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.