|In 1986, the first of four revivals of classic Hannah-Barbera properties with the leads all reduced in age to childhood, The Flintstone Kids revealed to us that Fred, Barney, Wilma and Betty grew up together in Bedrock, Fred's childhood pet was a hatchling named Dino, and the lot of them were frequently bullied by a group of tough children led by the lunch-money-stealing Rocky Ratrock. Presumably inspired by the success of Jim Henson's Muppet Babies (1984), The Flintstone Kids enjoyed modest success on ABC Saturday Mornings for four years and (again, presumably) inspired HB to try the formula again with A Pup Named Scooby Doo (1988-1993), Tom and Jerry Kids (1990-1993), and Yo Yogi! (1991-1992), with obviously variant success.
The cast of characters was certainly larger than the adult version, the adventures more active, and the characterization was much the same (though Wilma was something of a tomboy as a child -- apparently something she grew out of later), though the technological sophistication of Bedrock appeared to have backpedaled in the interim - CD players, cellular phones, and other aspects of '90s tecnology pervaded the Bedrock of Fred(dy) and Wilma's youth, when in their adulthood they listened to records on a victrola and were otherwise technologically equivalent to the 1960s and before. At its core, though,
Another difference between The Flintstone Kids and The Flintstones is the apparent intent of the show. The Flintstones was a family sitcom, and is famous for being the first American cartoon to debut and have a regular spot in prime time on one of the major networks. The Flintstone Kids was debuted and regularly featured in the Saturday morning cartoon block on ABC, and was aimed predominantly at children, even though it featured characters that any parent would be more likely to recognize than his or her children.
One extra thing worth mentioning is the backup feature, Captain Caveman and Son, a revival of one of HB's string of detective cartoons, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels. Captain Caveman and Son also took place in Bedrock, and featured the adventures of its resident hero, Captain Caveman, as he protected it in an appropriatly inept fashion from crime and destruction with his son, a superhero-in-training, as his sidekick, and not a Teen Angel to be found.
The Flintstone Kids resembled its parent show primarily in names and faces. The type of storytelling, with its narrower target audience of children as opposed to families, is of a somewhat simpler type, though the conventions it uses in said storytelling are of a more modern type; instead of speaking to the family of the 1960s, it speaks to the children of the 1980s. It suffers from the faults of many prequels, chiefly a difficulty telling stories while remaining true to the previously established continuity. The writers chose to go with storytelling over continuity, adding diversity to the cast in the form of Philo, an African-American electronics/computer genius (who, in my weathered and cynical opinion, is a stone-age clone of Oliver from the late, great Bloom County newspaper strip). Sure, Fred and Barney spent nearly every episode engaging in some new harebrained scheme, presumably to make money, but the schemes were always extremely surreal or so stupid that even the adult Fred and Barney would have passed on them. I know, they're supposed to be younger, less experienced versions of Fred and Barney, but Fred and Barney were really stupid adults, and their kid versions weren't a whole lot dumber.
This show was extremely formulaic. You could almost set your watch by it, but I wouldn't bother. Every episode, at the same time, the kids would drop what they were doing and rush off to watch Captain Caveman and Son. Yes, Captain Caveman and Son was a television show in this fictional world, which means it did run at a specific time every week or day (the show never made clear whether it was syndicated or not), I know, but no life-or-death situation was too important that it couldn't be put on hold for Captain Caveman and Son, and that's a bit too much to swallow. Admittedly, their idea of a life-or-death situation was preventing the collision into the earth of an imaginary comet, but still.
The Rocky Ratrock character was a waste of celluloid. I don't know why there needed to be an easily-frightened bully in the neighborhood, but apparently the producers felt that some kind of irrelevant conflict was neccessary to make the show last 22 minutes. Rocky picked on Fred, but Wilma wasn't scared of him. Rocky picked on Barney, but Betty wasn't scared of him. Dino was scared of Rocky and he was also scared of his dog, who was for some unexplained reason, an actual dog (not a dogasaurus rex, like Dino). Dino was a terrible dog, although I've got to admit that he ages well, considering how much pep he's got when he's a fully-grown dog in The Flintstones. I mean, Fred's about 20 years older then than in The Flintstone Kids. That would make Dino approximately 140+ dog years old by the time Pebbles is born.
As for Captain Caveman and Son, there wasn't much to it. Cap bumbles his way through yet another caper, while Cavey, Jr. makes thoughtful comments and gives helpful advice until the day is saved. Mel Blanc did the voice of Captain Caveman, but there were no Teen Angels, and Cavey, Jr. was voiced by the notoriously talentless Charlie Adler. There have been better backup features.
All in all, The Flintstone Kids is, at best, a diversion. The animation was above average, the writing was adequate (if you keep in mind that it's aimed at children), and the storytelling varies from episode to episode. The characters are rather weak, and anybody who ever saw The Flintstones will find it extremely wierd that Fred, Barney, Wilma and Betty all grew up together, but if you can get past that, there are worse things you could be watching. Also, it paved the way for A Pup Named Scooby Doo, and that merits a certain amount of forgiveness.