Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Flagstones in an Infomercial

Advertising masquerading as something else is as old as, well, we’ll let you finish the cliché. In recent times, we get TV “call-in” or audience-participation half-hours that are pushing exercise equipment or spray-on ‘hair’ (is there anyone who doesn’t love Ron Popeil)? In the old days, newspapers featured “advice” columns that were really shilling for medicine, car repairs and other things. One ingenious electronics store used his ad space as kind of an ersatz TV column, and it actually contains more review than plug.

Today, we know The Flagstones as some kind of footnote in cartoon history. To avoid a lawsuit from the syndicator of the comic strip Hi and Lois (whose last name is ‘Flagston’), Bill and Joe reluctantly changed the name of their stone-age family to The Flintstones. While we know about it now, cartoon-lovers don’t seem to remember this at the time it happened. There are few contemporary references to the H-B Flagstones that I can find, but here’s one of them from the phoney TV column in the Greeley Daily Tribune of January 6, 1960. Click to enlarge.

The only other reference I can find to The Flagstones is in a blurb in the Chicago Tribune’s TV column (a real one, not an ad) of February 14, 1960:

Screen Gems has in preparation the first half-hour situation comedy series for TV produced in animation. The ABC network has purchased the series for next fall. “The Flagstones” is the title of the series, which will be prehistoric as to costumes, sets, and props, but will deal satirically with family life from a recognizable modern viewpoint. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created the series.

I thought there were Flagstones model sheets on the web but they are actually The Gladstones model sheets by Ed Benedict instead. Here’s Wilma below. Did they ever draw Wilma from the back, or was the model made in case the character turned around?

The name must have gone from ‘Flagstones’ to ‘Gladstones’ to ‘Flintstones’ quickly. The New York Times reported in Val Adams’ Sunday TV and radio column on April 3, 1961:

CARTOONS: The American Broadcasting Company, always on the lookout for new talent, has obtained the services of a newcomer named Fred Flintstone, an animated cartoon character. Flintstone (how about Skin for a nickname?) is the head of a stone age family living in a cave. Family members, who speak contemporary language in a prehistoric setting, will be featured in a situation comedy to be televised on Fridays from 8:30 to 9 PM beginning next fall. The series, which is titled “The Flintstones,” will be produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions in association with Screen Gems, Inc. Its stories and situations are expected to serve as a parody of conventional situation comedies about family life.

Broadcasting magazine in its April 4, 1960 edition still called the show ‘Flagstones’ but in its next edition a week later, revealed:

'Flintstones' set Miles Labs, Elkhart, Ind. (Wade Adv.), and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., N.Y. (Wm. Esty), signed to co-sponsor new situation comedy series, The Flintstones, next season on ABC -TV (Fri. 8:30 -9 p.m.). Previously titled The Flagstones, animated series relates contemporary language, behavior and problems to prehistoric setting. Network purchased series from Screen Gems, tv subsidiary of Columbia Pictures.

Mercifully, ‘Gladstones’ (what were Bill and Joe on when they came up with that one?) has been assigned to the rubbish bin of animation along with the equally-misguided ‘Huckleberry Bear.’ ‘Flintstones’ is a good name and we’re all used to it now anyway. But it’s too bad a silly letter from King Features (Hi and Lois co-creator Mort Walker revealed it in his book) put an end to ‘Flagstones’ because I like it too. So thus I pay a little tribute to it in this post.


  1. I remember when " Cartoon Network " in 1996 found the little 60 second scratchy, pencil marked pre-print with Daws doing " Fred Flagstone ". Jean Vanderpyl is doing Wilma. Yowp, who voiced Barney and Betty? Was it Mel? I don't think he had been hired for the part yet. William Hanna in his book " A Cast Of friends " talked about having to settle with the " Then hired " voice actors when he re-casted the voice of Fred and a few others. I also remember some Capitol Hi-Q needle drops in that demo.

  2. You mean the "pilot" film that was in the DVD collection? June Foray is Betty (and does a really good job), Daws Butler is using his "Gleason" voice for Fred. I don't know who is doing Barney.
    I think it's in the Alan Reed piece I posted here that Bill Thompson (Fred) and Hal Smith (Barney) had been cast but Thompson kept losing his character voice so the parts were re-cast.

  3. The designs never got any better than that. I've always loved that design of Wilma... so clean and appealing. One of my giant pet peeves is when they put a divit in her top lip in later seasons. They still draw her like that now, from what I've seen... as well as the ultra-annoying filling in Barney's eyes completely black. Ugggh! What is wrong with people!

  4. Scott, I guess you've seen the Fred "comparison" on the web showing the difference between the Benedict version and the Takamoto version. I prefer the Benedict designs.
    Isn't Takamoto's a lot closer to what Jerry Eisenberg was doing in the comics at the time?


    Actually, it was Jerry's father Harvey Eisenberg who drew the comics for Dell and Gold Key. He used Ed Benedict's models as reference, as Iwao's versions didn't come until much later.

  6. You're right, Mark. Sorry. Obviously my brain wasn't thinking properly. Did Gene Hazelton do the comics as well?

  7. Gene Hazelton drew the Flintstones and Yogi Bear comic strips, but not the comic books. In the early days of the strips, Gene had help from Harvey Eisenberg, Dale Hale and others to handle the load. Later on, Gene drew everything himself, but most likely he had help with the writing and perhaps the inking too, although I'm not 100% certain of that.

  8. Oh Dear, Those Iwao takamoto designs are GARBAGE! They are a huge disgrace to the wonderfully and brilliantly simple Ed Benedict designs. that cel picture of fred flinstone he drew on a hideously monotonous blue background just make me want to rip my eyes out. ultra annoying filling in barney's eyes completly black I couldn't agree more Scott. Does anyone remember those 2 Flintstones movies from 1993. I Yabba dabba doo and Hollyrock a bye baby. Ughhhh! look what happened to the backgrounds! they are Aweful. peach colored rocks and buildings? Blue wood!? Give me a break and the animation, Oh my, is very very sloppy. the charcter designs look like they were done by a kid! Mother in law flintstone has grey hair! isn't she supposed to have red hair like Wilma. Betty looks very stupid and freaky. and last but not least, other charcter designs, like mr pyrite, are soo amateursly and poorly done. voices: fred and Barney's voice are just cringe inducing. anyway thanks for that Wilma model sheet. Yowp to me that is the real Flintstones. Cheers. Asim.

  9. The 90 second "demo reel", produced in early 1960, consisted of a scene from "The Swimming Pool" (which was partially reanimated for the finished episode that aired in October). Ken Muse was the animator; yes, Daws Butler was Fred [and possibly Barney, but it's not his "Yogi" voice, so I'm not sure], June Foray was Betty, and Jean was Wilma {the only cast member in that "demo" to continue in the weekly series}. Bill and Joe produced that "demo reel" primarily to sell the show to potential sponsors that winter- sure enough, two advertisers "took the bait": R.J. Reynolds [Winston cigarettes] and Miles Laboratories [One-A-Day vitamins, Alka-Seltzer]. They told Joe Barbera they'd gotten a lot of complaints for co-sponsoring a somewhat violent Screen Gems western, "THE MAN FROM BLACKHAWK" (starring Robert Rockwell), that appeared in the Friday 8:30-9pm(et) time period "THE FLINTSTONES" moved into that fall on ABC, and bought it because they wanted to sponsor a "non-violent" series that wouldn't offend anybody.

    1. Barry, you almost never fail to beat me to the punch...I just discovered YOWP and told this story in an earlier entry.

  10. beyond priceless-visually as well as informatively ( is that a word ? )