Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Flintstone

Hanna-Barbera’s first attempt at a Christmas cartoon was “Christmas Flintstone” which aired in a brand-new Friday Flintstones time slot at 7:30 p.m. on December 25, 1964. It was a comparatively ambitious endeavour, with John McCarthy called on to write a couple of original songs and Hoyt Curtin adding Christmassy background music (with trombones and a nice little beat in one part) to his regular mix of cues.

Some of the backgrounds are pretty nice, too. We mentioned a couple of years ago on the blog about the rather unsubtle plug for Flintstones Building Blocks in the final shot of the cartoon. Well, that isn’t the only far-too-obvious product placement. Check out the toy department in the store that hires Fred to be its Santa Claus.




Shockingly, you could buy Pebbles, Bamm Bamm, Dino and Baby Puss dolls just like the ones on the cartoon! As you probably know, the whole reason Pebbles came into being was because Ideal Toys wanted a Flintstones doll character to hawk.

Here are a few of the snowscapes in the cartoon.





There’s a background continuity error (yes, we’re humbugish enough to point this out). Fred goes from inside his house to outside. Here are the backgrounds.




You can see the door is open on the inside but closed on the outside. How did the door get closed? Fred didn’t do it. And where’d the lamp go? And the build up of snow outside the door? And how did the doorknob change sides? And the wreath? And the door colour? Maybe… maybe it was the work of the Spirit of Christmas.

The funniest background is the one where Dino runs from his basket. Look at the women dinosaur pin-ups! Rowrr!



The old guard of Bob Gentle, Monty and Art Lozzi didn’t have a hand in this cartoon. The old guard was giving way to new artists. The backgrounds are credited to Phil Lewis, Rene Garcia and Don Watson. Lewis started as an in-betweener during the last gasps of the Warners Bros. studio. He died a couple of years ago. Rene worked on a bunch of shows in the mid to late ‘60s. Someone on Tumblr posted this great colour picture of him with some Flintstones backgrounds.Watson worked on a pile of H-B shows in the ‘60s as well and was still drawing until at least a few years ago. All three of them ended up at Filmation at one time or another.

The Flintstones began its nose-dive for me when Pebbles showed up and then really started tiring before it lurched into its sixth and final season (Gerry Johnson, Hoppy, Gazoo, Gruesomes, Bewitched characters in the Stone Age and sunshine-singing kids all took a toll). But the show was still capable of good episodes after Bea Benaderet was summarily dismissed and this was one of them. You can credit the fine performance of Alan Reed, Warren Foster’s story and even some of the wintery landscapes.

22 comments:

  1. I watch this every year at this time, and this year will be no exception. Over the years, "Christmas Flintstone" has become my favorite holiday special, even though it was not a "special".

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  2. I'll agree agree with Joe Torcivia, this is one of those Christmas shows that I could watch over and over every year. As for the decline of The Flintstones, I'll take even the 6th season episodes over a lot of newer cartoons

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  3. I've always wodnered who this John McCarthy really was. He did some other Flintstone songs (including both the sachharine cute lullaby and catchy Broadway one for Fred, Barney and Ann Margaret in "the previous season's "Ann Margarock Presents", as well for the "Flintstones" 1966 movie), and penned some really great ones for the Smothers Bros."Aesop's Fabless 1965 Mercury LP, released right after this special..and if was (hopefully NPOT) related in ANY way to Joseph McCarthy.SC

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  4. Here in Brazil, the Bamm-Bamm and Pebbles dolls were manufactured by Estrela (which was, during many years, one of the biggest toy manufacturers from Brazil).

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  5. Once the kids came into the show, having a Christmas episode was pretty much a given. But unlike future H-B holiday endeavors, this one avoids being cloying, or obvious to the point where you can see all the emotional buttons that are trying to be pushed. Thank the voice actors, Foster and the rest of the creative staff for that, since by the 1964-65 season, The Flintstones were already being weighed down by too many 'gimmick' episodes and characters (even if Gazoo was still in the process of rocketing to Earth).

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  6. I also noticed that the lamp outside the Flintstone house doesn't even flicker, but stands still. Oh well, this is a '60s cartoon, and given their time and budget, that's understandable.

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  7. I never heard about Bea Benederet being "summarily dismissed." What's the story on that?

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  8. Steve, I found this info on a forum from The Lucy Lounge (http://www.lucylounge.com/index.php?/topic/1730-bea-benaderet/page__st__20)

    "...Bea was FIRED from The Flintstones because she showed up late for a taping one Friday when her work on PJ [Petticoat Junction] ran over schedule. Hanna-Barbera were quite angry at her for taking a regular role on another series on another network and fired her the first time she was late. This story was told on the now defunct Golden Age of Cartoons website in an interview I believe with Mel Blanc Jr. and also confirmed by Jean Vander Pyl (Wilma Flintstone) and Janet Waldo in other interviews and is to be discussed in the upcoming Bea Benaderet biography written by the guy who wrote the book on Verna Felton. I love Hanna-Barbera cartoons but I was disgusted by this story about how they treated Bea who was quite devastated by the incident. Indeed, the were so spiteful they took her name off the credits on the episodes she had done that hadn't yet aired so nobody is credited on them as Betty Rubble!"

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  9. There is another continuity error when Fred is flying in the sleigh over Santa's workshop, and he flies over it twice. Maybe they couldn't afford to do one more background? Or maybe someone mixed it up and the error was never caught?

    Alan Reed does indeed give one of his finest performances in this episode. The whole character of Fred Flintstone becomes very sympathetic by the time of this story. Certainly his character softened and mellowed after he became a father, but in a long-running series like this there has to be some character growth and development. I enjoy the contrast between the earlier episodes and the later ones. Fred mellowed, but so did the other characters, and while some of the early "biting humor" was lost, I feel the characters developed in a logical manner (just as Mickey Mouse, once he become so iconic, had to abandon his earlier mischief-making). I really like the fact that this is such a "feel good" episode and the usual bickering between Barney and Fred or between Fred and Wilma is set aside so that they can celebrate Christmas together.

    People complain about the "historical inaccuracy" of the Flintstones celebrating Christmas, when Christ was not born until long after the stone age was over. The fact is, the Flintstones series was never about "historical accuracy." They had stone-age cars and stone-age televisions. They had stone-age sewing machines, vaccuum cleaners, and record players. They had dinosaurs co-existing with humans. So what's another anachronism, more or less? Besides, for anyone who really has a quibble about the issue, there is a wonderful Christmas-themed Flintstones comic strip that shows Fred and Barney meeting Santa Claus for the first time, and Santa tells them that "one day a man will preach the idea of peace and goodwill to all men. His birthday will be celebrated as Christmas Day." Fred and Barney immediately decide to start a stone-age tradition centuries, millennia before the fact...and thus Christmas in the stone age is established. If this comic strip can be considered as pre-dating the other Flintstones Christmas stories and specials, it could serve as an explanation as to why the Flintstones could celebrate Christmas long before the birth of Christ.

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    1. Very nice summary of this episode :-). I think this is why this episode is shown every Christmas as it shows a lot of love for one another in this episode, especially with Fred deciding to get a second job simply so his family and friends have presents to open on Christmas Day. He didn't do it for himself.

      As for the age old question about why the flintstones celebrate Christmas? My answer has always been: it's the MODERN Stone Age!

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  10. Yowp,

    Do you have link to Tumblr posting of Rene Garcia photos you referenced in article? Is this the only one? or is there more?

    Thanks,

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  11. Wayne, no, it's the only one I found. And, as usual, I came across it purely by accident.
    Scarecrow, if you go back a year on the blog, one of the Flintstoens Sunday comics tried to explain why Stone Ages are celebrating Christmas. But yeah, the show isn't a documentary. No one seems to have problems with TV sets and regular airline flights. The diea behind the show was to transpose life today (1960) to the Stone Age.
    Steve B., I think your question has been answered. As an aside, Mel was not pleased at all to be working with Gerry Johnson, considering the circumstances and the fact that, as you likely know, he and Bea appeared together many times on the Jack Benny radio show.

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  12. For you, "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth and all the HB-fans from the whole world:

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!
    FELIZ NATAL!
    FELIZ NAVIDAD!
    JOYEUX NOEL!
    BUON NATALE!

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  13. This might hgave been one of the last good original Flinstones episodes. (Fred:"Ho Ho or No ho ho" to Santa.Dick Beals does a few elves).

    Bea Benadeet being forcibily anonymous aftert she left on the credits was just like Jack Warner removing Warren Foster himself (who when he was still alive back in the day would relate the exact same story)_ and Mike Maltese, as well as thew directors names off for leavint the sudio..)..

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  14. Speaking of Flintstones and Christmas, there was also that third-rate 1970s special and two (even worse) 1990s specials that came after: one of them i saw was Flintstones Christmas Carol and that special proves that Hanna Barbera was neither Disney (Fred Flintstone over Scrooge McDuck, really, Flintstone's uncle may be a rich kook, but he ain't Scrooge McDuck rich) nor Warner Bros (they apparently swiped Steve Bernstein from Tiny Toons and Animainiacs for this and the even worse Arabian Knights patch film), it's only SLIGHTLY better looking than the two Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm specials in the exact same period, but it's STILL pretty piss-poor, plus the Christmas Carol special marked the period to this day that they went back to the solid ill-fitting UPA styled Ed Benedict (classic, man, CLASSIC) rather than the horrid clunky Iwao Takamoto design of the late 1960s...

    At the same time, i managed to also catch the Yogi All Star Christmas Carol special and the main thing that was noticeable was how horribly shoddy the animation was, i mean, it serves as an unpleasant reminder of the clunky mid 1980s Berenstain Bears show and the skin crawling - artlessly executed - scab looking - much later Blinky Bill cartoon (BEFORE Yoram Gross eventually sent all the animation to Khagan-infested Asia full of Temujin hacks).

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    1. My friend,

      Yogi's All-Star Christmas Caper (1982) was animated in Australia.

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    2. Yogi's Christmas Caper (1982, wri.Mark Evanier) was produced in Australia (like many HB cartoons up till then, especially since Funky Phantom in 1971 (Air Programs) and in 1967 before with Abbott and Costello, and was far better than the previous ones like the first 1980s one, "Yogi's First Christmas"(1980, wri.Willie Gilbert) with Herman the Hermit, Snively,etc. (Yogi made his Christmas special debut a year or two before with that ASININE and riduclous Harvey comics team up with the relaunched, Casper, from the Casper and the Angels...)

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  15. I never cared for this episode. Much too sacharine (uncharateristic of Foster) and Christmas episodes don't always have to be. The premise of Fred moonlighting at a department store has good comic potential, and there were a couple of funny gags involving Fred playing with toys instead of working. (Mel Blanc channeling his Spacely voice as the irate store manager was a nice touch, as well.) But after Fred plummets down the empty elevator shaft, the rest of the episode becomes very boring and predictable.|

    FYI Anon, the Yogi Bear Christmas special was animated by H-B's Australian branch- which would produce and animate THE BERENSTAIN BEARS a few years later. So your assessment is quite accurate. However, I did enjoy that special thanks to a funny script by Mark Evanier and lots of classic H-B character cameos that actually fit into the story.

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  16. Alan Reed must have received an award for Best Voice Acting in A Television Series Annie for this one and for the entire Flintstones show.

    He had also been working with Bea Benaderet since their radio days.

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  17. This was a great episode

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  18. Best Christmas Flintstones episode ever to be shown on television.

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  19. Howard Fein: Very good point. In fact next to this the Season Six episode "No Bix like Show Biz" with the babies singing is the Mona Lisa [but it is such comp[ared to the Scooby/Josie-esqure 1971 Pebbles and Bamm Bamm show..]Steve

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