This week marks the anniversary of the death of animator, producer William Hanna (July 14, 1910 – March 22, 2001). For me that can only mean one thing – it’s time to reminisce about one of my all-time favorite cartoons – and sitcoms, for that matter – The Flintstones.
William Hanna and partner Joseph Barbera became one of the truly legendary pairings in animation history. Together Hanna and Barbera created The Flintstones and a slew of other iconic characters that have been hugely popular and influential since the 1950s. To show their sustaining power here’s an entry on DC Comics from last year focusing on new comic books to be released based on reimaginings of several Hanna-Barbera characters and stories. I’m not much into comic books so this launch may have already happened. As I perused a collection of classic Hanna-Barbera comic books though I realized I’d absolutely love to own some of them. Practically every single classic character had his own comic book series with the Parade series featuring all of them.
Anyway – the characters that launched Hanna-Barbera Productions in the 1950s include Yogi Bear and his Emmy Award-winning series (1958-1962), Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw. In the 1960s they brought us The Jetsons in a prime-time slot during the 1962-1963 season, The Magilla Gorilla Show, Ricochet Rabbit and Droop-a-Long, Punkin’ Puss and Mushmouse, Scooby-Doo and many more.
Of all the shows produced by Hanna-Barbera, however, my absolute favorite is The Flintstones, a sit-com-style animated series influenced by The Honeymooners, another show I adore. I grew up watching Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty along with their prehistoric surroundings and still enjoy watching them whenever time and opportunity allow.
The collaboration between William Hanna and Joseph Barbera began in 1940 when both were working in the animation department at MGM Studios. The two worked on Tom and Jerry cartoons with the first being Puss Gets the Boot (1940). When MGM closed its cartoon department two decades later Hanna and Barbera decided to continue the collaboration with a focus on television.
Having gained a solid reputation in theatrical shorts, Hanna and Barbera approached Columbia’s Screen Gems television studio with a storyboard for a cartoon about the adventures of dog and cat pals Ruff and Reddy. At that point Tom and Jerry cartoons were already enjoying success on television by way of recycled theatrical vehicles so the careers of Hanna and Barbera were on solid ground. The Ruff and Reddy Show followed suit in the popularity department and the two animators were well on their way to making history.
In 1957 Hanna-Barbera launched The Huckleberry Hound Show, the first cartoon series to receive an Emmy award. Huckleberry Hound marked a huge step in the careers of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera in several ways. Huckleberry served as a platform for the animators to introduce many characters, several of which became stars in their own series later. In addition, Huckleberry Hound proved a huge hit with audiences, but not the demographic one would think. In 1960 a survey revealed that more adults than children were watching Huckleberry Hound on a regular basis, which prompted Hanna-Barbera to focus its efforts on a primetime animated series. Enter The Flintstones. YABBA DABBA DOO!
The Flintstones ran from 1960 to 1966 and proved such a big success with audiences of all ages that Hanna-Barbera created a space-age family to join them in prime-time. That family, of course, is The Jetsons. I enjoy The Jetsons as well, but The Flintstones are the bomb diggity with their stone-age “modern” appliances that talk and all else that make it a terrific comedy for people of all ages. The premise of the show parodied popular domestic situation comedies, a familiar, winning formula with the added bonus of skits based on the prehistoric theme. One of my favorite gags is when you see the characters step over a crack in the ground that millions of years later was to become the Grand Canyon.
You might enjoy this brief video, a history of The Flintstones:
Through the years la creme de la creme of voice actors worked on The Flintstones, including the legendary Mel Blanc and radio and television great, Bea Benaderet. Take a look at a complete list of the talents who voiced these characters here. I should note that – for me – the series lost some of its steam in its fifth season when The Great Gazoo started appearing. I’m not such a big fan of the alien in Bedrock. Gazoo was exiled to Earth because he created a doomsday machine on his planet. To me that story line is The Flintstones version of jumping the shark, but The Great Gazoo is voiced by favorite Harvey Korman who also voiced several other characters throughout the series’ run.
As pop culture icons The Flintstones rank among the most recognizable in the world. They are still referenced in television shows and animated series, like The Simpsons and even became the subject of a hit song by The B-52s who recorded a version of the series’ theme song.
The characters in The Flintstones have also been used in the marketing of different products since they first aired. Among these, vitamins, cereal and beer. I can’t resist sharing the following classic commercial, which aired during the series’ first season. Here we see the characters advocating for Winston Cigarettes, the show’s sponsor on ABC. I’m not advocating smoking, by the way.
Testament to the popularity of The Flintstones is the number of Hollywood and television stars that voiced themselves and/or their characters on the show through the years. My favorite episodes are the ones that featured Hollywood stars. I post the examples I could find below, but among the popular personalities that guest-starred on the series were Ed Sullivan, Elizabeth Montgomery, Raymond Burr and Jack Dempsey. Click on each of the following movie star names to watch a clip:
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a clip of my favorite of these, Gary Granite, but here’s his picture from episode 6 of season 1, “The Monster from the Tar Pits”
Another favorite is when Fred does the “Bedrock Twitch”
My favorite cross-over was when Darren and Samantha Stevens from Bewitched appeared on The Flintstones:
Can you blame me for loving this stuff? When classic greats cross-over into classic greats it’s a mash-up made in heaven.
After The Flintstones’ initial run on ABC concluded the show became even more popular as part of Saturday morning cartoon line-ups and in syndication. That’s when I ran into them. Perhaps nothing illustrates The Flintstones popularity, however, than the number of movie adaptations – both animated and live-action – and the spin-offs it begat starting with Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm (1971-1972 and 1975-1976) followed by The Flintstones Comedy Hour (1972-1974) and finally The Flintstones Kids, which appeared in 1986 and ran through 1989.
Without a doubt, The Flintstones is one of the all-time great classic television shows. I put it up there with The Munsters on my list of favorites and I’m sure millions feel just as I do about it. It’s as funny a situation comedy as many consider its live-action counterparts with great scripts and voice acting the likes of which no longer exist. It’s time you revisit this legendary and enjoyable series. I need to spend more time with them myself.