Review by KC Carlson
The Warner Archive recently rolled out four new releases that will make Flintstones fans very happy. Among them is the beginning of a new series of releases — The Prime-Time Specials Collection — making available occasionally forgotten TV specials from the late 1970s and 1980s.
The Flintstones: Prime-Time Specials Collection: Volume 1 contains the second and third of the prime-time Flintstones specials. (The first TV Flintstones special was A Flintstones Christmas, already available from Warner Archive as part of their continuation of the Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection line.) In a rare slip by the usually detail-oriented Warner Archive, the two episodes on this disc are listed on the menu in reverse chronological order. Watch The Flintstones: Little Big League (1978) first, then The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone (1979).
These early specials originally aired on NBC, were initially 60 minutes (minus commercials), and generally retained the original voice talents from the original series: Jean Vander Pyl as Wilma (and occasionally, Pebbles), Mel Blanc as Barney (and sometimes Dino), Gay Hartwig (Autterson) as Betty (replacing Bea Benaderet who passed away in 1968, after the first four seasons of the original series, and Gerry Johnson, who played Betty in Seasons 5 and 6), and Henry Corden as Fred — the second Fred, replacing Alan Reed, who died in 1977. Corden previously was the singing voice of Fred in the 1966 HB films The Man Called Flintstone and Alice in Wonderland (or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?). Other HB voice regulars like Don Messick, Ted Cassidy, John Stephenson, Frank Welker, and Lennie Weinrib also contributed to these Flintstones specials.
The Flintstones: Little Big League
The most interesting pop culture thing about The Flintstones: Little Big League is that an actress named Pamela Anderson voices a pre-teen Pebbles Flintstone here. (Sadly, it’s not that Pamela Anderson, although that one would dabble in animation with guest roles on Futurama and King of the Hill, as well as starring as Stripperella.) But it sure is a weird thing to see for those people who read voice acting credits.
Little Big League features a pre-teen Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm (voiced here by Frank Welker) in prominent roles, but the main plot revolves around Fred and Barney (of course). Fred is upset because Barney can’t go bowling with him, because Barney is coaching Bamm-Bamm’s little league team (and forging a great father-son bond as well). Pebbles is feeling left out because Bamm-Bamm and Barney are doing things together, while Fred just ignores her, too busy being angry at Barney to notice. Wilma and Betty come up with a great plan for peace — Barney should offer Fred a job on the team. Barney misunderstands, making Fred madder, until he declares the families are not to see each other again. Of course, everybody ignores him.
Next day at work, Mr. Slate offers Fred the chance to coach his new Little League team. Pebbles asks to be on the team, but Fred pulls the old “girls don’t play baseball, girls cheer on the team” crap, so Pebbles (and Dino) end up sitting in the stands. Of course, Pebbles secretly has mad baseball skills, which Fred eventually discovers and exploits when Pebbles becomes the team’s phenom pitcher.
You go, Pebbles!
I kept hoping that Captain Caveman would show up and clobber Fred with his club for being so dumb and sexist, but that never happened. Instead, eventually, everyone makes up, and then they all sing a song about “winning isn’t everything — be a good sport”, which probably played a lot differently in that era, without our current culture of parents attacking the refs when they make calls against their kids.
The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone
Little Big League was much more interesting than the next special, The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone. There, the adults (no Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm in this episode, although Pebbles becomes an important plot point in the resolution) dress up to become contestants on Make a Deal or Don’t (an obvious Let’s Make a Deal rip, with a host voiced by Casey Kasem). I had already become oblivious to the plot by this point, but I think they win a trip to Rocksylvania to attend the fabulous Monster Bash, a costume ball. Fred and Wilma dress up as Rockula and Countess Rockula and Barney and Betty are Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstone. For some reason, everybody gets sleepy — so did I — and that’s when the real monsters show up.
The real Rockula mistakes Wilma for his long-lost bride and pursues her for the rest of the movie. Most of the rest of the film is taken up with mistaken identity and chase humor, which HB had perfected by this point, due to years of Scooby-Doo series and their clones. Lots of scared people running right, then left, then right again.
Probably the most notable thing about this special is that it is one of the last roles for Ted Cassidy (Frankenstone here, also Lurch from The Addams Family and Frankenstein Jr.) before his death in 1979. Otherwise, this episode is only for completists or very young children who don’t have a fully-formed sense of humor yet. Better Flintstones sets are available for less money — like some of the full seasons of the original show, which can now be found for $15 or less.
If you are a hardcore ‘Stones fan, though, these new Warner Archive releases are probably for you. Also recently released (but not available for review) is The Flintstones: Prime-Time Specials Collection Volume 2, featuring four additional 30-minute TV specials:
- The Flintstones’ New Neighbors (1980, featuring the Frankenstones)
- Fred’s Final Fling (1980, Fred thinks he has only 24 hours to live)
- Wind-Up Wilma (1981, Wilma becomes a pitcher for the Bedrock Dodgers baseball team)
- and Jogging Fever (1981, Fred runs the Rockstone Marathon, after the entire population of Bedrock notices his weight gain)
Also available is The Flintstones: I Yabba Dabba Do! (1993), a two-hour TV film where the grown-up Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm decide to get married, unless their plans are derailed by their feuding families. Megan Mullally is the voice of Pebbles, and Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera cameo. On its original release, it got panned in media reviews. (The Los Angeles Times review ended famously with “YABBA DABBA DON’T!”) But fans love it anyway!
And finally, The Flintstones: Hollyrock-A-Bye Baby (1993) is also newly available to Warner Archive. Presenting several generations of Flintstones and Rubbles, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are expecting, and the rest of the family travel to glamorous Hollyrock to visit (and help?). Fred and Barney step in to help Bamm-Bamm sell his screenplay (against his wishes), so you probably know how that will go. Featuring Mark Hamill as Slick, Racquel Welch as Shelly Millstone, and Mary Hart and John Tesh as Mary Hartstone and John Teshadactyl!
Thanks to Warner Archive, if you’re a Flintstones fan, you’ll have “a yabba dabba do time!” and a “gay old time!” (I do not think it means what you think it means. That theme song was written a long time ago.)
(The studio provided a review copy.)