For quite some time we've been fascinated by our ancestors -- our very distant ancestors. There's no denying that the image of the caveman has permeated popular culture by way of comics, characters and even clothing.
B.C., Alley Oop and the cavemen featured in Gary Larson's The Far Side have graced the pages of newspapers worldwide. In 1923, Buster Keaton played a caveman in the silent film Three Ages. Since then, a range of stars from Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy to Ringo Starr and Raquel Welch to Dennis Quaid and Darryl Hannah to Elizabeth Taylor and Elizabeth Perkins have played prehistoric people. And today, no fall college scene is complete without coeds tromping across campus in prehistoric-esque footwear: fur boots -- be it faux or the real deal such as UGG brand and EMU.
Read on as we give a nod to the Neanderthal by counting down some of the most favorite cave dwellers in pop culture. First up, a short, hairy cartoon spin on a super popular '70s detective show that revolved around a faceless fellow named Charlie.
10: Captain Caveman
If you're at all familiar with this cartoon character, then as you read the title of this page, in your head it probably sounded something like Yosemite Sam -- with a bit of a cold -- yelling "Captain CaaaaaaavemaaAaaaAaaaAaaaan."
Billed as the first superhero, Captain Caveman was the creation of Joe Ruby and Ken Spears and voiced by the man of 1,000 voices -- Mel Blanc. The Hanna-Barbera production, officially titled Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, ran from 1977 to 1980 [source: IMDB]. Each week, Cavey, as teen angels Brenda, Dee Dee and Taffy often called him, and his cohorts (the aforementioned teen angels) would set about solving mysteries. With episode titles like "The Kooky Case of the Cryptic Keys," "Cavey and the Weirdo Wolfman" and "The Haunting of Hog's Hollow," it's easy to see why this kids' classic shared screen time with Scooby and the gang.
If you're too young to remember this cave dweller, perhaps the next two Neanderthals will seem more familiar.
9: Ook and Gluk
These guys are the newest Neanderthals on the pop culture block. Ook, whose name rhymes with "duke," and Gluk, whose name rhymes with "luck," are a creation of author Dav Pilkey -- the fellow behind the incredibly popular Captain Underpants series among many other kid-friendly books.
In 1997, Pilkey introduced the world to Captain Underpants, who was eventually joined by Super Diaper Baby. Now Pilkey has gone back in time -- way, way, way, way back -- to 500,001 B.C. to bring forth a pair of superhero cavemen characters in the graphic novel, The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future. The story begins with the would-be heroes living pretty happily in Caveland, Ohio. But soon everything is spoiled by some time travelers from the future …
According to Pilkey, the idea for Ook and Gluk came from a story his editor relayed to him about a particular show-and-tell day in her son's kindergarten class. That’s the beauty of inspiration -- it can happen anytime, anywhere.
The next popular cave dweller can also be found amidst the pages of a book series. But her creator doesn't remember where, exactly, the idea came from -- just that once it was there, she was determined to run with it.
And run with it, she did. Jean M. Auel created what is probably the most well-known cavewoman character ever: Ayla. Readers meet Ayla, a beautiful orphan, in the first book of Auel's Earth's Children series: The Clan of the Cavebear. Although Auel doesn't quite remember what inspired her, in many interviews, she's said that the story -- which spans six volumes and took more than 30 years to complete -- all started with an idea of writing about a young girl living with people who were different. That young girl ended up being a Cro-Magon and the "different people" were Neanderthals.
I began with an idea for a short story about a young woman living in prehistoric times, but when I tried to write it, I discovered I didn't know what I was writing about. I thought I would do a little research, and discovered an exciting world full of real people that I hadn't known existed ... [source: Auel].
Auel didn't know much about the Ice Age and wanted to learn, knowing it would benefit her writing. Over the years, her research took her around the globe, where she visited the sites that filled her stories and spoke to leading scientists and researchers.
In researching for my stories, I have been most excited and moved to learn about the humanity of ancient peoples, and to understand that savagery and violence are not what define us, or what make us human. A careful study of the archaeological record shows that humanity is defined by compassion, curiosity and by art and invention [source: Auel].
Undoubtedly, Auel's understanding of our ancient ancestors' humanity is what made Ayla's story resonate with readers around the globe for more than three decades. The books of Auel's Earth's Children's series, collectively, have spent more than 150 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list and have been published in 35 languages [sources: New York Times and Baker]. Despite her incredible popularity, Ayla only made it to one movie; she was embodied on the big screen by actress Daryl Hannah when The Clan of the Cavebear was made into a film in 1986.
The cave dwellers on the next page also came to life on the screen -- both big and small, even though it all simply started as a routine expedition.
7: (Rick) Marshall, Will and Holly
At seeing the title of this page, it's possible that a certain theme song has started playing in your head:
Marshall, Will and Holly, on a routine expedition, met the greatest earthquake ever known …
If it has, then you know where we're going with this -- to the Land of the Lost.
Adaptations and remakes are all the rage -- both in fall TV lineups and big-screen productions. Land of the Lost is no exception to this phenomenon. The original series, which aired from 1974 to 1977, was created by Sid and Marty Krofft (the same duo behind H.R. Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, The Bugaloos and Lidsville).
True, some would question the Marshall's place on this list -- since, technically, even though there are dinosaurs, the show doesn't take place in prehistoric time, but rather in an alternate world (or possibly universe). But they did live in a cave -- at least until the final season -- so here they are.
Popular during its own time (it was even nominated for an Emmy ), the show eventually reached cult classic status. And that's probably why the concept was resurrected and repackaged as a new TV show in 1991 -- complete with scary sleestaks. But this time, it was the Porter family that found itself stranded in a strange world. Lasting for only two seasons this go-round, Land of the Lost didn't disappear; it just went dormant. But, this time, it did take more than 14 years to find its way back to a viewing audience. In 2009, Will Ferrell took on the mantle of Dr. Rick Marshall, bringing the story -- yes, with Chaka and the sleestaks, too -- to a whole new generation.
One small question remains, though. Well, maybe two. Where, exactly, was the land of the lost? And, why did they refer to Rick as Marshall in the show's theme song? Perhaps we'll find out in another 15 to 20 years when they do yet another remake.
The cave dweller character you'll meet on the next page has yet to be repurposed in a remake -- but who knows; a remake of Footloose was filmed, so anything's possible.
In the same way it wouldn't be prudent to write an article about the top time travel movies without including Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, it certainly wouldn't be right to leave Encino Man character "Link" (Brendan Fraser) off this list. OK, so he never actually lives in a cave during the movie, but it's clear that he did, prior to his block-of-ice-existence in Dave's (Sean Astin) back yard, that is.
If you haven't seen this early 90's flick, the basic plot goes like this: A not-so-popular Dave (Astin) and his pal Stoney (Pauly Shore) discover a frozen caveman behind Dave's house, where they're putting in a pool. Somehow, the ice melts and the caveman (Fraser) is miraculously OK, if not a bit flustered having made his way into the house where he's trying to start a fire in Dave's bedroom. Dave immediately sees an opportunity: Their new prehistoric pal will help turn him and Stoney from personae non gratae to popular. After an amusing "mankover" (male makeover) montage set to the musical styling of Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy, the newly named "Link" (as in missing link) is ready for his first day of high school.
Up next is a cave dweller who did more than attend high school; apparently, he managed to attend law school, even though our world frightened and confused him.
Would you be comfortable with a Cro-Magnon representing you in the courtroom? Perhaps if you were appearing in a Saturday Night Live skit and said caveman were "Cirroc the unfrozen caveman lawyer," played by funnyman Phil Hartman.
One hundred thousand years ago, a cave man was out hunting on the frozen wastes when he slipped and fell into a crevasse. In 1988, he was discovered by some scientists and thawed out. He then went to law school and became … Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer [source: Bai].
Hartman appeared as Cirroc (pronounced "keyrock") on numerous SNL episodes in the '90s, offering advice as a defense and personal injury lawyer, and later, entering the political arena -- with his caveman family by his side. Picture a political rally with Cirroc, his wife, son and daughter standing at a podium draped in red, white and blue, addressing a mass of voters:
Thank you! Thank you very much, thank you! First of all, let me say how happy I am to be your nominee for the United States Senate! You know, thank you, I don't really understand your Congress or your system of checks and balances because, as I said during the campaign -- I'm just a caveman! I fell on some ice, and later got thawed out by scientists. But there is one thing I do know -- we must do everything in our power to lower the capital gains tax. Thank you! [source: SNL Transcripts].
Next up, a very unlikely group if insurance spokesmen.
4: The GEICO guys
The ad opens with a newscaster-ish spokesman saying, "It's so easy to use GIECO.com, a caveman could do it." The camera pans out to show you that they're taping the commercial and immediately you see a shirtless Neanderthal crewmember saying, "What?! Not cool!" as he storms off set. The commercial closes with the ever-present tagline about how 15 minutes can save … you get the picture.
Yes, you've reached the page for the GEICO guys. You had to know they'd be on this list. These modern-era Neanderthals quickly gained popularity after The Martin Agency created the first caveman ad for GEICO in 2004. Over the next few years, a string of ads followed, featuring the perpetually wounded cavemen as they were confronted with the slogan, "So easy a caveman can do it." They -- and this memorable tagline -- quickly permeated pop culture. For example, during an ACC basketball tournament, a Terrapin fan proudly displayed a sign that read "Beatin' Duke, so easy a caveman can do it" [source: USA Today].
The fact that this line of advertising has stayed popular while sharing screen time with an unusually large lineup of other spokespeople and ad concepts -- the GEICO gecko, the testimonial series (remember the Mrs. Butterworth one?), the Rod-Serling-esque guy (played by actor Mike McGlone), the creepy eye-ball-topped cash stack and more -- could be why they created the short-lived 2007 ABC series Cavemen, which followed the Neanderthals' lives in modern America. Although they filmed 13 episodes, only six made it to air. Perhaps they should have made Flo (from Progressive) their neighbor, to double the fan base …
3: The Sinclairs (Well, Mostly Baby)
The Sinclairs -- a family of dinosaurs -- hit TV via ABC in April 1991. The original idea for Dinosaurs, the show centered around the Sinclars, came from famous puppeteer Jim Henson and was, shortly after his unexpected passing, executed by his production company, Jim Henson Productions, under the direction of his son Brian. While some critics labeled it a Flinstones/Simpsons hybrid-esque knockoff, the show's creators believed the animatronic-dinosaur-centered sitcom would be more than that. At least a few viewers agreed -- enough to keep the show on air for four years and 65 episodes.
If you don't remember the show, perhaps these catchphrases will jog your memory:
- Not the Momma!
- I'm the baby, gotta love me!
- Again, again!
How's that? Are you picturing a baby dinosaur hitting his flannel-clad dad in the head with a frying pan? Yep, now you're remembering. Even if you didn't watch this show, chances are you heard at least two of those catchphrases being repeated by young and old alike in the early '90s. It's probably due to the beguiling combo of those giant purple eyes, that irreverent attitude and the voice of Kevin Clash (you might also know him as "Elmo").
Up next, the Bs have it.
2: Barney, Betty and Bamm-Bamm
Barney and his family represent a happy half of the most recognizable cave-dwelling cast in TV history -- that of The Flintstones, which turned 51 on September 30, 2011.
Fashioned after a live-action TV duo from The Honeymooners -- Barney was the Ed Norton to Fred's Ralph-Kramden-like character. The loveable prehistoric pal was voiced by Mel Blanc throughout the entire original series, which ran from 1960 through 1966, and in subsequent productions, spinoffs and specials until Blanc's passing in 1989. Since then, Barney has been voiced by Frank Welker and Kevin Michael Richardson and the character was later brought to (almost) real life on the big screen -- first in 1994 by Rick Moranis, and later, in 2000, by Stephen Baldwin.
Barney's family consists of wife Betty and, in later episodes, their adopted son Bamm-Bamm. Although he was a devoted husband and father, Barney spent most of his time hanging around with Fred helping him with whatever kooky scheme a particular episode called for. They were neighbors, they belonged to the same lodge and (eventually -- early episodes depicted Barney in a few different jobs) they even worked together at the quarry.
Betty is best known for her infectious giggle, which has been voiced by Bea Benaderet, Gerry Johnson, B.J. Ward, June Foray and a few others and enacted in live action by Rosie O'Donnell in 1994 and Jane Krakowski in 2000. Benaderet was the 'first' Betty -- you might also recognize her from her roles in Petticoat Junction (Kate Bradley) and The Beverly Hillbillies (Jethro's mom, Pearl).
And now for our number one spot … Flintstones meet the Flintstones, they're the modern Stone Age family. From the town of Bedrock, they're a page right out of history.
1: Fred, Wilma and Pebbles
Who is everyone's favorite tie-clad troglodyte? Why Fred Flintstone of course! Yes, the number one spot on the list goes to the first family of cave dwellers, the Flintstones -- Fred, Wilma, Pebbles and Dino (we couldn't leave out Dino).
Fred's recognizable baritone initially belonged to Alan Reed, but the character was later voiced by Henry Corden and brought to the big screen first by John Goodman (in 1994) and then Mark Addy (in 2000). For almost four decades, Wilma's voice came courtesy Jean Vander Pyl, who also voiced Pebbles. And Mel Blanc could count Dino among his 1,000 voices.
Although most of us remember the Flintstones from reruns, the show originally ran in a primetime slot, agreeing with audiences young and old. After it went off the air in 1966, The Flintstones did not release the foothold it had gained in popular culture. For years to come, the characters could be found everywhere from dolls to dresses, lunch boxes to happy meals, and cereal to vitamins. In fact, Flintstones chewable vitamins were first released in 1968 and, today, remain a mainstay in the children's vitamin sector. According to Kevin Skinner, a VP of Bayer, Inc., Flintstones vitamins are the most popular kids' vitamins on the market, outselling "the number two brand by five-to-one" [source: Lunau]. Three years after the vitamins hit the shelves, the Flintstones gang could also be found in the cereal aisle on boxes of Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles.
Lots More Information
- From Troglodyte to TV Star: Cave Dwellers in Pop Culture
- Great Discoveries: Pictures of Archaeological Finds
- Do you know the biggest archaeological finds? Take the quiz!
More Great Links
- Auel, Jean M. "Romancing the Public." Conference paper presented at the 1990 Society for American Archaeology Conference in Las Vegas, Nev. (Accessed 9-30-2011) http://www.nps.gov/history/seac/protecting/html/4d-auel.htm
- Bai, Matt. "Jon Huntsman: the Unfrozen Caveman Candidate?" The New York Times June 20, 2011. (Accessed 10-1-11) http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/jon-huntsman-the-unfrozen-caveman-candidate/
- Baker, Jeff. "Where I write: Jean M. Auel works late in her Southwest Portland condo." OregonLive.com. March 26, 2011 (Accessed 9-30-2011) http://www.oregonlive.com/books/index.ssf/2011/03/where_i_write_jean_m_auel_work.html
- Dobbins, Amanda. "Nostalgia Fact-Check: How Does Dinosaurs Hold Up?" July 20, 2011. New York Magazine (Accessed 10-1-11) http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/07/dinosaurs_fact_check.html
- "FLINTSTONES. RE-MEET THE FLINTSTONES." Hamilton Spectator, The (ON), n.d., Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed October 3, 2011).
- "From caveman to cult status." USA Today, MAY 07, 2007 (Accessed 10-1-11 via NC Live database).
- IMDB. "Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (TV Series 1977)." (Accessed 9-29-2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0284712/
- Lunau, Kate. 2010. "A Bedrock of the vitamin industry." Maclean's 123, no. 16: 45. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed October 3, 2011).
- Saturday Night Live Transcripts. (Accessed 10-1-11) http://snltranscripts.jt.org/91/91gcaveman.phtml
- YouTube video of Natural History Museum interview with Jean M. Auel (Accessed 9-29-2011) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOZiEokrEp4