Sunday, October 3, 2010

Flintstone Coda

A few crumbs from the Upside-Down Flint Rubble-Bubble 50th birthday cake remain in the kitchen that didn’t find their way into posts during the Flintstone Anniversary Week. So, let me clean the plate and pass on a few things for your reading pleasure.

The first story baffles me. It’s dated February 11, 1962. My thanks to Joe Bevilacqua for the wonderful cast shot of The Flintstones’ voice session. The actor on the far left is, I think, John Stephenson. He’s still voicing commercials today.


Voices Hard To Find For ‘Flintstone’ Show
When Hanna Barbera, creators of the highly-rated Flintstones TV program, introduce a new character to their Flintstone format, the job of casting is much more complicated than it would be for a program that utilizes live actors. Hanna and Barbera have no problem with the new character’s appearance as that comes quickly out of their clever animation pens. But the voice of the new character presents a different problem. Hollywood is full of voices, famous and unknown, but most of them do not have agents, nor are they listed with casting offices in the film city. Because of this peculiar situation such well-known names as Bea Benaderet, Mel Blanc, Allen Reed [sic] and Jean Vander Pyl, who play the four main characters on the Flintstones, have been called upon to double or, in other words, to play more than one role on the show. Mel Blanc, known as ‘The man of 1,000 voices,’ has played as many as six characters on a single Flintstones program. Miss Vander Pyl once played four.

It’s hard to believe that if Joe Barbera wanted to hire some of the great character actors who had worked in network radio only a few years before, he wouldn’t be able to find them. It’s a pretty tight-knit community.

Maybe it’s my imagination, it seems the show used different actors more often in the earliest seasons when you can hear Nancy Wible, Willard Waterman, Jerry Mann and Frank Nelson—not exactly names that come to mind when you think of Hanna-Barbera cartoons. After awhile, it seems Barbera was using the same handful of people for incidental voices—Stephenson, Hal Smith and people like Daws, Don Messick and Doug Young who had been around the studio for awhile.

Writer Tim Hollis was a good friend of Jerry Hausner. Jerry once related to him that Joe Barbera had cast him as Pebbles, because Hausner had made a good living on network radio as a specialty voice doing crying babies. But once Barbera heard him in the studio, he said “You sound like an old man,” and then pointed to Jean Vander Pyl and told her to try Pebbles. Jean protested doing it in front of Jerry but, well, we all know what happened.

Now, let’s turn to another puff piece, this time served up the Chicago Tribune syndicate. I don’t recall ‘Pebble Bleach’ being on the show itself; I do remember seeing her in a comic. And in an Erskine Johnson story from the NEA service in papers about five months before this one. I suspect both used the same PR handout from Hanna-Barbera, considering some of the language is identical. This was in one paper on April 9, 1961
.

TV’s Fantastic Flintstones
Come With Us To Beautiful Bedrock, Where Life Is More Fun Than A Barrel Of Dinosaurs

BY LARRY WOLTERS

IN TELEVISION it sometimes pays to have rocks in your head. It is certainly paying off for Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, two Hollywood guys who decided to give detectives and cowboys some competition in the form of cavemen. They call them the Flintstones, a family of prehistoric suburbanites who face all the problems of modern life, including baby sitters.
Hanna and Barbera are already Emmy award winners, thanks to some of their earlier cartoon shows, Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear and Quickdraw McGraw.
Fred and Wilma Flintstones and their pals, Barney and Betty Rubble, live in the town of Bedrock, 250 feet below sea level. Fred works as a dino (dinosaur powered crane) operator for the Rock Head and Quarry corporation. Fred and Barney even belong to the Y.M.C.A. (Young Caveman’s association), they go to the dinosaur races, and they have sports cars with stone wheels. The slogan of their construction [company] is “Feel secure; own your own cave.”
* * *
Have All ‘Conveniences’
Bedrock boasts all the advantages of urban life, including a butcher, baker, and pizza pie maker. And they even have a newspaper, the Bedrock Bugle, which is chiseled on a stone.
Fred is a sort of early Fibber McGee, with the shape of Jackie Gleason. Wilma’s the Audrey Meadows type. But they’re also like Lucy and Desi. And sometimes there are “undertones” of Laurel and Hardy. They have a paleolithic piano which, of course, is a Stoneway.
Though they are proud of Bedrock, they are also impressed with the glamor of Hollyrock. They like movies and their favorites are Cary Granite and Rock Pile.
They can differentiate between a dinosaur’s cough and a brontosaurus’ mating call. They can light a cigar by rubbing sticks together and they have something to replace credit cards — money.
Four of the most versatile vocal gymnasts of the radio heyday provide the voices of the major characters as well as lesser people. They are Alan Reed (Fred), who used to read poetry as Falstaff Openshaw on the old Fred Allen series; Jean Vander Pyl (Wilma), who played many roles; Bea Benadaret (Betty) of the Fibber McGee series, and Mel Blanc (Barney) of the Jack Benny show and many others. Perhaps the most versatile voice man in all Hollywood, Blanc has been laid up with two broken legs incurred in an auto accident.
* * *
Other ‘Stony’ Characters
They also play other “stony” characters. Among these are Joe Rockhead, chief of the fire department in Cobblestone county; Perry Gunnite, a detective so tough that he drinks “rocks on the rocks” — and he drinks it by the quartz; Arthur McQuarry, proprietor of the local dance studio, and Pebble Bleach, a blonde with an enticing giggle.
Even the music runs along the same (hard) lines.
“I don’t know what we would’ve done without rock and roll,” said Barbera. “If it didn’t exist already, we would have had to invent it.”
Fred himself has been hired as a singer. He wears very thick glasses and his favorite number is “Listen to the Rocking Bird.”
Fred’s favorite announcer also fits the paleolithic mood.
“He sounds like Clem McCarthy,” Barbera explained, “you know, kinda gravely.”
* * *
Why They Picked Stone Age
Hanna and Barbera, who have become the most famous animation experts since Walt Disney, achieved their phenomenal success in four short years. They decided to go into a situation comedy series after ratings indicated that a big percentage of the viewers of Ruff ‘n’ Reddy, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw and Yogi were adults. They settled on a satire on some of the zanier aspects of modern life.
But why a stone age milieu? They experimented with various modern settings but every time they tried to create a cartoon man and woman in modern dress “they came out looking like those TV commercials.?
But the minute they dressed them in lion skins and let Fred carry a stone age club, they got chuckles. So they decided to go stone age.
It was a “hard” decision but one that is paying off.
Barbera and Hanna used to do Tom and Jerry cartoons for M-G-M, but during the dour days of the movies they were dumped. That was in 1957.
They developed a new and much less costly way of cartooning but even so they could interest no one. They might have gone out and got “stoned” but they decided to form their own company. It was a success from the start. That is, Ruff ‘n’ Reddy caught on quickly. Huckleberry Hound was a sensation.
And now the Flintstones are rolling and gathering no moss. The two are already the world’s biggest cartoon company with an income of $3,500,000 last year and $20,000,000 in prospect this year from merchandising sales.

There’s another story from 1961. I’m not going to re-print it. Instead, here is some publicity art that went it. I suspect the piano one is based on Ed Benedict’s drawings as opposed to Bick Bickenbach’s.



Almost lastly, let me attach some screen grabs to animation identifications David Simmons made in his comments to the ‘They Drew the Flintstones’ post. My favourite Flintstone story is about ‘Sassie’ and not because the show it’s based on is full of sugary melodramatics. Well, there is that. The way writer Harvey Bullock works up to the Lassie-like revelation that Sassie has not one but three broken legs is terrific because you can recognise the satire.


No, the cartoon’s great because it’s about the phoniness of show business and how show business perpetuates phoniness. It’s all about money and image, held together by selfish, self-absorbed people. And judging by the entertainment “news” stories (it’s nigh on impossible to avoid them), it doesn’t seem show biz is different today.


On top of that, Dino’s given a chance to shine. He almost gnaws the crap out of Fred. He does a great dance routine to a bar-house piano. And George Nicholas gives him some funny “get me the hell away from this” expressions when Sassie takes off her makeup. With a performance like that, who needs Pebbly-poo, a green alien or a stupid time machine premise?


Anyway, here’s David:


Fred being dragged by Dino to the supermarket thru to the audition scene is Bill Keil.


Fred and Dino driving to the studio is perhaps Harry Holt; he draws his Fred much like Keil.


The scene where the boy asks for close-ups is Jerry Hathcock. I always liked the way he drew Fred: rounded hair and features. His top-hair points are very close to the front, and he has three side-hair points.


Then Dick Lundy. Note while Fred is sitting next to the director, he has four side-hair points.


More Lundy until Dino is told his tail will be chopped off, then we return to Nicholas.


Finally, let’s look at a Flintstone house. A real one. Made out of stone. Naturally, Flintstone references appear in various blogs that touch on this. You can read about it here and here.

Well, it’s time for Fred to put the cat out for the night as the Flintstones come to an end on the blog for now. This blog was set up to focus on the short cartoons of the earliest Hanna-Barbera years. There are elaborate web sites where you can read about The Flintstones, Jonny Quest and later shows I won’t mention, but no one seems to give much deserved attention to the fun shorts of the late ‘50s. That’s what this site is here to do. But considering how important Fred et al are to TV (animation) history, it was only fair to celebrate their start, which isn’t too far removed from the Kellogg-sponsored half-hours of Huck, Yogi and Quick Draw.

And if someone can tell me why Fred just didn’t climb through the window when the cat locked him out, let me know.

22 comments:

  1. Ah...Willard, as mentined in references WAS Willard Waterman, Harold Peary's great Gildersleeve radio successor and the exclusive portrayer of him on TV. Y'know, Frank Nelson reminds me of him a bit, as does Harvey Korman as Gazoo.

    Someone on Jump the Shark said the show jumped third season and I kind of agree, and they said with Sassie, but c'mon, how can o0ne hate that one.."with three broken legs"..yet another Phil Silvers: "We'll keep Sassie running for-EVER!"

    Pokey, alias Steve C
    Also on the Social Network :)

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  2. I'm sure there were a lot of people who were frustrated when the first two years of "The Flintstones" were put into syndication using the credits from one particular 1962 episode, thus depriving the actors involved in those episodes proper credit, and viewers from knowing who these performers were. Example: I wasn't aware recently that announcer Bern Bennett did a "Flintstones". The episode in question was "Fred Flintstone: Before and After". Concurrently with his 1950's game show announcer duties in New York, he voiced a handful of Terrytoons for Gene Deitch - a nobrainer since Bern worked for Terrytoons' owner CBS doing "To Tell the Truth" and "Beat the Clock". He moved to LA in 1960. "The Flintstones" episode would be his only known West Coast cartoon voice work. It was Bern's voice that originally intoned, "The Young.... and the Restless" and worked other announce jobs for the network, including a rare Johnny Olson absence on "Match Game '75".

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  3. Really wonderful site, as is oft said, here, Prof. Yowp. Has anyone pointed out the forerunners of the Flintstones concept can be found in Tex Avery's The 1st Bad Man and Bob McKimson's Wild, Wild World, (with the great be-bop cool of the Dave Garroway impersonation)-? i.e. Modern civilization rendered in caveman trappings, &c. The textures in the background paintings of Wild, Wild World even anticipate the style of the Flinstones rock surfaces,as well as the employment of animals and rudimentary objects for modern, everyday technology, etc. I suppose the Flintstones introduced the element of the follies-of-marriage-style sitcom popular in the period to the scheme; - I Love Lucy and the Honeymooners, of cuss.

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  4. As far as the early H-B cartoons, I always grouped Seasons 1-2 of The Flintstones with the first 2 1/2 seasons of Huck's show and the first two years of Quick Draw, even if the chronologies didn't match up perfectly. All three have a certain feeling of experimentation/nobody's-ever-done-this-before-so-we-don't-know-where-we're-going attitude combined with the holdover idea from the Hollywood theatricals that you've also got to entertain the adults in the audience.

    Once you get into Season 3, it's kind of like when Yogi got his own show and with the handful or remaining cartoons for the other two series -- there's a growing sense of polish and formula, where they've had a couple of years to figure out what works best with the audience and are now prepared to smooth out all the rough edges on the characters and beat them into the ground. That doesn't mean there wasn't some decent work done by Hanna-Barbera in the 1962-65 period, just that you start to see the seeds of repetitious destruction to come, as the stories get blanded out and dumbed down to better fit what the network suits thought kid-oriented family entertainment should be in that era.

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  5. One last question: does anyone know who animated the opening and closing credits to 'The Flintstones'? (not the Ken Muse credits). I've been wondering this for 40 years. Thanks.

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  6. Hi David,
    Fred Wolf of Murakami-Wolf-Swenson films, animated the opening and closing of the "Drive-in Movie" Flintstones titles. He told me that himself.
    Mark Kausler

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  7. Interesting. Fred Wolf only received credit on three FLINTSTONE episodes: Season 3's "Carry On Nurse Fred:, Season 4's "Glue For Two" and Season 5's "Monster Fred". Wolf's style seems like a combination of Hicks Lokey and Don Williams, and nothing like that of the Season 3-6 title sequences. I always thought Dick Lundy did those, because the characters look very polished and conventional- a Lundy tendency.

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  8. David: very nice rundown of the episode animators. George Goepper animated the still of Dino about to bite Fred for changing the channel, as well as the whole scene of the boys watching the fight with the champ who bawls loudly when he's "hurt". Goepper was a frequent presence in Season 3 and 4, all three MAGILLA GORILLA segments and years later on both seasons of SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU.

    Goepper seems to draw his characters with very sad eyes set close together, and rather bland facial expressions. I've never seen him credited at any other studio.

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  9. Howard, have you seen this on Goepper?

    Where does his animation stop in the Dino scene?

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  10. Yes, George Goepper came from Disney with the rest of them. He musn't have reached his footage quota very often, though, because most of his work is uncredited their.

    Judging from Loopy De Loop cartoons, I've always known his work at Hanna Barbera to be really sloppy.

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  11. Kirk, I really never thought about those two because I thought back further to the Fleischer shorts.
    I suppose it was because of the suburban motif that HB avoided the cliche of Stone Age men dragging women by the hair; seems to me the Avery short had a bunch of jokes based on that. I can't remember much about the McKimson one, other than it was dull and I couldn't hear any relationship between Daws' voice and Garroway's.

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  12. Thanks for the link. Mr. Goepper doesn't seem to be listed on IMdB, or only with his H-B credits- not that I've looked in awhile. It's interesting that the credits of any 1950s Disney short strongly resembles those of a FLINTSTONES, JETSONS or JONNY QUEST episode. George Nicholas, Jerry Hathcock, Ed Aardel, Hugh Frasier, Harvey Toombs, etc. So the dissolution of the Disney animation department in the early 60s became H-B's gain.

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  13. If I remember, Goepper animates Dino watching SASSIE and reacting to the dialogue ("You ARE brave, aren't you Sassie? Then go for help!"); his enthusastic response to the dinosaur food commercial; grabbing the leash and Fred off Barney's couch to run to the store. ("What a punch- it knocked Fred right out of the house!") Then Bill Keil takes over for the supermarket scene.

    This, the supposed Season 3 premiere(despite it being preceded by the Season 1/2 "Rise and Shine" credits), was the first FLINTSTONES episode with animation by Goepper and Harry Holt. Both had worked on the previous season's TOP CAT, and Holt on a couple of 1961 shorts. Holt would be used a lot in Seasons 3 and 4, and then seemed to disappear from H-B credits until 1985's PAW-PAWS.

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  14. Mark, thanks for the info.

    Howard, thank you, too. I knew there was an uncredited animator in that scene, I just couldn't identify him.

    Dino about to chomp down on Fred looks like Nicholas to me, I'll have to go back and look.

    And Fred Wolf's style is somewhat similar to Dick Lundy's. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like Lundy animation to me in the Yogi Bear credits, and the closing Top Cat credits.

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  15. Howard, now you know why I don't like to guess about animators. I would have picked Nicholas for that scene because of the small eyes and the back-and-forth tongue, similar to how Nicholas drew Yogi in Hoodwinked Bear when Red describes the basket of goodies.

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  16. David: That is definitely Lundy who animated the YOGI BEAR SHOW opening and closing, and the TOP CAT closing. It looks like Lundy also animated the JETSONS opening and closing as well.

    Of course, it was Ken Muse who animated the openings for TOP CAT and the opening and closing for FLINTSTONES Seasons 1-2. Muse also did the 1964(?) remake of the HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW opening that inserted Huck in the place of Cornelius Rooster. Even as a prescholar, I felt Huck in this sequence looked much 'newer' (drawn with evry fine lines) than he did in the cartoons themselves.

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  17. Howard, there's nothing "supposed" about the season three premiere. A half dozen TV listings I've read says it was "Dino Goes Hollyrock" and lists a snippet of the plot.
    What's interesting is the Los Angeles Times says the show will be in colour on September 28th, which was the third cartoon into the season.

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  18. It's pretty clear I was speaking from a conceptual point of view, that is, a concept, dig? and to a degree an aesthetic correlation, Prof. Yowp. You'll have to refresh me on the Fiescher precursors, - alas my limited knowlege! I don't know that I was making a comparison between Daws Butler and Garroway, just highliting an element in the McKimson I enjoyed. yeeesh!

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  19. Howard, the Jetsons credits don't look like Lundy to me, but I could be wrong.

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  20. Fleischer did a brief series transposing the Stone Age with modern living (1940, that is). There's a blurb here about it.
    I never said you were making a comparison between Daws and Garroway. I merely remarked on one of the few things about that cartoon that stuck in my mind.

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  21. Thanks for the link(!), and for humoring moi.

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  22. In regerds to 6th color panel of Flintstones episode in question: Ed Aardal drew those scenes, not Jerry Hathcock.

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