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The Flintstones was the first, and the longest running, animated situation comedy shown in prime-time television. Premiering on ABC on 30 September 1960, it gained high ratings in its first season, thus establishing animation as a viable prime time format. Produced by Hanna-Barbera (Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera), The Flintstones was patterned after Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners. Designed as a program for the entire family, the program did not appear as "children's television" until its rebroadcast by NBC in 1967. Its popularity with teenagers in its 8:30 P.M. Friday time slot, however, presaged the late 1960s move to animation as the preeminent format for children's programming.

Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their best friends, Barney and Betty Rubble, lived in the prehistoric city of Bedrock but faced the problems of contemporary working-class life. After a day at the rock quarry, Fred and Barney arrived home in a vehicle with stone wheels and a fringe on top. Their lives revolved around their home, friends, and leisure activities: a world of drive-ins, bowling, and their "Water Buffalo" lodge. A baby dinosaur and a saber tooth tiger replaced the family dog and cat. In 1962 and 1963, Pebbles and Bamm Bamm appeared as the daughter and adopted son of the Flintstones and Rubbles respectively.

Aside from being the first animated series made for prime time, The Flintstones also broke new ground in that each episode contained only one story that lasted the full half hour. Until the 1960s, cartoons were generally only a few minutes long. Half-hour programs used three or four shorts (three- to four-minute cartoons) and a live "wrap-around," usually presented by a friendly "host," to complete the program. In another innovation, Hanna-Barbera produced The Flintstones using limited animation techniques. This assembly line method of creating drawings, combined with reduced and simplified body movement, made it possible to manufacture animation cells more cheaply. Because of the lowered cost and the appeal of animation to children, limited animation became the format of choice for children's television in the 1960s, a decade in which children's programming became almost entirely animated.

The Flintstones helped establish Hanna-Barbera Productions as a major Hollywood animation studio and by the late 1960s as the world's largest producer of animated entertainment films. The Flintstones also launched a multi-million dollar merchandising business with hundreds of toys and novelties placed on the market. Perhaps the most enduring product developed in this ancillary line was Flintstones vitamins, also used as a sponsor for the program. Citing the difficulties children might have in distinguishing cartoon characters from the products made in their likenesses, critics attacked the practice of advertising vitamins to children, and such ads were withdrawn in 1972.

The Flintstones characters still appear in commercials for Pebbles' cereals, and other tie ins include films (a major, live-action motion picture in 1994), traveling road shows, toys, and other children's products. The Flintstones played on ABC in prime time through September 1966. The series was rebroadcast on Saturday mornings by NBC from January 1967 through September 1970. Various spin-offs and specials also appeared on the CBS or NBC Saturday morning lineup throughout most of the 1970s, and continue to reappear until the present. The Flintstones is still available in syndication.

-Alison Alexander

 

CAST (Voices)

Fred Flintstone......................................... Alan Reed Wilma Flintstone............................. Jean Vander Pyl Barney Rubble ..........................................Mel Blanc Betty Rubble (1960-1964)................... Bea Benaderet Betty Rubble (1964-1966).................... Gerry Johnson Dino the Dinosaur .....................................Mel Blanc Pebbles (1963-1966)........................ Jean Vander Pyl Bamm Bamm (1963-1966)..................... Don Messick

PRODUCERS Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

ABC
September 1960-September 1963       Friday 8:30-9:00 September 1963-December 1964   Thursday 7:30-8:00 December 1964-September 1966        Friday 7:30-8:00

FURTHER READING

Erik Barnouw. Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975; revised edition 1982.

Joseph Turow. Entertainment, Education and the Hard Sell: Three Decades of Network Children's Television. New York: Praeger, 1981.

George Woolery. Children's Television: The First Thirty-Five Years, 1946-1981. Part 1: Animated Cartoon Series. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow, 1983.

 

See also Cartoons; Children and Television; Hanna, William and Joseph Barbera

 

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Quick Tip by . March 31, 2013
posted in Pass The Remote!
I admittedly liked The Flintstones when I was a little kid, but it's another one of those childhood cartoons that loses its appeal really fast as an adult.  Watching it now, it's tolerable background noise at best, and rather unfunny junk at worst.      Give me a classic Tex Avery or Looney Tunes cartoon instead.
Quick Tip by . September 04, 2010
posted in Screen Gems
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I  loved "The Flintstones" I always felt bad for Fred because he was looking to for a get rich quick scheme to make his wife happy.  The show was on my TV screen every Saturday morning!   Even my Dad loved it.
Quick Tip by . August 30, 2010
The Honeymooners of the stone age. Had it's moments and much better then The Jetsons.
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