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In this episode of the Dandy Fun House, we’re gonna rock! BED ROCK actually! Because This show’s all about… The FLINTSTONES! How one of the most loved animated series in television was born, interesting history, fun facts, star-studded guest appearances, near death experiences, merchandising fever, reasons to fear the Flintstones Kids, jumping the shark and to top it all off I’m going to conduct a head-to-head taste test of the Flintstones cereals Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles! Are you ready to Bedrock!? Let’s step into the Fun House!
The Flintstones ran on ABC television from 1960 to 1966 and holds the distinction of being the first animated series in history to run in prime time. It’s also the first animated series to ever be nominated for a Prime Time Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1961 (They lost to the Jack Benny Show). It also held the record for being the longest-running animated series until 1997 when that record was broken by the Simpsons.
Produced by Hanna-Barbera, It is of course all about the adventures of the prehistoric middle-class family of Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their neighbors, Barney and Betty Rubble.
Back in the early 60’s, Hanna Barbera were largely known as producers of children’s cartoons but had a desire to expand to adult audiences. They had many ideas for the setting of the show including ancient Rome, American Indians and even hillbillies before eventually setting on the Stone Age.
The original working title for the show was THE FLAGSTONES and Hanna Barbera pitched storyboards relentlessly for 8 weeks straight to networks and sponsors, sometimes repeating their 90-minute storyboard presentations for the same companies multiple times because this executive or that prospective sponsor wasn’t at the first or second presentation.
There were many supposed interested parties but nobody actually pulling the trigger on buying the show until on the final day of the solid 8 weeks of presentations, Hanna Barbera pitched to a young network willing to take risks called ABC who bought the show in the first 15 minutes. If that hadn’t happened, Hanna Barbera were simply going to place their storyboards into the archives and move on to something else. And THIS is how close The Flintstones came to never being made!
The show was largely believed to be inspired by film and TV legend, Jackie Gleason’s character, Ralph Cramden from his show THE HONEYMOONERS whose similarities to Fred Flintstone are hard to deny. Hanna Barbera even used a couple of Gleason’s writers in the production of the show!
Jackie Gleason was reportedly at one time considering a lawsuit over the Flintstones before being talked out of it by his lawyers who asked if he really wanted to be known as the man who killed Fred Flintstone?
The original voice cast was comprised of Alan Reed as Fred Flintstone, Jean Vander Pyl as Wilma Flintstone, Bea Benaderet as Betty Rubble and Warner Brothers legend Mel Blanc as Barney Rubble except for a brief hiatus during the second season when he was involved in a near-fatal car crash! Daws Butler filled in for five episodes before a temporary recording studio was set up for the entire Flintstones cast at Mel Blanc’s bedside for the remainder of the season.
And over the years The Flintstones hosted an absolute star-studded cast of guest voices such as Tony Curtis, Ann Margret, Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York from Bewitched and many, many more!
SPONSORSHIPS AND MERCHANDISING
Many of the early episodes were sponsored by Winston cigarettes and as was the custom of the time, Fred and Wilma Flintstone appeared in their advertisements smoking like prehistoric chimneys for the first two seasons of the show until the introduction of…
PEBBLES AND BAM BAM
The Flintstone and Rubble families didn’t originally have children until the third season when it was decided that Wilma should become pregnant.
The show’s producers originally were considering that they should have a boy. In fact, the original concepts of the show included a character called Fred Jr., but in the interest of merchandising, market research showed that girl dolls vastly outsold boy dolls and the merchandising dollars were calling! And so Pebbles Flintstone was born,
toys were produced, Winston cigarettes exited the show and Welch’s grape juice became the new head sponsor while the Flintstones altered course onto a more family-oriented path. Welch’s also dove into the merchandising head first and started putting their jellies into jars that featured Flintstones characters that could be reused as drinking glasses once empty. Absolute genius!
Oh but the merchandising didn’t stop there! Toys, games, breakfast cereals like Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles which I’m going to do a head-to-head taste test of here in just a moment and of course Flintstones Chewable Vitamins whose chilling anthem WE ARE FLINTSTONES KIDS! A MILLION STRONG AND GROWING! Struck fear into global governments and concerned citizens alike!
AND SPEAKING OF ANTHEMS…
The Flintstones theme song we all know and love and which you’re probably humming in your head at this very moment didn’t actually make its debut until the show’s third season!
Previously, the theme music was a number called RISE AND SHINE, but it too closely resembled the theme song for the Bugs Bunny Show. So it was replaced with a new song called MEET THE FLINTSTONES which featured a 22-piece big band and was sung by the Randy Van Horne Singers.
Now for you classical music buffs out there, you might find the tune familiar as it was believed to have been derived from the B section of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 17 Movement 2.
It took a bit of digging around to find the portion of this piece of music being referred to but I did find it eventually. The composition is over 20 minutes long and the portion that is believed to have inspired the Flintstones theme is about 9 minutes into it and is very brief. It has the tune of the first 2 lines of the song but nothing more. Absolutely nothing more. I find it pretty hard to believe that 2 lines of a classical composition in the middle of a 20 minute selection of music sparked this theme song. I could be wrong but I don’t think I am. I think it’s much more likely that somebody listening to some classical music heard the similarity and then took to the internet to spread bull puckey. Just my opinion.
The previous song RISE AND SHINE was later edited out of the first two seasons and replaced with MEET THE FLINTSTONES before the show entered syndication.
Another little-known fact is that many of the underscores (the music that plays in the background during the course of the show) were actually reused musical segments from episodes of the Jetsons, Top Cat and Johnny Quest. This was just one of the ways budgets were managed. Another way cartoons saved money, since they were hand-drawn and shot just one frame at a time back in that era was to only move the portions of the characters and scenes that absolutely had to move while the rest of the character and set remained completely motionless.
JUMPING THE SHARK
Now somewhere towards the later part of the series run, a character name The Great Gazoo, voiced by comic legend Harvey Korman was introduced. The Great Gazoo was a martian with super magical powers that only Fred and Barney could see and interact with. This character removed all limitations from places the characters could go and things they could do and in my opinion was the beginning of the end for the Flintstones as the show’s creativity declined and the scripts became lazy. The Flintstones ultimately succumbed to extinction in 1966 when production concluded for good.
LIFE AFTER EXTINCTION
But the show continued to run in syndication for decades delighting new fans through the generations. In more recent years, The Flintstones actually disappeared for a while until one of my favorite stations MeTV (who are best known for airing classic television as well as their own productions such as Svengoolie the monster movie host and morning cartoon show Toon In With ME featuring Dave the Cartoon Curator and Tooney the Tuna) stepped in and started airing The Flintstones once again! Way to go MeTV!
BEDROCK ON THE BIG SCREEN
And of course there is the Flintstones movie from the mid 90’s that geniously cast John Goodman as Fred Flintstone and Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma, but really screwed up the casting of the Rubbles in my opinion. Rick Moranis and Rosie O’Donell as Barney and Betty!? Really? First off, Barney was a chunky little guy with a voice like Ed Norton from the Honeymooners which Rick Moranis as much as I like many of his characters, just isn’t. And the highly abrasive Rosie O’Donnell as Betty?
WHAT WERE THEY THINKING!!!??? (I’m not even going to mention Viva Rock Vegas…)
There is supposedly a new Flintstones movie currently in development with the script being produced by Will Ferrell. Whether it ever sees the light of day or not remains to be seen as it has been in the development phase for several years now. There is also a Flintstones tv series reboot under development with Elizabeth Banks called BEDROCK. Banks plays a 20-something Pebbles Flintstone with her father Fred approaching retirement. The Stone Age is coming to an end and the Bronze Age is on the horizon and Pebbles is just a girl in a great big world trying to find her way in life! Hmmm. No mention of Bam Bam. I guess Pebbles is single and liberated? Possibly on the back side of a relationship gone bad and now she’s on the rebound? I guess we’ll see!
THE FLINTSTONES CEREAL TASTE TEST CHALLENGE!
Alright! Are we ready to do this thing??? Let’s do it!
I have here in my sweaty little hands, a box of Fruity Pebbles and also a box of Cocoa Pebbles. I’m going to break both of them open and do a little head-to-head taste test and tell you my thoughts! Now I haven’t tried either of these since I was a kid and honestly, I don’t remember pretty much anything about them as they were not staples in my home!
I started with the Fruity Pebbles. One big colorful handful and a burst of sugar and fruity flavors. It was pretty dang good!
Once I swallowed it was time to try the Cocoa Pebbles. A big handful down the hatch! Chocolately and crunchy. It had a little bit of a coffee taste on the back end which I rather enjoyed.
But if I had to make a choice between the two… I’d have to go with the Fruity Pebbles. I just thought they had an overall better flavor!
I’ve gotta tell you, after conducting the taste test challenge on-camera, I have a new respect for show hosts that have to taste things on the air and then talk about it with food in their mouths. That’s a skill I need to practice some more. And practice I shall while I enjoy the rest of these Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles!
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Ok, that’s gonna Yabba Dabba Doo it for now! Slide down your dinosaur and come back soon to the Dandy Fun House where everything is always FUN AND DANDY!