The Flintstones, a Hanna-Barbera animated series, is one of the most successful animated television series of all time, originally running in American prime time for six seasons, from 1960 to 1966, on the ABC network.
The show is set in a town called Bedrock, in the Stone Age era, but with a society identical to that of the United States in the mid-20th century. The setting is in a fantasy world where dinosaurs, sabre-tooth tigers and other extinct animals (most of which were long gone by the time humans appeared) co-exist with suburban humans, who use technology similar to that of the 1960s, often implemented with animals. The characters ride around in automobiles made out of stone or wood and animal skins, and powered by gasoline although foot-power is required to start the vehicles. One source of the show's humor was the ways animals were used for technology; for example, the characters would take photographs with a camera; then the inside of the camera box would be shown to contain a bird carving the picture on a stone tablet with its bill. In a running gag, the animals powering such technology would look at the audience, shrug, and remark "It's a living," or some similar phrase.
The series directly drew from The Honeymooners for its main quartet of characters: the blustering Fred Flintstone and his ever-patient wife Wilma Flintstone (née Slaghoople, though Pebble was also given on occasion) modelled after the Kramdens, and their friendly neighbors Barney Rubble and wife Betty Rubble (née Betty Jean McBricker) modeled after the Nortons. Later additions to the cast included the Flintstones' infant daughter Pebbles Flintstone and the Rubbles' abnormally strong adopted son Bamm Bamm Rubble. The Flintstones had a pet dinosaur named Dino, and the Rubbles had a kangaroo-like animal named Hoppy . Fred Flintstone worked at a quarry and worked for several different bosses, the best known of which was the bald Mr. Slate .
In later seasons, the Flintstones cast expanded to include The Gruesomes, their strange next-door neighbors (inspired by the then-popular monster sitcoms The Addams Family and The Munsters), and The Great Gazoo, an alien exiled to Earth who helps Fred and Barney, usually against their will.
It has been noted that Fred Flintstone physically resembled voice actor Alan Reed. The voice of Barney was provided by legendary voice actor Mel Blanc, though five episodes in the second season used actor Daws Butler while Blanc was recovering from a car accident. The similarities with The Honeymooners included the fact that Reed based Fred's voice upon Jackie Gleason's interpretation of Ralph Kramden , while Blanc, after a season of using a nasal, high-pitched voice for Barney, eventually adopted a style of voice similar to that used by Art Carney in his portrayal of Ed Norton.
In the show's closing credits, Fred tries to "put the cat out for the night" but winds up getting locked out and yelling for his wife to come open the door: "Wilma! Come on, Wilma, open this door! Willllll-ma!" Although the cat, Baby Puss , was seen in the closing credits of every episode, it was rarely actually seen in any of the storylines.
Originally, the series was to have been titled The Flagstones, and a brief demonstration film was created to sell the idea of a "modern stone age family" to sponsors and the network. When the series itself was commissioned, the title was changed, possibly to avoid confusion with the Flagstons, characters in the popular comic strip, Hi and Lois.
Aside from the animation and fantasy setting, the show's scripts and format are typical of a 1950s American situation comedy, with the usual family issues resolved with a laugh at the end of each episode.
Although most Flintstones episodes are standalone storylines, the series was significant in being the first American animated series to feature story arcs. The most notable example was a series of episodes surrounding the birth of Pebbles. Beginning with the episode "The Surprise", aired midway through the third season, in which Wilma reveals her pregnancy to Fred, the arc continued through the trials and tribulations leading up to Pebbles' birth, and then continued with several episodes showing Fred and Wilma adjusting to the world of parenthood. A postscript to the arc occurred in the third episode of the fourth season, in which the Rubbles, depressed over being unable to have children of their own (making The Flintstones the first animated series in history to address the issue of infertility, though subtly), adopt Bamm-Bamm. Another story arc, occurring in the final season, centered around Fred and Barney's dealings with The Great Gazoo.
The series was initially aimed at adult audiences as the first season was sponsored by the cigarette company Winston and the characters appeared in several commercials for Winstons. The famous theme song "Meet the Flintstones" was not actually introduced until the third season (1962-1963), although early versions of the melody can be heard as background music in many episodes.
The theme used for the first-and-second seasons, an instrumental called "Rise and Shine", was removed from all first and second season episodes in syndication from the 1960s through the early 1990s and replaced with the "Meet the Flintstones" opening, while a closing credits sequence taken from a later episode was substituted at the end. As a result, the closing credits for all first-season episodes in syndication were incorrect for many years. New syndicated versions of the episodes in the 1990s restored the original first season credits and theme, albeit with cigarette and other advertising matter omitted. According to information provided on the DVD release of the second season, this decision was made because at the time syndicated programs were often aired out of their original broadcast order, and it was felt having the show jump between the different opening credits sequences would confuse audiences. Nonetheless, a number of later Flintstones episodes in syndication used an alternate version of the closing credits in which Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are shown singing "Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine In".
The first season of the original series, with the original opening credits, as well as "Rise and Shine" restored but not the cigarette ads, was released on DVD in late 2003; season 2 was released in December 2004, and season 3 was released in March 2005. Further releases are expected in 2005.
Following the show's cancellation in 1966, a theatrical film based upon the series was released. The Man Called Flintstone was a musical spy caper that parodied James Bond and other secret agents. The movie was released on DVD in North America in March 2005.
The show was revived in the 1970s with Pebbles and Bamm Bamm having grown into teenagers, and several different series and made-for-TV movies—including a series depicting Fred and Barney as police officers, another depicting the characters as children, and yet others featuring Fred and Barney encountering Marvel Comics superhero The Thing and comic strip character The Shmoo have appeared over the years. The original show also was adapted into two feature non-animated films, in 1994 and 2000.
Only the advent of The Simpsons decades later brought cartoons back to American prime-time network television with the kind of success The Flintstones enjoyed. And it was The Simpsons that ultimately broke The Flintstones' record as the longest-running prime time animated series in 1997.
The character Barney Gumble from The Simpsons is based on Barney Rubble, representing the stereotypical "main character's dim-witted best friend."
The series spawned three breakfast cereals: the popular Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles , and the discontinued Dino Pebbles . Commercials for these cereals featured a gimmick in the form of Barney (who seems much smarter in the commercials than in the show itself) tricking Fred out of his cereal, usually by way of disguising himself as something completely different. Eventually, Fred catches on and gives chase after Barney as the ad ends. Early ads used the closing tagline, "Yabba-dabba-delicious!", but the phrase was removed during the 1990s.
An enduring licence has been a line of children's multivitamins called "Flintstones Complete" (more popularly known as Flintstones Vitamins); the first seasons of the series were, in part, sponsored by One-a-Day Vitamins.
Flintstones series and spin-offs
The Flintstones (1960-1966)
The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (1971-1972): features Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm as teens
The Flintstone Comedy Hour (1972-1973): new episodes of Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm combined with new Fred and Barney segments, songs-of-the-week, and wraparounds. Rerun during the 1973-1974 second season as The Flintstones Show.
The New Fred and Barney Show (1979): Saturday morning revival of the original Flintstones format. Reruns of its episodes are featured in the package programs Fred and Barney Meet the Thing and Fred and Barney Meet the Shmoo .
- The Flintstones Comedy Show (1980-1982): 90-minute Saturday morning series featuring the following segments:
- "Flintstone Family Adventures": a segment similar to the original series.
- "Bedrock Cops": Fred, Barney, and the Shmoo as police officers.
- "Pebbles, Dino, and Bamm-Bamm": The two young teenagers and Dino solving mysteries ala Scooby-Doo
- "Captain Caveman": a Superman parody segment featuring Captain Caveman, from Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, as the flying superhero and Wilma and Betty as the helpless reporters in distress (à la Lois Lane).
- "Dino and Cavemouse": A chase-formula segment similar to Tom and Jerry.
- "The Frankenstones": featuring the situation comedy of the Flintstones' Munsters-like neighbors (similar to The Gruesomes from the original series).
Theatrical animated feature
The Man Called Flintstone (1966, released by Columbia Pictures): designed as a send-off for the original series; features Fred taking the place of a look-a-like who happens to be a James Bond-type spy.
Television specials and telefilms
A Flintstone Christmas (1977)
The New Fred and Barney Show (1979)
(1979): features Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm as pre-teens
The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone (1979)
The Flintstones' New Neighbors (1980): Introduces the Frankenstones
Wind-Up Wilma (1981)
The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones (1987)
I Yabba-Dabba Do! (1993): Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm marry
Hollyrock-a-Bye Baby (1993): Pebbles gives birth to twins, making Fred and Wilma grandparents
A Flintstone Family Christmas (1993): Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm with their children at Christmas
A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994): a retelling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol that features Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm as toddlers.
The Flintstones in other languages
German: Familie Feuerstein
Spanish: Los Picapiedra
Swedish: Familjen Flinta
Finnish: Kiviset ja Soraset (=The Flintsones and the Rubbles)
Portuguese: Os Flintstones
- French : Les Pierreafeu
Chinese: 聰明笨伯 (Literally: The intellegent fool) or 摩登原始人 (Literally: The modern prehistoric man)
Last updated: 05-07-2005 16:45:09
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04