Yabba Dabba Doo! The Flintstones at 50
Today is the 50th Anniversary of the iconic animated television show The Flintstones. The original television series, produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, ran for close on 6 years in America, with Episode #1 being broadcast on the ABC network on 30 September 1960. It had a run over its’ six seasons of 166 episodes which proved to be enough to cement the show and its’ characters place in popular culture.
The first episode, entitled “The Flintstone Flyer”, introduced audiences to the crazy prehistoric town of Bedrock and to the principal characters that have since entertained audiences for the past 50 years.
In that first episode the tone for many of the subsequent shows is set: Fred fakes illness that so he and and his best mate and neighbour Barney can get out of taking their wives to the opera. The night coincides with a Bowling Championship, and bowling trumps opera every time! Using Barney’s home-made prehistoric helicopter as a means of escape, the two then join their bowling team for the tournament. They almost get away with their scheme, until loose-lipped Barney gives away their night’s activities. Vengeance from their wives Wilma and Betty is swift.
With his faithful buddy Barney at his side, Fred Flintstone would entertain television audiences week after week with some outrageous scheme or other form of general mischief that grown men can get themselves into. Of course, Barney would follow along, and the two would ultimately have to answer to the true voice of authority – their wives.
A Modern Stone Age Family
The show is set in the Stone Age town of Bedrock. (In some of the earlier episodes, it was also referred to as “Rockville”). In this fantasy version of the past, dinosaurs, sabre-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 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.
Often the “prehistoric” analogue to a modern machine uses an animal. For example, when a character takes photographs with an instant camera, inside of the camera box, a bird carves the picture on a stone tablet with its bill. In a running gag, the animal powering such technology breaks the fourth wall, looks directly into the camera at the audience, shrugs, and remarks, “It’s a living.”
Other commonly seen gadgets in the series include a baby woolly mammoth used as a vacuum cleaner; an adult woolly mammoth acting as a shower by spraying water with its trunk; elevators raised and lowered by ropes around brontosauruses’ necks; “automatic” windows powered by monkeys on the outside; birds acting as “car horns,” sounded by the driver pulling on their tails or squeezing their bodies; an “electric” razor made from a clam shell, vibrating from a honey-bee inside; a washing machine shown by a pelican with a beakful of soapy water; and a woodpecker whose beak is used to play a gramophone record.
All Things Stone & Rock
The Stone Age setting allowed for gags and puns involving rocks. For example San Antonio became Sand-and-Stony-o; the country to the south of Bedrock’s is called Mexirock; and “Hollyrock,” a parody of Hollywood. Even the names of Bedrock’s celebrities got the same treatment: “Cary Granite” (Cary Grant), “Stony Curtis” (Tony Curtis), “Jimmy Darrock” (James Darren), “Perry Masonary/Masonite” (Perry Mason), and “Mick Jadestone and The Rolling Boulders” (Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones) are some examples.
Living in the stone-age didn’t keep the Flintstones from enjoying the best of modern conveniences. From a ram’s horn telephone (a must for Wilma’s gossip sessions) to a skin-topped convertible with stone wheels, the series was constantly showing modern gadgets with a stone-age twist. Even something as simple as the paperboy throwing Fred his Sunday newspaper was funny – especially when the oversized stone tablet nailed him in the head.
Fred, in general, showed little tolerance for incompetence – save maybe his own. He could turn from jovial to grouchy and back in an instant. But even this burly bear of a man had his soft side, and never did it show through as much as with his baby daughter, Pebbles. Fred was definitely a family man at heart, and his antics appealed to all ages.
Big Screen Flintstones
The video clip is the trailer for the live action film released in 1994. It starred a brilliantly cast John Goodman as Fred and featured Rick Moranis as Barney. Also included in the cast were Elizabeth Perkins, Rosie O’Donnell, Kyle MacLachlan and Elizabeth Taylor. The B-52s ‘reformed’ as the BC-52s to perform the theme song “Meet the Flintstones”. Compare it to the original introduction from the television series and you’ll see that it was a brilliantly realised version of the original animated action.
So to Fred and Wilma, Barney and Betty, and all the other Bedrockers – Happy Anniversary! You guys rock!