Feeling down because you’re getting old, fellow Baby Boomers? Try this on for size:
Pebbles Flintstone turns 50 years old on Friday.
You read that right: Fred and Wilma Flintstone’s adorable baby girl with the ever-present bone in her hair is now eligible to join the AARP.
The Flintstones, television’s first primetime animated series, premiered on September 30, 1960. Originally developed as The Flagstones until the producers were threatened with a lawsuit by the syndicators of the comic strip Hi & Lois, whose central characters bear the surname Flagston, The Flintstones was an immediate hit with viewers and critics as an inventive and funny Honeymooners-derived spoof for adults that also entertained children. In those pre-politically correct days, it probably bothered no one that commercials featuring the characters touting series sponsor Winston cigarettes were integrated into episodes. Hanna-Barbera Productions and the American Broadcasting Company were certainly delighted: The Flintstones rose to among the highest-rated television programs and was a revenue-generating monster.
Although the ratings remained high, by the third season some of the novelty was beginning to wear off, and several changes were introduced into the series. Episodes were broadcast in color for the first time beginning September 28, 1962. A new opening credits sequence was devised, replacing the original action of Fred driving home, stopping at the dry cleaners, picking up a newspaper and crashing into his garage with the now more familiar sequence of Fred sliding joyously down the back of his dinosaur-crane when the whistle blows then taking Wilma to a drive-in movie. The series' original instrumental theme music "Rise 'n' Shine" was replaced by the now-legendary "Meet the Flintstones". Finally, the decision was made to add some juice (literally: sponsor Winston had departed in favor of Welch’s grape juice and grape jelly) to the show with the addition of a baby for Fred and Wilma.
When producers Joe Hanna and William Barbera decided to add a baby to the show, their first choice was a boy (Fred and Wilma had a son, Fred, Jr., in the series’ 1959 90-second pilot). When the Ideal Toy Company got wind of this, though, company executives convinced Hanna and Barbera to change the character to a girl which could be marketed as a doll, and the producers agreed. It was a wise move: Ideal’s “Pebbles” doll brought Hanna-Barbera an estimated $20 million in additional revenue in its first year on the market.
Wilma’s pregnancy was announced in an episode that aired on January 25, 1963. How Fred could have failed to notice his wife’s delicate condition until the eighth month may raise a few eyebrows, but, hey, when it came to relationships you could say he was a bit of a caveman.
Amid a blaze of publicity, the blessed event occurred on the evening of Friday, February 22, 1963, in the series’ highest-rated episode ever and television’s most-anticipated birth since Little Ricky Ricardo was born on I Love Lucy
The following season, the Flintstones’ friends and neighbors, Barney and Betty Rubble, depressed over being unable to have children of their own (making The Flintstones the first television series to address the issue of infertility, albeit subtly), adopted a child of their own, Bamm-Bamm.
With the introduction of Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm the series’ writing became more juvenile and the show’s adult demographic began to slide precipitously. New York Times theater and film critic Brooks Atkinson complained that the show had “become increasingly preoccupied with domestic affairs, like the birth of a bland, self-contained daughter, Pebbles.” As the fifth season wound down, The Flintstones was quietly cancelled. The last original episode aired on April 1, 1966.
With its five-season run, The Flintstones established a record for longest-running primetime animated television series that lasted until it was surpassed by The Simpsons in 1995.
Pebbles Flintstone went on to co-star as a teenager in the 1970s spin-off, The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show
. As an adult, after a brief stint as a librarian (in Weekly Reader
, a magazine for schoolchildren), Pebbles pursued a career in advertising (as befits someone who shilled for Welch’s in her infancy), married Bamm-Bamm in 1993’s animated television special, The Flintstones Movie
, and, ten months later in a sequel, Hollyrock-a-Bye Baby
, gave birth to twins, son Chip and daughter Roxy.
It may be hard to believe but, yes, Pebbles Flintstone is now a middle-aged woman with two 19-year-old children. I'd like to think that Fred and Wilma, Barney and Betty are enjoying a happy and healthy retirement, living close to their grandchildren, and that no one has seen or heard from the Great Gazoo in 47 years.