Joe Barbera explained why The Flintstones was an enduring hit
One of the minds behind Hanna-Barbera described the art of making Fred a prehistoric everyman.
How many notes do you think it would take for you to identify the iconic Flintstones theme song? Six? Four? Maybe just the first two? It's truly a mark of how long-lasting and beloved the series is across generations that so many people would pick it up so quick.
Nobody was more aware of the series' success than William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, founders of Hanna-Barbera Productions and creators of The Flintstones. While Flintstones was hardly the only hit they had (see: Tom and Jerry, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo...) you could certainly make an argument that it's one of the longest-lasting.
"The half-hour shows have been syndicated in hundreds of American cities since 1966 when the series was canceled," United Press International wrote in 1980. "Only the old I Love Lucy series can match the syndicated record of The Flintstones."
The article came out on the 20th anniversary of The Flintstones premiere, and on the dawn of a new Stone Age era. "Fred Silverman," the article goes on, "NBC's [President and CEO], seeking to shore up his network's miserable ratings, hopes the Flintstones will re-establish their popularity with prime-time viewers."
Silverman, hoping to strike prehistoric gold once more, had brought Hanna-Barbera in to create a brand-new Flintstones series. Joe Barbera, the article notes, "takes enormous pride in the fact that not even Mickey Mouse is as widely seen on international TV." He spoke in the article about why he thought a cartoon created two decades ago was still in such high demand.
"Look, the Flintstones are a family," Barbera said, "a cartoon prototype of any family in the world. They are neither rich nor poor. Their home could be on any continent. They have no nationality. They are timeless. After all, they live in cave-like dwellings. They wear skins, not clothes which would identify them from a particular country or era. They have social problems and family problems. Fred is always afraid of losing his job."
Barbera continued, "These are elements people of all cultures can identify with, whether they see the show in highly industrialized countries or emerging Third World nations."
The new Flintstones show turned out to be The Flintstone Comedy Show. It only aired two seasons with eighteen episodes between them, which wasn't exactly the dynamite that Silverman had hoped for. Still, we wouldn't worry about Fred and the gang. We have a feeling they're going to be around for a long, long time.