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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 09/30/2010

At 50, THE FLINTSTONES stand up as the bedrock of prime-time animated comedy

By Michael Cavna


It can be startling to recognize, let alone admit, how many decades of children were babysat by two men: Hanna and Barbera.

It's accepted to acknowledge the cultural influence of such powerful forces of animation as the "Termite Terrace" gang (Chuck Jones and Tex Avery and Friz Freleng et al.) and the "Nine Old Men" who worked for Walt Disney. Less often, however, do you hear people admitting the degree of artistic legacy left by longtime creative partners Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who laughed their way into their 90s.

In their first few decades, Hanna and Barbera amassed a raft of Academy Awards for their "Tom and Jerry" cartoons. But it was only after they formed their own studio did they change television forever -- 50 years ago today -- with the birth of "The Flintstones."

The modern Stone Age family not only became the first animated hit comedy in prime-time TV history. The Flintstones and the Rubbles -- virtually "The Honeymooners" in prehistoric cartoon clothing -- also laid down the comedic and artistic bedrock for such future hits as "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy."

Hanna and Barbera weren't beloved by all artists, as they adapted to the cost constraints of '60s television budgets by working in "limited animation" -- by bumping up the character dialogue and reducing the movement, Hanna and Barbera could cut the number of needed cels by roughly a one-seventh ratio compared with film. They had become more savvy businessmen over the years, though, and their TV techniques ensured that they could go on to shepherd scores of characters -- including Yogi Bear and Scooby-Doo and George Jetson -- to the small screen.

So on your 50th birthday, Fred, we salute you -- you taught us how to make a workday exit at the whistle in style. Today, we hoist a cartoon Busch beer to you -- and to Misters Hanna and Barbera. Yabba-dabba-doo, indeed.


THE HISTORY BEHIND THE FLINTSTONES:


Ah, the "Mad Men" era was certainly a different age. Long before Joe Camel was hawking smokes to the half-pints, Fred and Barney were pitching cigs to the Ralph Kramdens of the world during the 1960-66 prime-time run of "The Flintstones." Apparently the '60s Surgeon General's Warning had yet to be set in stone. (And somehow, as Barney flicks a cigarette the size of a brontosaurus burger, we can't help but flash on the classic "Far Side" cartoon that has the caption: "The real reason dinosaurs became extinct"):


And one last cultural curiosity from the town of Bedrock (which briefly was named "Rockville"): Is this the longest animated commercial ever to tout the fix-it-all elixir of a frosty brew? Even Homer's beloved Duff beer has never received such elaborate product placement:


By Michael Cavna  | September 30, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Animation  | Tags:  Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, The Flintstones  
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Comments

The Flintstones are wonderful.
Happy Birthday !

"They" just don't draw cartoons like they used to...even tho I'm elderly..I would still like to see good 'toons. The Flintstones do indeed qualify as GREAT.

Posted by: ZeldaJane | September 30, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

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