Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Flintstones at Fifty


I was not aware until I logged on to Google that the animated classic by Hanna-Barbera, The Flintstones turned fifty years old today. Google had a special logo for the anniversary (one of the reasons why I love Google...those cool tributes that appear occasionally on its main page).

Fifty years! It hardly seems dated. Even by today's standards, the animation is good and the stories are timeless. Fred, Wilma, and Pebbles are America's favourite modern Stone Age family. Best friends Barney and Betty Rubble, with their super strong tyke Bam-Bam, filled out the show. The success of this prime-time animated series (debuting on television September 30, 1960) led to another family at the other end of the timeline: The Jetsons.


An atheist friend of mine likes to joke that this animated series is the "evidence" that Creationists like to cite for proof that man and dinosaurs co-existed (since many believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old). As a child, I might have thought, while watching this, that ancient humans lived among the dinosaurs, but by second grade, when we learned about the Ice Age, mastodons, woolly mammoths, and cave men, it all became clear. Still, this show held my imagination like few shows have. I love the creative ideas, translating modern conveniences into a "Stone Age" framework, such as dinosaurs serving as garbage disposals, lawn mowers, can openers, tractors and even pets.

Dino, the pet dinosaur, remains as one of my favourite cartoon characters (along with Scooby Doo and Jerry the Mouse). I think I've always liked the sound that he makes. It sounds cute.

During a 1984 family vacation to North and South Dakotas, there were big billboards along Interstate 90 that advertised a Bedrock amusement park in the Black Hills. I wanted dad to take us there, but he refused, rightfully seeing the tourist gimmick that it was, even though he disappointed me at the time. I really wanted to see the real life version of the family car that Fred drove (using his own feet as the engine). Imagine that, though. I'm surrounded by the beauty of the Black Hills with Mount Rushmore and the beginning of the Crazy Horse monument, but I wanted to see a tourist gimmick! Despite the disappointment, this vacation has been one of the most memorable ones (up there with our three week British Isles vacation in 1987 and our New England vacation in 1979).

In 1994, a live action film was released in theaters. The right band was chosen to sing the theme song: the campy B-52s became the B.C. 52s for their version of the theme song, "Meet the Flintstones." The movie was an interesting adaptation, though I don't remember the story. What I remember most was that Halle Berry looked really good in this movie. She played a character named "Sharon Stone", which got laughter among the audience that I saw it with (at the Navy base's theater when I was in Sardinia). I didn't find her name all that funny, because I had read in an article about the movie that her character's name was originally Rosetta Stone, but it was changed because studio heads thought Americans wouldn't get the joke. This change reminded me of the controversy of 1989's James Bond film, originally called Licensed Revoked. Studio execs thought American audiences wouldn't know what "revoked" means, so the film became Licence to Kill. LAME! This sort of dumbing down continues to this day. The first Harry Potter novel was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but since Americans are so anti-intellectual, it was changed to "Sorcerer's Stone."

I feel old for saying this, but they don't make animated series like The Flintstones (or even The Jetsons) anymore. Granted, The Simpsons has been far more successful, but television today seems to only offer crappy annimation a la South Park or crude humour like King of the Hill or all around annoying like Spongebob Squarepants. Give me the modern Stone Age family anyday. For your enjoyment, the intro title sequence to this classic show. Happy 50 years, Flintstone family!

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