This Flintstones special aired once and hasn't been seen since
Do you remember the lost 2001 TV movie 'Flintstones: On the Rocks'?
Image Credit: Warner Bros. / Cartoon Network Studios
The Flintstones has no lack of spin-offs, specials, and adaptations. There have been crossovers, live-action movies, comic books, and even a Flintstones Kids show. But there's one TV special that has mysteriously vanished from history.
The Flintstones: On The Rocks was a 2001 made-for-TV movie that aired on Cartoon Network on November 3, 2001. It was aired just one more time in 2002 in Japan — and then it went underground. As of this writing, there still hasn't been a home release of the film. The only way to see it is to track down a bootleg version somewhere.
So why did it vanish? Was it a bad film?
Well, not technically. The animation style is a little different than we're used to. Many of the people who worked on it also worked on other acclaimed shows at Cartoon Network at the time, including the creator of Dexter's Labratory and a key player of The Powerpuff Girls. The art is more like the exaggerated, bouncy style of the latter shows more than the quasi-realism of the original Flintstones.
The voice actors aren't bad either. In fact, this was the last Flintstones product to have one of the original voice cast. John Stephenson returned a final time to voice Mr. Slate. Other voice actors included Tom Kenny (of Spongebob fame), Frank Welker (the original voice of Fred Jones and the current voice of Scooby-Doo), Jeff Bergman (the first replacement as the voice of Bugs Bunny after Mel Blanc's death), and Wil Wheaton. Yes, Wesley.
If the animation wasn't bad, and the voices were fine, then why hasn't it been shown again? The most likely reason is the tone. On The Rocks tried to bring a more realistic, adult edge to the Stone Age family. It was in tribute to the mature, primetime origins of the characters.
As a result, we end up watching a movie about how Fred and Wilma's marriage is crumbling. After trying to go to couple's counseling, they even physically attack each other. Eesh.
They take a vacation to Rockapulco to try and rekindle the spark, which is where things get even more uncomfortable. Wilma puts on lingerie and tries to seduce Fred. Later, Fred sees a beautiful woman and has a fantasy about having an affair with her. Wilma, frustrated by Fred's wandering eye, takes up with an attractive young man.
The young man turns out to be a jewel thief trying to steal Wilma's necklace, which takes the special back to the zany adventures we're more familiar with.
Still, the end chase to get the jewel back couldn't outweigh the discomfort of the central plot. We're watching Fred and Wilma, a couple we've all grown up with, argue bitterly with each other, come alarmingly close to divorce, and consider affairs. That's some heavy stuff for a kid's channel.
Apparently Cartoon Network agreed, since the special hasn't seen the light of day since. Still, it's a fascinating piece of animation history. Maybe one day it will get a home release, and you can judge for yourself.