Advertising masquerading as something else is as old as, well, we’ll let you finish the cliché. In recent times, we get TV “call-in” or audience-participation half-hours that are pushing exercise equipment or spray-on ‘hair’ (is there anyone who doesn’t love Ron Popeil)? In the old days, newspapers featured “advice” columns that were really shilling for medicine, car repairs and other things. One ingenious electronics store used his ad space as kind of an ersatz TV column, and it actually contains more review than plug.
Today, we know The Flagstones as some kind of footnote in cartoon history. To avoid a lawsuit from the syndicator of the comic strip Hi and Lois (whose last name is ‘Flagston’), Bill and Joe reluctantly changed the name of their stone-age family to The Flintstones. While we know about it now, cartoon-lovers don’t seem to remember this at the time it happened. There are few contemporary references to the H-B Flagstones that I can find, but here’s one of them from the phoney TV column in the Greeley Daily Tribune of January 6, 1960. Click to enlarge.
The only other reference I can find to The Flagstones is in a blurb in the Chicago Tribune’s TV column (a real one, not an ad) of February 14, 1960:
Screen Gems has in preparation the first half-hour situation comedy series for TV produced in animation. The ABC network has purchased the series for next fall. “The Flagstones” is the title of the series, which will be prehistoric as to costumes, sets, and props, but will deal satirically with family life from a recognizable modern viewpoint. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created the series.
I thought there were Flagstones model sheets on the web but they are actually The Gladstones model sheets by Ed Benedict instead. Here’s Wilma below. Did they ever draw Wilma from the back, or was the model made in case the character turned around?
The name must have gone from ‘Flagstones’ to ‘Gladstones’ to ‘Flintstones’ quickly. The New York Times reported in Val Adams’ Sunday TV and radio column on April 3, 1961:
CARTOONS: The American Broadcasting Company, always on the lookout for new talent, has obtained the services of a newcomer named Fred Flintstone, an animated cartoon character. Flintstone (how about Skin for a nickname?) is the head of a stone age family living in a cave. Family members, who speak contemporary language in a prehistoric setting, will be featured in a situation comedy to be televised on Fridays from 8:30 to 9 PM beginning next fall. The series, which is titled “The Flintstones,” will be produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions in association with Screen Gems, Inc. Its stories and situations are expected to serve as a parody of conventional situation comedies about family life.
Broadcasting magazine in its April 4, 1960 edition still called the show ‘Flagstones’ but in its next edition a week later, revealed:
Miles Labs, Elkhart, Ind. (Wade Adv.), and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., N.Y. (Wm. Esty), signed to co-sponsor new situation comedy series, The Flintstones, next season on ABC -TV (Fri. 8:30 -9 p.m.). Previously titled The Flagstones, animated series relates contemporary language, behavior and problems to prehistoric setting. Network purchased series from Screen Gems, tv subsidiary of Columbia Pictures.
Mercifully, ‘Gladstones’ (what were Bill and Joe on when they came up with that one?) has been assigned to the rubbish bin of animation along with the equally-misguided ‘Huckleberry Bear.’ ‘Flintstones’ is a good name and we’re all used to it now anyway. But it’s too bad a silly letter from King Features (Hi and Lois co-creator Mort Walker revealed it in his book) put an end to ‘Flagstones’ because I like it too. So thus I pay a little tribute to it in this post.