Flintstones rocks on at 50

2010-09-28 10:14

A half century ago, Fred and Wilma Flintstone and neighbours Barney and Betty Rubble put the mythical town of Bedrock on the map when The Flintstones cartoon aired on US television for the first time.

The show, which parodied suburban life in the United States, was the longest running US animated sitcom to be aired during peak viewing hours on television until another cartoon family, The Simpsons, claimed the record in 1997.

The series aired weekday evenings for 30 minutes on prime time television on the ABC network from 1960-1966, and NBC showed reruns on Saturday mornings from 1967-1970.

Created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, The Flintstones had cartoon appeal for kids, while its satirical dialogue appealed to grown ups.

Its catchy theme song, Meet the Flintstones, was only introduced in 1963, the cartoon series’ third season. The popular song was reprised by US popstars the B-52s in 1994 when the Flintstones Movie hit cinemas around the world.

Life in Bedrock
On Thursday, it will be 50 years since the Flintstones and the Rubbles have dealt with the woes of the 20th century working class as they go about their daily lives in the town of Bedrock, around 10 000 BC.

Fred and Barney work at the local rock quarry and live for when they clock out and can go home to their families, head to the bowling alley, drive-in movie or Water Buffalo lodge.

Wilma and Betty reportedly worked as cigarette girls/waitresses before becoming suburban housewives and mothers. Wilma was believed to be the first cartoon character to be pregnant, and gave birth to a little girl named Pebbles. The Rubbles adopted a boy named Bamm Bamm shortly after Pebbles was born.

Fred had a running battle with the family cat – a saber-tooth tiger which doesn’t want to stay outside for the night – and Dino, a baby dinosaur, replaces the typical modern American family’s dog.

The series chronicled popular culture and spotlighted icons of the day – not of 10 000 BC but of the 1960s.
Early seasons were sponsored by a cigarette brand, for which Fred and Barney made an advertisement that would have not only today’s doctors but also feminists up in arms: the two men sit around smoking while their wives work in the garden.

Several 20th century celebrities made guest appearances in The Flintstones, with their names slightly changed to reflect the geological theme of the show.

In one episode in the third season, 1963, the Flintstones hire an Italian maid named Lollobrickida, a spoof on Gina Lollobrigida.

The same year, Swedish-born actress Ann Margret voiced the character Ann Margrock in an episode, and two years later actor Tony Curtis was the voice of Hollyrock movie star Stony Curtis, who was in Bedrock to shoot his latest film.

Fred Flintstone was voiced by Alan Reed, Wilma and Pebbles by Jean Vander Pyl, Betty Rubble by Bea Benaderet for the first four years and then by Gerry Johnson, and Bamm Bamm by Don Messick.

Barney Rubble and Dino the Dinosaur were voiced by Mel Blanc, who also put words in the mouths of the likes of Tweety Pie, Sylvester the Cat, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the stuttering Porky Pig.

The Flintstones brand

With the success of The Flintstones, Hanna and Barbera branched out into Flintstone-brand toys and vitamins, which are still available today.

Fans of the series can also eat breakfast cereal named after Pebbles, the Flintstone’s no-longer-so-little girl who eventually grew up and married Bamm Bamm.

A movie featuring human actors, not animations, in which the B-52s not only sang but also appeared, came out in 1994, and the Flintstones have toured the world in Fred’s foot-powered prehistoric car.

In France, they’re La Famille Pierrafeu, in Germany Die Familie Feuerstein; in Poland Flintstone’owie; in Sweden Familjen Flinta. Spanish speakers call them Los Picapiedras, and in Greece they’re Oi Flintstones.

The modern Stone Age family also made it big in, among other places, Estonia, where the show is called Ranirahnud, and in Serbia, where it’s Porodica Kremenko.

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