There's a funny reason why a Swedish folk singer ended up on The Flintstones alongside Yogi Bear
A sense of humor landed Owe Thörnqvist a cameo instead of a lawsuit.
When The Flintstones premiered in 1960, the population of Sweden was about that of the greater Los Angeles metro area. ABBA had yet to form, let alone release a song. Ursula Andress had yet to sashay out of the ocean in Dr. No, the first James Bond film. Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo were the most famous Swedes in Hollywood.
What were saying, it was rather unexpected when Fred, Barney and Wilma sang a contemporary Swedish folk-pop song on The Flintstones. There's an amusing reason why Swedish characters showed up in Bedrock in the season-three episode "Swedish Visitors." It all began with legal action. Well, the threat of it, at least.
Owe Thörnqvist began his career in Uppsala, Swedish, an old university town north of Stockholm. He released his first folk record in 1955, a Christmas tune. He also happened to be a pioneering stand-up comedian in the Scandinavian country. That skillset would come in handy.
In 1962, Thörnqvist recorded a single called "Wilma." Check out the sleeve artwork:
There's a deranged fellow wearing a primitive orange tunic with a blue necktie. He stands in front of a dinosaur skeleton. Ringing any bells?
The Flintstone references only become more blatant when you drop the needle in the groove. Take a listen to the song.
"Yabbe-dabbe-dabbe-dabbe-doo!" Thörnqvist hollers to kick off the song. The chorus refrain declared, in Swedish, "Ay! Ay! Ay! Wilma / Here comes Wilma!" There were also mentions of "Fredde," a brontosaurus, and the "Stone Age." So, yeah, it was pretty obviously an unlicensed Flintstones song, capitalizing on the newfound global popularity of the cartoon.
And that is why Hanna-Barbera's lawyers reached out across the Atlantic. Thörnqvist tried to joke his way out of a lawsuit. It worked.
Well, let's leave the story of "Wilma" to the Owe Thörnqvist website. We've translated it:
Of course inspired by the "Flinta Family." Owe was threatened with millions in damages before a U.S. court due to alleged trademark infringement. He contacted the series' creators Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera, played the song, and explained that Wilma was a common Swedish girl's name and that "Yaba-daba-doo" was a Swedish invention by Gunnar Siljablo Nilsson.
"The Flinta Family" was, of course, the Swedish name of The Flintstones. Gunnar Siljablo Nilsson was a Swedish jazz musician. Remember how we said Thörnqvist was a comedian. He was yanking their chain. Of course, Yaba-daba-doo was not a Swedish jazz invention. For what it's worth, Wilma is the 70th most popular female name in Sweden.
Well, the singer's faux-naive justification amused Hanna-Barbera. Not only did they not sue the comedian, they built an entire episode around his song. And that's how we got "Swedish Visitors." Fred, Barney and Wilma sing Thörnqvist's jaunty tune "Wilma" at the end of the episode.
Again, Thörnqvist's website explains:
Bill and Joe asked Owe to write an English text, and a new song version — in English — was made on August 21, 1962.
Around the theme, they then built up the episode "Swedish Visitors." In the end, however, the Swedish version of Wilma was used.
But that is not the only unique element to "Swedish Visitors." This also happens to be one of the first major Hanna-Barbera crossovers, as Fred and Barney have their picnic basket stolen by Yogi Bear and Boo Boo! (You can see that clip at the top of the post.)