STUDIO: Warner Bros.
MSRP: $44.98
RUNNING TIME: 676 Minutes
The Flintstones: One Million Years Ahead of Its Time – How This Became Primetime’s First Animated Series
Hanna-Barbera’s Legendary Music Producer Hoyt Curtin
Commentary on 2 episodes by Hanna-Barbera historian Earl Kress and animation writers Paul Dini and Mark Evanier

The Flintstones was The Simpsons thirtysomething years before there was a Simpsons. Generally it’s considered the first primetime animated television series. When it premiered 45 years ago, it broke many barriers by introducing many adult themes to children’s entertainment and it helped to cement the burgeoning toon empire that was Hanna-Barbera. If you never saw this show growing up, you didn’t watch cartoons, period. But the question is: Is it as good now as it was then?

"Fred, how many times do I have to tell you I’m not wearing the strap-on again…"

The Show

It’s doubtful that many of us aren’t familiar with this show as it’s one of the most famous cartoons in TV history, with one of the catchiest theme songs of any show, live action or cartoon, ever. The show, which ran from 1960 till 1966, and was rerun forever on Saturday mornings, went on to spawn many spinoffs (Pebbles and Bamm Bamm, The Flintstone Kids to name a very few) and even cereals, toys and children’s vitamins. There are disputing facts as to how the show originated, but the obvious comparisons to The Honeymooners as the show’s primary influence have been widely acknowledged. Fred Flintstone was a rock quarry worker and average Stone Age Joe making his way in the prehistoric world while always dreaming of getting to easy street. He frequently had big plans for fulfilling that dream that often backfired on him and put him in hot water with his wife, Wilma. His big mouth and occasional temper usually never helped him out either. Fred and Wilma’s partners in crime were their next door neighbors, the affable Barney Rubble and his giggly wife, Betty. Fred’s loveable pet dinosaur, Dino rounded out the cast.

Before the practice of humping the leg evolved, things were a bit more direct…

One of the things that was notable about The Flintstones was the cleverness of the world that was created around Fred and the gang. Meant as both an adult satire as well as a fun show for kids, The Flintstones always had the most modern of conveniences in their primitive setting. Everything from walkie talkies that used a parrot to fly to and from the boxes as a go-between, to an elephant serving as a faucet for washing dishes, to a bird whose beak was used as the needle for playing records (those were those large black round music devices before CDs). Hanna-Barbera always seemed to try to give a semi-logical (at least for a cartoon anyway) explanation as to how everything worked…except of course how the Flintstones’ (and everyone else’s) car kept rolling down the street only from the courtesy of Fred’s two feet. Also there were no attempts at trying to explain the whole radio and TV thing, but I’m probably looking a little too hard in that area.

"Mental note, Barn: if Bamm Bamm doesn’t want to go to bed, he doesn’t have to…"

As Season 3 was winding down, Wilma had just become pregnant with and delivered the Flintstone’s daughter, Pebbles, leaving Fred pretty much a rambling mess for the last few episodes of the season. When Season 4 premiered, the first episode, Ann-Margrock Presents featured an appearance by Ann-Margret as the title character who is befriended by Fred and Barney while incognito and then invites them on stage when she performs a show. In the second episode of the season, Groom Gloom, Fred has a bad dream trip where he’s an old man and Pebbles is grown and planning to elope with the hated paperboy, Arnold, who had just schooled Fred in ping pong. And probably the most relevant episode of the season occurred in Little Bamm Bamm when the Rubbles, desperate for a baby since Pebbles was born, wish on a shooting star and are suddenly blessed with Bamm Bamm, a ridiculously strong baby boy who’s left on their doorstep.

"You just had to take that shortcut through Sleepy Hollowrock didn’t you?"

Other episodes in Season 4 showcased the relatively sophisticated writing for a cartoon with the variety of adventures that the Flintstones and Rubbles found themselves in, including Dino Disappears, when Dino runs away and Fred and Barney bring home a look-alike. In The Flintstone Canaries, Fred’s attempt to put together a barbershop quartet to perform on television is bolstered when it turns out that Barney is a great singer…and sunk when Fred discovers he only sings well in the bathtub. This eventually leads to them performing in a tub on the show. Big League Freddy tells the tale of Fred being recruited by big league baseball scouts when they mistake Roger for him. Turns out Fred was replaced by Roger on the company baseball team because he wasn’t a good player, but Roger wears Fred’s uniform, which leads to Fred’s short-lived windfall.

"Hey Bamm Bamm, wanna pull Daddy’s finger?"

In Old Lady Betty, Betty poses as an elderly lady to land a job for a little extra cash, but soon discovers that her new employers are counterfeiters. And in Sleep On, Sweet Fred, Wilma and Betty’s scheme to turn Fred and Barney into the perfect husbands by sleep-teaching backfires and they inexplicably all get arrested as thieves. But Fred and Barney get one of the few upturns in fate when their wives are sentenced by the court to serve them breakfast in bed for nearly a month. In Flintstone Hillbillies, Fred inherits a shack from his hillbilly relatives and the hundred-year-long feud with the neighboring Hatrock clan that goes with it. And in Son of Rockzilla, Fred gets a bigger reaction than he planned on when he wears a monster costume in a publicity stunt for a movie and ends up frightening everyone who sees him.

"What’d I tell you, Barn? Ain’t it great that panties haven’t been invented yet?

The Flintstones featured acting veterans Alan Reed as Fred, Jean Vander Pyl as Wilma, Bea Benaderet and Gerry Johnson as Betty and the legendary Mel Blanc and Daws Butler as Barney and Dino among others. Reed had a long career in film and television and was also the voice of Glasstor on Space Ghost. Vander Pyl had a long career also, frequently working for Hanna-Barbera in some of their bigger cartoons such as voicing Rosie the Robot and Mrs. Spacely on The Jetsons, appearing on Magilla Gorilla, Top Cat and also voicing Rosemary on Hong Kong Phooey. Benaderet also worked extensively in television and cartoons, including stints on Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies and Looney Toons’ Merrie Melodies. Johnson’s biggest credit was on The Flintstones, but she eventually segued into special effects on films such a Zardoz and My Left Foot. Daws Butler had a stellar voice career that spanned nearly fifty years; and as we all know, Mel Blanc did a little voice work himself.

Fred should have known that those Laff-A-Lympics doping allegations were going to come back to bite him in the ass some day…

The Flintstones plays nearly as good as it did when we were all kids. It’s great cartoon entertainment and definitely one of Hanna-Barbera’s greatest creations, only surpassed in their pantheon of cartoons by Scooby Doo, Where are You and Tom and Jerry (in my book anyway). Season 4 is a solid offering of some of their best episodes, and of course is also when Bamm Bamm entered onto the scene. It’s also still well before the show jumped the shark by introducing Gazoo. Once that happened, it was pretty much over for me. If you’re anywhere between the ages of 2 and 92, you’re sure to enjoy this. So the answer is, yes, it holds up very well.

8.7 out of 10

"Chrissakes, Wilma, how friggin’ long are we gonna have to do this show?"

The Look

This is about as good as The Flintstones could possibly look. The animation style by Season 4 was a marked improvement from the earlier seasons of the show. There’s noticeable grain on some of the episodes, but it’s probably unavoidable considering that these episodes are over forty years old.

8.3 out of 10

Betty: "Fred, do you know where Barney is?"
Fred: "Last I saw he was outside playing with Dino…"

The Noise

This set is offered in Dolby Digital Mono, which is only slightly disappointing considering that 5.1 or Surround wasn’t exactly around in the mid-‘60s. The discs actually sound better than they look though, and there’s a plethora of music of all kinds highlighting the action of the show, led by legendary Hanna-Barbera composer Hoyt Curtin. If you’ve got a small kid scurrying about somewhere that you’ve got to get to bed, check out the first episode, Ann-Margrock Presents for a sweet lullaby that Ann-Margret performs. It sure as hell put Pebbles right out

8.5 out of 10

The Goodies

The Flintstones: One Million Years Ahead of Its Time. An 8-minute piece on the history and origins of The Flintstones and some of the features of Season 4 like the introduction of Bamm Bamm and guest appearance of Ann-Margrock. This is a nice little quick spot of info and background on the show.

"You know, Barney, we’re inventing homsexuality right here right now…"

Hanna-Barbera’s Legendary Music Producer Hoyt Curtin. This is a quickie but informative piece spotlighting Hanna-Barbera’s incredible composer Hoyt Curtin. Curtin did the music for a great many shows that I loved as a kid, including Jonny Quest, Superfriends, and my personal pick for his best work, Battle of the Planets.

Commentary on 2 episodes (Ann-Margrock Presents and Little Bamm Bamm) by Hanna-Barbera historian Earl Kress and animation writers Paul Dini and Mark Evanier. Kress is a historian that has appeared on other Hanna-Barbera box sets like Top Cat. I’m glad he stuck strictly to commentary this time out because he did a couple of interviews with the voice talent on the Top Cat box set that were torturous to get through. But he does know his stuff and there’s plenty of good factoids to pick up on these two commentaries. Evanier has written a lot of shows I watched growing up and he has good material to offer. And as we all know, Dini is the animation writing god. I’d listen to him commenting on paint drying.

6.6 out of 10

"Oh hey, Wilma, Hanna-Barbera gave me an upgrade on my TV wife. So you’re dismissed."

The Artwork

These Hanna-Barbera box sets feature excellent artwork. The slip case is clear plastic with an animation cel look and vivid color sketches of the characters. There’s also an animation litho cel replica included inside.

8.0 out of 10

Overall: 8.5 out of 10