Did kids really hit each other with frying pans after watching cartoons? Some do-gooder group probably thought so. And it’s tough to argue against them when Joe Barbera made the same claim.
This article was published in papers starting on February 17, 1961.
Animals Make Good Cartoons
By VERNON SCOTT
United Press International
Hollywood — People aren't funny—at least not in animated cartoons.
Through the years Walt Disney and other cartoon producers have employed rabbits, mice, dogs, cats and ducks to evoke laughs.
Then along came Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, originators of "Tom and Jerry," "Huckleberry Hound," "Yogi Bear" and "Quick Draw McGraw." They believed televiewers would get a kick out of modern Mr. and Mrs. Suburb dealing with today's problems.
They were dead wrong.
For months they experimented with characters in modern clothes in a typical community — but nothing. Friends yawned, fellow workers fell asleep, nobody laughed.
Then the quiet spoken pair took the same characters, placed them in the stone age, named them "The Flintstones" and found a runaway hit on their hands.
Cavemen are funny. Modern types are a drag, they learned.
"The only other cartoon character in human form that proved successful was Popeye, but he didn't last very long in theaters," said Hanna, a graying, soft-spoken man.
"I'm not even sure Popeye was human," Barbera grinned.
"Disney did well with human characters, but only in dramas, not comedy," Hanna said. "We're delighted that Freddie Flintstone and his friends have made such a hit. The comedy is not the old cartoon slapstick. Most of it is situation stuff and dialogue."
"In the 'Tom and Jerry' days we concentrated on action and violence," Barbera filled in. "Now we have to worry about casting the right voices and coming up with bright dialogue. Kids like it.
While Hanna and Barbera were working in the MGM cartoon department turning out "Tom and Jerry" they produced 48 minutes of completed cartoons a year. Now, with four half-hour shows a week on TV, the boys are turning out 48 minutes of filmed laughs every seven days.
From an investment of $20,000 the cartoonists have built a million-dollar business and employ 140 technicians.
"Simplification and planning are responsible for our increased output," Barbera said. "We've eliminated several departments found in other animated cartoon studios." "We work in vertical and horizontal planes," Hanna put in. "We avoid depth characteristics as much as possible. This reduces the number of pictures in a five minute segment from 12,000 to 1,200. And the public likes the technique better.
"Cartoons ran into trouble when they became too much like real life images. We had arrived at the point where we actually showed the subject breathing. Cartoons had become poor imitations of the real thing."
"Right," said Barbera. "Now we're back to caricature with emphasis on the story and the character of the people—not action.
"Cartoons became popular originally because there was plenty of movement. But the public is accustomed to movement now and couldn't care less."
What matters more is that the American Broadcasting Co. cares very much indeed about The Flintstones ratings. Fortunately, they are high, and the team of Hanna and Barbera have made history with the first adult cartoon in video annals.
It’s interesting to read the concept of “characters in modern clothes” didn’t work in development, considering one of the influences on the Flintstones was a show starring characters in modern clothes—The Honeymooners. Many of the basic plots in the Flintstones’ first season, like “The Swimming Pool” or “The Golf Champion” could fit just as well in a modern setting. But setting them in a different time period allowed the writers to do transposition gags that enlivened the series (a long-beaked bird as a record player needle, for example) and made it funny.
Oh, and Mr. Barbera, about not using a frying pan weapon in the Flintstones . . .