Did you notice Fred Flintstone's voice changed after the Seventies Christmas special?
After Alan Reed passed away in 1977, Henry Corden took over the caveman character.
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The Flintstones first introduced fans to Fred Flintstone as Santa Claus in the 1964 episode "Christmas Flintstones."
In that episode, Santa comes down with the flu, and elves show up to beg Fred to step in for the Jolly Old Elf.
When Fred agrees, we watch him fly over rooftops in a sled, delivering gifts and shouting Christmas greetings to kids in French, Italian, Swedish, etc. It's an extremely sweet special episode, and it also introduced the adorable Christmas song "Christmas Is My Fav'rite Time of Year."
Listen carefully when Fred Flintstone sings the Christmas song in this episode, though, and if you've got a really good ear, you might notice it isn't Alan Reed singing. The story goes that Reed couldn't sing at all, so Hanna-Barbera brought in a different voice actor to sing the songs, Henry Corden.
Henry Corden wasn't one of those voice actors who stuck to doing voice work on cartoons, even though he was exceptional and prolific at it. He was also a dynamic actor who appeared in dozens of onscreen roles in movies and on TV. You might remember him as the landlord on The Monkees. Marcia Brady surely remembers him as her first boss on The Brady Bunch.
He featured in The Ten Commandments, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Hogan's Heroes, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and many more.
That Christmas episode was the only Flintstones holiday special in existence until 1977, which unfortunately is the same year that Alan Reed passed away after a heart attack. The Flintstones needed someone to fill Reed's rather large shoes, and Corden, already doing some of the voicework singing for Reed, became the natural choice.
To get Reed's voice right, Corden listened to tapes and was earnest about doing a sincere imitation of Reed's exact inflections.
So when A Flintstone Christmas aired in 1977, only extremely attentive fans may have noticed a slight change in Fred's voice. We've tried listening to Reed and Corden's voice work and have to commend Corden for making the transition as smooth as possible. He sounds nearly exactly like Reed to us! What do you think?
In later years, Corden felt more comfortable making the voice his own, so if you watch The Flintstones cartoons after 1977, you may be able to pick up more on the shifting voicework.
For A Flintstone Christmas, the plot replicated the original Christmas episode, once again finding Santa coming down with a cold and unable to deliver gifts, with Fred stepping into his suit and his sleigh.
However, instead of just one original Christmas song, the 1977 special gave us five: "Which One Is the Real Santa Claus?," "Sounds of Christmas Day," "Brand New Kind of Christmas Song," "It's My Favorite Time of Year," and "Hope."
"Hope" was such a good one that three years later, Yogi Bear swiped it for Yogi's Christmas Special!
After A Flintstone Christmas, Corden continued voicing Fred Flintstone, with his final appearance on a video game released in 2000 called "The Flintstones: Bedrock Bowling."