Janet Waldo, the last surviving original cast member of the hit 1960s cartoon series The Jetsons, has died. Waldo’s daughter, Lucy Lee, told ABC News that the beloved actress died Sunday morning at age 96. Janet Waldo’s cause of death has not yet been revealed, but in 2011, she was diagnosed with a benign, inoperable brain tumor.
Janet Waldo was the final living original cast member from the first incarnation of The Jetsons, which ran for just one season from 1962 to 1963, but later became a syndicated hit and a bona fide franchise. According to TV Guide, Janet Waldo had more than 100 acting credits to her name. Waldo’s career dated back to the late 1930s and spanned more than 50 years.
Janet Waldo was known for her youthful voice, which allowed her to play characters much younger than her real age. Janet amassed an impressive resume of voice roles and was a Hanna-Barbera darling, landing roles on everything from The Flintstones, as Wilma’s mother Pearl Slaghoople, to Penelope Pitstop, where she played the title character. Janet also provided the voice for Josie McCoy on the 1970s cartoon Josie and the Pussycats. In fact, Janet Waldo was a Saturday morning cartoon staple in the ’70s, voicing characters on everything from Hong Kong Phooey to Jabberjaw to Captain Caveman.
On the live action front, Janet Waldo got her big break on CBS’ Meet Corliss Archer, and in 1952, she played a love-struck teen on an episode of I Love Lucy, “The Young Fans,” opposite Richard Crenna. Waldo’s last TV acting credit came in 1998 on the animated series King of the Hill.
But, of course, Janet Waldo’s best-known role was voicing Judy Jetson, the teenage daughter of George and Jane Jetson, on Hanna-Barbera’s futuristic primetime animated comedy. The one-season wonder was later reprised in 1985 with Waldo back again to voice the teen space queen, and Janet also headlined the 1988 TV movie Rockin’ with Judy Jetson.
The biggest “scandal” in Janet Waldo’s career came in 1990 after she was hired to voice her signature character in the big-screen flick The Jetsons: The Movie. The beloved voice actress was then blindsided by producers who dumped her for the then-popular teen star Tiffany — after Janet had already completed all of the voice work for the character.
In 1990, Waldo told the Orlando Sentinel she was “totally crushed” by the snub, which was done in an attempt to attract a younger audience.
“I originated the character, and I feel very sentimental about Judy,” Janet said at the time. “If they had recast the whole show, there wouldn’t have been any problem at all. But the fact that my part was the only one that was changed just threw me. I felt it was very disloyal [of Hanna and Barbera].”
According to Animation World Network, Joe Barbera apologized to Janet every time he saw her after that. (As a side not, Tiffany bombed in the role.)
Even with that setback, Janet Waldo always loved her Jetsons roots. In 2001, Janet marveled over how accurately The Jetsons predicted the future.
“Everything on The Jetsons is happening now or coming soon!” Waldo told AWN. “What I’m looking for is the Seeing Eye Vacuum Cleaner that we had, and they’re finally about to come out with it! Videophones, moving sidewalks, Food-a-ry-ca-cycles (now known as microwave ovens)! It’s just so exciting! It’s like we were… Nostradamus!”
In addition to Janet Waldo, The Jetsons starred some of the biggest names in the voice animation business, including George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Daws Butler, Mel Blanc, and Jean Vander Pyl.
Take a look at the video below to see a classic Jetsons scene featuring Janet Waldo.
[Photo by Warner Bros/Getty Images]