Flintstones, The: The Complete Series (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Oct 14, 2020
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Flintstones, The: The Complete Series (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Various, created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera

Release Date(s)

1960-1966 (October 27, 2020)

Studio(s)

Hanna-Barbera Productions/Screen Gems (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: B-
  • Extras Grade: C

The Flintstones: The Complete Series (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

[Editor’s Note: It’s come to our attention that Episode 17 on Disc One—The Big Bank Robbery—is missing music and sound effects. We’ve brought this issue to Warner’s attention. If other problems come to light, and when the studio announces their disc exchange program to correct them, we’ll post an update here and let you know in the daily My Two Cents column.]

Fred and Wilma Flintstone (voiced by Alan Reed and Jean Vander Pyl) are your typical married couple living a middle class existence in the prehistoric American town of Bedrock, alongside their neighbors and best friends Barney and Betty Rubble (Mel Blanc and Bea Banaderet). Fred runs a bronto-crane down at the Slate Rock and Gravel Company, while Barney slaves away in the Granite Building. Meanwhile, their long-suffering wives manage the home front (this was 1960s TV, after all). But when Fred and Barney aren’t working, bowling, or attending regular meetings of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes, they manage to get themselves into all manner of hare-brained schemes—and it’s typically up to their wives to bail them out of trouble.

Imagine the classic 1950s CBS TV sitcom The Honeymooners (which starred Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Alice Gibson, and Joyce Randolph) rebooted as an animated series set in the Stone Age, and that’s The Flintstones in a nutshell. What’s harder to imagine today is that The Flintstones was also a prime-time animated series—in fact, the first one ever—which ran for six years on ABC starting in 1960. But by the time most Gen-Xers first saw the show, it had moved into UHF channel syndication on weekday afternoons.

Each episode was typically 25-26 minutes in length, and the animation style was primitive but effective, with thick outlines, bold colors, and simple backgrounds. But the humor was universal, some of it rising out of Fred and Barney’s mischief and the rest from gags involving aspects of “modern” life transposed into a prehistoric context—think dinosaurs as pets and foot-powered wooden cars with stone wheels. Most of these episodes are completely preposterous, but it’s that very absurdity that’s key to their charm. Stand-outs include The Flintstone Flyer, Boss for a Day, Arthur Quarry’s Dance Class, The Astra’ Nuts, Dr. Sinister (a personal favorite), and of course, The Great Gazoo (which features the guest voice of Harvey Korman). Revisiting the series on Blu-ray has been fascinating for two reasons: First, I’m surprised by how many of these episodes I remember. Second, I’m surprised by how many of them I don’t.

Warner’s new Blu-ray set includes all 166 of them on 10 discs in full 1080p HD at the original 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio (with black bars on the sides to preserve it). For the most part, the image quality is excellent. On many of these episodes, you can actually see the paper texture of the background layouts, not to mention paint brush strokes on the animation cels (the occasional blotches may also the paint sticking to the glass on the animation stand). The odd speck of dust between cel layers is visible too, as are layer shadows on the backgrounds. But these have been left as artifacts of the original production and I find them welcome rather than a distraction. It means you’re seeing every bit of the detail present in the original hand drawn/painted artwork. Organic film grain is occasionally visible too, though it’s very light. And the colors are more vibrant than I’ve certainly seen them before.

All of the above is true of most of these episodes. Yet puzzlingly, some episodes (particularly the later ones) are of visibly lesser image quality. It’s almost as if these were scanned and remastered at different times, perhaps older HD scans that were deemed good enough. For example, The Great Gazoo looks like it’s been scrubbed with DNR and there’s a bit of edge enhancement baked in. Perhaps this was an older master, or the original camera negative for this episode no longer exists or has deteriorated? It’s hard to say. Just know that while most of the 166 episodes in this set look amazing, some are not quite so impressive. Nevertheless, they all represent a significant step up from the previous DVD releases.

In terms of audio quality, each episode includes 2.0 mono Dolby Digital in English, French, and Spanish. The audio quality is exactly as you remember it from the original TV broadcasts—nothing impressive, but dialogue and music are mostly clean and clear. No doubt a bit of digital clean-up has been done on the audio source material, but there’s only so much that can be done given its age. Nevertheless, Hoyt Curtin’s jazzy underscores sound as good as ever. Note that French and Spanish audio is included on the episodes only, not the extras. Meanwhile, optional subtitles are included in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing on everything, with French, Dutch, and Spanish subs available for the special features only.

This set does include some extras, many of them carried over from the previous DVD releases. They include:

Disc One (Episodes 1-17)

  • The Flagstones: The Lost Pilot (SD – 1:32)
  • How to Draw Fred Flintstone (SD – 6:47)

Disc Two (Episodes 18-34)

  • Carved in Stone: The Flintstones Phenomenon (SD – 20:42)

Disc Three (Episodes 35-51)

  • Songs of the Flintstones Album (SD – 27:57)

Disc Four (Episodes 52-68)

  • All About the Flintstones (SD – 5:21)
  • Wacky Inventions (SD – 5:44)

Disc Five (Episodes 69-85)

  • Bedrock Collectibles: Collecting All Things Flintstone (SD – 6:42)
  • The Flintstones: One Million Years Ahead of Its Time (SD – 8:33)

Disc Six (Episodes 86-102)

  • First Families of the Stone Age (SD – 7:06)
  • Hanna-Barbera’s Legendary Music Director Hoyt Curtin (SD – 7:05)

Disc Seven (Episodes 103-119)

There are no special features on this disc.

Disc Eight (Episodes 120-136)

There are no special features on this disc.

Disc Nine (Episodes 137-153)

There are no special features on this disc.

Disc Ten (Episodes 154-166)

  • The Flintstones Meet Pop Culture (SD – 11:29)
  • The Great Gazoo: From A to Zetox (SD – 3:49)
  • The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown! (2015) (SD – 51:39)
  • The Man Called Flintstone (1966) (SD – 89:00)

That represents most of the extras created for the previous DVD releases of the series, but not all of them. Missing are early TV promo spots (from the Season One DVD), audio commentary with Jerry Eisenberg, Earl Kress, and Scott Shaw on the episodes The Hit Songwriter, The Beauty Contest, and The Happy Household (from the Season Two DVD), the Flintstone Art: Explore Rare Original Pencil Drawings and TV Spot: An Now a Word from Our Sponsor featurettes (from the Season Two DVD), audio commentary on the episodes Ann Margrock Presents and Little Bamm-Bamm (from the Season Four DVD), The Flintstones featurette (from the Season Four DVD), a pair of original TV commercials with interviews by Joseph Hanna and William Barbera and an introduction by Earl Kress (from the Season Five DVD), and the A Stone Age Parenting Guide and Stone by Stone featurettes (from the Season Five DVD). Why those extras are missing is anyone’s guess, and it means you may wish to hang onto your DVDs to keep that content.

The highlight of the extras you do get is definitely The Man Called Flintstone (1966) feature film. But rather than including it in HD, they’ve just upsampled the previous SD DVD master. At least its in anamorphic widescreen, but compression artifacting abounds. The other film included here is the 2015 direct-to-video The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown! (also in upsampled SD) which is properly terrible, and also has compression artifacting and other analog image artifacts. On the whole, it’s safe to call the special features on this set a big disappointment.

But… nobody is buying this set for the extras. If you love The Flintstones, the good news is that many of these episodes look fantastic on Blu-ray, and all of them look better than they do on DVD. So our recommendation is that fans should look for a good sale price on this set, but don’t to hesitate to pick it up when you’re ready. Just remember to keep those DVDs handy if you really care about keeping everything.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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