Friday, May 9, 2014

Animated "Flintstones" Movie on the Way

The Flintstones
Wilma, Fred, and Dino.
Warner Bros. now holds the rights to "The Flintstones," and is bringing the 1960s series back to life on the big screen in an animated feature film.

The series ran from 1960 to 1966 and then endlessly in syndication. Is there anyone out there who watches tv who is completely unfamiliar with "The Flintstones"? If so, you must not have watched many kids' stuff as a child.

Who doesn't like "The Flintstones"?

There were live-action recreations of "The Flintstones" by Universal in 1994 and 2000, and they made decent money. However, they were silly rather than a classic like the original. Basically, they are now forgotten. The casting of those films, many thought, left something to be desired, as did the drastic changes in some of the characters. Fred Flintstone is not kind and sensitive or warm and cuddly, he is a gruff CAVEMAN whose schemes always fall through like Ralph Kramden's in "The Honeymooners." That's the whole point of the show. Changing that formula is the kiss of death in a qualitative sense.

The Flintstones
Fred and Wilma with Barney and Betty Rubble.
The series is coming back to life because of the unbelievable popularity of animated feature films these days. When something like "The Lego Movie" can become a stupendous box office hit, well, that catches people's attention. People who greenlight films that cost tons of money and take years to film.

Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are executive-producing through their Gary Sanchez Productions banner. Their partner Chris Henchy is writing the script.

Ferrell, coincidentally, starred in "The Lego Movie." Ahem.

Warner Bros. picked up the rights as part of Time Warners’ 1996 acquisition of Turner Broadcasting. Turner Broadcasting corralled the rights in 1991 when it bought Hanna-Barbera, the original producer of the classic animated series. No word on a release date yet.

One thought: Alan Reed, a little-known tv actor and former radio guy whose main claim to fame previously had been a fleeting gangster role in the original "The Postman Always Rings Twice" in 1946 was cast as the voice of Fred Flintstone.

The network advertising before "The Flintstones" first aired actually featured the Barney and Betty Rubble characters - who were voiced by people with a modest amount of fame but certainly more than Reed. These were Mel Blanc (legendary voice guy from, among many other things, The Jack Benny Show) and Bea Benaderet (the neighbor with the funny laugh from The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show).

Obviously, Reed was cast for the quality of his gruff voice, not his nonexistent fame, and it showed. To this day, his name is the answer to a great trivia question - who voiced Fred Flintstone? - that will stump even fans of the series. Regardless, it became one of the most recognizable voices in tv history, let alone animation history. In fact, they still occasionally use Reed's voice for the character, decades after his death in 1977.

Nobody since has come close to measuring up to Reed's booming and gruff delivery. "Yabba-dabba- DO!" (Alan Reed personally came up with that catchphrase, a true stroke of genius). If Will Ferrell is behind this, the odds are huge that he will play Fred. Unfortunately, Ferrell sounds nothing like Alan Reed and is inclined to give all of his characters a sarcastic and pompous edge, so we could have a problem there right off the bat. Plus, Mel Blanc voiced Barney Rubble, and that is another tough nugget to replace. The voices will really matter in an animated feature because the comparisons will be laser-like.

We shall see. Personally, I think John Goodman would work a whole lot better.

The Flintstones
Pebbles and Bam-Bam.
Here's the theme song, just to bring back some memories. It's only 35 seconds long, one of the best uses of 35 seconds in animation history.

Flintstones. meet the Flintstones.
They're the modern stone-age family.
From the town of Bedrock,
They're a place right out of history.
Let's ride with the family down the street
Through the courtesy of Fred's two feet.
When you're with the Flintstones
You'll have a yabba dabba doo time
A dabba doo time
You'll have a gay old time."


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