Set during the Stone Age, The Flintstones follows the Flintstone family and their neighbors as they navigate through life during a much more primitive time. Originally airing from September 30, 1960, to April 1, 1966, The Flintstones grew to become the most financially successful animated franchise for three decades. Produced by Hanna-Barbera, it was also the first animated series to ever be broadcast in a primetime slot. Now, take a look to see what made The Flintstones so successful and behind-the-scenes facts that even some of the show’s biggest fans don’t know.
Alan Reed Came Up With “Yabba Dabba Doo”
Alan Reed, the voice of Fred Flintstone, came up with Fred’s timeless catchphrase “Yabba Dabba Doo.” He was experimenting with it during a recording session, and little did he know how iconic it would become. Supposedly, Reed’s mother was known to say “A little dab’ll do ya,” which Reed adapted into his own.
During the recording session, Reed asked producer Joe Barbera if he could change “yahoo” to “Yabba Dabba Doo.” Barbera didn’t have a problem with the change, and today it’s one of the most recognizable character catchphrases in television history.
The Flintstones Were Going To Be The Flagstones
Before The Flinstones, Joe Barbera was thinking about calling the show The Gladstones or even The Flagstones. However, Barbera soon learned that there was already a comic strip in circulation with the same name. They went on to film a 90-second pilot episode in 1959 and although it didn’t air, the name was officially changed to The Flintstones.
It wasn’t until 1993 that Cartoon Network found the original pilot in a storage warehouse in New York. Cartoon Network’s head of programming claimed that “we sent out teams of researchers to look for it all over. It was like the search for the Holy Grail.” It was aired in 1994.
Pebbles Was Going To Be A Baby Boy
By Season 3 in 1962, the show-runners decided that Fred and Wilma should have a baby to spice up the show. Initially, they all agreed that the child should be a boy. However, their decision was changed by the Ideal Toy Company.
The person in charge of Flintstones merchandising called Barbera and said that he heard they were thinking of adding a baby. When Barbera said that it was going to be a boy the employee responded saying “That’s too bad. I have the ideal toy. If it was a girl.” They changed the gender on the spot and sold three million Pebbles dolls in a few months.
The Voice Of Wilma Was Convinced That Fred And Wilma Really Loved Each Other
The voice of Wilma Flintstone was done by Jean Vander Pyl, who worked in the role from the first episode up until her death in 1999. Although the couple in the show may have argued a fair amount, their characters did care about each other.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Pyl said that “I loved the bum […] Sure, Fred was a yahoo and I got mad at him all the time. But we really loved each other. Our romance was one of the things that made us so popular. We were real.”
Fred And Wilma Were One Of The First Televised Couples To Sleep In The Same Bed
Although today, couples can be seen sleeping in the same bed all over television and in films, it used to be taboo. Back then, the couples would sleep in the same room, although in separate beds on different sides of the room.
Although Wilma and Fred may not have been the first couple to sleep together in the same bed on television, they were close, with the sitcom Mary Kay and Johnny being first. Yet, even if they weren’t the first on television, they surely were the first animated couple to share a bed.
Fred And Barney Were Originally Drawn To Look Like Real Cavemen
One of The Flintstones’ designers, Ed Benedict, originally drew the characters of Fred and Barney to look like true cave dwellers. He commented that they looked like “cave people wearing long beards, with scraggly, unkempt hair and in slightly distorted, hunched-over shapes.”
However, producer Joesph Barbera didn’t like the designs, which led Benedict to clean up their look. Over time, the costumes continued to be altered with Fred’s the number of spots on his loincloth being changed from six to four. A necktie was added to Fred’s look and Wilma gained a stone necklace.
The Show Wasn’t Originally Supposed To Be Set During The Stone Age
When Hanna-Barbera decided to make a primetime animated sitcom, they knew that they wanted to make the show about a family. However, they didn’t always know that the show was going to be set during the Stone Age.
The other ideas that the studio considered were a hillbilly family, a pilgrim family, a Native American family, and a Roman family. After The Flintstones became successful during the 1960s, Hanna-Barbera launched the show The Roman Holidays in 1972, about a family that was living in Rome in the year 63 CE.
Jackie Gleason Almost Sued Hanna-Barbera
If you’ve ever seen The Flintstones and The Honeymooners, you may notice that there are numerous similarities between the two shows. At one point, Jackie Gleason, the creator of the show The Honeymooners, told Playboy in an interview that he was ready to take legal action against Hanna-Barbera.
Yet, he decided against it, because he didn’t want to be known as the man who forced Fred Flintstone off of the air. On the other hand, Hanna-Barbera took the comparison as a compliment saying, “Well, if you compare Flintstones to Honeymooners, that’s the biggest compliment you can give me.”
They Even Hired Writers From The Honeymooners
To help write the scripts for The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera hired experienced live-action writers from The Honeymooners to help spruce up the dialogue on the show. The writers that they hired were Herbert Finn and Sydney Zelinka.
Barbera claimed that “I brought in a writer from the Honeymooners, […] I paid him three thousand bucks and he was terrible.” So, taking the writers from The Honeymooners backfired and the scripts turned out to be too wordy with not enough action for an animated series.
There Was A Crossover With Bewitched
In the episode “Samantha,” the sixth episode of the sixth season, there was a guest appearance by Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York. The two showed up as animated versions of their characters Samantha and Darrin Stephens from the hit television show Bewitched.
This wasn’t all that big of a surprise since the two shows had synergy to begin with, since the Hanna-Barbera production company had been charged to create the animation for the opening to Bewitched although it was a live-action show.
The Theme Song Wasn’t Used Until Season 3
While most people connect the opening of The Flinstones to the beloved theme song “Meet the Flintstones,” the song wasn’t always used in the first seasons of the show. In fact, the song wasn’t used at all until the beginning of the third season.
For the first two seasons, before the show had its iconic theme song, the opening used an instrumental piece of music that is titled “Rise and Shine.” But surely, the show’s producers knew that they needed a song that they could call their own.
It Was The First Cartoon To Bring Up Infertility
The Flintstones has always been considered a rather progressive. Not only was it the first cartoon to ever show a married couple sleeping in the same bed, but it is also the first cartoon to explore the topic of infertility.
At one point in the show, the Flintstones’ neighbor and friend Betty Rubble goes into a deep depression after she learns that she cannot conceive a child. This leads to her adopting a son, Bamm-Bamm, who becomes a regular character on the show. It was yet another way the show was more ahead of its time than others.
People Didn’t Want To Buy The Show At First
Although Joseph Barbera initially thought that The Flintstones was going to be a hit, he ran into some difficulty getting it off the ground. While trying to pitch the show to networks, he spent eight weeks in Manhattan pitching the show to various networks and potential sponsors.
Unfortunately, nobody seemed interested in the program and things weren’t looking too good for The Flintstones. Luckily, on his last day in Manhattan, Barbera had a meeting with ABC who decided to take a chance on the show. ABC soon learned that they made the right decision.
Dino Changed Colors Throughout The Series
The Flintstone’s pet dinosaur named Dino was introduced in the credits of the pilot episode of the show, although was not mentioned by name until the fourth episode titled “No Help Wanted.” He was featured in almost every episode of the series, however, few people have noticed that his color changes throughout the seasons.
Although he remains predominantly purple, if you pay attention, you can notice the subtle changes in his coloring. Dino’s barks and sound effects were provided by Mel Blanc for 27 years which were also used in the live action films in the 1990s and 2000s.
We Never Find Out What Happens To The Great Gazoo
In the last season of the series, the fictional alien The Great Gazoo was introduced to the show. The Great Gazoo was a floating green alien that was exiled to Earth from his home planet Zetox as punishment for making a dangerous weapon.
He was discovered by Fred and Barney when his UFO crashed, and as part of his exile was forced to serve them. However, Gazoo’s storyline was never resolved as the show was canceled and he was never mentioned in any spin-offs or movies.
The Flintstones Helped Make The Jetsons Successful
Because The Flintstones did so well, Hanna-Barbera decided that it would be a good idea to make another prime-time cartoon to hopefully be as successful as The Flintstones. The end result was The Jetsons, which was essentially the same idea except it takes place in the future and not in the past.
The show turned out to be a success that is still loved by fans to this day. However, few people know that there were only 24 episodes of the original 1962-1963 series. Although there were more episodes made in 1985 and 1987, those aren’t considered the classics.
It Took Nine Years To Make The Live Action Film
When the live action Flintstones movie came out in 1994, it grossed a total of $341,631,208 at the worldwide box office. However, that doesn’t mean that it was easy to make by any means. The script for the film was commissioned by Keith Barish and Joel Silver in 1985, nine years before the film was actually released.
In 1993, a new draft for the film was written which took a total of eight writers. Steven Speilberg recommended John Goodman for the role. Although the film made a lot of revenue it wasn’t necessarily adored by critics or fans.
Seth MacFarlane Almost Made A Reboot
It was announced in 2011 that comedian and creator of Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane, was planning on rebooting the classic animated series. However, just a year after the announcement was made, MacFarlane claimed that the show was “already on life support.”
In a Reddit AMA, MacFarlane revealed that the reason that the reboot never happened was because he couldn’t differentiate Fred Flintstone from his character Peter Griffin of Family Guy. Although MacFarlane has continued to make movies and other television shows besides Family Guy, he didn’t want to risk it turning out to become Family Guy set in the Stone Age.
A Lot Of The Show’s Comedy Came From Pun’s About
In case you missed them, The Flintstones derives a lot of their humor from rock puns buried within the show, hence the name, The Flintstones. Aside from the names like Pebbles and the Rubbles, there were many celebrities that made cameos on the show. However, their names were slightly tweaked so that they made a rock pun.
Some of the celebrities included Cary Granite (Cary Grant), Ed Sulleystone (Ed Sullivan), among many others. If you pay close attention, you can catch countless other puns as well.
There Were A Lot Of Gimmicks
One of the show’s gimmicks was that the Flintstone family lived like modern humans although they were living in Prehistoric times. Although there was no running water, electricity, shoes, or engines, they still had modern conveniences such as televisions, a dishwasher, and phonographs.
All of these devices were powered by captive animals, including dinosaurs. For instance, Wilma Flintstone’s vacuum cleaner was just a small mammoth on wheels that sucked up the debris. And of course, the Flintsone’s car was powered by Fred’s own feet.
The Show Wasn’t Made Just For Kids
Even though most people assume that cartoons are for children, that wasn’t the case for The Flintstones. Before the series was made, Hanna-Barbera had success with children’s cartoons such as Tom and Jerry before going off and starting their own production company.
However, their first few cartoons as a company received mixed reviews, so they decided to come up with an idea that would appeal to both children and adults. The Flintstones was then created with the cartoon and prehistoric setting appealing to children and the grown-up themed storylines appealing to adults.
Barney Contemplated Suicide
One of the mature themes that were tackled in the show was suicide. In the episode “Little Bamm-Bamm,” Barney and his wife Betty were trying to adopt a child named Bamm-Bamm. Unfortunately, they lost the rights to him at the last minute.
After being told the bad news, he walks out in tears and makes his way to a nearby bridge. Right as he is about to jump, Fred comes to the rescue and talks him out of it. Thankfully, Barney was still alive and he and Betty get to adopt Bamm-Bamm after all.
“Gay Old Time” Was Eventually Cut
The show’s iconic opening jingle explained what the show was about and who the characters were while simultaneously getting stuck in every viewer’s head. However, in 2010, it was scrutinized by CNN journalist Anderson Cooper for the phrase “gay old time.” On The View,
He claimed that , “We should all be striving for more acceptance and sensitivity, and instead The Flintstones are spitting in the collective [gay] face.” It didn’t take long for others to agree with Cooper, forcing Warner Brothers Animation to substitute the word “gay” with something else.
The Question About Fred And Betty’s Relationship
The Flintstones and the Rubbles were an inseparable group of friends, to the point that some speculate that they might have been swingers that traded partners. However, the more likely answer was that Fred and Betty were having an affair.
Most of the problems in the show come from Fred and Wilma’s arguing, while Fred and Betty always seem to get along great, and may even be flirting at times. Each was the opposite of their spouse, making them more likely to be attracted to each other. It’s not a confirmed theory, but it’s convincing.
Danny Devito Almost Acted As Barney Rubble
During the writing process for the live action film, actor John Goodman had been recruited to play the role of Fred Flintstone. Since Steven Spielberg was somewhat connected to the film, he had recommended Goodman after he had worked with him on the film Always. The next character that they needed was Barney Rubble.
It is rumored that Danny DeVito was their first choice, however, he turned down the role because he didn’t think that he fit the character. Yet, he did recommend Rick Moranis who was later hired for the character.
Rick Moranis Led A More Private Life After The Flintstones
Rick Moranis rose to popularity in the 1980s after acting in numerous comedy films. Aside from being an actor, he was a writer, comedian, and producer who was featured in films such as Spaceballs, Ghostbusters, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Little Shop of Horrors, and numerous others.
His success led him to score the role of Barney Rubble in the live-action Flintstones film. The film was going to be one Moranis’ biggest films yet, but shortly after the film was released, he opted to focus on his personal life.
John Goodman Created Issues With The Sequel
Since the original live-action film grossed hundreds of millions of dollars, there was no doubt that they were going to make a sequel. Everyone also expected that the original cast would return for the sequel, but that wasn’t the case. The sequel was ready to be filmed by the late 1990s but Goodman refused to play the role with his busy schedule and the amount of time between the two movies.
After Goodman refused the role the rest of the cast began to opt out too. So, they figured that they would recast the entire franchise and film the movie as a prequel. The film, The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas tanked and that was the end of any more films.
The Flintstones Was Elizabeth Taylor’s Last Movie
Elizabeth Taylor has had nothing short of an exciting life, being a star in the movie industry since the 1940s. However, by the 1990s, she had turned her focus to philanthropy, although making appearances in films and TV shows here and there.
The producers of The Flintstones desperately wanted her in the film and she agreed to the small role of Pearl Slaghoopie and donated the proceeds from the film premier to her AIDS foundation. The movie turned out to be her last theatrically released film as she passed away om 2011.
Although there have been countless Flintstones-related releases over the decades, with most of them being odd, none of them beat The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown! It was a crossover between The Flintstones and WWE which allowed Warner Bros. and WWE to work together and make as much money as possible off an unusual animated film.
The film had numerous appearances from WWE stars like John Cena and the Undertaker and is basically just characters from The Flinstones and the WWE wrestling each other. Released in 2015, it had some surprisingly decent reviews.
It Held A Cartoon Record For A Long Time
Although The Flintstones was groundbreaking on numerous different levels, it also set the bar for other cartoons. Being the first-ever prime time cartoon, for decades, the show held the record for the longest-running cartoon, a total of six years, six seasons, and 166 episodes.
Even after the show had concluded, it held the record for the longest-running cartoon up until The Simpsons came about and shattered the record. But still, that’s pretty impressive for a show from the 1960s.
Mel Blanc Continued To Voice Barney After A Near-Death Car Accident
The voice of Barney was done by Mel Blanc, otherwise known as “The Man of a Thousand Voices.” However, in 1961, he was involved in a horrific head-on car crash that almost killed him and left him hospitalized for 70 days.
Upon being released from the hospital to continue his recovery at home, he insisted to continue working from home. With wires all around his hospital bed and a speaker to talk to the producers, Blanc managed to record 40 episodes at his home while still recovering.
The Caveman Theme Came Out Of A Disagreement
When coming up with ideas for a new show William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were butting heads about numerous things, however, one thing they could not agree on was characters clothing. This would help give them a sense what kind of show it was going to be, but the two could not find a middle ground.
Finally, William Hanna was so frustrated that he proclaimed “Let’s do it in a caveman setting! They won’t wear clothes, they’ll just wear animal skins!” Little did they know what a successful idea that had been.
The Theme Song Is One Of The Most Recognizable In The World
While it’s no secret that just about anyone exposed to popular culture knows the tune for The Flintstone theme song, it turns out that it’s more popular than most people might think. Even though it first came out in 1960, according to a PRS for Music survey, the song is the most recognized children’s show theme song for adults in the UK.
This is more than likely the case for older generations in the United States as well. Furthermore, even young children can still recognize the tune.