ABC had the idea, and the guts to give America its first animated prime-timer. What a yabba dabba deal!

It is a sitcom that needs no introduction. The Flinstones carved their place in the stone of history in 1960. ABC decided to take a risk and give us the first animated series aimed primarily at adults and we’ve loved it ever since.

Beginning with the third season it was also the first ABC series to be aired in color. The first two seasons were later colorized to match the others. (Sad, but true). Another change that I just found out about recently involved advertising. In the first two seasons during the ending sequence the camera would zoom into the window of Fred and Wilma’s home to reveal Fred relaxing in front of the TV and lighting up a cigarette. Winston was a sponsor and Fred would be heard singing the Winston jingle “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”

These scenes were later reanimated to the way it is today. By the way, for those of us not old enough to remember cigarette ads, this practice was NOT uncommon for that time period. MOST shows that had a cigarette company as a sponsor would have the actors themselves doing an on camera bit touting the cigarette’s qualities. Ha.

One of the most memorable bits seen in most every episode was the practice of using animals for technology. Here are a few examples found on Wikipedia.

a baby woolly mammoth being used as a vacuum cleaner
An adult wolly mammoth would act as a shower by spraying water with its trunk
Lifts are raised and lowered by ropes around brontosaurs’ necks
“automatic” windows are powered by monkeys that dwell on the outside windowsill
birds configured as “Ryan Coombes” are activated by pulling on their tails
An electric razor is depicted as a clam shell housing a honey-bee vibrating it as the edges are rubbed against the character’s face.

It has remained one of the most, if not THE most enduring cartoons of our time. One of the reasons for its success is the voice actors. Alan Reed provided the voice of Fred and some say that Fred physically resembled Reed. Barney was characterized by the most famous cartoon voice of all time, Mel Blanc. However, if some of you remember a high pitched Barney voice in some of the early episodes you may think another actor did the voice but that’s not the case. Blanc changed his voice to the Barney we know and love after only a few episodes. Some say it was to imitate the Art Carney voice of Ed Norton from The Honeymooners. In a 1980’s interview with Jackie Gleason, Gleason said he had considered suing Hanna Barbera over the issue but decided not to be referred to as the guy who sued Fred Flintstone. You see Alan Reed had done voice overs for Gleason in the early days and could imitate him like no one else. Boy, I’ll say. For years I thought the entire series was an animated Honeymooners…and I guess it evolved to being just that.

By the way, Mel Blank did all but 5 episodes in the 2nd season when he nearly died in a car crash. Hanna Barbera called in the talents of one of their regular voice actors Daws Butler. But his fame was short lived as the entire cast went to Blanc’s bedside with a full recording studio so Blanc could voice the episodes.

The Flintstones only ran from 1960 to 1966 but I think its safe to say that it has probably never been off the air since its first run. Oh and if you need a little extra Bedrock trivia ask your friends who voiced that little green alien that drove Fred and Barney crazy when he showed up. The answer: The Great Gazoo was voiced by Carol Burnette regular, Harvey Korman. Who knew.
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