It took Joseph Barbera eight weeks of grueling daily pitches to sell The Flintstones

Imagine carrying five hundred storyboards across New York City — during the Saint Patrick's Day parade!

By 1960, the team of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera was already wildly successful. The madcap misadventures of their Tom & Jerry cartoons earned the pair a total of seven Academy Awards in the decade between 1943 and 1953. When producer Fred Quimby retired as head of MGM animation studios, Hanna and Barbera fit the opening naturally until the studio was closed in mid-1957.

That's when Hanna and Barbera came up with their biggest idea yet: a modern Stone Age family. Not only that, but during prime-time viewing hours. The concept of an animated prime-time show was new at that point, and networks and advertisers were both skeptical about giving this wild new Flintstones idea a chance.

Armed with storyboards and a variety of voices, Barbera hit the road to sell the show. "It was a performance,” he said in the book The Art of Hanna-Barbera: Fifty Years of Creativity. “By the time you give a preamble about what it’s all about, go through two storyboards, and then watch their eyes and their reactions, to see if they’re smiling or if they’re falling asleep, you’re worn out. I remember going to Chicago and pitching to some clients... I remember flying to Saint Louis to do a pitch... these presentations took place every day."

The real trial came in New York City, where the network and agency people were centralized at that time. 

“There would be anywhere from one to forty people waiting to see the presentation," Barbera said. "The word had gotten out that this was not the usual presentation. I had to act out all the parts, jumping around and making all kinds of noises. That’s what it took. Sometimes I had to do five presentations in one day.

"Then I’d walk back to my room at the Sherry Netherland Hotel and collapse until the next telephone call. Someone would say, ‘They’re all going to be here in ten minutes.’ So I would get up and go back again. The pitch went on for eight long weeks.”

The Flintstones was finally bought by ABC on Saint Patrick's Day. Barbera had to carry five hundred storyboards through the giant parade from ABC to his hotel, and then back again... twice!

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8 Comments

Cathie 4 months ago
I love the Flintstones and I never miss a chance to watch. They're still funny, to me.
Cougar90 5 months ago
Mr. Barbera, thank you for your talent and your efforts in making one of the best cartoons ever made.
KawiVulc 5 months ago
Seems like that sort of work ethic isn't seen much these days...
Suzies1952 5 months ago
I remember watching the flintstones with my step-dad every week, I still watch it every Sunday, I love it
Runeshaper 5 months ago
The Flintstones is a phenomenal show! My uncle,, may he rest in peace, actually had a tattoo of Fred (-:
cperrynaples 5 months ago
Technically, The Flintstones WASN'T H&B's first TV cartoon! They sold Ruff & Reddy to NBC in 1957! They later did Huckleberry Hound & Yogi Bear! Flintstones are notable for being the first in prime time!
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