The Flintstones got its start back in 1960 and for many years it was the standard for prime time animation. It was really the only prime time animated show for decades and has now been firmly supplanted by The Simpsons in almost every conceivable fashion. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, being new to sitcoms, treated The Flintstones as if it were just another sitcom in many ways. A lot of the characters and gags were borrowed rather liberally from The Honeymooners (though Joseph Barbera wants us to think that wasn’t intentional) and the show made use of a laugh track. It also followed adult characters navigating social situations, work, and marriage. Really, the only thing making it feel animated was the setting of Bedrock, a stone age location populated with people, dinosaurs, and other creatures long extinct.
The show was pretty stand-alone in terms of approach, but in season three it added a new character: Pebbles. Like any other sitcom, this meant Wilma had to go through a lengthy pregnancy captured on film before finally having a baby girl. Not long after, neighbors the Rubbles welcomed Bamm-Bamm via adoption, and suddenly the show started to skew young. Sponsor Winston cigarettes was out and in came Welch’s, maker of jelly and grape juice. Ratings began to slide and the show eventually came to an end, but it would find extended life in children’s timeslots for years to come. The 166 episode total may seem minor considering The Simpsons has gone well beyond that mark, but it’s still a healthy total and represents a long run.
In the 1980s the show was resurrected via spin-offs and specials. The brand also remained pervasive in grocery stores via cereal and vitamins which still exist to this day. The franchise was still popular enough in the 1990s to receive a prime time animated Christmas special titled A Flintstone Family Christmas. Airing on December 18, 1993, it depicts Fred and Wilma as grandparents waiting to welcome their family home for the holidays. Pebbles has married and had children with Bamm-Bamm, essentially making Fred and Barney family officially. It made use of a lot of voice actors that had become prevalent in shows of the era, and it’s a bit of a trip to hear them work on The Flintstones.
The special begins with Fred (Henry Corden) decorating his home for the holidays while Barney (Frank Welker) looks on. Fred is putting lights on his house that just look like rocks that apparently light up. The source of power for these lights is a tank of water with an electric eel inside. When Fred drops the wire into the tank, the eel goes to work lighting up the display. It soon explodes, changing Fred’s holiday greeting to read Fatso’s House. Fred’s neighbor, Mr. Gravelberry (sp?), shares his disapproval of Fred’s light show, but nothing is going to take Fred out of his holly jolly mood. Not even the paper, which contains stories about drive-by stonings and other non-Christmasy happenings.
Betty (BJ Ward) and Wilma (Jean Vander Pyl) are wrapping gifts when Fred and Barney come inside to find out the kids are on their way home from Hollyrock. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm have two little ones and Fred can’t wait for them to see him play Santa in a Christmas parade. Wilma lists off all of the things they have to do before the kids get there and usher the boys out to pick up some stuff.
As Fred and Barney leave a store with a rather large prehistoric turkey, a street Santa gets their attention. He’s soliciting donations, at least that’s what they think when they approach him only to get held up. He takes their belongings, and as he runs away it becomes obvious this Santa is actually two children with one standing on the shoulders of the other. He apparently didn’t get far as Fred and Barney are shown at the police station picking their mugger out of a Santa line-up. Wilma and Betty think it’s rather funny when they see it was just a kid that mugged them, but Fred is insistent that this kid needs the book thrown at him.
A social worker named Stella Stalagmite (Didi Conn) then enters to tell us all about the kid, Stony (Christine Cavanaugh). He’s a cave-less child, which horrifies Wilma. No one wants him, and they’ve tried appealing to all of the major religions too, but no one can get this kid to fly straight. Fred finds out it was a stick and not a gun that the kid was holding when he held them up, and becomes irate when Wilma suggests they bring him home. The two argue, with Fred insisting there’s no way this kid is coming over to his house, which can only mean one thing…
Stony is indeed brought home to the Flintstone residence and is amazed by what he sees. He’s very polite and complementary, but Fred isn’t buying it. As the Rubbles head off to make dinner, Fred is left alone with the kid who marvels at his big screen TV. Stony rewires it so that Fred can get all of the channels illegally and some all cave girl network pops up on the screen. Unlike most Flintstone gags featuring modern tech in a stone age world, there’s no explanation for how this TV works. As best I can tell, it’s just a regular TV in a stone box. Fred is interested in this racy channel at first, but soon changes the channel insisting they watch what he wants to watch. The remote is at least low tech as a little bird flies out of it to manually change the channel to It’s a Wonderful Stone Age Life. Fred declares it’s his favorite movie, while Stony isn’t impressed. We then get what’s probably going to be the prevailing message of this special when Stony imagines himself entering the movie only to have the main character to tell him to beat it, “We don’t want to think about your kind at Christmas!”
Stony relays his distaste for the holiday to an incredulous Fred. He doesn’t understand how a kid could dislike Christmas and declares him defective. Wilma has to break up the fight, and suggests that they go get a Christmas tree. Fred wants to wait for the grandkids, but when Stony offers to get them a tree for only 20 bucks Wilma insists they should let him do it so that they can demonstrate their trust for him. Fred reluctantly gives Stony a twenty, and he takes off and reappears quickly with a fully-decorated tree. Fred can’t believe it, but then Barney re-enters the picture and immediately recognizes the tree as his own.
As Wilma fits Fred for his Santa suit, Pebbles calls with bad news. It seems she and the family are stranded at O’Harestone (this is already like the fifth “joke” that’s just the name of something from the real world with “stone” added onto the end of it) and she isn’t sure when they can make it home. This bums Fred out and Stony tries to cheer him up. They get into a little conversation about Stony not understanding what he did wrong, Fred gave him a 20 and he produced a tree. Wilma reasons the kid is just acting in the only manner he knows how, while even Barney sticks up for him as he apparently hooked him up with the cave girl channel too. Fred then tells Stony he just wants him to try and enjoy Christmas, and it seems like our special is turning hopeful. They then pile into the car to make what Wilma calls their “Christmas rounds.”
The next segment is a montage set to an original song. If I had to guess, I would say it’s titled “It’s a Merry Christmas in Bedrock This Year.” During the montage, the gang is shown caroling while Stony solicits donations to himself which Fred puts a stop to. They then deliver cookies, and we get our shot of Stony looking thoughtful on the kind gesture. Fred tries to show the boy how to figure skate, which ends in pain for Fred, and then they all gather for a picture and Fred puts the kid on his shoulders.
When we exit the song, Fred and Wilma are taking Stony to see Santa Claus. Fred expresses to Wilma that he’s getting through to Stony, while Stony sits on Santa’s lap. He tells him how he used to have a red suit like that, until the pants ran away. This sets the Santa into a sad story about his own life. He admits he’s not the real Santa and then adds how he feels like he’s under tremendous pressure to tell the kids who see him that they’ll get what they want for Christmas, even though he’s powerless to make it so. While he tells his story, Stony swipes a handful of candy canes from Santa’s sack. Fred approaches and tells the Santa to brighten up and hands him a homemade ornament. Santa does as he’s told, and Stony is apparently warmed by Fred’s holiday spirit and slips the candy canes back into the sack.
The family then heads to pick out a tree. Wilma eyes an eight-footer, but Fred is scared off by the price. Stony tells him he needs to get a good tree for his grandkids’ first Christmas, but Fred remarks he can’t print money and they walk off. This gives Stony an idea as he tells the salesman to hold the tree. We then see him hosting a table game. He has three turtle shells and is taking money from people to see if their eye is quicker than his hand. When a very large man insists Stony cheated him, he runs off seeking the help of Fred. He insists to Fred, with a tear in his eye, that he didn’t cheat the guy and Fred stands up for him. This doesn’t go so well for Fred as the big guy grabs a Christmas tree and hits Fred over the head with it.
The tree did enough damage that Fred needed to be hospitalized. As he lays in a hospital bed with Wilma and the others at his side he openly wonders how this Christmas could get any worse. Mr. Slate (John Stephenson) then enters to tell Fred he’s taking him out of the parade. He can’t risk Fred’s health and have Santa die in the middle of the thing. Fred is heartbroken, and as Stony looks on he starts to feel sorry for himself declaring this is all his fault. He then spies Slate’s car waiting for him outside and a smile crosses his face as he apparently has another idea. When Mr. Slate returns to his car, he orders the driver to head to Flintstone’s house so he can retrieve the Santa suit. As the car drives away we see it’s Stony who is behind the wheel.
Stony brings the suit to Fred’s hospital room, and upon hearing what he did to his boss, Fred flips out. He takes off with Stony in tow and we see that Stony locked Mr. Slate in Fred’s bathroom. As he shouts for help, he gets the attention of the police who soon show up as Fred arrives. When Fred goes to free Mr. Slate from the bathroom, the door falls on him and out comes Mr. Slate. The cops order everyone to put their hands up, and all three do with Fred’s coming from underneath the door.
Stony and Fred are then shown being taken to a jail cell. They’re in pin-striped suits and Fred looks pretty mopey. Stony tries to cheer him up by telling him it’s not so bad, but it’s not getting through. He imparts some advice to Fred as well, like don’t slow dance with Bubba or play Marie in the prison play. Fred has had enough of Stony and draws a line on the cell they share and orders Stony not to cross it. Stony gets back on Fred’s good side when he produces some crumb cake he smuggled into prison (he doesn’t elaborate on how he snuck it in). When Fred asks why he did that he explains when you live on the street you never know where your next meal is coming from so you always try to save something. He even gives Fred a bigger chunk of the cake which leads into the sappiest moment yet where the two have a heart-to-heart. Stony explains he just wanted to help Fred out since he helped him out with that big guy at the tree lot. Fred explains that Stony’s intentions are good, but his methods are not.
As the two have their happy Christmas moment, which includes the both of them resigning themselves to spending Christmas in jail, the cell door opens and in comes Mr. Slate and the social worker from earlier. Slate has the Santa suit and slams it on Fred. He cleared up the charges and still wants Fred to play Santa in the parade. As Fred struggles to get the beard over his head, the social worker takes Stony out as she assumed the placement with the Flintstones isn’t working out. As he’s lead away, Fred is dragged by Mr. Slate as he calls out for Stony.
Fred is at the parade sitting in Santa’ sleigh, which is pulled by six giant birds (why not 8?), when Wilma, Betty, and Barney show up. They’re glad to see him out of jail, but Fred is depressed over Stony being taken away. The parade starts and the birds pull him along and as he heads down the street he realizes something is in his hat. It’s a star-shaped Christmas card that Stony slipped inside his hat, and as Fred wishes the lad a merry Christmas, he sees Stony getting into the social worker’s car. He then snaps the reigns and orders the birds to fly. They sail over the parade and over the mayor’s car (the mayor, by the way, looks just like Fred but with a moustache) which Mr. Slate was riding in. He shouts out “Flintstone!” as he often does at the sight of Fred abandoning the parade.
Fred soon catches up to the social worker’s car and reaches down to pluck Stony from the rear seat. He tells the social worker Stony has a home and the two fly off into the required Santa in front of the moon shot. They head home, where Pebbles and the gang are waiting for them. They’re singing a Flintstone’s version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” while Stony shows the babies his turtle shell game. Fred then approaches to tell them it’s time for the family tradition where the newest member of the family puts the star on the tree. Stony hands over the babies thinking that honor falls to them, but Fred hands him the star instead. Bamm-Bamm lifts the boy on his shoulders and Stony places the start on the tree, an amber rock with a firefly inside of it. Fred then remarks to Wilma that this is the best Christmas ever, and everyone sings about wanting chocolate pudding. A “Merry Christmas!” lets us know this one is over.
This is a mostly serviceable Christmas special starring The Flintstones. I don’t have tremendous affection for The Flintstones, but I will say that as a Flintstones special this is rather weak. There aren’t any good puns and the stone age technology isn’t very creative at all. The writers seemed to think just tacking the word “stone” onto the end of everything serves as a joke all by itself. The special at least doesn’t repeat the trope of Fred having to find a new appreciation for Christmas, as we’ve seen him do in other Flintstones Christmas specials (he’d even play Scrooge the following year), but that’s a low bar to clear.
As a Christmas special though, this isn’t terrible. Stony coming around to see the good aspects of Christmas and feel accepted by his new family happens pretty quickly and conveniently. Having the Flintstones adopt another kid certainly makes them look good, though I don’t think Stony every shows up again (not that much follows this special). When the gang all return in 1994 for A Flintstone Christmas Carol, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are kids again so it obviously takes place at a different time. Both specials essentially mark the end of The Flintstones as a prime time network attraction and it’s possible they only exist to cross-promote with the film which came around the same time.
Visually, this one looks like a 90s cartoon. It’s in-line with the level of quality that would show up in other Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The characters are on-model, though they have exaggerated 90s flourishes to their actions. It’s actually refreshing since a lot of Flintstones animation was re-purposed and reused often. The sound design is also of a similar quality as most of the voices fans were familiar with were still around to voice these characters. And Frank Welker does a pretty good Mel Blanc impression as Barney Rubble.
If you like The Flintstones then you’ll probably think this is okay, but may also feel let down. The Flintstones premise was never very creative making the only charming aspect of the show often the little gags tossed in which usually revolved around some animal appliance. This special is missing that as what is present just isn’t funny. It’s a heart-warming Christmas special though, so if you’re just looking for some Christmas feels it will probably get the job done. And at only 23 minutes, it’s not like it hangs around too long.
If you want to add this to your viewing this year, your options are a bit limited. The video-on-demand service Boomerang still shows episodes of The Flintstones, but it’s a paid subscription service. The special was sold as a manufacture-on-demand DVD with A Flintstones Christmas through Amazon as A Flintstone Christmas Collection and that might still be the case. That’s how I came upon it. Just taking a look, it appears it’s no longer available from Amazon, but third party sellers have it for less than 5 bucks. Warner Bros. doesn’t appear too protective of the property these days, so if you want to watch it without spending any money it’s not hard to find.