This Merrie Melodies cartoon beat the Flintstones to the Modern Stone Age by just a few months
In many ways, The Flintstones invented the modern animated TV show. It wasn’t the first cartoon on television, but its decidedly sitcom sensibilities (inspired by The Honeymooners) as opposed to wacky animal antics, its primetime time slot and jokes aimed at adults all paved the way for many of the most popular animated shows today.
It also had a premise that felt unique and provided endless opportunities to parody life in the Sixties. But using Stone Age technology in modern ways, not to mention throwing in rock puns whenever possible, was not a completely new idea when The Flintstones premiered at the end of September, 1960. Just a few months prior, in February of that year, Warner Bros. released an animated short to play before theatrical films with remarkable similarities.
Directed by long-time Looney Tunes director Robert McKimson, “Wild Wild World” features Stone Age elevators, cave cities and movies starring Cary Granite and Dinah Saur. There’s even a “hardtop convertible,” though it’s dinosaur-powered, not foot-propelled.
The whole cartoon is a parody of the 1955-1958 documentary series Wide Wide World hosted by Dave Garroway. The animated host is naturally named Cave Darroway. The years of time it took to finish one short meant that the show it was poking fun at was already off the air for two years before it came out!
Despite the obvious similarities, there are also distinct differences between “Wild Wild World” and The Flintstones. Even though the cave-people have technology, like an elevator, in Robert McKimson’s Cro-Magnon world, they mostly power it themselves instead of using animals like Fred and Wilma. In fact, McKimson portrays most of the dinosaurs as hostile, a far cry from the overly friendly Dino.
It may seem like William Hanna and Joseph Barbera stole elements from Robert McKimson and put them into a TV show, but The Flintstones was already well underway when “Wild Wild World” came out. Hanna-Barbera developed a speedier way to produce animation but even they would not have been able to go from nothing to a full-fledged show in seven months.
If anything, the Merrie Melodies short served as a proof of concept. It showed the ways animation could bring a Neolithic world to life and the countless opportunities for puns and jokes. It’s an interesting first glimpse of a Sixties Stone Age before The Flintstones took the world by storm.