by Rachel Newstead
It’s amazing what one can learn on the internet sometimes. Case in point:
When doing research for my upcoming review of “The Swimming Pool”, I couldn’t help but think back to a mystery I encountered when researching the episode “The Hot Piano” two years ago. You might call it The Mystery Of The Missing Pilot.
In a routine Google search I ran across this page, a site called DVDVerdict.com. In its review of The Flintstones: The Complete First Season, it states:
After a moderate success with the Ruff N’ Ready [sic] Show, the duo was ready to try their hand at a prime time series. They made a deal with ABC; all they needed was a program. In 1959, a Belgian animation unit (that would later make the cult classic Pinocchio in Outer Space) tried their hand with a half-hour pilot titled The Flagstones. Hanna and Barbera did not like the end product, so a new approach was taken with the next pilot.
Wait a minute. Belgium? Next pilot??
You can understand my confusion, I’m sure. The reviewer says that Hanna-Barbera actually intended to outsource The Flintstones (or The Flagstones, as it was still known at the time) to a foreign studio, which flies in the face of everything I’ve ever read, or heard, about the origins of the show.
I unfortunately don’t have a copy of Joe Barbera’s autobiography in front of me, but I seem to recall he said he first talked to potential sponsors early in 1960, then made the well known three-minute minute-and-a-half pilot in house sometime in the spring of that year. Something like this wouldn’t appear to fit the timeline.
Yet there was supposedly a half hour pilot done as early as 1959 by this Belgian outfit, at about the time–as far as I knew–the very first concept sketches were being done? Curiouser and curiouser.
I remember asking Mark Kausler about this, and he wondered, as I did, why H-B would go through the trouble of outsourcing when it would have been easier to do it in-house, even with their busy production schedule at the time. Therefore, I simply dismissed the story as a flight of fancy on the part of the review’s author, and that was that.
A more recent find, however, punched a huge hole in my air of smugness. This morning I ran across an old post on Cartoon Brew which essentially says the same thing as DVDVerdict–that a Flintstones pilot, made in Belgium by a company called Belvision, existed. The word of Jerry Beck is hard to dispute.
Now that there’s confirmation it exists, the next obvious question would be “Where is it?” I for one would jump at the chance to see this studio’s take on the characters. Judging from what little I’ve seen of Belvision’s style in Pinocchio in Outer Space, their version would have been very different from what we’ve come to know. Not bad, necessarily, but certainly different.
This pilot is likely to be an interesting curiosity, at least. Though in all honesty, I’m rather glad things turned out as they ultimately did.
Jerry, should you come around this way, please give me some more details about this if you can. Though screen grabs would be even better.