Thoughtnami Opinion | Like The Time A Controversial Animator Took Over A TV Icon
Originally Posted on 05/19/2011 by Jeff Harris
The Flat World Web has lost their everloving mind the moment they heard that Warnerstone Bros. and 20th Century Rox BC were teaming up with Seth MacRocklane to relaunch the classic cartoon series The Flintstones in 2013 for Fox.
Everybody who has heard about the reboot has almost universally said some variant of these statements:
"He's going to turn them into yet another copy of Family Guy!"
"He's going to make Fred into a liberal loudmouth just like Peter Griffin."
"He's going to ruin the Flintstones forever!"
"Why not John K. or somebody other than Seth MacFarlane?"
"It's going to suck, just like all his other shows."
"He's going to make them just as crude as his other series."
As odd as it may seem, I'm giving the series and all of those involved the benefit of the doubt for one reason and one reason only:
Warner Bros. isn't going to let anybody frack with their bread and butter.
The Flintstones are a bellwether franchise for Time Warner. The characters are a part of pop culture and continue to sell merchandise to this day. Post Pebbles and Flintstone vitamins are still in the marketplace. The classic series remains a staple on Boomerang and television sets around the world since its premiere over 50 years ago. That said, I doubt Warner Bros. will let a new version of The Flintstones feature overtly raunchy humor, fart and vomit jokes in droves, and pointless manatee scenes.
Also, considering the fact that The Flintstones does attract kids, I doubt it's going to be a completely mature series in the vein of Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show. I think it'll likely be closer to The Simpsons than Family Guy.
Oh, and for the record, Matt Weitzman is the showrunner of American Dad, Mike Henry and Richard Appel are the showrunners of The Cleveland Show, and MacFarlane isn't heavily involved in either.
Also, if the critics would stop pounding on MacFarlane about his overseeing production of The Flintstones, they'll realize one thing about that series:
It's a broken franchise and has been LONG before he took it on.
History is often swept under the rugs and tends to be forgotten by indignant people, even though they trip over the lump it leaves behind every time they enter the room. People tend to forget that The Flintstones succeeded for two reasons:
1) It was The Honeymooners cast in caveman attire. The characters are carbon copies of the Kramdens and the Nortons from their mannerisms to their relationships. And if it seems familiar to younger viewers, it's probably because the show became a template for nearly every show with a pair of couples to this day.
2) It was illustrated radio. One of the greatest strengths of Hanna-Barbera's television efforts wasn't the animation. I'm an HB fan, and I'll admit the animation was terrible. The characters were mostly derivatives of franchises already in the pop culture (see reason 1). Its biggest strengths came from the talented voice actors who performed as the characters and the writers who gave them those words. All had experience in radio, which, before it got cluttered with top 40 pablum that all sound alike and blowhards making noises with their mouths and saying nothing, was a great source of entertainment before TV took over. Mel Blanc, Barney's voice, performed in radio and brought his 1000 voices to animation, giving one of them to Bugs Bunny.
Those were the two strengths that made The Flintstones great. When Hanna-Barbera abandoned all of that right before Pebbles was born, there was something lost in the series. It became gimmicky, kitschy, and not very entertaining. A lot of dumb-dumbs have forgotten the Great Gazoo. Through the rest of its run into the 1970s and 80s, the franchise got dull, lifeless, hackneyed, and boring. They tried freshening up the franchise many times over. They turned Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm into teenagers, introduced new characters, revived the Shmoo and Captain Caveman, turned Fred and Barney into cops, and by the middle of the 1980s, transformed them into kids, but not without a crossover with The Jetsons, which had a very successful syndicated revival that decade.
The 90s were less innovative. The 30th anniversary barely caused a ripple, but the 35th anniversary spawned new live-action movies with the most miscasted Betty in history (a lot of people saw Betty Rubble as anybody but Rosie O'Donnell) and a lackluster series of films altogether. Hanna-Barbera did two films and a special that saw Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm marry and become parents to twins, and The Flintstones taking in a street urchin. The year after that, they seemingly went back to basics. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm were kids once again. The 2000s saw the original episodes of The Flintstones spotlighted on Cartoon Network, where they spent much of the last decade, before getting shoved to the less available Boomerang. One last special, Flintstones on the Rocks showed a lot of promise. Not only did they return the franchise back to basics (it was a pre-Pebbles series, but showed that somebody who actually cared about the franchise take care of it. It was the last Flintstones production until the announcement of the upcoming revival.
And yet, there are cries that since Seth MacFarlane, the most evil creator of all time according to most of his critics within and outside the animation community, will just ruin The Flintstones. Just. RUIN. Them. In light of everything in the period between Wilma's pregnancy to Flintstones on the Rocks, the franchise was way past ruined. Hanna-Barbera transformed their adult comedy into a flavorless bulk of shows with little to no life in it. People tend to forget about that period and more or less let nostalgic blinders cover their eyes from that and focus their hate on the guy who is, let's face it, one of the most successful animation producers in television history.
That's what a lot of people failed to realize about Seth is that he is a Hanna-Barbera fan. He grew up watching those shows as a kid and a teen, and when he ended up working there, it was a dream come true. He even returned to the studio after Family Guy had a premature end working on stuff like the final cycle of Johnny Bravo, which saw that character return to the formula abandoned when it was rebooted after creator Van Partible left. To naysayers who think he can't flip the script from raunchy to family-friendly fare, consider this other fact:
He created Life of Larry while he was at RISD, the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995 while he was a student. This is a proto-Family Guy short that featured many of the same jokes and situations later seen in the first season of the series. That raunchy short got him a gig at Hanna-Barbera where he worked on several cartoons like Dexter's Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, and the 1st and 2nd cycles of Johnny Bravo. The Adam West, Farrah Fawcett, and Donny Osmond episodes were all Seth, and he storyboarded many of the memorable episodes of the series as well, including the Schoolhouse Rock parody and the Scooby-Doo crossover. Yeah, some people say that he's been away from Johnny Bravo from so long, he has forgotten how to create shows for general audiences.
I feel like this: creators tend to not be stuck on one mode. Robert Rodriguez could do a slasher like Planet Terror or a violent adventure like Machette one minute and a movie like Spy Kids and The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl the next. R.L. Stein created Eureeka's Castle, the Goosebumps and Nightmare Room series of kid-friendly horror books, and wrote adult books as well. Brian Michael Bendis balanced traditional family-friendly comic titles like Ultimate Spider-Man and New Avengers with adult-skewing books like Powers, Jinx, and Alias. I don't think Seth MacFarlane would have any problems with the new Flintstones series. He's carrying on a legacy, plus, Warner Bros., who owns the property, will kick him out in a heartbeat if he louses it up.
Will Seth MacFarlane's new Flintstones series be a success? It's too early to tell. Will he crash and burn? Again, too early to tell. They haven't even put pen to paper at the time I wrote this article. But unlike so many people, I'm willing to give Seth, his crew, Warner Bros. and Fox the benefit of the doubt and wish them all luck on this endeavor. It's a proud franchise that has been in disrepair and misuse for much of its life, and any reboot that brings this adult cartoon back to prominence and find a new generation of fans who largely know them as cereal and vitamin pitchmen is a great one. I'll look forward to it in 2013. I hope even detractors will at least check it out.
This is probably the place I'd end with a stone-related pun or an utterance of "Yabba-Dabba-Doo!" or "Freakin' sweet!" No. I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'll do this.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Conway Twitty:
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