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by John Graham
I don't know about you, but it gives me an extra
boost in confidence when I am reminded that even the Big Guys can
make mistakes. Steven Spielberg's 1990's live action version of
'The Flintstones' was certainly not Oscar material. Audiences kept
away in droves, and category after category of merchandise was left
hanging on the racks for months after the stone age ship had sunk
beneath the cruel sea of mass opinion. Not that the classic 1960's
series was lacking in merchandising... but at least it came from
Back in those days, the quality of the TV show
came first, then any licensing decisions, not the typical vice versa
arrangement of today. And as the Best of the Best in entertainment
came out of 60's Bedrock, the Flintstones toys from that period
were the Best of the Best too. Numerous inspired plastic toys (vehicles,
figures, Bedrock village playsets) graced many a prehistoric toybox,
but it would have to be the fabulous and sometimes bizarre series
of Japanese tinplate toys which were the jewel in the crown of Flintstones
Japan's boom time in toy manufacture (post WW2
until the late 1960's) saw it out produce and out perform the rest
of the globe in its ingenuity, enthusiasm and the mass appeal of
its products. Some toys from this period are amongst the most collectable
ever produced. Japanese companies were always quick off the mark
to produce toys based on TV characters that would enchant the enormous
US marketplace, and the Flintstones were no exception. The most
striking of these were made by Louis Marx and Company (often marked
Here are just a few examples: a 55cm long, battery
operated plush purple dinosaur with a vinyl head, seated upon which
was a small Fred Flintstone figure, a-la the TV show's opening;
an all tinplate and brightly lithographed Dino the Dinosaur, 20cm
long and powered by a clockwork motor, with vinyl-headed Fred riding
Dino cowboy style; and the Fred Flintstone Flivver, a tinplate and
plastic friction-drive vehicle, just like the family car, with a
brittle plastic figure of Fred sitting behind the wheel. But my
absolute favorites are the fabulous and funny series of Flintstones
Transportation in Bedrock was definitely a tricky
business. If you had a car, you wore out the soles of your feet.
If you rode astride a handy Whateverasaurus you might just get saddle
sores. How was one to overcome these Triassic traumas? Why, with
the Mechanical Flintstones Tricycles of course! Fred & Co cracked
the nut in 1962 with Marx's assistance.
The trikes themselves are all tinplate with exquisite woodgrain
and stone lithography. They differ only by their riders, who are
constructed entirely of celluloid. As well as the traditional elastic
jointing of the arms, each has a clever hollow lower leg assembly.
This allows the feet to move up and down, as if really pedaling.
Three pretty and petite clockwork tricycles were released, each
being a mere 3 inches high: Dino, Wilma, and Fred. Their cute watercolor-art
box was generic, with all three characters shown. The character
inside was labelled on each end flap, for point-of-sale accuracy.
Sadly, great character toy possibilities like Barney, Betty and
Hoppy the Hoparoo were neglected yet again... still, we should be
grateful that Marx saw fit to bless us with as many fantastic Flintstones
toys as they did. What a way to remember Bedrock!