The Flintstones have a well-established relationship with Christmas at this point. There have been a few specials, some even prime time, and plenty of home video releases. For that reason it’s a bit interesting that the show actually waited until its fifth season for its first Christmas episode. At that point, the show had been moved from its original prime time slot to a Saturday morning one and was more obviously intended to be a children’s show as opposed to a more general audience one. The fifth season in particular had some pretty wild plots including a Cinderella parody and an episode where Fred gets shrunk, so one that acknowledges the existence of Santa Claus feels practically ordinary.
If you’re not familiar with the property, The Flintstones is a show about the modern stone age family in which patriarch Fred Flintstone (Alan Reed), wife Wilma (Jean Vander Pyl), and daughter Pebbles (Vander Pyl) are just trying to scrape by. The show was inspired by The Honeymooners, and some would go further and call it a rip-off, though Fred doesn’t resort to threats of violence towards his wife. The gimmick obviously is the characters co-exist in a prehistoric world alongside dinosaurs and other extinct creatures. The family “dog” is actually a dinosaur named Dino (Mel Blanc) and most of the world’s technology is driven by dinosaurs. A comedic staple of the show is seeing a dinosaur used for a mundane task who then breaks the fourth wall by commenting on its miserable life.
“Christmas Flintstone,” sometimes referred to as “How The Flintstones Saved Christmas,” arrived on television for Christmas Day, 1964 as the fifteenth episode of the show’s fifth season. The episode centers on Fred and his quest for more money to help with the gift-buying that the holiday often demands. Through that, Fred is going to find his true calling, it would seem, when he winds up playing Santa for a local department store. That’s going to get him some attention from a unique source which leads to an even more unique job opportunity. It’s a story that Hanna-Barbera apparently liked because the studio would turn to it again thirteen years later for a full-fledged hour long Flintstones Christmas special.
The episode begins with a cold open in which a little girl is telling Santa Fred what she wants for Christmas. This will occur later in the episode so I don’t know if it’s considered a true cold open as it’s more like a preview. The catchy theme song then takes over and when it fades out we find Fred and his good pal Barney (Blanc) driving through a gentle snowstorm. Fred is talking about his love for the holiday season and the warm feelings it brings, which quickly fade when he slams on the “brakes” (his heels) to stop for a jaywalker that he admonishes. Barney is quick to remind him about the whole “good will toward men” business of Christmas which causes Fred to bring out his smile again. The jaywalker doesn’t appear to share the same warm feelings.
Barney and Fred then take a stroll through the downtown area and Fred starts to fret about his finances. Barney is sporting earmuffs and Fred has green gloves on which looks kind of funny since they’re still shoe-less and bare-armed. Fred notices a help wanted sign in a department store and decides to check it out. He meets with a Mr. Macyrock (Blanc) and gets hired, though he doesn’t know what he’ll be doing. Fred runs out of the office and shares the good news with Barney and then dashes home to tell Wilma the same. The elevator is out, so they have to take the “stairs” which turns out to be the spine of a dinosaur. Barney tells Fred to be careful as the stairs are uneven. When the two disappear from the frame the dinosaur makes a comment about people always going up and down him. If there wasn’t a laugh track I wouldn’t even know he’s making a joke.
We then see Betty Rubble (Gerry Johnson) seated in her home reading a slate. Barney pops into the window and then vanishes. The two carry on a conversation about Fred getting a new job as we see Barney is being bounced by son Bamm-Bamm (Don Messick). Betty tells Bamm-Bamm to put his father down as it’s time for dinner. Barney can’t wait to eat the roast dodo Betty prepared as we then get introduced to the Rubbles’ pet, Hoppy, a green, kangaroo-like dinosaur. Betty asks Hoppy where Bamm-Bamm is, and predictably it’s to setup a joke about Bamm-Bamm being in the dino’s pouch. At the Flintstone household, Fred is assuring Wilma this job is a good thing and bemoaning the fact that he’s only getting one pterodactyl leg, which like the ribs in the ending title sequence, is comically huge. He also makes a bad joke about eating for two now that he has two jobs.
The next day, Fred leaves his regular job hastily to get to the department store. There he’s instructed by Mr. Macyrock to head to gift-wrapping. After getting a demonstration on how to wrap gifts, Fred is left on his own when an impatient woman brings him an umbrella to wrap. Fred can’t find a box that fits, so he just wraps it to the woman’s specifications which results in a rather ugly looking parcel. When he hands it to her she questions if it’s a joke. As Fred stammers, the umbrella opens and suddenly the wrapping-job he did looks pretty good! She leaves satisfied, but Fred is soon called to help in the stockroom.
As Fred complains about liking gift wrap better, he finds himself in the toy department. He basically turns into a big kid when he sees all of the toys, and apparently is unaware of his family’s celebrity as he makes no comment about the Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm, and Dino dolls for sale. He then spies some baseball equipment, and for some reason, decides it would be a good idea to hit a ball. It ends up getting lodged in the mouth of Mr. Macyrock who seems willing to take things in stride, surprisingly.
Fred runs before Macyrock knows for sure it was him, but Fred doesn’t go far as he hops onto a rocking horse. The other kids in the department start complaining that he’s hogging the toys and Macyrock orders him to get the stock to the basement. He’ll tolerate a rock-ball to the kisser, but not employee incompetance, and when Fred plummets down the out of order elevator shaft Macyrock lays down his hammer and fires him on the spot.
The manager for the store runs over to Macyrock informing him of a problem. It would seem their Santa is sick and can’t make it. Worse, the hiring agency is completely booked and now people are starting to leave. Macyrock then gets an idea and runs back to the elevator. By now, Fred has emerged and is aware of his termination, but Macyrock quickly undoes that and informs Fred that he’ll be the store’s new Santa. Fred is a bit surprised at first, but he soon takes to the job quite well. Macyrock gives him a costume which for some reason includes a cow-print belt and Fred is able to impress with his best “ho ho ho.”
Fred heads out into the store as Santa Claus and goes into a Christmas song. The title is “Christmas is my Fav’rite Time of Year,” and Alan Reed sings it well enough. It’s not great, but is short, and once it ends we see Fred doing the Santa routine and the little girl from the cold open is on his lap. After she gives him a long list of presents, Fred tells her to just give the list to her mother and she’ll get it to him. She tells him she loves him, and Fred gets a little emotional in a nice bit of voice work by Reed.
We cut to another scene and a little boy is telling Fred he’s been a good boy all year. Fred responds, without cynicism, that everyone has told him the same before we cut to another scene. It’s a bit weird to have such a quick cut, apparently someone really felt that was a good joke. The other scene still features Fred in Santa’s chair and more kids have gathered around for a story. Once again, Fred is oblivious to his celebrity status as the book he reads is about his own pet, Dino, and the story is sung. I guess this was just done to get fan-favorite Dino some screen-time and as Fred sings the song we see the events of the book unfold in still images. It’s all about Dino cutting and trimming a tree for some kids without them knowing. It’s cute and fills some time.
With the shift over, Fred gets congratulations from Mr. Macyrock for a job well done. As Fred heads home for the night, Macyrock remarks he thinks Fred truly believes he’s Santa Claus. Fred then arrives home and his presence initially terrifies poor Dino. Fred has apparently decided to wear his costume home, and when Wilma sees him she thinks he’s the real deal and hastily trims the tree. Fred insists it’s him, not Santa, and then tells Wilma to sit down and he’ll explain what happened.
Barney and Betty decide to stop by and see how Fred’s first day at the new job went (they’re apparently comfortable leaving the house with their kid asleep in his bed). When Santa Fred answers the door Betty is surprised and starts listing off a list of wants for Christmas which include mostly expensive things. When Fred cuts her off by telling her he’s not Santa, she confesses she knew, but was hoping to be wrong. Barney then gets in a zinger about telling Santa to bring Fred a new bowling ball so he has no excuse when he loses to him. Fred reluctantly invites the pair in. He tells them what happened with work while enduring a bunch of fat jokes from Barney. Seriously, the guy is pretty relentless.
The next day, everyone watches Fred get interviewed as Santa on television. He seems to be enjoying the attention, but it’s also closing time on Christmas Eve, so he wishes everyone gathered at the store the merriest Christmas ever. With that done, Fred retreats to the locker room pretty satisfied with himself. He soon falls asleep in his chair and a pair of heads peek through the doorway. They’re elves, and they soon wake Fred up to tell him they need his help. Fred doesn’t believe them, especially when they both claim to be over 300 years old, and thinks they’re kids. Blinky (Messick) and Twinky (Dick Beals) are pretty insistent that Santa Claus needs Fred’s help and he decides to go along with it.
The elves lead Fred to a sleigh outside outfitted with three dinosaur reindeer. The elves call out to only two though, Dancer and Prancer, and the sleigh takes off into the night sky. Fred is shocked, but also convinced, that these guys are indeed who they say they are. He soon finds himself at the north pole face to face with the real Santa Claus. It seems the big guy is sick this year and can’t deliver the presents, and since Fred did such a good job playing him at the store, he wants Fred to deliver the presents for him.
What do you do when Santa Claus (Hal Smith) asks something of you? You do it, of course! Fred heads back to the sleigh with Blinky and Twinky and they fly over the world. It would seem Santa’s job is pretty easy in this world as Fred is just instructed to dump the presents over the side of the sleigh. When he asks how they’ll possibly be able to hit every house in a single night, Blinky just responds with a joke so the episode clearly isn’t interested in exploring how Santa’s magic works.
Fred empties the sack and presents fall out. Eerily, some resemble Pebbles and you would think Fred would have some hang-ups about dumping dolls resembling his daughter into the night sky. Maybe he’s just really confident in the tiny parachutes attached to each toy as they all have little trouble finding a chimney to slide down. One smokestack even gulps the toys down.
As the sleigh flies around the world, Fred calls out “Merry Christmas,” in various different languages. Since this is a stone age world, the language thing helps to let us know where they are since it isn’t always obvious based on the visuals. I’m also assuming the elves helped him out there, or maybe it’s just Christmas magic that allows Fred to be multi-lingual for a night.
With the job done, the elves drop Fred off at his house. He’s now in his regular attire and bids farewell to the elves. As he heads for his front door, he soon realizes he forgot his own presents for the family in the sleigh. Fred chases after the sleigh, but it’s long gone. Dejected, Fred heads inside prepared to tell Wilma he lost their presents. Instead though, he finds his family along with the Rubbles in a particularly festive mood. They congratulate him on his act of coming down the chimney and delivering the presents. The kids were convinced he was Santa (though I guess they’re less convinced now as Wilma relays this information right in front of them) and everyone is rather joyous. Wilma then comments she’s glad that Fred was able to get over his cold.
Confused, Fred steps back outside. He looks up to the sky and sees another sleigh soaring through the sky. A fellow in it wishes him a “Merry Christmas,” followed by a sneeze. Fred finally figures out what happened, and remarks how great a guy Santa is to get out of his sickbed to make sure he and his family have a great Christmas. He then gets excited and shouts out to open presents as he races back inside.
The episode cuts to the traditional festive closing. The entire gang, Flintstones and Rubbles, are gathered in a festive environment to wish us, the audience, a merry Christmas. It’s a fine enough way to close things out.
This is a nice little Christmas episode for The Flintstones. Like a lot of the episodes of this show, it’s not very funny and the laugh track almost emphasizes how unfunny the show is. One joke I enjoyed was Santa and Fred messing up Twinky’s name and calling him Winky by mistake, but I’m not even sure if that was an actual joke or if they just messed up the script. I did think it was funny that Dino appears to have some dinosaur pin-ups by his bed.
What the episode lacks in humor it at least is able to make up for with some nice holiday visuals. Bedrock covered in snow is legitimately pretty and just about every scene features a nod to the holiday of some kind. This is a bit of a big deal for a Hanna-Barbera cartoon since the studio is famous for recycling a lot of animation. There’s still moments of that in this episode, in particular the crowd shots at the department store, but all in all it’s quite pleasing to the eye. I watched this on the DVD release for A Flintstones Christmas Carol and the colors are really rich and wonderful. I don’t know if this was restored, or if the studio just took excellent care of the masters.
Fred taking over for a sick Santa Claus is a good premise for a Christmas plot. It’s fair to wonder if The Santa Clause was partially inspired by this story, or the story of the special that followed. A Flintstone Christmas uses a similar plot, only Fred is forced into playing Santa by Mr. Slate and Santa doesn’t get sick, but instead falls off of Fred’s roof. Barney gets to go along for the ride, and while that special definitely doesn’t need the full hour it gets, it does spend a lot more time with Fred and Barney playing Santa. This episode doesn’t do that enough and basically just glosses over it by having Fred just dump gifts out of the sleigh. It would have been nice to see Fred have some mishaps with a chimney or unwelcoming pet. It’s possible this is where Hanna-Barbera’s budget police played a role as there is certainly some padding in this episode with the songs which require less animation or present opportunities to recycle some. I feel like the episode really did us a disservice by not going in that direction and since it does devote too much time to the mundane I feel like I have to recommend A Flintstone Christmas over this one.
In years past, you could expect to catch this special on television, but that is no longer the case. The series is available on DVD, though I can’t recommend going that route as the show isn’t great. As I mentioned before, this episode is included on the DVD release of A Flintstones Christmas Carol which is made available every year at department stores. It’s usually dirt cheap too, and often even cheaper if you wait until after Christmas. I do not recommend The Flintstones’ take on the Dickens classic, but I didn’t mind paying five bucks for it along with this episode. You can also rent this via several streaming platforms and it’s probably available on Boomerang if you happen to have that.