History of Hanna-Barbera: 'The Man Called Flintstone' (1966)
In the first ten years of the Hanna-Barbera studio’s existence, over a dozen different series were created by those kings of early TV animation. But, by far, the most popular was The Flintstones, which premiered in 1960 on ABC. A stone age riff on “The Honeymooners”, the series proved to be very popular with audiences, lasting a total of six seasons and 166 episodes.
By 1966, the show was coming to an end, but rather than go out on a whimper (a whimper some may call “The Great Gazoo”, a character introduced in the show’s final season), Hanna-Barbera decided to go out with a bang. Two years earlier, they had tried their hand at a full length motion picture with “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear”, based on arguably their second most popular series up to that point. Now, for the grand finale to their flagstone franchise, it was the Flintstones’ turn for their own movie.
With spy pictures like the James Bond series being very popular during the mid-60s, it was decided to make this film a parody of those. The initial working title of the film was “That Man Flintstone”, a take on “Our Man Flint”, another James Bond parody released earlier that same year. The name was passed on, but the evidence remains with the film’s poster, which is a direct parody of the poster for “Our Man Flint”. Ultimately, however, the film was named “The Man Called Flintstone”, and released just over four months after the final episode of the TV series.
The Man Called Flintstone
August 3, 1966
The film centers around Fred Flintstone as he’s put into the position of having to pose as a secret agent. One of the Secret Service’s top agents, Rock Slag, is a dead ringer for Fred; His boss, Chief Boulder, has set him up to meet with a woman in Paris named Tanya, who works for a criminal known as the Green Goose, and has agreed to turn the Green Goose over if she gets a chance to meet with Slag. However, before he can leave for Paris, he’s put in the hospital by a duo of villains named Ali and Bobo, who also work for the Green Goose.
As it happens, at the same time, Fred visits the hospital after suffering a head injury just before a camping trip. Chief Boulder recruits Fred in Rock Slag’s place due to their similar appearance, sending him (along with Wilma, Pebbles, and the Rubbles) on a trip to Paris. This puts him in the crosshairs of Ali and Bobo, who think he’s their target, and the pair continually attempt (and fail) to kill him, with Fred completely clueless.
Not long after arriving in Paris, the Chief introduces Fred to another spy named “Triple X” who is a master of disguise, and gives Fred an update that the Green Goose is now in Rome. Fred manages to convince the two families to get on another plane, and they arrive by evening.
At a restaurant in their hotel, Fred is told that the woman he’s supposed to meet, Tanya, is also there expecting Rock Slag. He has run-ins with several women obsessed with Rock Slag, but none of them Tanya. He then has a run-in with Ali and Bobo, along with a woman desperate to marry him, and is kept out all night. On the way back to the hotel, Fred buys a fake diamond necklace for Wilma as an apology, but discovers she’s been asleep ever since he left.
The next morning, Fred has another chat with Chief Boulder and begins to worry what may happen if he fails the mission, specifically about Pebbles’s future. Boulder takes him to a cafe to meet with Tanya, but Wilma catches him with her, putting his marriage in jeopardy. Without a moment to clear things up, Fred is whisked away by Tanya to the Green Goose’s secret hideout, an abandoned amusement park, with Barney following to get some answers.
At the lair, Fred and Barney meet the Green Goose, who tortures Barney to force Fred to reveal if the government’s missile defense system is operational. Fred doesn’t know, but Ali and Bobo, having knocked out the Chief and stolen a secret message from him, reveal that it isn’t. With this information, the Green Goose (who reveals himself to be Triple X) locks up Fred and Barney in a cell, and prepares to launch his own missile.
Fred and Barney escape, but become trapped inside the missle. Fred, however, manages to redirect the missile to shoot off into space and is able to trick the Green Goose into opening the missile door by making him think the diamond necklace Fred purchased earlier is real. Fred and Barney pull the Green Goose inside and walk out as Ali, Bobo, and Tanya run in, themselves becoming trapped inside as the missile flies off into the depths of space.
Some time later back in Bedrock, Fred is honored as a hero with a large parade and a medal. Afterwards, he relaxes on the side of a lake with Wilma and their friends, with all misunderstandings cleared up. However, one last bit of unfinished business emerges as the woman desperate to marry him back in Rome appears, and begins to chase him relentlessly into the horizon.
“The Man Called Flintstone” brought back all the core voice actors from the television series: Alan Reed as Fred Flintstone, Mel Blanc as Barney Rubble and Dino, Jean Vander Pyl as Wilma and Pebbles, and Gerry Johnson as Betty (whom she had voiced during the final two seasons of the show, taking over for Bea Benaderet).
It also featured June Foray as Tanya (sounding very similar to her role of Natasha from Rocky & Bullwinkle), Don Messick as Ali, Harvey Korman as Chief Boulder, and Paul Frees as the Green Goose, Bobo, and Rock Slag.
Most notably in the voice department was Henry Corden, who provided the singing voice for Fred. He had previously acted as Fred Flintstone’s singing voice in “Alice in Wonderland or What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?”, a TV special which ran a month before the film’s release, and eventually he would take on the role entirely upon Alan Reed’s passing in 1977. On the subject of music, singer Louis Prima contributed to the soundtrack with vocals to the song "Pensate Amore (Think Love)", though all releases of the soundtrack had his voice replaced.
The film was overall well received, being called “excellent” in a Variety review at the time, though others have pointed out how it feels like a two-part TV story with songs to pad out the length. It would later be rereleased as a double feature with the earlier Yogi Bear movie during the 70s, and eventually live on through TV airings and home releases. Warner Bros (who currently own the Flintstones) ran into some issues with releasing the film on DVD back in the mid 00s regarding the song rights (which still belonged to Columbia, the film’s original distributor), but these were cleared up by 2008; However, a short segment at the start with Wilma dressed as Columbia was removed.
“The Man Called Flintstone” would be the final Flintstones production during the 60s, effectively marking the end of the classic era for the franchise. The modern stone age family would take its deserved rest for the remainder of the decade, until 1971’s “The Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm Show”, a series that would see the franchise take a different direction with Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm as teenagers. As for Hanna-Barbera, this film would be their last foray into theatrical films for a while as well, with their next not being until 1973. For now, it was time to get back to television.