Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Jane, Stop This Crazy Birth!

Fred Flintstone started out as an egotistical, hypocritical, sometimes nasty man. Then Pebbles came along and he got watered down—and so did his TV show. And while Hanna and Barbera always had a tendency to kiss up to their sponsors (Kellogg’s), Pebbles marked the sad occasion when a character was created specifically because of a sponsor merchandising deal, not for entertainment reasons.

Pebbles was tolerable, despite all those the eye-rolling doting daddy scenes, because the writers actually came up with some funny cartoons with her in them. But can you imagine a Pebbles-like character in all the other Hanna-Barbera shows? Joe Barbera could.

Here’s a squib for the Radio-Television Daily, dated February 19, 1963.

‘Flintstones’ Baby Portends Rash of Babies for H-B
Hollywood — Hanna-Barbera introduce their new baby, “Pebbles,” for the first time in “The Flintstones” seg, “Dress Rehearsal,” which airs Friday. Plan is to introduce a new baby in all HB’s series within the next two years, according to president Joe Barbara. “Jetsons” most likely will be next to have a new born infant. Name of “Pebbles” was decided as result of a contest.

As Tralfaz the dog once said “Yechhhh.”

I can picture the scene where Jane in a hospital bed at night with a star beaming into her room and calling the baby “Starlight.” And then episodes where Jane’s mother-in-law (played by Verna Felton) barges in to run the house. And little Starlight becomes a kleptomaniac. And little Starlight and the boy kid next door develop voices and sing the pseudo-religious “Let the Sun Shine In,” but it’s all George’s dream and ... well, if Barbera’s going to rip off ideas from The Flintstones ...

It also begs the question—who’d have the baby on Jonny Quest? Maybe it’d be Race Bannon’s previously unknown baby Jessie who turns up and ... no, that would never work.

Anyway, we can all be happy the idea of little Starlight turned into space junk. Evidently, The Jetsons hadn’t been cancelled and moved to Saturday rerun-land by the time the story above was written. It was within a month. Broadcasting magazine had this squib on April 1, though an announcement of a Jerry Van Dyke game show in another story was in the popular press by March 7.

Louis Marx Toy Co., New York, will sponsor The Jetsons on ABC-TV next fall (Saturday, 10:30-11 am EST). The series currently is in ABC-TV’s prime time, Sunday, 7:30-8 pm Agency: Ted Bates & Co., New York.

With that likely went Joe Barbera’s planned doll line and resultant cash windfall. Still, considering how Hanna-Barbera brought in the fuzzy, doll-like Orbitty when it revived The Jetsons in the ‘80s, a little Jetson girl doesn’t sound bad by comparison.


  1. To be fair, one major difference between The Flintstones and The Jetsons is that George was a more sympathetic character and a devoted family man from the start, so the addition of another child to the household wouldn't have involved a fundamental change there. I wouldn't have liked the idea any more than you do, but yeah, it would have been much better than Orbitty.

    There might even be a hint at how a new birth would have been handled in The Jetsons via the episode in which George's father Montague Jetson comes for a visit, with a chance encounter improbably leading him to babysit for an unfamiliar woman, and side-splitting misunderstandings and mistaken identities ensue. You can almost envision that family dynamic being extended with Grampa Jetson moving in full-time to help around the house with little Starlight. As cloying as it may sound, it still would have been better than Orbitty.

  2. Yeah, that does sound better than anything with Orbity.

  3. Of course, one of the difference between The Flintstones and The Jetsons was that the former, riffing off The Honeymooners, had no kids to begin with, so that adding Pebbles did offer up some new story options, even if the well ran dry pretty quickly there. The later, based on Chic Young's Blondie series, already had a son and a daughter in the family. So while you might not have some wacky baby stories, you already had George and Jane dealing with kids.

    On the other hand, it's probably a good thing Joe Barbera didn't get the impetus to have Fred and Wilma add a kid in Season 1. Then we would have had Top Cat dealing with a litter of kittens the following season.

  4. Thank you for acknowledging that the prospect of Fred becoming a father did actually add some new story lines, some directly referencing the fact that his personality would have to change with a baby around he house. There were some funny episodes dealing with his adjustment to parenthood.

    By Season 5, the kids were generally put in the background as the adults tended to embark more on 'adventures' involving haunted houses, spies, time machines and Western outlaws. And what many consider the nadir of the series came in Season 6 in the form of a little green alien.

  5. Awww, J. Lee beat me to the “Top Cat Litter” thing! But, he and I have been on the same page before, so I’m not surprised. Good one, J.

    In defense of Pebbles, I think she was a much better character in both the comic books and comic strips! In the strips, her thought balloons were always amusing observations. And, in the comic books, narrative captions often allowed us to look in on her thoughts, motivations, and her interpretations of things, as she moved through the paces of a story.

    She and Bamm-Bamm were eventually featured (with their names on the cover) of the Gold Key CAVE KIDS comic book, as well as regular FLINTSTONES title.

  6. Every time someone mentions "Let the Sun Shine In", it enters my skull and refuses to leave. Thanks.

  7. I would be interested in finding out how audiences as well as the network and affiliate stations reacted to Wilma's pregnancy. My wife was a bit surprised that they actually protrayed a pregnant woman "showing" - as they used to say - in an animated series back in the early 60's. She assumed Pebbles was delivered by a stone-age stork.

  8. As for Wilma “showing”, vs. delivery by a “stork-adactyl” or some such, that’s part of what made The Flintstones “adult” for its day!

  9. Seeing as that was the golden age of direct sponsorship, it's not too surprising Pepples was designed at the request of theirs. Sponsors were a lot more involved in most shows back then. Shows didn't get made if the sponsor wasn't happy. There are a lot of people these days that complain whenever they see what they consider product placement, but the way it's done today is nothing compared to then. After all, who was driving the car that carried the whole Huckleberry Hound gang around in the opening theme, was it Huck himself? Nope, it was the Kellogg's Rooster horning in on the show because of the sponsor.

    I was certainly more of a fan of the first 2 years of the Flintsone myself for the same reasons stated here. I preferred the Hotheaded, conniving Fred over "my little Pebbly Poo", but you can't really say Pebbles was a failure as an addition to the show. It did set back the attempt to make animated shows for an adult audience until the Simpsons kick started it 30 years later. Pebbles arrival may have been meant to make it more of a family show, but it really sent it back to the children's programming category.

  10. Oops, "Pepples"? Well, I'm sure you know what I meant.

  11. According to "The Encyclopedia of Cartoon Superstars" by Jim Korkis and John Cawley, as originally planned the series was going to have a child character, "Fred Jr.". He even appeared on the cover of a Little Golden Book.

  12. Top Cat gettng married? Yikes! Imagine how even BIGGER the character and voice cast would be [Arnold Stang asd TC and some of the little ones, Jean VanderPyl, who DID voice the potential wife Goldie as otherts, some boys and girls, plus Leo DeLyon and the rest, except Maurice Gosfield would die in 1964 in real life..]Steve