Animation Cel-ebration
May 10, 2024 posted by Michael Lyons

The Cradle Will Rock: The Flintstones’ “Blessed Event”

There is a memorable moment in the episode of The Flintstones entitled “The Blessed Event” (also known as “Dress Rehearsal”). Wilma has given birth, and Fred comes into her hospital room to see her. It’s one of the animated sitcom’s quieter moments, where Wilma and Fred greet each other, Fred asks how Wilma is feeling, and the nurse is about to bring in their baby.

In a series that featured different creatures as household appliances (“It’s a living!”), Fred’s “twinkle toes” bowling, Dino’s running and yipping, and other cartoony moments, this is a warm, emotional scene.

“That final scene when Wilma greets Fred from her hospital bed has that fantasy-grounded-in-reality feeling that helped make The Flintstones one of the best sitcoms of all time, in addition to being a classic cartoon,” says Greg Ehrbar, author of Hanna-Barbera: The Recorded History.

“What makes ‘The Blessed Event’ so effective is that it gets down to what the show is all about,” said Noah Bell, writer, animation historian, and creator of the Hanna-Barbera blog, The Exposure Sheet. “Throughout all the stone-age silliness is the story of a family that’s just like any ordinary one. They face the same problems as all of us do. In the case of this episode, the focus is on Fred preparing for Wilma to give birth. Fred is a worrywart, while Wilma does her best to go about life as normal. This dynamic leads to several great comedic moments, but it also feels like a real couple preparing for a child.”

This famous Flintstone episode, centered on the birth of Pebbles Flintstone, and aired on February 22, 1963. With Mother’s Day this upcoming weekend, it’s the perfect time to look back at this well-remembered moment in Hanna-Barbera’s iconic sitcom.

“The Blessed Event” opens at Brick Boulders Health Club, as Fred and Barney (Alan Reed and Mel Blanc) are working out under the drill sergeant-like instruction of Brick himself (Howard Morris).

As Fred and Barney talk during their workout, we find out that Fred is getting in shape to “walk the floor,” and Barney is getting in shape to be godfather. After hurting his arm, Fred stops off at Brick’s office to get some rubbing alcohol (In a nice gag, as Brick enters another room, we find out he is wearing an inflatable muscle suit).

Fred then meets Wilma (Jean Vander Pyl) at Dr. Rockpile’s office. While there, the Dr. (Morris) tries to take some blood from cowardly Fred, and thanks to his helpful nurse (June Foray), he does, but he places the needle into the rubbing alcohol in Fred’s pocket.

When Fred comes home, Wilma tells Fred that the doctor told her they can expect the baby any day. Fred goes into panic mode, immediately becoming overprotective of Wilma. He wants Wilma to rest and tries to keep things quiet, even berating Barney for cutting his grass and giving his best friend an eyebrow tweezer to take the grass out one blade at a time.

Fred, the picture of a nervous father, then drives Wilma crazy, first by jumping out of bed in the middle of the night and running to get the car, as he thinks it’s time to go to the hospital. Then, by getting insomnia and waking Wilma. She says, “Look at me. I’m calm.” “Why shouldn’t you be?” Fred responds. “Your wife isn’t having a baby!”

Fred continues to go overboard by trying to anticipate Wilma’s cravings, bringing her “shrimp and marmalade compote” and “sardines smothered in prune whip.” All Wilma wanted was a glass of water.

Fred continues to be anxious, literally wearing a groove in the floor by pacing. Betty (Bea Benaderet) offers the solid idea of having a “dress rehearsal” to assist Wilma with getting to the hospital.

Fred does this, with Barney playing Wilma (complete with a scarf over his head), and the two get pulled over by a cop during their “dry run” to the hospital, with the officer even providing an escort.

Having made great time, the two friends return home, only to be greeted by Wilma, who tells them she’s ready to go to the hospital. Cartoon calamity follows with exploding suitcases, slamming doors, forgetting Wilma at home, accidentally taking Dino, and swapping cars, as Fred and Barney panic (“This is Fred Hospital, I’m taking my wife to the Flintstone,” says Fred on the phone to the doctor). All the while Wilma remains calm.

They all finally arrive at the hospital, where there are caricatures of Ben Casey (Vince Edwards) and Dr. Zorba (Sam Jaffe) from the ABC medical drama airing at the time. Blanc and Morris provide the voices for Edwards and Jaffe.

“The Blessed Event” concludes with the aforementioned sweet scene, where Fred and Wilma meet their daughter Pebbles for the first time. “A chip off the ol’ block, huh, Fred?,” says Barney. “More like a pebble off the ol’ Flintstone,” says Fred. And, so Pebbles (also voiced by Vander Pyl) has her name as the newborn coos, “Abba Dabba Goo!”

In their book, It’s Saturday Morning! Celebrating the Golden Era of Cartoons, authors Joe Garner and Michael Ashley share a story about “The Blessed Event”:

“Barbera revealed he originally intended the child to be a boy until he spoke with the Ideal toy company. ‘One day, I received a call from the guy in charge of Flintstones merchandising. He said, ‘Hey, I hear you’re having a baby on the show.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ ‘What else, a boy. A chip off the old rock.’ He says, ‘That’s too bad. If it was a girl, we could have made a hell of a deal.’ I said, ‘It’s a girl.’ They sold three million Pebbles dolls within the first couple of months.”

“Literal millions tuned in to this episode when it was broadcast, and that’s something that can only be achieved when people connect with something,” noted Bell.

Audiences at home associated with “The Blessed Event” because of the sharp writing that Harvey Bullock and R. Allen Saffian bring to it. The half-hour blends humor (Fred believing that his job in the baby’s birth is so much more difficult than Wilma’s, and a running gag with the cop who keeps pulling him over on the way to the hospital), is coupled very well with the warmth from these characters we have come to know, at the conclusion.

With “The Blessed Event,” audiences felt, more than ever, that The Flintstones, indeed, were the “modern Stone Age family.”

The coverage in TV GUIDE rated a feature story.

For more about this episode, please listen to next week’s Funtastic World of Hanna and Barbera podcast in which Greg Ehrbar and I talk about our favorite Flintstone shows.


  • One day in the summer of 1986, I found myself standing in line at the Post Office just behind a very attractive brunette in a yellow T-shirt and black shorts. She appeared to be a couple of years younger than me, and as I was checking her out I noticed her name on the return address of the letters she was about to mail. Her first name, believe it or not, was Pebbles. Those envelopes obviously contained bills and other official correspondence, so it must have been her real name and not a nickname. I still remember her middle initial and surname as well, but I won’t disclose that information here.

    Naturally, as a lifelong Flintstones fan I was curious as to how she had acquired such a distinctive sobriquet, but I couldn’t think of any way to broach the subject that wouldn’t embarrass her. Besides, when it occurred to me that the outfit she was wearing was a very close approximation of the one that little Pebbles wore in the cartoon, it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud!

    Over the years I’ve often wondered if Hanna-Barbera, as part of the hype that surrounded the airing of this episode, might have offered some sort of prize or college scholarship or the like to any parents who named their daughter Pebbles. It’s hard to imagine any parents doing so, with all the inevitable teasing that such a choice of name would bring upon a little girl, unless there was something in it for them.

    Years ago I wrote to Earl Kress, who had provided commentary on many of my Hanna-Barbera DVDs, and asked if he knew anything about this; but I never received a reply, and later I found out that he had passed away. Still later I put the question to Jerry Beck, who unfortunately was unable to answer it. If anyone reading this can shed any light on a possible connection between “The Blessed Event” and the real-life Pebbles, I would be most interested and grateful.

    By coincidence my own sister was born in February of 1963, so I guess she should count her blessings.

    As for Pebbles, she and I concluded our business at the Post Office and went our separate ways. I never spoke to her, and I never saw her again. But as Mr. Bernstein observed in “Citizen Kane”, sometimes a young man can catch a brief glimpse of a girl and then hold on to her in his memory for the rest of his life.

    Best wishes, Pebbles, wherever you are. I hope life has been good to you.

  • The Flintstones’ “Blessed Event” episode creates a retroactive and forward-looking continuity for the series, much in the way that the birth of Little Ricky turns the “I Love Lucy” series into an ongoing saga. From this point on, the series sharply divides between the pre-Pebbles and post-Pebbles episodes. The later addition of Bamm-Bamm to the cast adds further to the sense of an ongoing storyline. While these developments did lead to more child-oriented episodes, which some fans decry as a weakening of the series, I believe that it is precisely with the addition of children to the Flintstone and Rubble households that the series really finds its “heart.” The Flintstones becomes no longer a stone-age spinoff of “The Honeymooners” with its two perpetually childless couples, but it takes on a dimensionality of its own. True, the character of Fred softens considerably from this point now that he becomes a family man, but this is a necessary byproduct of longevity for a series. A leading character who constantly bellows and blusters becomes difficult to maintain unless the blustering is balanced and tempered with some warmth and kindness. Even Gale Gordon couldn’t keep up his mean boss persona all the way through the Lucy shows. So this softening of Fred, and of Wilma as well, to me adds dimension to their characters and makes them more believable, though of course I qualify this as one man’s opinion.

    It’s also interesting to note that as the years progressed and different series were developed, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm appeared as pre-teens, teens, and young adults–not necessarily in that order. Unlike many other children in cartoon series, they grew up, eventually marrying and becoming parents themselves. I realize there are many fans who regard the original series as the only canonical version and I respect that. But with my personal interest in long-running family sagas, I take delight in the later developments as natural progressions from the original. That said, of course, nothing beats the original Flintstones series, with its stellar voice cast and expert sitcom writing.

  • And thus, The Flintstones wouldn’t be the same again, neither the show nor the titular family.

    In all fairness, this is a moment in animation history that deserved to get millions of viewers and loads of rave reviews. Now if only we can return to the point in the Flintstones timeline where Stoney was adopted into the family.

    • For once, I wish we didn’t have any of these types of comments every time this episode was talked about.

      • Sorry for stepping on your toes. I didn’t know you had a sore spot when it came to that mindset.

    • You had Bill and Joe who doted over The Honeymooners. They got Daws Butler to give a pseudo-Norton voice to a bear. They wanted Mel Blanc to make Barney Rubble sound like Norton (he said “no.”). They hired Honeymooners writers to work on The Flintstones. Two years later, they dumped it all and went in a different direction because the Ideal Toy Company held out a huge wad of cash to them.
      Dino Goes Hollyrock is probably my favourite episode, but I’ll take the first two (childless) seasons, thanks.

      • Speaking of “The Honeymooners,” the same discussion went on in the writers’ room of that series. Should Ralph and Alice have a baby? They decided that Ralph was too much of a bad-tempered loudmouth to be a likeable Dad. The audience wasn’t worried about Alice–she could take care of herself–but a helpless baby? And softening Ralph’s character would destroy it.

        There actually was an episode where Ralph and Alice adopt a baby–but it ended with them returning the girl to the birth-mother.

        I suppose we could say that Pebbles turned Fred from Ralph Kramden to Chester Riley.

  • Interesting what happens to your friends, and your friendships, when the kids start coming along.

  • If there was no Pebbles, there would have been no “Pebbles And Bamm Bamm Show” –

    one of my top 5 of the Hanna Barbera 70’s shows.

  • One of my all-time favorite Flintstones episodes was when Pebbles birthday party and the Water Buffalo stag party get mixed up.

  • When it premiered on MeTV some years ago my younger brother claims he spent the whole week excited (why I can’t imagine.) I don’t remember this, but I was never a Flintstones fan to be cartwheeling about Pebbles. But that’s just me; everybody’s entitled to their opinion!

  • This episode also has one of the funniest (and most adult!) gags in the series. During the whole mixup with Barney driving Wilma and Fred to the hospital, Fred mistakenly ends up flying into the the lobby of the hotel across the street from the hospital:

    Fred: I’m looking for my wife. What room is she in?
    Concierge: What’s the name?
    Fred: Flintstone. She just came in with my best friend.
    Concierge: Look, mister, we don’t want any trouble here.

    • More hilarious, somewhat edgy dialogue when Fred, stopped once again by the same motorcycle cop, discovers he’s put Dino into the car by mistake instead of Wilma.

      FRED: “I’m taking my wife to the hospital.”
      COP: “ANOTHER wife? What are you, an Arabian prince? How many wives you got?”
      FRED: “Don’t pay any attention to the officer, dear- [it dawns on him] DINO! Holy smokes! You goofy mutt!! When I get you home, I’m tying you up in the yard! You’ll never go in the house again!” [drives off]
      COP, to camera: “Boy- has he got HIS women trained!”

      This is further enhanced by Chuck Harriton’s beautiful animation of Dino trying to look like an attractive woman, fluttering eyelashes and all.

  • I remember that page from TV Guide. My eight-year-old brain fixated on “coast to coast hookup”. Somehow I read this as meaning the show didn’t always broadcast coast to coast, and therefore in some places a local announcer would have to go on before the show to explain who and what they were about to see. I assumed the adult world was more complicated and nuanced than it turned out to be.

    Now wondering if Bam Bam was based on the character they originally planned before the doll deal. How soon after Pebbles did he arrive?

    Another merchandising tie-in was a Flintstone-themed building toy, styrofoam blocks that formed walls. For maybe a season there was a shot in the opening titles of Pebbles playing with them. Did it survive into the Saturday morning and syndication runs?

    • Bamm-Bamm was introduced in “Little Bamm-Bamm”, which first aired on 3 October 1963, seven and a half months after the birth of Pebbles. It’s a rather dark episode, with Barney attempting suicide when it looks as if the adoption isn’t going to go through.

      The bit in the show’s intro where Pebbles plays with the Building Boulders did indeed survive into syndication, at least for a while, probably longer than the toys themselves did. Those things were very flimsy and broke easily. It was more fun to build things out of styrofoam cups.

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