3 stars out of 5
The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones was originally part of Hanna-Barbera‘s Superstars 10 series in the late ’80s. This was a series of ten made for TV movies featuring some of their popular characters in feature length adventures, others in the series included Yogi Bear flying the Howard Hughes flying boat the Spruce Goose, Huckleberry Hound in a parody of High Noon, and Judy Jetson falling in love with a rock star, yet again.
This one was the sort of cartoon crossover that was bound to happen at some point. Hanna-Barbera’s modern Stone Age family and their modern Space Age family. Very similar families with differences that are opposite, and that difference offering a contrast between the past and the future. When people think of opposing concepts such as “the past” and “the future”, they tend to put them into extremes, and so are likely to think of the past as cavemen and dinosaurs (despite the fact that they existed in very different eras) and think of the future as outer space, robots, jetpacks and so on. It’s still a popular idea for comedy, such as in Viz comic the one-off strip Ronnie Corbett’s Crap Time Machine in which the comedian takes someone to the future but ends up going in to the time of dinosaurs instead. Similar ideas are in this film, as the time machine which allows the two shows to meet has a lever which simply goes “past” or “future”, and the Jetsons are intending to go even further in the future but end up in the prehistoric Flintstones time.
I imagine getting The Flintstones and the Jetsons together was one of the earliest ideas for a special episode, because it’s quite a tempting idea. Even today you get fanart which swaps the clothes and settings of Fred Flintstone and George Jetson. Many of the posters and video/DVD covers for this film do that, including the one shown at the top of this review which has the Flintstones flying around in the Jetsons spaceship and the Jetsons in the Flintsones car, with the background filled with prehistoric and futuristic elements in the same place. No such scene appears in the film, indeed most of the posters and covers for this film don’t really show things that actually happen in the film. What sells this film is the thought of it, kind of like when two major pop stars do a duet together. Those duets tend to be disappointing, but is this film that?
Let’s get to what does happen in the film, it begins with two morning scenes in the future and prehistory, and has a robot cockerel crowing in the future dissolving into a pterodactyl doing the same in the past. The film gets a little disorientating for a while though, as it flashes back and forth between the future and the past, each having separate storylines. For Bedrock, it’s Fred and Barney trying to get money to take their wives on holiday. For the Jetsons it’s Mr. Spacely’s secrets being leaked to a business rival. It takes a good while before Elroy invents a time machine which is the means in which the two shows are able to crossover. The moment when the Flintstones meet the Jetsons is the moment everyone who saw this was waiting for, and it’s no coincidence the film improves a lot as a viewing experience from then.
Thinking about it, it’s weird how The Flintstones and Rubbles are referred to as one family in this film. This is probably because in the series itself even though it was about two couples, only one of the families was in the title. The poor un-credited Rubbles, eh? Also neither of the couples’ children, Pebbles Flintstone and Bam-Bam Rubble, appear in this film, so collectively the Flintstones and the Rubbles are the “past family” by default.
When the Flintstones (and Rubbles) and the Jetsons first encounter each other, the Jetsons think they are in the future while the Flintstones think the Jetsons are a more primitive tribe than them. The irony of it is funny, but it also is amusing if you know the popular, but rather bleak, fan theory that The Flintstones actually takes place in a post-apocalyptic society in the far future which has been all but destroyed by nuclear war, with the dinosaurs as mutated animals and the surviving people trying to use what they can to get back to something resembling normality.
Eventually the two sides bond by Wilma complimenting Jane on her dress and Jane complimenting Wilma on her hairstyle. The family pets Dino and Astro also seem to get on fairly well, spending most of the film play-chasing. Judy once again develops a crush on a rock star, obvious rock related puns littered there, not least the song ‘The Bedrock Rock’ which reminded me a bit of ‘The Monster Mash’ by Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers.
Bedrock is a culture shock at first to the Jetsons with things like a couch made of stone, and grass being something they only knew of from ancient history classes, though they try to be polite about it. Meanwhile back in the future Rosie the robot maid, Henry Orbit the maintenance man and his assistant droid Mac try and retrieve them but the Flintstones and Rubbles get sent back to the future instead. There they are mistaken for the Jetsons by Rosie and Henry, who remark time travel must have been hard on George and not too good on Judy and Elroy either, and seemingly not noticing any difference between Jane and Wilma. Essentially, it looks a bit like they are making self-aware jokes that Wilma and Jane are extremely similar, and Elroy bears a resemble to a child version of Barney Rubble while Judy looks a lot like a blonde teenaged version of Betty Rubble. Fred and George on the other hand are quite different, both in appearance and personality. Fred is bulky, boorish and his plots in the show and in this film usually involve his arrogance being his downfall. George on the other hand is scrawny, grumpy, a bit anxious and kind of downtrodden – at one point in the film everyone literally walks all over him. I kind of feel a bit sorry for him really.
The Jetsons adapt quite well to prehistoric life while stranded there, but the Bedrock couples aren’t so quick to adapt to new technology, with Wilma accidentally getting a square-shaped green coloured hairstyle.
At this point the two stories going on in different time periods have parallels. In both times, the boss character wants to cash in on the strange visitors. In Mr. Spacely’s case, he wants to make money on having living stone age people, and Fred and Barney’s boss Nate Slate wants to take advantage of George’s futuristic technology. Both bosses also have a rival businessman nemesis each. Mr. Spacely’s is Cogswell and Nate Slate’s is Turk Tarpit. In both times, the visitors become famous. Fred becomes “the most famous man in the universe” and Mr. Spacely comments on him being the perfect advertising mascot. I’m not sure if that is meant to be a meta-reference, but Fred Flintstone is one of the most iconic cartoon characters ever, and he’s certainly the most well known character from this film. The Flintstones also appeared in a lot of advertisements, most infamously these days for once advertising cigarettes. The Jetsons meanwhile end up owing half of Bedrock, but owning so much proves far too much for them to handle. (My favourite problem they encounter is the dinosaurs going on strike). Both the Bedrock couples and the Jetsons soon want to get back to their own times.
I like that Rosie gets an important role in the film by being the one who goes back in time to rescue the Jetsons. She first ends up in medieval times where she confuses knights in armour for other robots, but manages to find the Jetsons and bring them back along with the Flintstone car, but the time machine ends up broken and unfixable. Mr. Spacely decides to mass produce Fred’s car for the nostalgia market. They get in the original car, and the Bedrock couples are able to return home, because… well something about residual protoplasm and the car wanting to go back to its original home, I don’t know. I’m not really sure the film makers were bothered about giving an explanation that made sense and banked on the audience just going along it.
So the verdict on The Jetsons Meet The Flintsones. It’s… fine. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin. It reminds me somewhat of the Children In Need 2010 sketch special EastStreet which saw members of Coronation Street and EastEnders visting each others’ towns with jokes about their similarities and differences. You get pretty much what you’d expect from the two cartoons crossing over. The plot isn’t always hole-free shall we say, but they at least were attempting to make a coherent story with this. It hasn’t aged too badly, aside from a couple of dated reference jokes, most of which are from the futuristic Jetsons time ironically enough; George is dressed as Rambo briefly. But it’s nowhere near as much as obviously made in the ’80s as Jetsons: The Movie which came later. There are a lot of good jokes and set-pieces in there, particularly from the Flintstones side. If you’re a fan of either or both cartoons this film is worth checking out.