Flintstones, an American animated television series produced by
Hanna-Barbera Productions, is one of the most successful animated
television series of all time. The Flintstones originally ran in
American prime time for six seasons, from 1960 to 1966, on the ABC network.
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"
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. After spending a
brief period in development as The Gladstones, Hanna-Barbera settled
upon The Flintstones.
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 did have a few 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. When the decision was made in 1962 that
the Flintstones would have a baby, the child was going to be a boy.
Then they decided that a girl would make for better merchandising
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 on Fred
and Barney's dealings with The Great Gazoo (voiced by Harvey Korman).
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
(19621963), although early versions of the melody can be heard
as background music in many episodes.
The show also contained a
laugh track, which is still present in most 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.
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". 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 moviesincluding 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 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-to-late 20th century; in the
Flintstones' fantasy version of the prehistoric past, dinosaurs,
saber-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths, and other long extinct animals
coexist with cavemen, who use technology equivalent to that of the
20th century, largely through the use of various animals. The
characters drive automobiles made out of stone or wood and animal
skins and powered by gasoline, although foot power is required to
start the vehicles. Although the characters were set in the Stone
Age, that never stopped the show's creators from producing a
Christmas episode during the original series' run as well as several
more Christmas specials in the decades that followed.
source of the show's humor was the ways animals were used for
technology. For example, when the characters took photographs with an
instant camera, 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
directly into the camera at the audience, shrug, and remark,
"It's a living," or some similar
phrase. Another commonly seen gadget in the series was a baby woolly
mammoth being used as a vacuum cleaner. Travel to
"Hollyrock," a parody of Hollywood, California, usually
involved an "airplane" flightthe "plane" in
this case often shown as a giant pterodactyl. (Other familiar place
names are similarly contorted: San Antonio becomes Sand-and-Stony-o;
the country to the south of Bedrock's land is called Mexirock; and so
forth.) Elevators are raised and lowered by ropes around brontosaurs'
necks; "automatic" windows are powered by monkeys that
dwell on the outside windowsill; birds configured as "car
horns" are activated by pulling on their tails.
set in the Stone Age allowed for endless gags and puns that involved
rocks in one way or another, including the names of the various
characters being "rock" puns; some such names included
celebrities such as "Rock Quarry", "Gary Granite",
"Stony Curtis", and "Ann-Margrock." Other
celebritiy/puns on the "Flintstones" were "Alvin
Brickrock" (Alfred Hitchcock); "Perry Masonite" (Perry
Mason); and a new neighbor lady "Sam" (Samantha) from Bewitched.
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) modeled after the Kramdens, and their friendly neighbors
Barney Rubble and wife Betty Rubble (née Betty Jean McBricker)
modeled after the Nortons. Henry Corden, a friend of Jackie Gleason
recalls: Jackie's lawyers told him he could probably have "The
Flintstones" pulled right off the air. But they also told him,
"Do you want to be known as the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone
off the air?
The guy who took away a show that so many kids love, and so many of
their parents love, too?" And apparently Jackie thought it over
and decided against it.
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 (pronounced DEE-no, and
which barked like a dog), and the Rubbles had a kangaroo-like animal
named Hoppy. Fred Flintstone worked at a stone 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 near-fatal 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.
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!" By the time the theme song "Meet the
Flintstones" was used, Fred cut the yelling to:
"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. This running gag of having the lead character of
the series ending up being helpless during the end credits in every
episode due to the hijinks of a family pet would later be repeated by
Hanna-Barbera in the series The Jetsons in which George Jetson ends
up being caught on a treadmill that ends up spinning out of control.
He also (as does Fred in this series) cries out for his wife, by
asking her to stop the mechanism with the line, "Jane! Stop this
original show was also adapted into two feature non-animated films.
A 1994 'Univershell' (Universal) Studios live-action movie based on
the animated series starred John Goodman as Fred Flintstone,
Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma Flintstone, Rick Moranis as Barney Rubble,
Rosie O'Donnell as Betty Rubble, Halle Berry as Fred's assistant
Sharon Stone (according to pre-release publicity for the film, Sharon
Stone was invited to play the role herself, but declined.), Kyle
MacLachlan as Fred's evil boss Cliff Vandercave, and Elizabeth Taylor
as Wilma's mother, Pearl Slaghoople. The film was directed by Brian
Levant. Not critically acclaimed, the movie was still a box office hit.
2000 a prequel to the first live action Flintstones film was
produced by Amblin Entertainment and Univershell (Universal)
Pictures. The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas was set before the
Flintstones and Rubbles were married. The film stars Mark Addy as
Fred Flintstone, Stephen Baldwin as Barney Rubble, Kristen
Johnston as Wilma Slaghoople, and Jane Krakowski as Betty O'Shale.
Ann-Margret, whose appearance as 'Ann-Margrock' is one of the most
fondly-remembered moments in the original TV series, sings the theme
song, which is a slightly-rewritten version of the theme from Viva
Las Vegas, in which Ann-Margret co-starred with Elvis Presley.
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 in 1997 that ultimately broke The
Flintstones' record as the longest-running prime time animated
series. A number of episodes of The Simpsons made explicit or
implicit references to The Flintstones - for example, in one episode
of The Simpsons ("Marge vs. the Monorail") the starting
sequence parodies the opening and theme song of The Flintstones, in
"Homer's Night Out", Homer states to Apu "sorry,
buddy, you've got me confused with Fred Flintstone", and in
episode ("Treehouse of Horror XII") Homer and Marge Simpson
dress as Fred and Wilma Flintstone in the opening. Another episode
("Lady Bouvier's Lover") has Mr. Burns greeting Homer,
Marge and Maggie as Fred, Wilma, and Pebbles. Homer subsequently says
"Yabba Dabba Doo!" when Mr. Burns gives him a box of
chocolates. One episode's couch gag even featured the Simpsons
running in and finding The Flintstones (as they were originally
animated) sitting on the Simpsons' couch.