Daws Butler was Hanna-Barbera’s premier voice actor through the 1950s. And then things changed. “The Flintstones” came along. Although Daws cut a dialogue track for Fred Flintstone on a demo reel using a Ralph Kramden-like voice he put in a number of cartoons, he was not on the roster of stars when the series debuted in 1960.
Joe Barbera explained why in a feature story in the Philadelphia Enquirer of October 9, 1960. He went into the casting of the show, though some details are maddeningly absent, and talked about the studio in general.
In reading about the volume of shows the studio was producing, it’s no wonder not all the cartoons were gems. I’m presuming the “72 Quick Draws in nine months” and “five Huckleberry Hounds in five days” refer to Mike Maltese and Warren Foster, respectively.
‘Flintstones’ Cartoon Series Is Aimed Squarely at Adults
BY HARRY HARRIS
HUCKLEBERRY HOUND, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Jinx, Augie Doggie, Boo Boo, Pixie and Dixie, Snooper and Blabber . . .
To that distinguished assembly of ultra-popular TV personalities have just been added several more—Fred and Wilma Flintstone and Barney and Betty Rubble, the stars of ABC's “The Flintstones,” Fridays at 8:30 P. M. (Channel 6).
Later recruits may include characters tentatively tagged Lippy the Lion, Hardy Har Har (a sad hyena), Harebreath Hare and a couple of gals, Ribbons and Rosie. Slated for movie house stardom: Loopy the Loop.
Despite the diversity of their monickers and species, all share the same parents: Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, the creative dynamos whose Hollywood cartoon factory manufactures merriment wholesale.
When we visited it last month, ideas—and puns—were popping all over the place. A mile-a-minute rundown of past, present and future TV projects by partner Barbera, a dark, handsome, fast-talking man who looks more like an actor than a tycoon, left us convinced the Emmy-winning Hanna-Barbera organization is capable of miracles.
Some they've already performed.
Singlehandedly (or should it be double-handedly, considering there's two of them?), Bill and Joe have proved that animated cartoons needn't be prohibitively expensive either as TV or movie house fare.
This they've managed through application of their “planned animation” concept, which has added jet propulsion to what used to be a tedious process.
“It’s a method we used at M-G-M when we were doing the ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoons,” Barbera explained. "We’d do a mock version with a minimum number of drawings, To show our cartoonists before they started animating. We developed it to such a point that we didn’t need any additional cartoons to tell the story. Instead of 17,000 individual drawings, we could show a complete picture in 600 or 700.
“When we suggested this technique to M-G-M, they never even answered. Thank heavens! Wouldn’t it be awful to be working there yet, saluting everybody, waiting six weeks for an answer!
“We used to do eight shows a year; now, on the phone, Screen Gems orders 78, or 104, or ‘500 as quick as you can!’ Men who used to do eight shows a year now do one a week. Even three doesn’t faze them. One turned out 72 ‘Quick Draw McGraws’ in nine months; another, five ‘Huckleberry Hounds’ in five days.
“In television, something comes up and you do it. Even the impossible!”
Another thing Hanna and Barbera have demonstrated is that grown-ups can flip over what used to be considered strictly kid stuff. “Huckleberry Hound” testimonials, for instance, come from college students, GIs, businessmen, professionals, even atomic scientists. “The Flintstones” is TV's first animated cartoon series scheduled in prime time and deliberately aimed at adults.
One reason for adult enthusiasm is the canny use of “funny” voices. Bob Smith, explaining the recent demise of his “Howdy Doody,” complained that sponsors now want double-duty children’s shows with pictures to amuse youngsters and sounds to amuse oldsters—“like ‘Huckleberry Hound.’”
Barbera acknowledges that stress is placed on “sound” in the Hanna-Barbera shows. “We sit around listening to voices," he said. “If we laugh just listening, fine; if not, we’re in trouble.
“To get the right voices for ‘The Flintstones,’ we interviewed people for a solid year. We auditioned 12 teams of voices daily, explaining the characters and having everybody read the same lines for a tape recorder.
“We thought of using Daws Butler, who’s great, but we were afraid we were starting to spread him too thin. He’s already the voice of Yogi, Huck, McGraw, Jinx, Augie Doggie, Dixie, Bobo-looie, Snooper and Blabber. What would we do if anything happened to him? We keep him locked up in a box!
“We listened to 60 or 70 of the best voices in the United States. We didn’t want a gimmick voice that would wear down, because ‘The Flintstones’ is a situation comedy with people. We brought in everybody: Andy Devine, Maxie Rosenbloom, Jack Oakie.
Fred and Barney are being portrayed vocally by Alan Reed and Mel Blanc; their wives, Wilma and Betty, by Philadelphia-born Jean Vander Pyl and Bea Benadaret.
“We had had Alan in nine months earlier, reading with somebody else,” said Barbera, “and, that way, he didn’t sound right. Strangely enough, he tooks something like Fred Flintstone. Mel wasn’t available when we started casting.
“When we were up to the 12th show, Alan developed cataracts in both eyes. He couldn’t see. We prepared his scripts with bigger type and more space until, fortunately, his eyesight improved.”
Barbera doesn’t minimize the importance of the visual element in the Hanna-Barbera shows.
“We cast the characters as if we were interviewing real people. We look at all sorts of drawings before approving characters, wives, kids, dogs.
“At first, when we thought about a satirical thing, we considered a hillbilly character, but decided that might be downbeat, because such people live poor. Suburban cave men in the Stone Age gave viewers a chance to identify and still have fun.”
It also provided ample opportunities to “sneak in” some of the visual and verbal “extra pluses” grown-up Hanna-Barbera fans have come to look for.
Examples in “The Flintstones”: autos with dragging-foot brakes; a record player containing a bird with a long-playing beak; cameras containing tiny sculptors; “Own your own cave” commercials.
One major problem accompanying success has been where to get the necessary personnel.
“For 15 years cartoons have been on a downward slide,” said Joe, “and no new people have been developed. We’ve brought people out of retirement, tracked down second generations, arranged for people to work at home. My two daughters were here all summer, and Bill’s daughter is working here now.
“Each of our people is an artist, an individual, and we’ve got to think of their quirks. After all, we’re not turning out cars. There are no time clocks, and if anybody comes up with a fresh idea, he has a check in his hand within a half hour.
“As a result, we get the beat people. We’re not cornering the market—we’ve just dropped two people, because they weren’t good enough. We have a standard now; we’re stuck with a quality. Somebody has said that in the field of cartoons we’re doing for television now what Disney did for motion pictures 25 years ago.”
Like Disney, Hanna and Barbera are planning expansion into feature-length cartoons and are even considering a Disneyland-like amusement center—“Huckleberry Houndsville, maybe, or Jellostone Park.”
Since entering the TV field with “Ruff ‘n’ Reddy,” they’ve been going in heavily for merchandising. At last count, assorted novelty items numbered 280.
“In the 20 years we did ‘Tom and Jerry,’” Barbera noted, “there were only comic books. Nothing touches the impact of television!”