The Flintstones is an animated, prime-time American television sitcom that was broadcast from September 30, 1960, to April 1, 1966, on ABC. The show was produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. The Flintstones was about a working-class Stone Ageman's life with his family and his next-door neighbor and best friend.
The show's continuing popularity rested heavily on its juxtaposition of modern everyday concerns in the Stone Age setting. The Flintstones was the most financially successful network animated franchise for three decades, until The Simpsons debuted.
The show is set in the Stone Age town of Bedrock. (In some of the earlier episodes, it was also referred to as "Rockville".) In this fantasy version of the past, dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths, and other long-extinct animals co-exist with cavemen. Like their mid-20th century counterparts, these cavemen listen to records, live in split-level homes, and eat out at restaurants, yet their technology is made entirely from pre-industrial materials and largely powered through the use of animals. For example, the cars are made out of stone, wood, and animal skins, and powered by the passengers' feet (as in the theme song, "Through the courtesy of Fred's two feet").
The original pilot episode clip was called The Flagstones (which first appeared in 1959 as a 90-second promotion to draw advertisers to the show) and was later reincorporated into the show's first episode (third episode in original air date order). The show's name was changed to The Flintstones shortly thereafter.
Often the "prehistoric" analog to a modern machine uses an animal. For example, when a character takes photographs with aninstant camera, inside the camera box, a bird carves the picture on a stone tablet with its beak. In a running gag, the animal powering such technology would frequently break the fourth wall, look directly into the camera at the audience and offer a mild complaint about his job. Other commonly seen gadgets in the series include a baby woolly mammoth used as a vacuum cleaner; an adult woolly mammoth acting as a shower by spraying water with its trunk; elevators raised and lowered by ropes around brontosauruses' necks; "automatic" windows powered by monkeys on the outside; birds acting as "car horns", sounded by the driver pulling on their tails or squeezing their bodies; an "electric" razor made from a clam shell, vibrating from a honey-bee inside; a pelican as a washing machine, shown with a beakful of soapy water; and a woodpecker whose beak is used to play a gramophone record. In most cases, "The Man of a Thousand Voices", Mel Blanc, contributed the animals' gag lines, often lowering his voice one to two full octaves, far below the range he used to voice the character of Barney Rubble. In the case of the Flintstones' cuckoo clocks, which varied from mechanical toys to live birds announcing the time, when the hour approached 12:00, the bird inside the clock "cuckooing" usually just ran out of steam and gave up vocally, physically, or both.
The Stone Age setting allowed for gags and word plays involving rocks and minerals. For example, San Antonio becomes "Sand-and-Stony-o"; the country to the south of Bedrock's land is called "Mexirock" (Mexico). Travel to "Hollyrock", a parody of Hollywood, usually involves an "airplane" flight — the "plane", in this case, is often shown as a giant pterosaur, with the fuselage strapped to its back. Sun Valley becomes "Stone Valley" and is run by "Conrad Hailstone" (Conrad Hilton). The last names "Flintstone" and "Rubble", as well as other common Bedrock surnames such as "Shale" and "Quartz", are in line with these puns, as are the names of Bedrock's celebrities: "Gary Granite" (Cary Grant), "Stony Curtis" (Tony Curtis), "Ed Sulleyrock/Sulleystone" (Ed Sullivan), "Rock Pile/Quarry/Hudstone" (Rock Hudson), "Ann-Margrock" (Ann-Margret), "Jimmy Darrock" (James Darren), "Alvin Brickrock" (Alfred Hitchcock), "Perry Masonry/Masonite" (Perry Mason as played by Raymond Burr), "Mick Jadestone and The Rolling Boulders" (Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, called "Mick Jagged and the Stones" in live-action film The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas), "Eppy Brianstone" (Brian Epstein) and "The Beau Brummelstones" (The Beau Brummels). Once, while visiting one of Bedrock's houses of "Haute Couture" with Wilma, Betty even commented on the new "Jackie Kennerock (Jackie Kennedy) look". In some cases, the celebrity featured also provided the voice: "Samantha" and "Darrin" from Bewitched were voiced by Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York. Examples from the above list include Ann-Margret, Curtis, Darren, and the Beau Brummels. Other celebrities, such as "Ed Sulleystone" and "Alvin Brickrock", were rendered by impersonators. Some of Bedrock's sports heroes include: football player "Red Granite" (Red Grange), wrestler "Bronto Crushrock" (Bronko Nagurski), golfer "Arnold Palmrock" (Arnold Palmer), boxers "Floyd Patterstone" (Floyd Patterson) and "Sonny Listone" (Sonny Liston), and baseball players "Sandy Stoneaxe" (Sandy Koufax), "Lindy McShale" (Lindy McDaniel), "Roger Marble" (Roger Maris), and "Mickey Marble" or "Mickey Mantlepiece" (Mickey Mantle). Ace reporter "Daisy Kilgranite" (Dorothy Kilgallen) was a friend of Wilma. Monster names include "Count Rockula" (Count Dracula), Rockzilla (Godzilla), and "The Frankenstone Monster" (Frankenstein's monster).
The opening and closing credits theme during the first two seasons was called "Rise and Shine", a lively instrumental underscore accompanying Fred on his drive home from work. The tune resembled "The Bugs Bunny Overture (This Is It!)", the theme song of The Bugs Bunny Show, also airing on ABC at the time, and may have been the reason the theme was changed in the third season.
Starting in Season 3, Episode 3 ("Barney the Invisible"), the opening and closing credits theme was the familiar vocal, "Meet the Flintstones". The melody is derived from part of the 'B' section of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 17 Movement 2, composed in 1801/02. The "Meet the Flintstones" opening was later added to the first two seasons for syndication.
During the show's final season, "Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In)", performed by Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, in a clip from that season's first episode, was used as alternate close music.
The idea of The Flintstones started after Hanna-Barbera produced The Huckleberry Hound Show and The Quick Draw McGraw Show. Although these programs were successful, they did not have the same wide audience appeal as their previous theatrical cartoon seriesTom and Jerry, which entertained both children and the adults that accompanied them. However, since children did not need their parents' supervision to watch television, Hanna-Barbera's output became labeled "kids only". Barbera and Hanna wanted to recapture the adult audience with an animated situation comedy.
Barbera and Hanna experimented with hillbillies, Romans, pilgrims, and Indians as the settings for the two families before deciding on the Stone Age. According to Barbera they settled on that because "you could take anything that was current, and convert it to stone-age". Under the working title The Flagstones, the family originally consisted of Fred, Wilma, and their son, Fred Jr. A brief demonstration film was also created to sell the idea of a "modern stone age family" to sponsors and the network.:3
The show imitated and spoofed The Honeymooners. William Hanna admitted that "At that time, The Honeymooners was the most popular show on the air, and for my bill, it was the funniest show on the air. The characters, I thought, were terrific. Now, that influenced greatly what we did with The Flintstones ... The Honeymooners was there, and we used that as a kind of basis for the concept." However, Joseph Barbera disavowed these claims in a separate interview, stating that, "I don't remember mentioning The Honeymooners when I sold the show. But if people want to compare The Flintstones to The Honeymooners, then great. It's a total compliment. The Honeymooners was one of the greatest shows ever written." Jackie Gleason, creator of The Honeymooners, considered suing Hanna-Barbera Productions, but decided that he did not want to be known as "the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air". Another influence was noted between during Hanna-Barbera's tenure at MGM; where they were in a friendly competition with fellow cartoon director Tex Avery. In 1955, Avery directed a cartoon entitled "The First Bad Man" (narrated by cowboy legend Tex Ritter). The cartoon concerned the rowdy antics of a bank robber in stone-age Dallas. Many of the visual jokes pre-dated similar ones used by Hanna-Barbera in the Flintstones series, many years later. Many students of American animation point to this cartoon as a progenitive seed of the Flintstones.
Barbera explained that selling the show to a network and sponsors was not an easy task.
|“||Here we were with a brand new thing that had never been done before, an animated prime-time animated show. So we developed two storyboards; one was they had a helicopter of some kind and they went to the opera or whatever, and the other was Fred and Barney fighting over a swimming pool. So I go back to New York with a portfolio and two half-hour boards. And no-one would even believe that you'd dare to suggest a thing like that, I mean they looked at you and they'd think your crazy. But slowly the word got out, and I used to the presentation which took almost an hour and a half. I would go other the two boards and tell them what they did, and do all the voices and the sounds and so-on, and I'd stagger back to the hotel and I'd collapse. The phone would ring like crazy, like one time I did Bristol-Myers, the whole company was there. When I got through I'd go back to the hotel the phone would ring and say "the president wasn't at that meeting, could you come back and do it for him." So I had many of those, one time I had two agencies, they'd fill the room I mean God about 40 people, and I did this whole show. I got to know where the laughs were, and where to hit it, nothing; dead, dead, dead. So one of the people at Screen Gems said "This is the worst, those guys...." he was so angry at them. What it was, was that there were two agencies there, and neither one was going to let the other one now they were enjoying it. But I pitched it for eight straight weeks and nobody bought it. So after sitting in New York just wearing out, you know really wearing out. Pitch, pitch, pitch, sometimes five a day. So finally on the very last day I pitched it to ABC, which was a young daring network willing to try new things, and bought the show in 15 minutes. Thank goodness, because this was the very last day and if they hadn't bought it I would of taken everything down, put it in the archives and never pitched it again. Sometimes I wake up in a cold-sweat thinking this is how close you get to disaster.||”|
When the series went into production, the working title The Flagstones was changed, possibly to avoid confusion with the Flagstons, characters in the comic strip Hi and Lois. After spending a brief period in development as The Gladstones (Gladstone being a Los Angeles telephone exchange at the time), Hanna-Barbera settled upon The Flintstones, and the idea of the Flintstones having a child from the start was discarded, with Fred and Wilma starting out as a childless couple. However some early Flintstonesmerchandise, such as a 1961 Little Golden Book, included Fred Jr., before it was decided on his removal.
Aside from the animation and fantasy setting, the series was initially aimed at adult audiences, which was reflected in the comedy writing, which, as noted, resembled the average primetime sitcoms of the era, with the usual family issues resolved with a laugh at the end of each episode, as well as the inclusion of a laugh track. Hanna and Barbera hired many writers from the world of live-action including two of Jackie Gleason's writers, Herbert Finn and Sydney Zelinka, as well as relative newcomer Joanna Lee while still using traditional animation story men like Warren Foster and Michael Maltese.
The show premiered on September 30, 1960, at 8:30pm, and was an instant hit.
The Flintstones was the first American animated show to depict two people of the opposite sex (Fred and Wilma; Barney and Betty) sleeping together in one bed, although Fred and Wilma are sometimes depicted as sleeping in separate beds. For comparison, the first live-action depiction of this in American TV history was in television's first-ever sitcom: 1947's Mary Kay and Johnny. The first two seasons were co-sponsored by Winston cigarettes and the characters appeared in several black and white television commercials for Winston (dictated by the custom, at that time, that the star(s) of a TV series often "pitched" their sponsor's product in an "integrated commercial" at the end of the episode).[unreliable source?]
During the third season Hanna and Barbera decided that Fred and Wilma should have a baby. Originally Hanna and Barbera intended for The Flintstone family to have a boy, the head of the marketing department convinced them to change it to a girl since "girl dolls sell a lot better than boy dolls". Although most Flintstones episodes were stand-alone storylines, Hanna-Barbera created a story arc surrounding the birth of Pebbles. Beginning with the episode "The Surprise", aired midway through the third season (1/25/63), in which Wilma reveals her pregnancy to Fred, the arc continued through the trials and tribulations leading up to Pebbles' birth in the episode "Dress Rehearsal" (2/22/63), and then continued with several episodes showing Fred and Wilma adjusting to the world of parenthood. It was around this time that Winston pulled out their sponsorship and Welch's (grape juice and grape jellies) became the primary sponsor. The Integrated commercials for Welch's products feature Pebbles asking for grape juice in her toddler dialect, and Fred explaining to Pebbles Welch's unique process for making the jelly, compared to the competition. Welch's also produced a line of grape jelly packaged in jars which were reusable as drinking glasses, with painted scenes featuring The Flintstones and characters from the show. In Australia, the Nine Network ran a "Name the Flintstones' baby" competition during the 'pregnancy' episodes – few Australian viewers were expected to have a USA connection giving them information about past 'Flintstone' shows.
Another arc occurred in 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. The 100th episode made (but the 90th to air), Little Bamm-Bamm (10/3/63), established how Bamm-Bamm was adopted. About nine episodes were made before it, but shown after, which explains why Bamm-Bamm would not be seen again until episode 101, Daddies Anonymous (Bamm-Bamm was in a teaser on episode 98, Kleptomaniac Pebbles). Another story arc, occurring in the final season, centered on Fred and Barney's dealings with The Great Gazoo (voiced by Harvey Korman).
After Pebbles' birth the overall tone and writing of the series became more juvenile and ratings from the adult demographic slowly began to decline. The show went quietly off the air on April 1, 1966. After its cancellation, The Flintstones became the first primetime animated series to last more than two seasons. This record wasn't surpassed by another primetime animated TV series until the seventh season of The Simpsons in 1995/1996, but it remains the longest running primetime network animated series on a network other than Fox.
The night after The Flintstones premiered, Variety called it "A Pen and Ink Disaster". However, the negative reviews were short-lived and The Flintstones soon became one of the most popular and well-loved shows of all time. In 1961, The Flintstonesbecame the first animated series to be nominated for an Outstanding Comedy Series Primetime Emmy Award, but lost out to The Jack Benny Show. In January 2009, IGN named The Flintstones as the ninth best in its "Top 100 Animated TV Shows".