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.”
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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.
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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.