The Flintstones is an American animated sitcom produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. It was originally broadcast on ABC from September 30, 1960, until April 1, 1966, as the first prime-time animated series geared for adults, while also watchable for kids, too, having been repeated on Cartoon Network and Boomerang.

Overview

The show is set in the Stone Age town of Bedrock and follows the activities of the titular family, the Flintstones, and their next-door neighbors, the Rubbles (who are also their best friends). (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 barefoot cavemen.

Like their 20th-century peers, these cavemen listen to records, live in split-level (cookie-cutter) homes, and eat out at restaurants, yet their technology is made entirely from pre-industrial materials and largely powered through the use of various animals. For example, the cars are made out of stone, wood, and animal skins, and powered by the passengers' feet. ("Through the courtesy of Fred's two feet" comprises part of the lyrics that many people have not been able to decipher over the decades that have passed when they listen to the theme song, "Meet the Flintstones" for example.)

History and production

The idea of The Flintstones started after Hanna-Barbera produced The Huckleberry Hound Show and The Quick Draw McGraw. Although these programs were successful, they did not have the same wide audience appeal as their previous theatrical cartoon series Tom and Jerry, which entertained both children and the adults who 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 (a hillbilly theme was later incorporated into two Flintstones episodes, "The Bedrock Hillbillies" and "The Hatrocks and the Gruesomes"), Romans (Hanna-Barbera eventually created The Roman Holidays), 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. Animator Kenneth Muse, who worked on the Tom and Jerry cartoons, also worked on the early seasons of The Flintstones.

The show imitated and spoofed The Honeymooners, although the early voice characterization for Barney was that of Lou Costello. 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 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 antedated by many years similar ones used by Hanna-Barbera in the Flintstones series. Many students of American animation point to this cartoon as a progenitive seed of the Flintstones.

The concept was also predated by the Stone Age Cartoons series of 12 animated cartoons released from January 1940 to September 1940 by Fleischer Studios. These cartoons show stone-age people doing modern things with primitive means. One example is Granite Hotel including characters such as a newsboy, telephone operator, hotel clerk, and a spoof of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

Syndication

The first three seasons of The Flintstones aired Friday nights at 8:30 Eastern time on ABC, with the first two seasons in black-and-white. Beginning with the third season in 1962, ABC televised the Flintstones in color, one of the first programs in color on that network. Season four and part of season five aired Thursdays at 7:30. The rest of the series aired Fridays at 7:30.

In the U.S., syndicated reruns of the series were offered to local stations until 1997, when E/I regulations and changing tastes in the industry led to the show's move to cable television. From the time of Ted Turner's purchase of Hanna-Barbera in 1992, TBS, TNT, and Cartoon Network aired the program. On April 1, 2000, the program moved to Boomerang, where it aired until March 6, 2017 (in its last years on the channel, it had been relegated to a graveyard slot) and returned to the channel on July 30, 2018. Online, the series was made available on the In2TV service beginning in 2006, then the online version of Kids' WB until that service was discontinued in 2015. As of 2017, full episodes are only available in the U.S. on Boomerang's subscription video-on-demand service, with select clips made available on the official YouTube account tied to the revamped Kids' WB website. In 2019, MeTV acquired rerun rights to the series, returning the show to broadcast television for the first time in over 20 years.

Reception

The night after The Flintstones premiered, Variety magazine called it "a pen and ink disaster", and the series was among many that debuted in a "vast wasteland" of a 1960–61 television season considered one of the worst in television history up to that point. As late as the 1980s, highbrow critics derided the show's limited animation and derivative plots. Despite the mixed critical reviews at first, The Flintstones has generally been considered a television classic and was rerun continuously for five decades after its end.

In 1961, The Flintstones became the first animated series to be nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, but lost out to The Jack Benny Program. In January 2009, IGN named The Flintstones as the ninth-best in its "Top 100 Animated TV Shows".

Comedian Steven Wright joked about The Flintstones, underscoring its longevity and popularity. "The 'Stones, I can't believe they're still doing it after all these years; I catch 'em every chance I get..." The audience assumes Wright is referring to the Rolling Stones until he adds, "...Fred and Barney."

Characters

Episodes

Main article: The Flintstones episode list

Films and subsequent television series

Following the show's cancellation in 1966, a film based upon the series was created. The Man Called Flintstone was a musical spy caper that parodied James Bond and other secret agents. The movie was released to theaters on August 3, 1966, by Columbia Pictures.

The show was revived in the early 1970s with Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm having grown into teenagers, and several different series and made-for-TV movies (broadcast mainly on Saturday mornings, with a few shown in primetime), 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 Al Capp's comic strip character Shmoo —have appeared over the years. The original show also was adapted into a live-action film in 1994, and a prequel, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, which followed in 2000. Unlike its sister show The Jetsons (the two shows appeared in a made-for-TV crossover movie in 1987), the revival programs were not widely syndicated or rerun alongside the original series.

Television series

Theatrical animated feature

Television specials

Television films

Educational films

  • Energy: A National Issue (1977)
  • Hanna-Barbera Educational Filmstrips
    • Bamm-Bamm: Term Paper (1978)
    • Bamm-Bamm: Information Please (1979)
    • Flintstones: A Weighty Problem (1980)
    • Flintstones: Fire Alarm (1980)
    • Flintstones: Fire Escape (1980)
    • Flintstones: Driving Guide (1980)

Live-action films

Direct-to-video films

Other media

For a list of DVDs, video games, comic books, and VHS releases, see List of The Flintstones media.
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