The cast of The Flintstones, from left to right: Betty, Barney, Fred
, Wilma and Dino.
The Flintstones, a Hanna-Barbera animated series, is one of the most successful television cartoons of all time, running in American prime time for six seasons, from 1960 to 1966, on ABC. An earlier proposed title was The Flagstones.
The show was set in a town called Bedrock, in the stone age era, but with a society and technology almost 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) coexist with suburban humans, who use animals and pseudo stone-age technology to replicate actual modern technology. The characters ride around in automobiles made out of stone and animal skins. 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 say "It's a living."
The series directly drew from The Honeymooners for its main quartet of characters: the blustering Fred Flintstone and his 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. Later additions to the cast include the Flintstones' 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 a bald Mr. Slate. The call-letters of the Bedrock radio station were BDRX.
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 a number of episodes used different voices for the character during a period that Blanc was recovering from an automobile accident.
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, it was rarely seen in any of the episodes.
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. The characterizations are faithful in spirit to The Honeymooners and similar to other shows of the 1950s and early 1960s.
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 this issue, though subtly), adopt Bamm-Bamm. Another arc, occurring in the final season, centered around Fred and Barney's dealings with The Great Gazoo, an alien.
Following the show's cancellation, a theatrical film based upon the series was released. The Man Called Flintstone (1966) was a musical spy caper that parodied James Bond and other secret agents. The movie is scheduled for DVD release in March 2005.
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 can be heard used in the filler music during 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 a closing credits sequence taken from a later episode substituted at the end (Lyrics were later written to "Rise and Shine" and can be heard on the Songs of the Flintstones LP and the extras included with the DVD release of the second season). As a result, the closing credits for all first-season episodes in syndication were incorrect. 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.
The show was revived in the 1970s with Pebbles and Bamm Bamm having grown to 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.
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 is scheduled to be released in March 2005.
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 off Barney Rubble, representing the stereotypical "main character's dim-witted best friend."
The series spawned two popular breakfast cereals, Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles, and a line of children's multivitamins.
- 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 Schmoo.
- 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 Schmoo 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.
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)
- The Flintstones: Little Big League (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)
- Flintstones: Jogging Fever (1981)
- The Flintstones: Fred's Final Fling (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