Yabba Dabba Doo!
Pebbles Flintstone just turned 60 years old.
That’s right kids, Fred and Wilma’s fashion-forward baby forever dressed in a leopard-spotted loincloth and rocking a dinosaur bone in her red hair, is now a card-carrying member of AARP.
While Gen X hold fond memories of Pebbles as a foxy teenager when she and Bamm Bamm had their own cartoon show on Saturday morning TV, for baby boomers Pebbles is eternally a teetering toddler in diapers chowing down on Welches grape jelly.
In fact, the cavegirl’s birth was a baby boom milestone.
The delivery of the stone age’s most famous ginger on February 22, 1963, at Bedrock’s Rockopedic Hospital was a nationwide event.
The last time there was this much anticipation for a TV birth was when Lucy Ricardo gave birth to a baby boy a decade earlier. America loved Lucy and when that episode premiered on January 19, 1953, 44 million Americans tuned in. In those days it was considered unseemly to talk about pregnancy, let alone use the word pregnant. Lucy’s struggles with pregnancy and frenzied rush to the hospital reeled in huge viewership as it would for Wilma.
Pebbles birth made history not only for its large audience, but Wilma was the first animated character to be portrayed as pregnant, and have a hospital delivery breaking the usual mold in cartoons where a stork delivers babies.
For Adults Only
Like the Ricardo’s the Flintstones began as a childless couple, an oddity in an age of nuclear family sitcoms.
At its inception, The Flintstones was not intended for children.
When the modern stone age family debuted on ABC in September 1960 it was primetime’s first adult animated series, scheduled just before 77 Sunset Strip, and opposite serious competition like Route 66 and not kid-friendly Casper the Friendly Ghost.
To reinforce the adult audience, the show’s sponsor was Winston Cigarettes. Fred and Barney promoted Winstons throughout the first two seasons in animated commercials that aired during the program.
The Flintstones was conceived as a mashup of The Honeymooners and the cartoon strip Alley Oop that revolved around a pre-historic caveman named Alley Oop who wore a loincloth and owned a pet dinosaur named Dinny.
The Kramdens and Alley Oop may have served as inspiration for Fred and Wilma, but there is one notable thing missing from both The Honeymooners and Alley Oop —children.
But by the third season, The Flintstones took a decided turn towards a younger audience. Hanna-Barbera replaced the original instrumental theme song (“Rise and Shine”) with the now-familiar sing-along “Meet the Flintstones.” When Winston backed out as the sponsor, family-friendly Welch’s stepped in with their grape jelly and juice.
And they decided Wilma and Fred should start a family.
When a visibly pregnant Wilma tells Fred they’re expecting at the end of the appropriate;y named episode “The Surprise” aired on January 25th, 1963, Fred lets out a “Yabba Dadd Doo” and tells all of Bedrock he was a father-to-be.
Their viewers were just as jazzed up by the news.
The imminent birth of Pebbles was a major worldwide sensation.
Because it was pre-historic times knowing the sex of the unborn baby still remained impossible in 10,000 BC as it was in 1963.
TV networks around the world held viewer contests to pick names, weights, sexes, and other aspects of the birth.
On January 25, 1963, the night that Wilma told Fred she was pregnant, the end of the show featured a voiceover where a narrator said, “That’s right, folks, the Flintstones ARE going to have a baby, and you can win a trip around the world!” The contest was to pick Pebbles’ birth weight, and the winner, a Florida butcher, did receive a round-the-world trip plus $2,000 spending cash. Hanna and Barbera appeared live on the March 8 show to announce the winner (Pebbles was born on the February 22 show entitled “Blessed Event.”.)
But she was almost a he.
In 1963, when Hanna-Barbera decided to add a baby to the show, their first choice was a boy.
Gender Switch It’s All About the Bottom Line
Baby Flintstone was originally going to be a blonde boy until it was decided a baby girl would make for better merchandising opportunities.
What caused the gender swap? The toy market.
The writers and creators were set to introduce a young Flintstones male. When Ideal Toy Company heard this, company executives approached Hanna-Barbera with a proposal to change the baby character to a girl for which the toymaker could create a doll, and Hanna-Barbera agreed.
Ideal Toys pointed out that they would sell a lot more merchandise if they made the baby a girl.
Baby girl dolls sell.
A lot. Little boy dolls not so much in 1963
As initially conceived, the Flintstone family consisted of Fred, Wilma, and their son, Fred Jr., but, by the time the show got the green light for production, the concept of a son was dropped.
This later changed to a daughter, named “Wilma Flintstone Junior.” At the time of her birth, Fred said that she was “a pebble off the old Flintstone,” so she got her name, which comes from Wilma’s maiden name of Pebble
Their son-to-be did, however, appear in an early press release book and in a Little Golden Book, “The Flintstones” published in 1961 that included Fred Jr.
But there would be a Flintstone baby boy born on February 22, 1963.
In a bit of an ironic twist, Jean Vander Pyl who was the voice of Wilma was actually pregnant at the time of the recording and gave birth to her son on the day “The Blessed Event” originally aired.
Despite the twists and turns in development, the Flintstones family unit was born.
The following season, in October 1963 a playmate for Pebbles would appear when baby Bamm Bamm debuted. Left on the doorsteps of the Rubbles home, he was adopted by Betty and Barney.
Today while Fred and Wilma might have traded their cave for an assisted living community in Bedrock, it’s likely that at 60 Pebbles is aging boldly, still pursuing her career in advertising. And celebrating her 30th wedding anniversary with childhood sweetheart Bamm Bamm with whom she tied the knot in 1993 with the vows “I Yabba Dabba Do.”
And she is still known to love her Welches Grape Jelly.
Yabba Dabba Doozie!
Note: How did I almost miss this Flintstone Milestone? Blame it on my COVID brain fog!
Copyright (©) 2023 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
Yaba-dabba-doo, Sally! Finally, a happy memory to read about! The news has been so dismal lately that I almost couldn’t take anymore heartache this decade! I grew up on Flintstones reruns; I never missed an episode. I have great Christmas photos of me playing with my Flintstones Building Blocks and eating Welch’s Grape Jelly in ‘specially marked Flintstones jars’. Pebbles and I are the same age but I don’t think I ever realized that until today. Yet somehow, she’s remained a baby and I’m a lot older…..
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I am so glad you enjoyed this. I’m on the same page as you,we are deluged with distressing news on a daily basis I am on overload. I felt we needed to laugh a bit and feel good and certainly Pebbles’s big birthday fit the bill. I still have my Flinstone jelly jars that we used as juice glasses.
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Oh yes. My favorite show. We would finish up dinner and do the dishes (yeah, Taffy and Duke didn’t believe in a dishwasher!) and then we would gather in front of out TV and watch The Flintstones. Friday nights at 8:30, then 7:30, on ABC. I still watch them. My fav is “Ann-Margrock Presents”, “Samantha” and “The Return of Stony Curtis”.
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One of the sweetest moments on the Flintstones was when the ever-fabulous Ann Margrock ends up at Fred’s house after getting a flat tire and bonds with Pebbbles and sings “Littlest Lamb.” The image of the cute lambs hopping through clouds and over hurdles while Anne gently rubs Pebble’s belly to help her fall asleep is just endearing.
What a fun informative post. Loved reading all of the known and little known (brand new to me!) facts and trivia! Thanks for sharing this wonderful post!
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I knew this would be up your alley, so I’m glad you enjoyed it.