Written By: Bill Syken

The Nov 21, 1960 issue of LIFE heralded new beginnings, great and small. The cover of the issue showed John F. Kennedy—with wife Jackie, mother Rose and sister Eunice— fresh off his win in the 1960 presidential election, and the headline declared a “New Era in Government.”

Another story in that issue featured a family that would change the medium of television—the Flintstones. LIFE hailed their new show as “TV’s first Cartoon for Grownups.” The prime-time hit on ABC debuted on Sept. 30, 1960 and centered around the prehistoric lives of Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their friends Barney and Betty Rubble. LIFE described the show, set in the town of Bedrock, as a “a parody of modern togetherness” and added, “By poking fun at dozens of humorless comedies now on the air, The Flintstones gives a much needed boost to a generally dismal TV season.” Viewers agreed. The show ran for 166 episodes, through April 1966, and Fred’s cry of “Yabba Dabba Doo” became part of the American vernacular.

The creative minds behind the show were William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The two had worked together as animators at MGM studios, where they had won seven Academy Awards for their Tom and Jerry shorts. In 1957 Hanna and Barbera left MGM to form their own company, and had their first hit with The Huckleberry Hound Show (which would produce an even more popular spinoff, The Yogi Bear Show. Hanna-Barbera also go on to produce such shows as The Jetsons and Scooby-Doo. Their mark on the world of animation was as gargantuan as any of the dinosaurs stomping around Bedrock.

In 1960, when The Flintstones was the hot new thing, LIFE photographer Allan Grant took a deep dive into the world of Hanna-Barbera. His pictures show Fred Flintstone and other company creations popping up in unlikely settings—at the boardroom, in the recording studio, floating in the pool at Hanna’s house. Some particularly interesting photos show the Hanna-Barbera artists at work in the days when animators relied on pen and ink rather than computers. In one photo a cartoonist makes an exaggerated face in the mirror to use as reference for drawing the same expression on Fred Flintstone.

The Flintstones may have been the first adult-friendly cartoon to air in prime time, but it certainly wasn’t the last. The mantle was picked up most notably by The Simpsons, which debuted in 1989 and continues its remarkable run today. (In a nod to the bond between the shows, in one episode Homer hilariously recreates the Flintstones’ opening sequence.. If The Flintstones succeeded because it featured the most interesting family on television, the same sentiment applies to The Simpsons—or Family Guy, South Park, BoJack Horseman and the other shows that carry on the legacy of adult animation that can be traced back to the town of Bedrock and the studios of Hanna-Barbera.

William Hanna, Joseph Barbera and their creations, 1960

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

William Hanna (left) and Joseph Barbera (right), 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Joseph Barbera (right) and Fred Flinstone get down to business, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Joseph Barbera (on the ground) at the offices of Hanna-Barbera, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Animator Carlo Vinci at work on The Flintstones at Hanna-Barbera, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Animator Carlo Vinci used a mirror to draw facial expressions of Fred Flinstone, Los Angeles, California, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

An animator works on Fred Flintstone at the offices of Hanna-Barbera, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The offices of Hanna-Barbera Productions, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Huckleberry Hound merchandise being made at Hanna-Barbera Productions, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear merchandise being made at Hanna-Barbera Productions, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear merchandise being made at Hanna-Barbera Productions, 1960. Yogi Bear debuted as a supporting character on The Huckleberry Hound Show before getting his own program in 1961.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Animator William Hanna at home, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Animator William Hanna at home, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Joseph Barbera sitting by the pool with family, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A Flintstones recording session at Hanna-Barbera studios, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A Flintstones recording session at Hanna-Barbera studios, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A Flintstones recording session at Hanna-Barbera studios, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

A Flintstones recording session at Hanna-Barbera studios, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A bowling team at Hanna-Barbera, 1960.

Allan Grant/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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