When Fred Flintstone fought Simba for toy store supremacy

Summer '94 saw a brawl for kids' attention... and their parents' dollar.

Back in the summer of 1994, two movies felt poised to take over the world, or at least the toy aisle. On one side of the ring, standing at 6'1", wearing the leopard print loin cloth, there was Fred Flintstone, set for a big-budget live-action with John Goodman behind the wheel of the cave mobile. His opponent had the might of a mouse behind it, as Disney positioned The Lion King for global domination. While we can now fully assess each film's merits and mistakes, back in '94, it was hard to tell who would reign supreme.

Even more contentious than the box office battle that was brewing was the smackdown set for the Toys "R" Us stage. Both titans from the cartoon world had mega merchandising machines behind them. Parents, it seemed, would be in for an expensive summer.

"Consumers only have so much money to buy licensed merchandise," Karen Raugust said to Nassau Newsday in '94. And she'd know. At the time, Raugust was the editor of the Licensing Letter, a publication specializing in licensing trends. At the time, although nobody was sure who would win, Raugust expected that one of the films would "likely rise to the top at the expense of the other." While there were no Vegas odds for the bout, Raugust was quick to note how the merchandise from The Flintstones movie was tied to the live-action picture, rather than to its animated predecessor, making Universal Studios' merchandising gambit "a little bit riskier."

"I'm very concerned about Flintstone merchandise," said Lee Weinblatt, one-time president of the marketing research company Pretesting Co. "People who favor the Flintstones are mostly older. But do Mom and Dad really want a set of Flintstone placemats?"

Lots of marketing experts who weighed in at the time shared those fears. Would the average kid really want John Goodman's face on their t-shirt, or would they have preferred the familiar Fred from the cartoons they already knew and loved?

Burger King, for one, placed all its betting money on The Lion King, rolling out kids' meals and "King-sized" grown-up meals that featured The Lion King and its characters. Mattel, on the other hand, hedged its best, making a toy line for each movie.

"It's not like you can point to one film and say, that's the one that will come out on top," said Jill Barad, president of Mattel Inc. For the toy company, the box office battle would mean big, big bucks, as they'd win either way.

Steve Kosmalski, senior vice president of Gibson Greetings, a Cincinnati purveyor of greeting cards and party goods, had an outlook that perhaps predicted the truth of both movies' futures. "Longer life spans go with animated films," he said. "They have a longer-lasting sentimentality. Just ask Mickey Mouse."

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24 Comments

MadMat2102 7 months ago
Since I grew up watching "The Flintstones", I actually went to see the live action movie. It was okay. I didn't see "The Lion King" until I rented it on VHS (anyone remember those) after all the Oscar buzz.
After viewing it, I could see what all the "buzz" was about! It has become one of my all-time favorites.
daDoctah 9 months ago
Fred had the edge in that competition since he was Hanna-Barbera's own property and not a ripoff of a Japanese anime.
Bapa1 daDoctah 9 months ago
Excellent point! Disney shamelessly ripped off Kimba the White Lion. The Japanese company and Disney settled out of court.
daDoctah Bapa1 9 months ago
The *real* Lion King:

Bapa1 daDoctah 9 months ago
"Kimba the white lion is his name!"
KawiVulc 9 months ago
As much as I loved the Flintstones as a kid I've never seen the live action movie... the Betty thing... our son was still a bit young for the theater that year but the Lion King VHS tape 'bout got wore out...
Andybandit 9 months ago
I feel bad for the Kangaroo. I don't want Fred to beat up the Kangaroo.
Bapa1 Andybandit 9 months ago
.....but I would love to see the kangaroo beat up Fred.
LoveMETV22 9 months ago
I've been on vacation for a couple of weeks but I will be back on the
Comment Line soon. I am happy that you enjoy my comment about
Happy Days and other TV shows.
I enjoy watching The Adventures of Superman The Lone Ranger
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Gomer Pyle USMC and
Happy Days and other old TV shows. I can watch Happy Days anytime I want to on Pluto TV and maybe some day Happy Days will return on METV. When I return from my vacation I will be back on the comment line talking about different TV shows not Happy Days only. I'm happy that you enjoy my comments about different TV shows. AND from now on when I return from my vacation only two video clips under all articles .
But I will have comments about different TV shows on METV.
See you and other persons on the comment line when I return from my vacation. I'm not going to concern my self about why characters on different TV shows are written out of the series.
Sometimes I've had funny comments on the METV Comments
line
Not quite sure why I am the lucky recipient of your message? Hopefully you enjoy your vacation.

Just to clarify (kindly). I am not a fan of "Happy Days." I enjoyed parts of the series when it originally aired decades ago. Whether it "returns or not" to MeTV @ any point is meaningless.

Personally I like to chat with others about the "topic" of a story or quiz and perhaps a few side comments as well, but that's my consideration/preference.

What you post in the way of comments, pics, videos is your choice, and your control.
" I will be back on the Comment Line soon."
------------------------------------------
If and when you return hopefully you can take a quick look at the flow of comments/conversations/etc.... in the various Stories & Quizzes....For the most part you'll see how they tend to follow the topic.

Not saying what you should('nt) post ( that's your choice), just a general observation. However I believe you've run the (Happy Days theme) into the ground and then some,(kindly).
And yes I like Happy Days and Green Acres Petticoat Junction
The Andy Griffith Show GOMER PYLE USMC. THE only consolation is Garry's Marshall's 2 special guests . GOH and RR and CC.
I have no more plans for comments about Happy Days except that I liked Fonzie and all of the other characters. But thats the way it is different Persons like different tv shows like I'm grateful to Pluto TV for carrying Happy Days and I Love Lucy The Andy Griffith Show
Leave It To Beaver . I think that you liked shows like The A Team and other action TV shows. The BAG and Wally Fan username will remain with occasional comments about Ozzie and Harriet Green Acres And other wonderful TV shows.
Runeshaper 9 months ago
I remember both films well. I remember the Flinstone toys better because I had some. It's crazy to think how far action figures have come. There is so much more articulation and attention to detail put into them today. Of course, the price tags are significantly higher, but I can understand that too (-:
Mblack 9 months ago
I'm sure Halle Berry action figures were popular
CoreyC Mblack 9 months ago
You mean her as Sharon Stone?
Mblack CoreyC 9 months ago
No she's Fred's secretary in The Flintstones. A very nice outfit
CoreyC Mblack 9 months ago
Halle Berry played Fred's secretary and her name was Sharon Stone in the Flintstones movie.
top_cat_james_1 Mblack 9 months ago
Not sure if you're being sarcastic, but Berry was the only prominent cast member to not have a doll of her character.
teire 9 months ago
My now grownup daughter’s first and second movies in a theater.
Mblack teire 9 months ago
I took the daughter of a friend to Lion King and she was able to convince me to see it a second time. She turned 39 on the weekeend
Bapa1 9 months ago
Simba kicked Fred's butt. Hakuna Matata!
LoveMETV22 9 months ago
Not sure on the Merchandising side of things, although the figures are surely somewhere.
At the Box Office :
"The Lion King" pulled in $968.5 million vs "The Flintstones Movie" which pulled in $341.6 million.
Amazingly the production budgets were close- "TLK" being $45 million and "TFM" being $46 million.
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