In his lifetime, Charles Dickens was said to be so outraged by clumsy stage adaptations and pastiches (often uncredited) of his A Christmas Carol that he wished he'd never penned the beloved tale in the first place. Imagine how the temperamental author might have greeted TV animators
Hanna-Barbera, and their transposition of the story to the town of Bedrock as a vehicle for cartoon caveman Fred Flintstone.
Somehow Fred has won the lead of Ebonezer Scrooge in the Bedrock Community Players' production of A Christmas Carol, and the star treatment makes him so conceited he nearly forgets to buy gifts for long-suffering wife Wilma and others. During the Christmas Eve performance, influenza fells some key
actors, prompting stage manager Wilma to take their places before the footlights, where she can scold Scrooge/Fred for real. Fred/Scrooge gets the message and promises to reform for real, and all ends happily--except that Fred comes down with the flu right after his curtain call.
This show-within-a-show format lets A FLINTSTONES CHRISTMAS CAROL faithfully quote the original for long stretches, right down to its gloom (like Christmas Future showing the miser his own corpse in the morgue), whilst staying as non-threatening as possible. The real problem with the approach is
the continual cutting away to backstage incidents that turn the careful momentum of Dickens' narrative into jagged stops and starts. "Flintstones" purists (if any exist) may raise eyebrows at a suddenly stagestruck Fred, and the inevitable question remains: how can these prehistoric folk be
celebrating the birth of a messiah not due for several millenia?
The Hanna-Barberian gravel-pit worker debuted in 1960 as an imitation of Jackie Gleason's "Honeymooners" Ralph Kramden persona; the cartoon character just carries too much blue-collar baggage to be credible as a thespian prima donna. Despite Steven Spielberg's costly live-action Flintstones movie
in 1994, animation in this direct-to-video feature remains TV quality, a strangely reassuring thing. Among the better prehistoric jokes are a department store called Bloomingshales and a sundial clock that can be heard, very subtly, to tick.
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