Reboots of Classic TV shows continue to be all the rage, but, generally speaking, they’re either an extension of an original TV series along the lines of Will & Grace and Roseanne/The Conners, or a new cast with a fresh coat of paint applied to the update, such as Hawaii 5-0, MacGyver, Charmed and Magnum, P.I. But in the case of the 1968-70 Saturday morning kiddie show The Banana Splits, we’re getting a whole new take in the form of an actual horror movie now available for digital download with its television premiere to follow on Syfy in October.
The original show has quite a pedigree behind it. It was created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the veteran producers of animated series like The Flintstones, The Jetsons and numerous others that have filled the imaginations of children of all ages over the course of several generations. But The Banana Splits was different, using live-action segments featuring costumed characters who served as hosts and were part of a bubblegum rock group comprised of Fleegle (a beagle, voiced by Tigger’s Paul Winchell), Bingo (an ape voiced by Daws Butler), Drooper (a lion voiced by Allan Melvin) and Snorky/”Snork” (a mute elephant). The idea of the show is that the characters would get involved in misadventures in the amusement park they lived, singing songs and introducing cartoons between their segments.
Despite their success, Hanna-Barbera needed help with the show, turning to up-and-comers Sid and Marty Krofft, who would become producers in their own right of numerous shows, including H.R. Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost, Donny & Marie and The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.
“Joseph Barbara came to see me, because he didn’t know how to do this idea yet,” explains Marty Krofft. “This was live-action and he’d only done animation. Oddly enough, this was our dress rehearsal for Pufnstuf, which we had introduced at the 1968 World’s Fair. But with The Banana Splits, it started with us creating and building the characters, refining them and making them all workable. Joe would come to our studio probably every week and he’d run everything by me.”
One influence on the show was The Monkees, which was winding down its network run at the time. “Everything has some relationship to something else,” Marty concurs. “I think it’s totally original now, but at the time I’m sure we said, ‘Let’s turn this into The Monkees.’ That was a hard thing to do with these four goofy characters, but they’ve lived on. I liked the name The Banana Splits, and I thought the characters, if we built them right, could be real interesting as a band and the truth is, they’ve stayed alive. You know, we probably have 40 million dedicated fans today from when they were kids who are going to be interested in this new version. And I think it’s great what they’re doing. I think it took guts to do something like this. And look at all the interest … hey, I’m talking to you, because of what they did.”
Actress Sara Canning, who plays Rebecca, producer of the Banana Splits show within the movie, points out that she didn’t see the original series due to the fact that she grew up in a small place “with two channels.” But, after getting cast, “I watched the opening credits and was, like, ‘Wow, this is an acid trip.’ This new version is meant to be a straight horror film, but there are elements of camp that arise just because it’s a bunch of furry things running around and, you know, massacring people.”
To learn more about what they actually did with The Banana Splits Movie, just scroll down.
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