The Flintstones was a Jurassic-sized risk

The show was a massive risk for Hanna-Barbera productions.

In our current geologic period, The Flintstones is rightly upheld as one of the most important animated series of all time. Its place in history has long been cemented. It was, after all, the first animated series to be nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. The show spun off an additional seven animated programs, two live-action feature films and featured as a themed land in the Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi theme park. Clearly, The Flintstones had a wide-ranging influence that is still felt today.

But that status as a cartoon institution hasn't forever been the case for The Flintstones. As hard to believe as this may be, the show wasn't always a sure thing. There was a time when The Flintstones seemed like a massive gamble (no, we don't mean at the slot machines in Viva Rock Vegas). It may seem like ancient history, but that modern stone-age family was a real risk for Hanna-Barbera productions in the not-too-distant past. 

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. Undeterred, the duo founded H-B Enterprises, continuing their string of successes with Ruff & Reddy and The Huckleberry Hound Show.

However, it wasn't until H-B Enterprises re-incorporated as Hanna Barbera Productions that the team would see its biggest wins to date. In 1960, Joe Barbera flew to New York to pitch a half-hour animated family sitcom. Typically, when a studio readies a new show for network sale, the studio produces a first episode or "pilot." Because of the inherent costs of producing such a pilot, and the potential for that pilot to flop, Barbera was instead armed with only a few sketches and an uncanny ability to act out the traits and personalities of the show's characters.

That show became The Flintstones, but only after the careful consideration of network executives at ABC-TV. A 1960 article in The State described the decision as involving "many people and organizations, not only the network but the sponsors and their advertising agencies for whom such a move means a gamble of hundreds of thousands of dollars."

ABC took a risk and aired the program in an enviable evening broadcasting. But what about the show made it ready for primetime? The key was a careful counterbalancing of cost and quality. Barbera explained it this way: "You have to know when to cut and when not to cut. It's that simple. Some people think they can save money and still come up with something good by taking cutouts and moving them around like a fixed background. Limited animation like that is a mistake. 

So, despite the risk, did Hanna-Barbera produce a show that stood the test of time? Yes, they Yabba-Dabba-did. 

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Clay 29 days ago
Always loved the Flintstones! I read somewhere that they were a sort of cartoon version of the Honeymooners.
Wiseguy70005 Clay 28 days ago
Jackie Gleason almost sued The Flintstones because it was a copy of The Honeymooners but he was advised not to since kids would hate him for removing one of their favorite shows.
Mblack 29 days ago
For about 15 a local tv station ran it at noon or 12:30 every weekday. It was a big shock when they replaced it with a noon news.
BuckeyeBeth7 29 days ago
Good article MeTV! Loved the word plays in it! But to be a great article you should have really added some more hard facts in. Like when the show originally ran (IMDb tells me it was May 1, 1969 to April 1, 1966), how many episodes (167), or when and how it went into syndication. Was it straight to Saturday mornings or was it to daytime syndication like “I love Lucy” or “Hazel”? (I’d really love to know this). It was fascinating trivia to learn the Flintstones was the first animated series to be nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award For Outstanding Comedy Series (although IMDB is again telling me it was called “Outstanding Program Achievement In The Field Of Humor” at the time) but my craving for nerd trivia really would’ve been in heaven if you had added in that it was 1961 and their competition was The Jack Benny Program, Candid Camera, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Bob Hope Show with Jack Benny winning the award (Congrats Jack!).
I’m not sure how long you guys have to kick these things out, and you usually do a great job, but I just think adding a few more facts in the articles might spawn more discussion in the comments.
It ran 1960-66 with 166 episodes starting on Sept 30, 1960. It went into syndication when the networks finished airing reruns (mostly on Sat mornings). Syndication means shows shown on local stations. Reruns on networks (including MeTV) are not syndication. And there was a short pilot made back when the family was still called "The Flagstones." Why doesn't MeTV know about this?
Sorry about that typo where my comment said it ran 1969 to 1966. I know I typed 1960 so spellcheck must’ve hijacked me at some point in time. If I could go back and fix it I would but unfortunately I’ve never found out how to do that here.
I did go to Wikipedia’s “broadcast syndication” page to try and read up on all the differences. I have always used “re-run” and “second run syndication” interchangeably, but apparently they are different. I made it through quite a bit of the Wikipedia page before my head started spinning. Personally I don’t think they’ve presented the information in a very clear way. I’ll try to go back later and reread it again.

Since I’m of that generation raised on second run programs sometimes it blurs together whether I saw the cartoons first on Saturdays or during daytime viewing. I did notice “The Flagstones” Flintstones Pilot has been posted by multiple people on YouTube so thank you for mentioning that! The woman who voices Betty Rubble Immediately sounded very familiar. I saw her IMDb page where she’s done so many things so it was hard to pick out the first voice I thought I recognized. I think it might be Rocket J. Squirrel from Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
Charlotte 29 days ago
The original Tom & Jerry cartoons still make me laugh out loud when watching. I loved watching the Flintstones as a kid! My favorite episode is the "Runaway piano". Every year me & my husband play the anniversary song from that episode on our anniversary.
JJ614 30 days ago
Flintstones were very enjoyable, for me even more after Pebbles was born.
But my all-time fave cartoons are Ruff n Reddy, Yogi Bear, Pixie and Dixie, and Johnny Quest.
( I always did and still do hate Tom and Jerry.)

Tom and
Runeshaper 1 month ago
That’s a Yabba-Dabba-Doo for the fans!
daDoctah 1 month ago
I like to think the Flintstones came along at a major turning point in the evolution of cartoon cave people. Earlier, more primitive types with simple black dots for eyes (like Wilma and Barney) were in the process of being pushed aside by more advanced ones with eyes that had fully-formed whites (like Fred and Betty). Because the more evolved eyes were genetically dominant, the next generation of mixed cave babies like Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm all had eyes with whites, as did all their future descendants.
Bapa1 daDoctah 30 days ago
I wish you taught my Anthropology class when I was in college.
daDoctah Bapa1 30 days ago
Remind me to expound for you some time on how Joe Friday got busted down to Sergeant after making Lieutenant towards the end of the black-and-white run.
Andybandit 1 month ago
The Flintstones is my second favorite cartoon. Looney Tunes is my favorite cartoon. I love watching The Flintstones on Sunday Mornings, 9am-10:30am. Then the Jetsons comes on at 10:30am.
tootsieg 1 month ago
The Flintstones on a Friday night during prime time followed by 77 Sunset Strip???!!! A kid couldn’t ask for anything more. 😊
Mblack tootsieg 1 month ago
Except to be allowed to stay up so late
CoreyC 1 month ago
The early years of The Flintstones was the funniest then they added Pebbles to make it more family friendly.
daDoctah CoreyC 1 month ago
So when would you say Fred jumped the Sharkasaurus? Was it when Pebbles was added? Or maybe when they started giving guest appearances to contemporary celebs (like Samantha from Bewitched)?
CoreyC daDoctah 1 month ago
The Flintstones jumped the shark with The Great Gazoo.
BuckeyeBeth7 daDoctah 29 days ago
Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm episodes were fine. I grew up on the Flintstones as Saturday morning reruns and most episodes, including episodes with what would have been current celebrities cavemaned, was funny even though my young brain didn’t recognize all of the celebs until later. The only episodes that created a response that I later learned was called cringe was the Great Gazoo ones. I love Harvey Korman but just not Gazoo. They definitely jumped the shark on those.
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