Monday, January 10, 2011

Fan-Boy Icon #35

You can't really mention one without the other. This week we look at Sid & Marty Krofft, two Quebecer brothers who are perhaps the most influential team in children's programming since William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

My personal history with the Kroffts comes from one of their more famous show, Land of the Lost, but also the less popular Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. of course there were many others I watched, and even more they produced, such as; The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, H.R. Pufnstuf, and The Krofft Supershow, They also worked on adult variety shows like Donny and Marie, Pink Lady and Jeff, and Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters.

You can see their influence still. Some fairly blatant like Saul of the Mole Men, but really if you are looking at a blue screen and wild costumes, the Krofft's influence is there.

So, three cheers for the Kroffts. They made my childhood better. How about yours?


Chad Thorson said...

Sid and Marty Krofft were a big part of my childhood! Land of the Lost was one of my favorites, but I loved Space Nuts, Lost Saucer, Bigfoot and Wildboy, Electro Woman and Dyna Girl, Doctor Shrinker, H.R. Puff'n Stuff, Simund and the Sea Monsters....the list goes on. They also had something to do with the McDonald's characters but I had read that they got screwed over by the fastfood giant and had to sue them.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I did not know they were involved with McDonalds, but those characters are totally their kind of thing; especially the mayor and the hamburger cop. :-)

Anonymous said...

Well, it was actually an ad agency called Needham Harper & Steers, which was wooing McDonald's for business, told the Kroffts that it was going ahead with a McDonaldland campaign based on the Kroffts' work and that they could expect a fee for creative services. But a short time later Needham told the Kroffts the campaign had been canceled.
However, while they'd hired former employees of the Kroffts to design and construct the costumes and sets for McDonaldland, and the same voice expert who supplied all the voices for the Pufnstuf characters to supply some of the voices for the McDonaldland characters, no cash was forthcoming to the Kroffts.
After the first McDonaldland commercials began airing in January 1971, the Kroffts sued for copyright infringement. When the case went to trial in 1973, their lawyers showed the jury several H.R. Pufnstuf episodes and McDonaldland commercials and pointed out the obvious similarities. McDonald's and Needham responded that the show and the commercials weren't *exactly* the same. The jury, and later the appeals court, called Bullshit on that the defendants had wrongfully appropriated the "total concept and feel" of H.R. Pufnstuf, anticipating the "look and feel" argument made by litigious computer software developers years later. The Kroffts were awarded a big chunk of dough.
I bought the Krofft DVD set that had a sample episode from each of their children's shows, remembering when there was actually live-action children's programs on Saturday morning instead of crap animated toy commercials (I'm assuming; I haven't been awake that early on a Saturday morning in years!).
You certainly got variety with Krofft shows. You got musical numbers on Pufnstuf, the camp glory of Charles Nelson Reilly as Hoodoo on Lidsville, environmental messages amidst the slapstick on Lost Saucer, the weird monster costumes on Sigmund (which unnerved me as a kid, probably because they didn't look as much like people in suits with limbs like you'd see on Classic Star Trek), the bonkers Doctor Shrinker (I never did get why he needed the shrunken people as proof of his genius when he could just trick some more idiots into coming), the unfortunately-titled Magic Mongo, the Herbie-ripoff Wonderbug, the Far Out Space Nuts' theme, the weird (even by Krofft standards) Bugaloos...
And they still maintain they weren't on drugs when they created the shows. Well, they *were* European...

Darius Whiteplume said...

Thanks for the info, Derek. I imagine if something like that happened today they would have a pile of "proof of concept" material to show, but somebody has to take the knocks early on I guess.

As for the drug thing, "Punfstuf" seems way too big of a tell, but who knows? Maybe they were good at co-opting the drug culture of the day? :-)

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