape.' My husband, he wasn't my husband at that time, but he wrote all sorts of wild characters for me. I wanted to do everything but Judy. Judy was a natural for me. It was just me being excited, but the other things I did, like the mother-in-law on The Flintstones, these weird characters I just loved to do because they were just so far-out and wild. I did a lot of things on Smurfs. I portrayed Hogatha, which was a wicked but ravishing witch. They were all totally different from what I experienced, but when I first came to cartoons, I used my own voice.
With a show like The Jetsons, which started in the late 1960s, with the concept like this, were you being shown artwork right away, and what did you first think of it, especially in that timeframe, seeing this future come to life?
Janet Waldo: The first time I saw The Jetsons was the first rehearsal. That was the initial beginning of The Jetsons and that's when I was called in. Joseph Barbara read the script and they had the cartoon guys, when we were recording, they came in and watched us and drew pictures of us in action. They would integrate our movements in the characters. That's when I was really intrigued with The Jetsons. The writers were fantastic because they had such great imagination and they had us all imagining what it would be like in the future, living on the moon, and all of these fun things. We had all these gadgets which were totally intriguing, like the hairstyle gadget, where you would press a button and it would change your hairstyle. The slidewalks began after The Jetsons, the microwave oven. I'm waiting for the talking vacuum cleaners. As you know, Rosie the Robot, we had a system on our house, a security system, and it says 'Door close. Open door.' We call her Rosie because it's shades of The Jetsons. I think The Jetsons' influence has been so tremendous on young people who have let their imaginations go and have become intrigued with inventing new things. There's always something new and every time it happens I think, 'Hey, we did that on The Jetsons.'
When you were doing this, did you all have maybe a year in mind, of when you would see a flying car or something like that?
Janet Waldo: We're all waiting for the flying car. I was walking around the block the other day and there was a little car parked in front of a neighbors house. I thought, 'My gosh, The Jetsons have landed! It's a Jetsons car!' A young man came running out saying, 'Do you like my car?' It turns out he was a big fan of The Jetsons and he invented this little car that looks like a Jetsons car.
With the movie, Rockin' with Judy Jetson, it seems that's one of the final spin-off movies they created. Can you talk about where that idea originally came from?
Janet Waldo: Well, I think they wanted her to be a rock star. I thought was a great idea because Judy Jetson was the kind of person who probably would be a rock star. Also, she loved Jet Screamer. 'Baby, baby, baby,' you know. She had this huge thing for Jet Screamer and was very influenced by him. I thought it was just a natural thing. They did the same thing with Rockin' with Judy Jetson that they did on the first one with Jet Screamer. She invented a song for Jet Screamer and Elroy invented another one and they got mixed up. The same thing happened with Rockin' with Judy Jetson. Judy never wrote good songs, Elroy came up with the good one. I think they wanted Judy because she was the type of person who wanted to be a rock star.
It was reported awhile ago that Robert Rodriguez wants to do a Jetsons movie. I was curious if you thought it is time for a new version, either animated or live-action, in this day and age with the technological advances we have now?
Janet Waldo: I think that is the true appeal of The Jetsons, the technology. It intrigued so many people. I hope that flying car really happens. I'm not sure that will happen, but everything else is happening.
Would you be on board if they brought The Jetsons back with a new version?
Are you still working in voice overs today?
Janet Waldo: Yes, I still do whatever they ask me to do, whenever I get a call for voice work. I even audition, which most of my friends in the business will not do, but I like to audition because you never know what you're going to discover. I have to tell you that, in those days, they would say, 'Judy Jetson is a typical teenager who lives in outer space.' Today, if I do something, they say, 'Suzie is about five feet tall, she has a great imagination, she's very emotional,' and they'll give me five paragraphs to describe her. Then you look at the copy and it's like three lines (Laughs). But it's fun. Most of my friends in the business will not audition anymore. I'm not asked to audition a lot, but I love to audition. I love the whole exercise of voice over. I am also writing a book now, called Out of Orbit. I don't know if I'll change that title or not. I'm also working on something that my husband wrote, which is called The Last Letters of General Robert E. Lee. My husband's name was Robert E. Lee and he was enamored with the General and knew all about the battles and everything. He wrote this thing called The Last Letters of General Robert E. Lee, and it's correspondences between a young girl and the General, and it's a 40-year correspondence. It's a challenge for me, as a radio performer, to play the girl. She becomes older and he becomes older. I hope one day to get it published. I'm always active doing something. I hope you love your work as much as I love mine.
Was your husband a descendant of the General?
Janet Waldo: No, he wasn't. I don't know why his parents named him Robert E. Lee, but he said, 'You can't live with a man's name for a lifetime and not be connected with him.' So he wrote this wonderful correspondence they have for 40 years. It's very moving. My aim is to get it published, and I've had a lot of people who want to produce it as well.
So it could become a movie once it gets published?
Janet Waldo: Yeah, I would love that. I think it could also be a television show, but it's my dream to get it published because it was the last thing that he wrote. He was so moved by it.
What would you like to say to any fan of The Jetsons who may not have seen Rockin' with Judy Jetson to get them to pick up this new Warner Archive DVD?
Janet Waldo: Oh, you must see it! Everybody I talk to always say they love The Jetsons and I hope a lot of people check it out. You wouldn't believe how many people I run into every day who say they still watch The Jetsons. All of the cartoons I did, people still talk about them and The Jetsons always wins the race. I think Rockin' with Judy Jetson should do very well, especially if people find out about it. In fact, I will be getting a few copies myself. They make wonderful Christmas presents.
Excellent. That's about all I have for you. Thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Janet Waldo: I loved talking with you too.
You can order Rockin' with Judy Jetson through Warner Archive if you CLICK HERE.