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How They Made ‘The Flintstones’: 15 Unpublished Photos

Joe Barbera (center) at a “Flintstones” voice recording session with Mel Blanc, Alan Reed, Jean Vander Pyl and Bea Benaderet.

In November 1960, LIFE magazine published an article about the breakout success of Hanna-Barbera’s seminal primetime animated series The Flintstones. The piece featured three photos of the studio, but what they didn’t publish is even more amazing. Photographer Allan Grant took 850 photographs for the magazine assignment, documenting every part of the studio’s operations. Remarkably, all of those photos are now available to view online in the LIFE Photo Collection.

Grant chose about twenty scenes to document, so there are dozens of slightly-varied photos of the same people and scenarios. Nevertheless, the images offer a revealing look at Hanna-Barbera just before it became the largest animation outfit in the world. It’s positively refreshing to see the two bosses—Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera—assuming such hands-on roles in their productions. Hanna and Barbera understood every step of the animation process inside-out, thanks to nearly two decades of creating Tom & Jerry theatrical shorts at MGM, and during the early years of their own company, they were deeply involved to ensure a consistent final product. These photos are a tribute to their professionalism and expertise in creating memorable animated characters that are still beloved by audiences half a century later.

Here are some of the highlights from the LIFE collection. Click on any image to enlarge:

An inker working on an unpainted Fred Flintstone cel.
Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound soap containers being manufactured at a Los Angeles factory.
Bill Hanna overseeing a music recording session.
Click to enlarge photo.
Mel Blanc (left) and Alan Reed recording the voices of Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone, respectively.
Joe Barbera relaxing poolside with his family at home.
A story meeting. Standing, left to right: Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna, Warren Foster. Seated, l. to r.: Dan Gordon, Alan Dinehart, unidentified, Michael Maltese, Alex Lovy. (Thanks, Yowp, for further idents.)
Blow dryers used to be an animation production tool.
Joe Barbera’s secretary Maggie Roberts reading something to him.
Click to enlarge photo.
Cameraman (possibly Frank Paiker) shooting Flintstones cels under the camera. (Thanks, Yowp, for the ident.)
An inker working from home.
Bill Hanna grilling steaks for his family.
Animator Carlo Vinci acting out a scene.
Click to enlarge photo.
Even in the early years, the studio made more than one show at a time. Here, Joe Barbera (right) reviews concept artwork for Touché Turtle, most of which appear to have been drawn by Ed Benedict.
The studio’s bowling team “The Yogi Bears” heading out for a match.

UPDATE: For further analysis of photos from the LIFE collection, the fantastic Hanna-Barbera blog Yowp has done a follow-up post that is well worth reading.