From the town of Bedrock to the auction block, 'The Flintstones' get quality yabba-dabba-doo time at Heritage Auctions
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From the town of Bedrock to the auction block, 'The Flintstones' get quality yabba-dabba-doo time at Heritage Auctions
The Flintstones Betty Rubble and Dino Published Original Model Sheet Art by Ed Benedict (Hanna-Barbera, 1960)

DALLAS, TX.- From the fall of 2016 until the spring of 2017, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Ma., hosted the “Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning” exhibition. Included in that wildly popular exhibition were original animation art, sketches and model sheets from The Flintstones, which, on Sept. 30, 1960, became primetime television’s first animated series – and the only successful one until The Simpsons debuted 30 years later. For kids, the show was heaven: Cartoons at night! And for their parents, well, it wasn’t The Honeymooners but close enough.

Ten of those pieces displayed in the Rockwell Museum make their auction debut Sept. 23-26 at Heritage Auctions during the latest Art of Anime and Everything Cool Signature® Auction. This extraordinary cache of Flintstones works, which were also featured in the 1994 book The Flintstones: A Modern Stone Age Phenomenon, comes from the collection of longtime Flintstones fan Mike Fazio and includes early character designs and model sheets by animation greats Ed Benedict and Dick Bickenbach.

In all, Fazio has consigned some 40 of the 90 Flintstones offerings in this auction. Those that didn’t make the museum certainly belonged there.

“I loved the show, but what got me into it more than anything were the animators,” Fazio says of the idols who in time became friends. “Dick and Ed were such terrific people. When you do animation you’re so happy, so nice. That goes hand-in-hand with creating these fun characters. I loved those guys.”

They are, you guessed it, pages right out of history – the earliest glimpses of the Flintstones as they found their faces, their voices, even their names (the series was pitched as The Flagstones). These are the characters as first envisioned by William Hanna and Joe Barbera and their stable of writers and animators as they endeavored to stretch their short-form cartoons into a half-hour series. These are the rough drafts, the first looks, where Tex Avery’s First Bad Man met Ralph Kramden on their way to the Fleischer Bros.’ Granite Hotel.

Featured in this auction are Benedict’s renderings of a thin Fred Flintstone, a vaguely recognizable Barney Rubble and … wait, what … Fred Jr.? Here, too, is Wilma Flintstone looking blonder and a little younger than her finished counterpart, and Betty Rubble modeling myriad hairstyles. Also included in this event is Benedict’s early pencil sketch of the Flintstones’ “split-level cave” and the Rubble family home, which were some tony digs in the Stone Age, and a 1960 model sheet featuring Betty and Dino.

From Bickenbach comes this character design of Fred and Barney done at the request of Barbera. The pair look more familiar than in Benedict’s early sketches, but Fred’s sporting a bow tie. Here’s the finished, “modernized” Fred and Barney, in a 1965 model sheet made for the series’ final season that also features Pebbles. Wilma likewise got a Bickenbach makeover during that last year: “Wilma now is longer legged,” reads one of his notes dated February 1965. Two years earlier he also introduced the pregnant Wilma, who was first seen in the Season Three episode “The Surprise.” For a series set in the Stone Age, The Flintstones was surprisingly progressive: Fred and Wilma were even seen sharing the same bed.

But the series was decidedly family-friendly, too, as evidenced by an early concept painting that shows The Flintstones that wasn’t: Fred as short, stocky, unkempt caveman in furs and Wilma as a voluptuous, scantily clad pin-up.

Fazio, an animation-art dealer, adored the output of Hanna-Barbera, which was quirkier than the rounded, polished work being done at Disney and Warner Bros. As The Hollywood Reporter noted in its review of The Flintstones’ premiere: “New TV series appeal stems from yak-track with Picasso-school impressionist treatment rather than standard hi-fi animation.”

“These are just wonderful works of art,” Fazio says. “If you look at what Ed did, he used charcoal when he did some of the concept art, and they’re just magnificent works of art. And even as a child I could see the difference between the storylines of The Flintstones versus the Saturday morning cartoons. On Saturdays the stories were fun but primitive. Then, all of the sudden, there was this primetime show being compared to The Honeymooners. And they were amazing stories. Even as a 7-year-old I could tell the difference.”

Among his other offerings in this event are some of the most iconic Flintstones images available, including a production cel from the 1960 Winston cigarette commercial in which Fred’s enjoying a smoke while watching television. Here, too, are Bickenbach’s layout drawings for TV Guide’s Flintstones covers in 1961 and 1964. And there are many more character design drawings and model sheets by both Bickenbach and Benedict, alongside production cels, original comic strip art and other collectibles and keepsakes from the show that continues to influence animators and delight audiences.

“I always thought I would keep my Flintstones collection,” Fazio says. “But I am retired. And now, it’s time for others to enjoy it.”

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