She’s only a baby, but she’s 47 years old today.
February 22, 1963 marks the much-heralded birth of Pebbles Flintstone. The blessed event was much-heralded because Hanna-Barbera’s P.R. people made sure it was. Newspaper stories surfaced a month before the broadcast telling all and sundry the sex and name of Fred and Wilma’s child. It was all part of a huge marketing campaign not only to build TV ratings but to reap a cash windfall from the sale of dolls, thanks to the studio’s deal with Ideal Toys.
They didn’t waste any time, either. To the right, you see a newspaper box ad published on the very same day as the birth broadcast. See the ad that day. Watch the show that night. Buy the doll tomorrow.
I can take or leave Pebbles. When memorable Flintstones episodes come to my mind, she’s not in them or at the centre of them. She’s in one that has always annoyed me—the one where she and Bamm Bamm sprout voices and croon that insipid “sunshine” song. But, in a way, Hanna-Barbera unconsciously commented on their own series in the episode where characters want to get away from Fred as he obsesses over showing off endless home movies of his child. Viewers would prefer to get away from the new, domestic, doting-daddy Fred and go back to the grumpy one bashing Barney over the head with some steaks.
Pebbles’ impending arrival wasn’t universally welcomed by the critics. Associated Press writer Hal Humphrey wasn’t terribly impressed, becoming an early eye-roller at all-too-obvious attempts to work “rock” or “stone” into every name and striking a blow at the noise from the H-B media machine. This story ran in papers starting January 11, 1963.
By HAL HUMPHREY
HOLLYWOOD—(AP)—It’s difficult for me to get steamed up one way or the other about the successful Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon shows, “Flintstones” and “Jetsons.” It isn’t anything against cartoons per se. I’m a sucker for “Magoo,” and Bugs Bunny’s cynical attitude amuses me. Dudley Do Right (out of “Bullwinkle”) is one of my favorite TV characters. My indifference toward Fred Flintstone and George Jetson is certainly no fault of the energetic and bulldoggish Arnie Carr, who is the publicity man for Hanna-Barbera Productions.
“You can’t spend your whole life having fun writing negative columns,” admonished Arnie during one of his weekly phone visits the other day. “Do something positive.”
“Like what?” I made the mistake of replying.
“Like writing a column about Pebbles Flintstone.”
“And who is Pebbles Flintstone?”
“Fred and Wilma’s new baby. On the Jan. 25 show, Wilma told Fred she was going to have a baby. On Feb. 22, Pebbles is born. It will be the biggest birth on TV since Lucy’s baby—bigger even! Don’t tell me you’re against family life?” cried Arnie.
TO FORESTALL what smelled like a blackmail attempt here, I hastened to reaffirm my allegiance to family life of all kinds. I also, however, told Arnie that I didn’t feel whimsical enough to interview a cartoon character.
“You interviewed those three chimps on the ‘Hathaways’ show last season,” replied Arnie, reproachfully.
“True,” I said, “but at least they were three-dimensional. At times, in fact, I’d say they acted more alert than some so-called human actors I’ve been interviewing.”
“Do you realize that the Flintstones are so popular in Sweden that a soft drink called ‘Flinta’ sold five million bottles in one week?” said Arnie, in a quick change of strategy.
“What will they think of next!”
“AND DO YOU KNOW that ‘Flintstone-San’ is the No. 1 show in Tokyo and that ‘Senor Flintstone’ is in 12 South American countries?”
“I’ll make a note of that.”
“You’re fighting me,” Arnie warned. “I’m trying to give you an upbeat column, which you need brother. Now how about ‘The Jetsons?’ Do you realize this show is running neck and neck with Disney and ‘Dennis the Menace’ on Sunday nights?”
“Not according to the last Nielsen I saw.”
“That must have been the national Nielsen, but ‘Jetsons’ is ahead on the Nielsen 30 city rating. Incidentally, did I tell you that the CBS station in Milwaukee is running ‘Best of Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear’ against ‘Ben Casey’?"
“ARE YOU GOING to tell me Huck and Yogi repeats are beating out Ben Casey?”
“Look. I admit I haven’t seen the latest Nielsen, but I’ve heard. Anyway, how about getting back to Pebbles Flintstone? She will be born in Rock-A-Pedic hospital, and the doctor’s name is Sprock—get it?—Sp-ROCK. Cute, huh?”
“I suppose the kid also will have a bone in her hair instead of a ribbon, and her rattle will be filled with little rocks.”
“How did you know that?” asked Arnie, incredulously.
“One of those crazy hunches, that’s all.”
“Yeah, but I’ll bet you couldn’t guess what kind of diapers she’ll wear.”
“I give up.”
“Leopard skin diapers—funny?”
“Fairly funny,” I said.
“Okay, then how about that column?"
“I’m afraid not, Arnie. Leopard skin diapers aren’t that funny.
“Don't make it a firm no. I’ll think of something else and call you next week. You need an upbeat column.”
Maybe it’s my sense of irony, but when I read Carr’s words, I picture the kind of shrill Hollywood type they used to make fun of on The Flintstones.
While Humphrey was neither bearish or bullish about the show’s coming attraction, a columnist for the rival wire service didn’t shy away from pointing out there was more to little Pebbly-poo that just a cartoon character. This is from papers of the Monday after the pre-his-STORK-ick event (Hmm. Carr’s corn must be infectious).
Flintstones are parents of baby girl
By VERNON SCOTT
UPI Hollywood Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD (UPI) – Parenthood by a pair of television stars generally rates as news of a sort; therefore it should be noted that Fred and Wilma Flintstone had a baby last Friday night.
Fred and Wilma are the stone age cartoon answer to the old Desi Arnaz-Lucille Ball family situation comedy.
And like Desi and Lucy, the Flintstones incorporated the birth of their child, Pebbles, into the show. Here the parallel ceases.
Desi and Lucy had a real baby off-screen in addition to becoming parents on their long-running show.
Because the Flintstones have no off-screen lives, they must content themselves with Pebbles and spokesman Joe Barbera of Hanna-Barbera productions who dreamed up Fred, Wilma and all.
Followers of the Flintstones may be surprised to learn that Pebbles almost was born a boy instead of a girl.
Chip off Fred
“We wanted a boy,” Barbera said, “A chip off old Fred.
“So we put our 200 artists to work drawing babies. And out of thousands of drawings we fell in love with one of a little girl with a bone through her hair. It was the work of Gene Hazleton.
“The baby was so cute we knew we’d have to change our plans and bless Fred and Wilma with a little girl instead of a boy.”
At first Barbera and partner Bill Hanna considered twins, discarding the notion when they realized two babies would double the amount of work (and expense) of the weekly show.
Television being what it is, the news that the Flintstones would have a girl instead of a boy flicked the panic button.
“All the people in the New York agency, Screen Gems and the ABC-TV network were terribly upset. They weren’t expecting a girl.
“The brass was so shook up that 31 executives flew out here to Hollywood for a big pow-wow about changing the sex of the baby,” Barbera reported with a grin.
“They finally were convinced the world wouldn’t end and we went ahead with Little Pebbles.”
A National Institution
Already the machinery is underway to make Pebbles a national institution. Some half-million plastic Pebbles dolls are rolling off the assembly lines and a national video contest is in the works.
On March 8 both Hanna and Barbera will appear (live) on the show to announce the winner of the contest to guess Pebbles’ weight at birth. Barbera said the prize will be a trip around the world and $2,000 cash. [Yowp note: the winner was a butcher from Florida]
“The Flintstones,” now in its third year, already has been renewed for next season which means viewers will be seeing a great deal of Pebbles.
“We thought we’d gone about far as we could with the two couples (including neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble) and their zany problems,” said Barbera.
“With the addition of Pebbles we’ll explore the domestic side of life with the Flintstones.”
And indeed they did. Until they ran out of ideas again and someone decided an intelligent space alien was a good addition. But by then, revised designs, Fred’s emasculation, the sudden voice change in Betty, the addition of a lame kangaroo character and the obvious infatuation Joe and/or Bill had for The Addams Family had taken a lot of life out of the show. Whether it’s fair to blame Pebbles for the start of the down-slide, we’ll leave up to you. But there’s no doubt people loved her. 650,000 entries in a contest to guess the weight of something that has no real body mass shows it. And, I suppose, a birthday post does, too.