Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yabba-Dabba-Dad! Happy Birthday, Pebbles Flintstone!

One of my favorite blogs is "Yowp," described by its owner as "stuff about early Hanna-Barbera cartoons." Today’s entry covers the arrival of Fred and Wilma Flintstone's blessed event.

Yes, Pebbles Flintstone was "born" 47 years ago this evening! Don't you feel old?

"Yowp" goes into much detail about the merchandising of Pebbles Flintstone (and reaction to it) that is only hinted at in the above article.

To be honest, I was never a big "Flintstones" fan when growing up. I watched the show from time-to-time, but if I laughed at all, it was more due to individual gags than to plot or characterization. Mostly I found the show as distasteful as its inspiration, "The Honeymooners." ("Scandalous," I heard someone say.) Yes, Jackie Gleason's masterpiece usually just annoys me. Despite posterity's apparent verdict, Norton and Kramden are not Laurel & Hardy: "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into" is a whole lot more clever and charming than, "One of these days, Alice... POW! Right in the kisser!" Comedies about dumb male heads of household, whether they're named Chester Reilly, Ralph Kramden, Archie Bunker or Homer Simpson just turn me off. Maybe it's because my role models were mainly strong men: Superman, Joe Friday... even Bugs Bunny was sly, not stupid. Maybe I have too much respect for the role of husband and father to enjoy seeing them portrayed as obnoxious (and bigoted) boors.

Anyway, the anniversary of Pebbles' debut seemed like a good excuse to post that TV Guide article from the February 16, 1963 issue... and, for that matter, this article from the December 30, 1959 issue of Variety:

If the headline is confusing, you should know that "The Flintstones" began life as "The Flagstones." King Features, who syndicated the "Hi and Lois" comic strip, claimed ownership of the name "Flagstone," thus the change. By the end of the 1950's Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were the undisputed kings of television animation, enabling them to sell ABC-TV on a prime-time animated show (a 26-episode commitment, no less) with nothing more than a 5-minute demo reel and a handful of storyboards. I'm not sure anyone, even Matt Groening, has that kind of cache today.

1 comment:

Paul Duca said...

ABC had made the commitment to THE FLINTSTONES, but what's interesting is what happened next. Along with modest ratings, the network's Western series THE MAN FROM BLACKHAWK, which premiered in the fall of 1959, was getting particular negative reaction from viewers for its violence. Ultimately, the show's co-sponsors insisted the network drop the program. In return, they agreed to pay for whatever ABC put into the timeslot--Friday at 8:30 PM--for the 1960-61 season. The network sold them on THE FLINTSTONES.

Those sponsors were Miles Laboratories, makers of Alka-Seltzer, One-A-Day, and in the future Flintstones Children's Vitamins...and the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which is how Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble ended up shilling for Winston cigarettes.