15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘The Flintstones’
Without The Flintstones, we probably don’t get The Simpsons, which, in turn, means not getting the vast selection of assorted adult animated shows that we’ve come to take for granted. Via Fred’s feet, The Flintstones blazed a trail for comedy and cartoons to travel beyond the confines of Saturday mornings. So let’s yabba-dabba-dive into some trivia about a series that revealed the future of animated sitcoms by showing audiences the way, way, past...
Back in (Prime) Time
Debuting at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, September 30, 1960, The Flintstones was never intended as a children’s program and purposely aired in primetime to appeal to adults and families.
They Used a Cat and Mouse to Sell the Show
The legendary animation studio Hanna-Barbera, which also made Yogi Bear, The Smurfs and Scooby Doo, created the show. Prior to the introduction of television into people’s homes, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera had made theatrical shorts for MGM like Tom and Jerry, which appealed to a broad audience as opposed to just children. When pitching The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera invoked Tom and Jerry to sell the idea of making an animated series adults could enjoy, too.
It Was a T-Rex Sized Hit
The Flintstones was a monumental success, lasting six seasons and 166 episodes. ABC was so impressed that they tried out several other animated sitcoms to accompany it. The best known was The Jetsons, which failed to hold an audience and was canceled after one season.
It Was Based on Another Popular Sitcom
The Flintstones was heavily influenced by Jackie Gleason’s The Honeymooners. Fred Flinstone not only looked a bit like Gleason, but Gleason’s character, Ralph Kramden, had a very similar blue-collar job and personality. Meanwhile, Barney Rubble’s voice was a direct imitation of Art Karney’s Ed Norton, who was Ralph’s best friend/neighbor. Other traits included Fred and Barney also being regular bowlers like Ralph and Norton and belonging to a local lodge. This continued with the female characters as Wilma and Betty also shared similarities to Ralph and Norton’s wives, Alice and Trixie.
The parallels were so striking that Gleason considered suing Hanna-Barbera, but he decided not to because he didn’t want to be held responsible for removing the beloved Fred Flintstone from the airwaves.
Fred Flintstone was played by Alan Reed, who previously had a long career in film and radio as a dramatic actor. Wilma Flintstone was played by Jean Vander Pyl, who had a prolific career in voice acting (she also played Pebbles and Rosie the Robot in The Jetsons). Betty Rubble was played by Bea Benaderet for the first four seasons, then Gerry Johnson for the last two. But it was Barney Rubble who had the most distinguished voice actor: Mel Blanc, the legendary voice behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and nearly every other Looney Tunes character.
It Didn’t Start Off with Its Iconic Theme Song
For the first two years, the show utilized a generic instrumental set to Fred driving around. While it’s on YouTube, it’s unlikely you’ll see this theme song on TV as earlier episodes were retrofitted with the “Meet the Flintstones” theme for syndication.
Before settling on The Flintstones, the earlier titles for the show included The Flagstones and The Gladstones.
Dino Wasn’t a Real Dinosaur
Dino Originally Spoke
While Dino famously acted like an excitable dog, his original personality was very different. In the episode “The Snorkasaurs Hunter,” which came in the middle of the first season, his origin story is told where he inexplicably speaks. He even answers the Flintstones’ phone and acts as their butler. The difference was never addressed or explained, and he was never portrayed again like this before or since. According to MeTV, the most likely explanation is that this was an earlier episode when Hanna-Barbera was still figuring out its characters.
Fred’s Impossible Burger
Fred’s favorite meal in The Flintstones was a “Brontosaurus Burger,” yet the brontosaurus wasn’t recognized as a real dinosaur during the show’s run. Discovered in the 1870s, the brontosaurus was later determined to be a mislabeled apatosaurus, a genus that had been discovered a couple of years earlier. While the “brontosaurus” name continued on in pop culture — The Flintstones included — it wasn’t scientifically recognized from 1903 until 2015 when the original brontosaurus discovery was re-examined and determined to be its own thing. This means that the brontosauruses — and any burgers made from them — would only be scientifically correct beginning in 2015 (of course, we’ll ignore the whole dinosaurs and humans living simultaneously thing).
Bugs Bunny Saved Barney Rubble
Blanc was replaced by Daws Butler for several first-season episodes after Blanc was in a near-fatal car accident. He was in a coma, and the story behind his revival is truly extraordinary.
As MeTV recounts, “In critical condition, Blanc stayed in a coma for 21 days, responding to absolutely nothing his neurosurgeon Dr. Louis Conway tried to revive him. Then, one day, Dr. Conway got a loony idea, that he was shocked when it actually worked. ‘How are you feeling today, Bugs Bunny?’ Dr. Conway asked Blanc.” To his amazement, the comatose Blanc responded in Bugs’ voice by saying, “Eh, just fine, doc. How’re you?” As Conway put it later, “Mel was dying, and it seemed as though Bugs Bunny was trying to save his life.”
Fred and Barney’s Five O’clock Shadow Was for Budgetary Reasons
The five o’clock shadow Fred and Barney sported was there to help with saving money in animation. By dividing the mouth area of the face into its own section, a character could speak without having to draw the whole head — the animators would only have to replace that section for each different sound the character made as they spoke. Something similar would be done for Homer Simpson decades later.
For the first season, The Flintstones was sponsored by Winston cigarettes. Fred and Barney even starred in a commercial where Fred spouted the slogan, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should!”
Fred Gets the Boot
The Flintstones aired its final episode on April 1, 1966. According to Jerry Beck, an animation historian and editor of Animation Scoop and Cartoon Research, “The Flintstones was probably canceled for its ratings sagging. Six years was a long time in the 1960s. The Flintstones fad had passed, and Batman was the new fad in 1966. Animated series in primetime was sort of over by 1966. Animated TV specials — like Charlie Brown and The Grinch — had replaced the regular series until The Simpsons in 1989.”
The Flintstones itself also devolved from a smart, adult-skewing sitcom parody into more of a kids show with the addition of “The Gruesomes” and “The Great Gazoo,” not to mention Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm.
The Flintstones Forever
Although the series ended in 1966, Hanna-Barbera released the theatrical film The Man Called Flintstone that same year. The movie saw Fred become a secret agent and served as something of a series finale.
Over the next several decades, the Flintstones and Rubbles would be featured in a wide variety of TV specials and movies, along with nearly a dozen spinoff and revival shows. There is also a movie in the works currently from the people who made the new Super Mario Bros. Movie and a new adult cartoon series from Elizabeth Banks.
So, while the original series ended in 1966, The Flintstones will never go extinct.