A lot of my friends made fun of me when I went into the cartoon business running the world famous Hanna-Barbera cartoon company, I suppose it didn’t really seem of great significance to them. But I’d been in love with Huckleberry Hound and The Flintstones most of my life and I knew there was a great opportunity to share them with the world.
When I first arrived in the middle of 1992, I immediately started collecting licensed merchandise and ephemera from the studio’s history. Mostly, it was pretty disappointing because there hadn’t been a disciplined approach to the quality of the licenses and the artwork that fueled it.
(Small countries the world over issue unusual stamps with contemporary pop cultural figures for American suckers (like me!) who love seeing their favorites printed on anything unexpected.)
Eventually, we were lucky enough to bring in Creative Director Russell Hicks, who was able to wrestle the creative side of licensing into a beautiful experience. The Turner licensing crew was another story for another time.0 comments Tagged: Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera, licensed products, randomHB,.
This Flintstones style guide was one of the last projects I oversaw as the last president of Hanna-Barbera cartoons. But it was probably one of the first things I wanted to accomplish.
Shortly after I joined the company I had an enlightening dinner with John Kricfalusi where we got to know each other. In addition to discussing some first principles of cartoon making (where I told John to my thoughts about doing classic-type shorts and found out he’d thinking along the same lines; I guess there are no original ideas) John told me about his frustrations about the ‘evolution’ Hanna-Barbera’s classic characters had taken since the early 1960s. He introduced me to master designer Ed Benedict, one of his heroes, who’s designed everyone from Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, and The Flintstones. And how HB’s cutifying and firming up the modeling of the characters had actually completely robbed them of their personalities.
John made perfect sense to me and solidified an ignorant instinct I had about the lessening of the vintage Hanna-Barbera shows that started losing their power around the time of The Jetsons. It became one of my missions at the studio to restore the power of the great, funny drawings in the company’s heritage. So, in addition to the resurrection of the a shorts program I tried to instill a passion for the great designs that built the joint.
Boy was it hard. For thirty years the culture had re-developed around the cute, squat, and dull designs that emerged around the early/mid 60s; it had convinced itself that that art was the ‘good stuff’ and the earlier models were crude, inexact, and ‘bad.’ But, as the young artists started to re-populate the ranks, their interest in the original designs and animation started to take hold and eventually led us to master artist Craig Kellman (now working primarily with Genndy Tartakovky’s Orphanage).
Not more than 25 in 1996, Craig was commissioned by HB Licensing Creative Director Russell Hicks to completely redesign the licensing guide that had come out just the year before. And wow did he take to it. Hundreds —probably thousands— of drawings poured out from Craig’s desk. Superior drawings too, too great for someone of his tender age. But, one by one, anyone could see their power and their humor, and soon enough we completely republished the style guide, a "redux" if you will. Check out the drawings above and you’ll see how much Ed’s influence was on Craig, but also the pathetic, enemic versions that have dominated for the last 50 years.
From “On the Rocks”
Alas, we were a little too late. Seemingly within minutes after publication Ted Turner sold Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network to Time Warner. No one there really gave a crap about old or new designs, and the Cartoon Network executives with senior responsibility were more interested in their employment than the studio. A few of them —Mike Lazzo, Linda Simensky, and Brian Miller— thankfully had enough juice to get a 90 minute special,”On the Rocks,” produced using the models.
But, by then, The Flintstones had lost their mojo and the film went pretty much unnoticed. But, don’t fret. The designs exist forever, and one day The Flintstones will come back, with a passionate advocate steering them to wonderful comedy greatness.
In the meantime, enjoy some of Craig’s designs.
A couple of H&B veterans commented on this post with some insightful thoughts:
Thanks for posting these Fred, I’ve always been nuts about these drawings. Craig’s style guide was great, not just because it rediscovered the charm of Ed’s classic designs, but also because they brought something new and slightly contemporary to them as well, while perfectly retaing the personalities. I’ve always felt cartoon characters have to visually evolve a little if they’re going to survive the decades, but as you mentioned the only thing the Flintstones (as well as most classic characters from the world of animation) had done since the late 60’s was stagnate.
Fred, I was lucky enough to be the animation director for Flinstones on the Rocks. It was a lot of fun and presented some of the toughest directing work I have ever done. There are a couple of sequences that are directed to music and it took Dave Smith pitching them to me with the music several times. Speaking of Dave, not many know but this special is greatly responsible for his getting the job he has at Dreamworks. Dave used the opening sequence which he boarded to pitch as an audition. That sold them on Dave. He is a tremendously funny guy.
1994 was our year to revive The Flintstones. Steven Spielberg was producing a live action movie, Cartoon Network had just launched and was featuring the series, and we had produced a laser disc set of the original episodes with John Kricfalusi and Earl Kress. We asked Drew Hodges and his Spot Design in New York to showcase The Flintstones with the quality we thought they deserved.
From the credits page:
All the toys pictured in this calendar are from the collection of Justin Strauss. Justin has been collecting Flinstones and Hanna-Barbera memorabilia for 12 years. He lives in an apartment in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and a lot of shelves. Justin’s kids are not allowed to play with his toys but he does play with theirs.
Art Direction: Hanna-Barbera Creative Services,
Design: Spot Design, NY, Copy: Overnight Inspirations, Photography: Mark Hill,
Film/Printing: Digital Imaging of Southern California
TM and ©1993 Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc.
©1993 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.