(photo credit: The Cartoon Network)
In 1960, "The Flintstones", created by Hanna-Barbera, became the first animated series to hold a prime-time slot on television, premiering on ABC.
Flintstone's producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who earned seven Oscars for Tom and Jerry, faced a significant challenge in developing a thirty-minute animated program with one storyline that fit the parameters of family-based domestic sitcoms in the 60's. The idea of The Flintstones came after they produced The Huckleberry Hound Show and The Quick Draw McGraw Show. Although successful, neither show had the same audience appeal as their previous cartoon series Tom and Jerry, which entertained both children and the adults who accompanied them. Barbera and Hanna wanted to recapture the adult audience with an animated sitcom.
Their first direction was to take their show and characters into more of a "hillbillies" in ancient Rome, or in the area of the Pilgrims or American Indians. They finally landed on the "stone age" because they felt it was possible to take any modern scene and recreate in the stone age (cars with foot power anyone?). With the working title, "The Flagstones", they started to craft the stories around the "modern stone-age family", originally Fred, Wilma and their son, Fred Jr.
The working title The Flagstones was changed to avoid confusion with the Flagstons, characters in the comic strip Hi and Lois. It then became The Gladstones but eventually Hanna and Barbera settled upon The Flintstones, and dropped the idea of Fred and Wilma having a child. Though some early Flintstones merchandise, such as a 1961 Little Golden Book, included "Fred Jr".
One of the more successful sitcoms at the time was "The Honeymooners" and eventually this was combined with their chosen era. Jackie Gleason's impressions of Ralph Kramden were partly the inspiration for the voice actor who played Fred. The new series debuted on September 30th, 1960 and was widely panned by critics including Variety, who called it "a pen-and-ink disaster." Despite initial negative reviews, "The Flintstones" became the most successful and longest-running network animated television series for three decades, until The Simpsons dethroned Fred & company in 1997.
A couple of interesting factoids?
It was the first American animated show to depict two people of the opposite sex (both Fred and Wilma, and Barney and Betty) sleeping together in one bed.
The first two seasons were co-sponsored by Winston cigarettes and the characters appeared in several black-and-white television commercials for Winston.
Only fair since Homer did do quite a bit of product marketing for Duff Beer. MMmmmmmm....beer.