So some of us want our kids to watch less cartoons and read more classical literature. How do we do that? Why not try doing adaptations of classical literature with cartoon characters in the roles? Why not do an adaptation of Treasure Island with Ronald McDonald? If that doesn’t get kids to read Robert Louis Stevenson, nothing will! And of course, since A Christmas Carol has been adapted so many times, there are countless versions of it for kids with famous cartoon characters filling the roles of Scrooge, Marley, etc. The three most famous Christmas Carols in this vein are the Muppet version, the Mr. Magoo version and the Mickey Mouse version; all three of them used silly cartoon characters, but were all quite faithful to the source material.
Similar to these three, but often overlooked, is A Flintstones Christmas Carol. Yes, that’s right, the Flintstones. The guys who celebrated Christmas before the birth of Christ…actually, that little plot hole is brought up in this special, but we’ll get to that later.
Like the Mr. Magoo version, A Flintstones Christmas Carol has the main character of the cartoon starring as Scrooge in a play version of A Christmas Carol and a good lot of the special is made up of the play the character is starring in. Unlike the Mr. Magoo version, the non-play antics of the character is given more screentime than it should. Fred Flintstone has gotten the role of “Ebonezer Scrooge” (yay for Stone Age puns) in a community theatre production of A Christmas Carol, and has become so obsessed with the role he’s forgotten everything else and Wilma is pissed at him for it. He leaves his present shopping until the last minute, forgets to pick up Pebbles from “Cave-care” (uuuugh)…it’s the same old crap we’ve come to expect from the modern Stone Age family; lame wife-is-mad oh-that-wacky-husband sitcom shit that wouldn’t fly in a post-Season 11 Simpsons episode. If I want a family sitcom Christmas special, The Royle Family does it much better. Hey, did you know The Flintstones was a rip-off of The Honeymooners, and the only reason Jackie Gleason didn’t sue was because he didn’t want to be known as “the man who killed Fred Flintstone”? Oh, you did? Carry on.
Then we get to the play portion of the special, where we get to see the production that Fred got so excited about. It’s pretty much a straight adaptation of A Christmas Carol, only peppered with some “It’s a living” gags here and there. Narration is provided by “Charles Brickens” voiced by John Rhys-Davies (yes, Gimli himself), and we actually get some scenes from the book that weren’t in Muppets, Magoo and Mickey ie. Sister Fan and even Scrooge seeing his corpse under a bedsheet. Of all the scenes to include, they include that one.
To tell the truth, when the special is adapting the book, it actually does a decent job. The dialogue is simplified a bit, but is close enough to what Dickens wrote and sounds quite natural even coming from the mouths of Flintstones characters. Most of it, at least. It’s too bad then, that we have to keep cutting back to that boring subplot about Fred forgetting Christmas and ticking off Wilma. In fact, the two plots intersect at points, worsening each other for it. In the play, Wilma has to play both the roles of The Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge’s lost love Belle (the actresses originally playing those roles come down with “the Bedrock Bug”) and since she’s still pissed with Fred when playing Belle, she steps on his feet while dancing with him in a rather annoying scene.
The Muppet Christmas Carol mixed classic Muppet comedy and the words of Dickens seamlessly, but Dickens’ story and a generic Flintstones plot don’t mix together well. We get a boring Flintstones plot, then an actual pretty good Christmas Carol adaptation, then that stops after the Christmas Past sequence so we can have an awkward scene where Fred tries to get his family’s presents, and then back to the adaptation. It’s like watching an adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities that suddenly has an episode of I Dream of Jeannie shoved in halfway through.
I mentioned before that A Flintstones Christmas Carol adapts the scene where Scrooge sees his late sister Fan and remembers her death. Here, Fred as Scrooge sees her and says ‘When she died, I swore I would never love anyone again.’ It’s a line that wasn’t in the book, and is certainly too dark a line to be coming from the mouth of jolly old Fred Flintstone. It’s not the type of line you’d expect to hear in the same special that has Fred zipping around doing last-minute shopping. Imagine watching a Scooby-Doo episode where Scoob is running away from a monster, trying to trick it with a costume, and then he sees Scrappy and says, ‘Oh why did my dear sister die, leaving this poor child motherless?’ The adaptation element of this special is good, but it makes the subplot and lame jokes all the more jarring.
We’ve all made that joke about the Flintstones celebrating Christmas before Christ’s birth but A Flintstones Christmas Carol solves that mystery, sort of. Bamm-Bamm as Tiny Tim says ‘God bless us everyone’ and Barney as “Bob Cragit” says that line from the book about ‘who made lame beggars walk and blind men see’. So I guess Jesus was born before the Flintstones, or at least a cartoon stone-age version of him. I’m pretty sure Fred has mentioned Stone Age versions of famous historical figures before, like “Thomas Edistone”, so why not a…um…Rocksus Christ?
In fact, this could be support for the internet theory that The Flintstones is actually set in a post-apocalyptic future as opposed to the past (some have even said that The Flintstones and The Jetsons are set in the same time period, with the Jetsons being higher-class and the Flintstones being lower class). Imagine in a miserable and desolate future, some poor souls find a copy of A Christmas Carol among the ruins of the past society. They read it, and for a brief moment, feel what they haven’t felt in years. Hope. They share the story with others, and they embrace it, with one person even believing he is Charles Dickens. What else can they do but adapt it into a play, reminding them of the god they hope hasn’t abandoned them? That would probably be more interesting than the misadventures of that goofball Fred when will he ever learn?
The thing is that this isn’t actually the first time Fred and Barney have appeared in an adaptation of classic literature. There was a Halloween movie where they met “Rockula” and “Frankenstone” but they also appeared in a Hanna Barbera adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, where they both played the Caterpillar. Just makes you wonder what other books they could adapt. With the above theory in mind, I can see Barney and Bamm-Bamm in McCarthy’s The Road. Fred as Mr. Darcy and Wilma as Elizabeth? The Flintstones meet Stephen King with a foot-powered Christine and Cujo-saurus.
So yeah, A Flintstones Christmas Carol is a decent adaptation marred by a tired sitcom subplot. Kids may like it, I guess, but it’s not as good as the Muppets or Magoo versions.