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Meet the Flintstones

October 17, 2009

One of the longest-running prime time cartoons in television history took place, oddly enough, in prehistoric times. We're talking, of course, about The Flintstones, that legendary show about the “modern stone age family” that rolled into homes across America for the first time on September 30, 1960. Since this was the first time a major cartoon was running on prime time, it was an enormous gamble for creators Hanna Barbera - but one that more than paid off - as fans were soon captivated by the antics of Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their faithful friends and neighbors, Barney and Betty Rubble. But did you know that part of the reason for the show's success was that it was based on one of the most beloved programs of the 1950s, The Honeymooners? The fact that it was presented as a cartoon, however, a medium normally reserved for children's shows, made it utterly innovative, and the prehistoric setting charmed an audience of young and old alike.

The Flintstones started running at 8:30 on Friday nights on ABC in 1960, but audiences were introduced to the characters through intense advertising featuring Fred, Wilma and the gang in the weeks leading up to the show's premiere. The idea was that people who had liked The Honeymooners would undoubtedly like The Flintstones - as the parallels between Ralph and Alice Kramden and Fred and Wilma Flintstone were hard to ignore. The Rubbles were prehistoric cartoon parody of the Nortons, while Fred, like Ralph, was always getting himself into some jam or another - from counterfeiting money in a hare-brained get-rich-quick scheme to being put in the proverbial dog house due to a lover's spat to having troubles with the boss (Ralph, of course, was a bus driver while Fred operated a dinosaur-powered crane under the watchful eye of Mr. Slate). Through it all, though, Fred's center-of-attention, man in charge attitude was what made him utterly endearing, and his trials and tribulations made for some hilarious gags. And, at the end of the day, he could always take a load off at the bowling alley or The Royal Order of Water Buffalo men's club (something like Ralph's participation in the all-male club The Raccoons).

This sort of 1950s nostalgia in the midst of the turbulent '60s, combined with the sheer creativity of the show, made The Flintstones so phenomenally successful. From the concrete-wheeled convertible that was powered by “the courtesy of Fred's two feet” to appliances that were actually animals (Wilma's wooly mammoth dishwasher and Fred's bird-beak turntable, for example), these stone age characters were certainly not in the dark about modern conveniences. And throughout the show's six-year run, new and exciting things were always happening in the lives of the two families that went beyond their day-to-day shenanigans. 1962 saw the birth of Pebbles Flintstone, and it wasn't long before Barney and Betty got their own “bundle of noise” in the form of the club-wielding, super-strong Bamm-Bamm.

Tons of Flintstone toys resulted from the success of the show, making them among the most marketed of all the characters of the early '60s. Among the merchandise that was released were The Flintstones comic books, shown below. Pay special attention to the December 1965 Christmas in Bedrock comic - a very rare Christmas comic. And be sure to tune into the Cartoon Network, which regularly shows classic Flintstones reruns. It's enough to make us yell, “Yabba Dabba Doo!”

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