In September 1960 several iconic shows had their debut including My Three Sons and The Andy Griffith Show. On Friday nights at 8:30 eastern time, a very unusual show also began on ABC that fall: The Flintstones. Many viewers don’t realize that The Flintstones began life as a prime-time animated show aimed at adults. Created by Hanna-Barbera (H-B), it continued to run at night until April of 1966, a total of 166 episodes.
H-B went to New York for 8 weeks to pitch the show. After being turned down by every ntework, ABC decided to take a chance on it. It was the most financially successful animated show for 30 years until The Simpsons was created. Variety described its premier as “a pen and ink disaster,” but the show was nominated for Outstanding Comedy, losing to The Jack Benny Show.
Set in Bedrock, population 2500, the Flintstones and the Rubbles were neighbors and best friends. The show’s success had a lot to do with the fact that these Stone Age families participated in the same modern-day activities that families did in the 1960s. They relied on the same technology; it’s just that their technology was powered primarily by animals and rocks.
H-B considered other historical eras for the show. They researched hillbillies, the Roman Empire, and American Indians before settling on Stone Age characters. The original title was The Flagstones. It was then changed to The Gladstones, and, finally, The Flintstones. In the first creation, Fred and Wilma had a son — Fred Jr. H-B decided that they wanted both couples to be childless, so Fred Jr. was written out. A Golden Book which came out in 1960 was released before the show changed its concept, and it features Fred Jr.
Let’s review the regular characters.
Fred Flintstone works at Slate Rock and Gravel Co. He had a quick temper but was a loving father and husband. He is tall and broad with black hair. He was on a bowling team and belonged to the Loyal Order of Buffaloes, Lodge No. 26. Alan Reed was the voice of Fred. In one episode, Fred was supposed to yell “Yahoo.” Reed asked if he could say “Yabba Dabba Doo” which he based on a Brylcreem jingle his mother used to say, “A little dab’ll do ya.” That became his catchphrase. In 1977, when the show was in syndication, Henry Corden took over after Reed passed away. Fred was based on Ralph Kramden. In a 1986 , article Jackie Gleason revealed that his attorney told him he could have easily won a lawsuit and stopped The Flintstones, but he advised against it or Gleason would have been known as the man who destroyed The Flintstones.
Wilma Flintstone is a practical and level-headed wife. She is a true redhead and loves to shop. She often has to get Fred out of bad situations or is forced to convince him to apologize to Barney or Mr. Slate. Jean Vander Pyl was the voice of Wilma.
Pebbles Flintstone was born at the end of Season 3. She wore bones in her hair for bows and was a happy little girl. Vander Pyl also played Pebbles.
Dino is their purple pet. He barks and often acts like a dog, but he is officially a prosauropod. The incredible Mel Blanc was the voice of Dino.
Barney Rubble is Fred’s best friend and next-door neighbor. He and Fred get into spats regularly. Barney is shorter than Fred, easy going, and friendly. Barney was on Fred’s bowling team and part of the Water Buffaloes. Barney was also voiced by Mel Blanc. After Blanc’s death, several actors played Barney.
Betty Rubble is Wilma’s best friend. They often conspire to get their husbands to mend their friendship. Betty is a brunette. Bea Benaderet was the voice of Betty for seasons 1-4. After her death, Gerry Johnson took over for seasons 5 and 6.
Bamm-Bamm is the Rubbles’ adopted son. He is absurdly strong and says “Bamm-Bamm” a lot. Don Messick was the voice of both Bamm-Bamm and the Rubbles’ pet.
Hoppy is Rubbles’ pet hopparoo (a cross between a kangaroo and a dinosaur). He doesn’t appear until Season 5.
More than 100 “guest” characters appear on the show, but several are better known and appear more often, including:
Mr. Slate owns the company where Fred works. Sometimes Barney works there as well but it doesn’t seem to be consistent. Mr. Slate fires Fred a lot but always takes him back. John Stephenson voiced Mr. Slate.
Arnold is the Rubbles’ and Flintstones’ paperboy. Fred doesn’t like him because Arnold can outsmart him. Don Messick played Arnold.
Joe Rockhead is a friend of Fred and Barney’s. He is mentioned in one show as being the chief of the Bedrock Volunteer Fire Department. Irwin Keyes played Joe.
Pearl Slaghoople is Wilma’s mother. She is hard to please and has always disapproved of Fred. Verna Felton and Janet Waldo played Pearl.
Gazoo is an alien who helps Fred and Barney. He can only be seen by those two, small children, and pets. Harvey Korman was the voice of Gazoo. He appeared during the final season as a way to boost viewership. The show had begun to try to capture younger viewers during the final two seasons.
Many famous people also showed up on the show. The 6th episode of the 6th season featured Darrin and Samantha Stephenson from Bewitched. H-B produced the animated opening of Bewitched, so there was a tie-in. Other stars included Stony Curtis (Tony Curtis), Ann Margrock (Ann Margaret), and Cary Granite (Cary Grant) as well as the Green Bay Pachyderms.
One strange thing about the show was that the Flintstones home and furniture placement was not consistent. You can see changes in almost every episode. Their address also changed. It was given as 345 Cave Stone Rd., 1313 Cobblestone Way, and 222 Rocky Way.
A theme song, “Rise and Shine” was created for the show and used in seasons 1 and 2. The tune was similar to Bugs Bunny’s theme, and in season 3 it was changed to “Meet the Flintstones.” A 22-piece jazz band and a 5-person singing group, the Skip Jacks, recorded it. When the show went into syndication, “Rise and Shine” was replaced with “Meet the Flintstones” for the first two seasons as well. Hoyt Curtin was in charge of the underscores for seasons 1-5 and Ted Nichols took over for season 6.
Believe it or not, the first two seasons were sponsored by Winston Cigarettes, and there were ads featuring Fred and Barney smoking. These seasons were aired in black and white. Seasons 3-6 would be in color. In season 3, Welch’s became the sponsor for the last four years. They created jelly jars which could be re-used as drinking glasses. At this point, it was decided that the Flintstones would have a baby. A boy was written into the script. A marketing director suggested they change it to a girl because girl dolls sold better. Based on his recommendation, they created Pebbles. Apparently, he was right because during the first few months, they sold 3 million of them. In season 4, Bamm-Bamm was adopted.
Some of the clever products included an alarm clock that is a bird, a bird car horn, a dinosaur crane, an octopus dishwasher, a pelican garbage can, a porcupine hairbrush, and a swordfish knife. Several famous brands were seen in the stone age such as Stoneway Pianos and Polarrock cameras.
The show was offered in syndication till 1997. Ted Turner purchased H-B in 1992, and The Flintstones ran on TBS, TNT, and the Cartoon Network. In 2000, Boomerang began airing the show where it continued until 2016. Now it’s only available on Boomerang’s subscription video-on-demand service.
The Flintstones had 12 different television series versions and 13 tv specials produced. In addition, there have been 5 tv movies, 6 educational filmstrips and 2 big-screen films.
Two theme parks exist: Bedrock City in Custer, SD and Valle, AZ. A stage production took place in Universal Studios in Hollywood from 1994-1997. DC Comics produced a 2016 Flintstones comic book. Flintstones collectibles have been produced for almost 60 years.
Fifty-eight years after the debut of the show, Bedrock characters are still promoting products. One-a-Day vitamins features Flintstones Chewables and Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles are made by Post.
A typical conversation between Fred and Barney is:
Fred: How can you be so stupid?
Barney: Hey, that’s not very nice. Say you’re sorry.
Fred: I’m sorry you’re stupid.
For the remainder of January, we will continue to look at prime-time animation series.