Mark Marek: ‘New Flinstones’ Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs to Appeal to Older Kids

Marking its 60th anniversary, the Flinstones are back with new a series, Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs on Boomerang, which follows the adventures of a young Pebbles Flinstone and Bamm Bamm Rubble.

Unlike other classic franchises or TV shows like Scooby Doo, or even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that have had so many different versions over the years, the Flintstones have been generally untouched. Even the movies didn’t try to change too much.

Now, 60 years on, Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs brings a new take on the property with the focus shifting to the youngest members of the cast. We speak to producer, Mark Marek who shares what he had in mind when working on this new version of everyone’s favorite modern Stone Age family.

Mark is an Emmy-nominated producer who’s previous credits include MADRight Now Kapow and Teen Titans Go!

Zed: It’s 60 years since the world was introduced to the Flinstones. What is it like to work on a project that has so much legacy?

Mark Marek: 60 years, there’s a lot of weight on that. Be careful what you do, Mark (laughs). It’s a good thing. I think that there hasn’t been a lot fleshed out with the Flintstones other than the adults, who have been fleshed out the most. But the thing I appreciate about this property is that Pebbles and Bamm Bamm haven’t really been fleshed out that much. So it was more or less, a fairly clean slate.

You know, I feel like I could do a fair amount, especially with the age that I put Pebbles and Bamm Bamm in – eight to ten year-olds. They haven’t really been explored that way. So that made it in a curious way, easy. But when you start dealing with the adult Flintstones, Fred and Barney and Betty and Wilma and Mr. Slade and all the others, you do have to be careful because you owe a lot to stay within brand loyalty or the history.

I wanted to stay away from the little toddlers, which they’re mainly known for. There was a version where they were adults, they were married but it was brief. Hopefully this is something that feels really new while still being the Flintstones.

Z: The adults still sound and feel like the original characters. With Pebbles and Bamm Bamm, how did you settle on their characters, personality and voices? This is what Pebbles would do. This is typical Bamm Bamm.

MM: That’s a very good question. It came onto my table as a preschool property. It wasn’t quite as preschool as the original Pebbles and Bamm Bamm, but a little bit older. But it was still kind of young and too close to that age. So I wanted to age it up a little bit more to eight to ten year-olds where they really could be out in the crags on their own without getting into trouble being away from their parents.

Then we had Teen Titans designer redesign the characters – I tweaked them a little bit, but the part that really sort of settled it for me was getting the right voices. I felt like I really ,really liked the voices that we have – Jesse Di Cicco and Ely Henry.

They had cast a bunch of people for the preschool version and I listened to them all. They sounded like your typical little squeaky kid kind of sounds. Ely Henry was a real discovery. He was cast for a different character in the show, but I liked the gravel in his voice, and that’s as important as the designs that we had for this Pebbles and Bamm Bamm. I really like the voice acting for these these two characters.

Z: You mentioned Teen Titans. The Teen Titans are very different take on the Teen Titans as we know them in the comics. What’s the style of humor with this as compared to the original Flinstones?

MM: Oh yeah. Well I curiously enough, if I understand correctly, and I’m not, I’m not an absolute historian on this, but the original Flintstones was written and aired for adults. Now it seems odd, I suppose because it’s way before the Simpsons. But if you look back, you’ll actually see cigarette ads featuring Fred and Barney. So it was not for kids.

But this this particular Flintstones is a demographic is eight to ten year-olds and trying to hit a sweet spot where you appeal to older kids, even young college age “kids”. Hopefully it’s written smart enough that it’s not just for a very, very, very young children.  That’s what I didn’t like about the first version they put in front of me. It was a little too narrow.

Like Teen Titans, I don’t want to keep reflecting on them, but they do try to appeal to a broader range. But it’s not like it’s not adult, to where we’ll take on adult topics necessarily. I’m not sure if you remember that in the original Flintstones Bamm Bamm is adopted. I don’t know if you remember that he was left on a doorstep. So they really dealt with a quite an adult topic.

I hadn’t quite gotten to it in this season in this series, but I want to write it and I have an angle. But I haven’t gotten to it yet. So I’m teasing you now.

Z: That’s very interesting and can’t wait to see how you’ll approach that episode. With different properties getting a new lease of life, how do you think producing  animation has changed?

MM: Well, well, first of all, just by virtue of the fact a lot of it’s digital, you have certain freedoms. For techniques, cover changes and speed of animation, it has picked up quite a bit. There are some studios that will still draw on paper, but that’s more or less a rarity, an old dinosaur, if you will. So, technically, it’s changed in that extent. I also think until you can actually squeeze a little more animation where it’s not as time consuming. To draw on paper now would be prohibitive.

Ultimately, you have to write good property and you have to have good character animation, good character acting on the audio side. That never goes away. That’s the creative side. You still have to draw, and emote, and do all the things you always did. Hopefully, they’re doing that and doing it well.

Z: Do you think the 10 year-olds of this generation is now looking for something different than what we used to look at a years ago?

MM: I think it’s fair to say that they’re smarter and more savvy. It’s just virtue of raising kids with a computer around, they just know more of what’s going on. You can’t play down to them at all. And that’s great. So that’s why I think when you have a show that you want to appeal to a certain demographic, you got to go above that or anticipate at a higher level of appreciation from your viewers.

I don’t I don’t think that was quite the case. 40, 50 years ago. It’s gonna sound cliche, but it was a simpler time.

Catch Yabba-Dabba Dinosaurs 10am, every weekend, on Boomerang (Singtel TV Ch 228 & StarHub Ch 317).

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