15 yabba dabba true facts about 'The Flintstones'

How different the world might have been with Fred Flagstone, Jr.

Top image: The Everett Collection

Yabba-dabba-doo! It's time to clock out at the quarry, slide down the dinosaur and relax with your favorite animated family. 

When The Flintstones premiered in the fall of 1960, it shook up television like a slab of dinosaur ribs slapped on the side of a car. Never before had there been a primetime, cartoon sitcom. Today, the Flintstones are global icons and the, er, bedrock of the Hanna-Barbera empire. However, 56 years ago, the show was a risky proposition. After six seasons, the show spawned spin-offs, movies, toys, comic books, merchandise and more.

Let's celebrate Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty with 15 things you might not know about The Flintstones.

1. Hanna-Barbera considered making the show about a hillbilly family, a Roman family and a pilgrim family.

When Hanna-Barbera set forth to make television's first primetime animated sitcom, many concepts were spitballed. Joseph Barbera revealed much about the origin of the series in an essential interview with Leonard Maltin in 1997. The cartoon legend explained that his studio considered a hillbilly family, a pilgrim family, a Native American family and a Roman family. Years after the success of The Flintstones, the latter idea would eventually come to fruition when Hanna-Barbera launched The Roman Holidays in 1972, about a family living in the year 63 CE.

Image: Hanna-Barbera / Warner Bros. Television Distribution

2. They were originally called the Flagstones.

A short pilot of "The Flagstones," seen here, introduced Fred lounging in a pool. The name was perhaps changed to avoid confusion with the Flagstons, the family from the daily comic strip Hi and Lois introduced to newspapers in 1954.

Image: Hanna-Barbera

3. Joseph Barbera pitched the show for eight weeks before anyone bought it.

Barbera, pictured standing here, spent eight weeks in Manhattan, living in a hotel, pitching the sitcom to potential sponsors and networks. Nobody was biting. Finally, on his last day in the city, he presented the show to ABC, who took a chance.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. The Flintstones were originally going to have a son, not a daughter.

The family originally consisted of Fred, Wilma and Fred, Jr., seen here in a concept sketch. However, the tyke was ditched when the series began, as the show instead focused on the two adult couples. In season three, the creators decided to give the Flintstones a child. Again, the baby was going to be a boy, until a toy company explained there was much more money to be had selling a girl doll. Thus, Pebbles was born.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. "Yabba-Dabba-Doo" was inspired by a Brylcreem slogan.

Alan Reed, the voice of Fred, was not thrilled with the script's prompt to holler, "Yahoo!" Instead, he came up with the immortal "Yabba-dabba-doo!" Remembering a 1950s advertising campaign for the hair product Brylcreem, which proclaimed, "A little dab'll do ya," Reed came up with Fred's familiar catchphrase.

Image: Gentleman's Gazette

6. A different actor voiced Barney for five episodes in season two.

Cartoon voice legend Mel Blanc gave life to Barney Rubble. In 1961, Blanc nearly died in a head-on car crash, suffering a fractured skull as he slipped into a coma. As Blanc recovered, Daws Butler provided the voice of Barney for a handful of episodes.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. "Meet the Flintstones" was inspired by Beethoven.

It is said that the melody for the show's theme was derived from the second "Tempest" movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 17, Op. 31. No wonder it became an immediate classic.

Image: Cold Cuts Records / Discogs

8. "Meet the Flintstones" was not used until season three.

However, that familiar refrain of "Meet the Flintstones" was not heard until the third season of the show. For the first two seasons, the opening used an instrumental piece of music titled "Rise and Shine."

Image: Hanna-Barbera / Warner Bros. Television Distribution

9. Winston cigarettes sponsored the show.

Now here is something you will never see again. As with most shows of the era, the characters were shown pitching their sponsor's products. Fred and Barney would light up Winston cigarettes in early seasons.

Image: Hanna-Barbera

10. Jackie Gleason considered suing Hanna-Barbera.

Since the show's inception, people have noted the similarities between The Flintstones and The Honeymooners. Years later, in a Playboy interview, Jackie Gleason admitted he considered taking legal action, but decided against it as he didn't want to be seen as the man who took Fred off the air. Barbera, meanwhile, took the comparison as a compliment: "Well, if you compare Flintstones to Honeymooners, that's the biggest compliment you can give me."

Image: AP Photo/John Rooney

11. The show briefly hired writers from 'The Honeymooners.'

Hanna and Barbera hired experienced writers from the live-action world to whip up scripts for The Flintstones. Two of them, Herbert Finn and Sydney Zelinka, came from The Honeymooners. "I brought in a writer from the Honeymooners," Barbera recalled. "I paid him three thousand bucks and he was terrible." The boss thought the scripts were too wordy and not action-driven enough for animation.

12. It was the first American animated show to depict two people of the opposite sex sleeping in the same bed.

The first sitcom to show a married couple sharing the same bed was, well, the very first sitcom, Mary Kay and Johnny, way back in 1947.

Image: Hanna-Barbera / Warner Bros. Television Distribution

13. It was the first animated series nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series

Alas, it lost to The Jack Benny Show in 1961.

Image: The Everett Collection

14. Bea Benaderet of 'Petticoat Junction' was the second voice of Betty Rubble.

June Foray provided the voice of Betty in "The Flagstones." However, when the series kicked off, the supremely talented Bea Benaderet took over the role. And here's where it gets interesting! Benaderet had previously voiced Granny in Looney Tunes cartoons. She was replaced by — you guessed it — June Foray. Benaderet (pictured here on the right with Jean Vander Pyl, the voice of Wilma) was also Lucille Ball's original choice to play Ethel on I Love Lucy. After Benaderet left The Flintstones, Gerry Johnston would assume the role of Betty in seasons five and six. Benaderet sadly passed away in 1968.

Image: The Everett Collection

15. There was a crossover with 'Bewitched.'

In "Samantha," the sixth episode of season six (how witchy!), Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York show up as their Bewitched characters Samantha and Darrin Stephens. This was a little bit of company synergy, as Hanna-Barbera produced the animated opening to Bewitched.

Image: Hanna-Barbera / IMDB

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