Freeze Frame Friday 2/26/10: A Flintstones “Missing Link,” and A Scooby Mystery

26 Feb

Picture of unnamed caveman character playing wooden "bass"

Is this unnamed fellow playing the Stone Age bass a Fred Flintstone that didn't make the cut?

by Rachel Newstead

Researching cartoons can sometimes raise as many questions as answers, and on this edition of Freeze Frame Friday, we have a mystery worthy of Scooby-Doo and the gang. Fitting, really, as part of this week’s entry concerns them–sort of.

If there’s one book that can be considered the authority on all things Flintstone, it’s the one by T.R. Adams–if only for lack of competition. I truly regret getting rid of my copy so many years ago, as a vague memory of something in that book has both intrigued and nagged at me for years.

It states, as I did in my recent review of “The Swimming Pool”, that one can see early, discarded designs of the main characters (Fred especially) in certain scenes. That much is obvious, but I’m almost certain they went further, by mentioning a specific scene: the “pool warming”/birthday party that gets Fred run in for “dunking an officer”.  I couldn’t for the life of me imagine at first which anonymous character in the scene they might have been referring to (as the known characters don’t look all that different) until–after about the third or fourth viewing on VHS–I happened across our bass player above.  And promptly did a double-take.

He looks for all the world like Fred–granted, a pointier-nosed, relatively chinless version of him, but enough to be a close “relative.” We know that isn’t actually Fred in that scene, but there’s  good reason to suspect the design of this character could have been taken from a rejected concept drawing of Fred,  fished from the wastebasket and re-purposed as an “extra.”

Yes, I know. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera used the same basic construction on many of their characters, but the resemblance here goes a little further than simply sharing the same hair. The body type is the same, even the costume is a bit the same–just a different color. (Generally speaking, Fred is usually the only character we see in that trademark leopard-spotted suit). He looks as though he’s halfway between the Ed Benedict and later Dick Bickenbach/Gene Hazelton designs. A “missing link,” if you will.

Even if the book does not in fact mention that scene specifically, that character is enough to give one pause.

Given the costs involved in putting together an animated series, Hanna and Barbera were loath to throw anything away–be it a background drawing, character model or scrap of film–since it could always be reused in some way.

Take a good look at the closing credits of Jonny Quest sometime: remember the scene in which two figures in some sort of futuristic hovercraft escape into their jet a split second ahead of a group of spear-wielding natives?

They’re not Race and Jonny–for one thing, the boy has dark hair. That scene instead came from a bit of test footage by Doug Wildey, back when the project was still an animated adaptation of Jack Armstrong. As the two figures in the hovercraft are too far away to see clearly, and they appear only for an instant, it barely registers in our minds that something might be a bit “off.” It would be just as easy to slip in a “wannabe Flintstone” into a brief scene without the average viewer realizing what it is.

early concepts of what would become the Scooby-Doo cast

The "Mysteries Five" cast, circa 1968: Kelly (top left) Mike/Ronnie (top right) W.W. (bottom left) and Linda (bottom right)

Case #2 in our mystery file requires a bit of background. As explained here, in 1968, before there was a Scooby-Doo, there was just a rough series concept called “Mysteries Five”, envisioned as a mixture of Dobie Gillis, Archie, and the radio series I Love A Mystery. Five kids–Mike, Geoff, Kelly, Linda and Linda’s brother “W.W.”–traveled from one part of the country to another performing as a rock band, and inevitably getting embroiled in some sort of mystery. Their dog, “Too Much”, played the bongos for the group.

The characters reached their present form when Fred Silverman, head of Saturday morning programming for CBS at the time, asked Hanna-Barbera to retool the concept to make it more kid-friendly (it had initially been deemed “too scary” by the CBS brass).  W.W. became Shaggy, Geoff and Mike were combined into a character named Ronnie, then Freddy, after Silverman; Kelly became Daphne, and Linda became Velma. Too Much, originally imagined as a large sheepdog, became the ungainly Great Dane we know, and the the principal character in the series.  The name Scooby-Doo,  or so the story goes, came from the scat-singing in Frank Sinatra’s version of “Strangers In the Night,” supposedly a favorite of Silverman’s.

Scooby-Doo and the gang spent many an episode chasing supposed ghosts; but those with a sharp eye, a knowledge of the show’s history and a good DVD player might notice some “ghosts” of a different kind: incidental characters who faintly resemble those on that rejected 1968 model sheet.

In the episode “Jeepers, It’s The Creeper” from the second season, the gang is at a party–the camera pans past a group of anonymous kids dancing, and stops on one couple just as the episode’s alleged monster shows up. The girl, when compared to the original 1968 model sheet, looks suspiciously like Kelly (the forerunner of Daphne) as can be seen belowA still from Jeepers, It's the Creeper, containing possible early Kelly/Daphne:

There are some subtle differences,  I admit, but it appears quite close to me.

I realize this is shaky evidence at best–I’m not normally given to speculation, especially on this blog. But sometimes speculation is all a fan, or a researcher, has to go on. And until someone supplies more information, I’ll have to be happy with that.

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