flintstones

Flintstones - The Stone-Age Family Staying Modern

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Earlier this week, it was announced that Dublin-based Salty Dog Pictures partnered with Warner Brothers to produce a new spin-off series based on The Flintstones. The title of the series will be Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs!, and at the moment 24 episodes have been ordered. It's a testament to the enduring legacy of America's favorite "modern Stone-Age family", a legacy worth remembering.

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The Flintstones was the brainchild of animation giants William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The studio was enjoying some success with characters such as Huckleberry Hound and Quick-Draw McGraw. However, that success was primarily with children. They didn't have the same full-family appeal as something like their famous comic duo Tom and Jerry. The Flintstones came about from a desire to appeal to adults again. As a result, it took a lot of inspiration from the famous sitcom The Honeymooners, focusing on the day-to-day struggles that the titular family faced in the prehistoric suburbia of Bedrock.

Funnily enough, the show was predated by a short film from Dave Fleischer called Granite Hotel. Coming out twenty years beforehand, the short introduces the audience to a variety of "modern stone-age" characters, including firemen who ride in a sauropod to their jobs. While the similarities are apparent, The Flintstones definitely pushed the concept much further. It was the first animated series to feature in a prime time slot, and to feature a married couple sharing a bed (rather than separately.)

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The first reviews were mixed, with many critics deriding the animation as "limited" and the plots as "derivative". However, it still proved a success with the public, with nearly a quarter of American households tuning in for the first season.  Much of that success drew from its constant use of anachronisms; appliances were operated by small animals, cars ran on footpower. It parodied the "American experience" that prevailed in the national consciousness of the time. The show lasted from 1960 through 1966, and ended up being the most profitable cartoon series ever; it only lost that honor to The Simpsons. By the time it lost that crown though, hindsight had already sweetened attitudes towards the show. It's now considered a classic, and in 2013 TV Guide ranked it as the second greatest cartoon of all time.

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As happens to most successful franchises, the studio obviously wanted to take the franchise even further. The Flintstones have done a lot over the past fifty-eight years of its existence. There've been spin-off series, animated movies, live-action movies, even a fully built Bedrock in Arizona. At the moment, DC Comics publishes a regular comic series based on The Flintstones that focuses on social commentary and more adult topics, in a way preserving the grown-up focus of the original series. 

With the new series now on the horizon, we will see yet another perspective on the Flintstones and their home of Bedrock. Salty Dog Pictures is going to be one more step in keeping the modern stone-age family as modern as possible.


Eric Miller Animation Studios is dedicated to crafting heartfelt stories and compelling visuals through 3D computer graphics, offering design and VFX for advertising, gaming, TV & film production.  We work with the best animation talent in the industry to deliver visually stunning imagery. Big or small, we can bring any character or story to life.

The Allen Institute Creates Toon-Making AI

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Artificial intelligence has been a buzzword in the business world for the past several years. And ever since Watson won Jeopardy! in 2011, AI has become ingrained in the public eye as not just a futuristic dream, but a grounded reality. It's been promised that AI will change everyone's work — and it seems that even artists will be affected. This past week, Gizmodo reported that the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence has successfully trained an AI to automatically generate Flinstones clips.

The process began with feeding the AI over 25,000 three-second clips of The Flintstones. Researchers then described each clip with detailed descriptions of the character, where they were, and what they were doing. After all this data had been indexed, they then began to ask the AI to generate clips based on various requests; for example, they fed it the line "Betty is speaking on the phone in the kitchen." The program proceeded to generate a clip, based on the footage it had available, to composite a moving image.

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It's worth watching the Allen Institute's video about their project. To see an AI come this far is astonishing, to say the least. It might also spark worry about future job prospects... but it doesn't seem too likely that the AI poses any immediate threat. First of all, as can be seen in the video, the program fails often. Items are not placed correctly, and poses or backgrounds are not retrieved accurately. That's not even looking at the "catastrophic failures" which end up unintelligible. However, the successful clips are rarely much better. Sure they show what's being asked for, but the quality feels more reminiscent of an amateur DVD-rip, with artifacts all over the place.

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Perhaps the most pressing setback for the AI at this time, though, is that it requires existing assets to function. Without being fed clips, the program cannot work. Some artists have to make those clips in the first place. Plus, cataloging all those clips takes an extensive amount of manpower. For twenty-five thousand clips, let's say each is described with seven words: "Fred running across kitchen in his pajamas." If that's the average description length, then they'll reach the same word count as Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. 

Now automatically generated animation is not particularly new; GoAnimate has been available for years now. However, GoAnimate relies on pre-programmed animations that the user can then choose to string together. Not everything that a user wants will be available. The Allen Institute's project has gone one step further, in trying to combine assets itself in a more nuanced way. Obviously it still has a ways to go, but it's a step forward. It's worth keeping an eye on though. It may, in due time, become a valuable artistic tool.


Eric Miller Animation Studios is dedicated to crafting heartfelt stories and compelling visuals through 3D computer graphics, offering design and VFX for advertising, gaming, TV & film production.  We work with the best animation talent in the industry to deliver visually stunning imagery. Big or small, we can bring any character or story to life.