"Who's your friend when things get tough?"
Brothers, puppeteers, and co-producers of dozens of popular childrens shows from the psychedelic 60's through the dawn of the Reagan era of the early 80's, Sid and Marty Krofft brought bizarre, almost surrealistic entertainment into our living rooms every Saturday morning for 3 decades - and even now, the catchy theme songs, bright colours and strangely mutated puppet-creatures give us strange and perverse thrills.
Fifth-generation puppeteers, the Sid and Marty Krofft started their careers young. Sid, at 10, began touring with the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the early 40's. Marty, the younger brother, joined Sid in 1957, when they made a huge impact with the famous "Les Poupees de Paris," playing live for over nine million people.
The Krofft brothers soon opened a show business "factory" to manufacture props, costumes, sets, and of course, enormous puppets. These characters helped them launch the critically acclaimed "Racquel Welch in the World of Sid and Marty Krofft," as well as the not-so acclaimed "World of Sid and Marty Krofft" in Atlanta, Georgia. They had slightly more success with El Mundo Sid and Marty Krofft, a shopping mall designed for children in Mexico City.
In the late 60s, the brothers began to experiment with television (and some would say drugs as well) with the popular children's show, "H.R. Pufnstuff." That being the psychadelic success that it was, they continued through the 70's with such bizarre fare as "The Bugaloos," "Lidsville," "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters," and the very successful "Land of the Lost."
Their mix of oddities appealed in strange ways, and soon the Krofft brothers also found themselves in demand for more prime-time programming - "Donny and Marie Show," "The Brady Bunch Hour," and "Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters" were among these more adult shows.
The Kroffts also produced a few film features, among them were "Side Show," "Middle Age Crazy", starring Ann Margaret and Bruce Dern and "Harry Tracy", also starring Bruce Dern and the ineffable Gordon Lightfoot.
In the 80s, their popularity fading, the Kroffts produced one more children's show, the Emmy-nominated "Pryor's Place," hosted by comedian Richard Pryor. Despite it's star power, Ray Parker, Jr. theme song, and a parade of famous guest stars, the show flopped, leaving the Kroffts alone with their puppets again. They tried once more in '87, trying for a more adult feel with "D.C. Follies" a political satire starring a cast of life-sized presidential puppets, sadly, this had already been done far more successfully in Great Britain with "Spitting Image."
For the next four years, the brothers kept their producing pretty limited, until 1991, during the beginning of remake fever, when someone pitched a return to the classic (and most successful) Krofft production, "Land of the Lost." With a change to the formula to reflect the Xena-loving generation, the Krofft magic seemed to fizzle, and the show barely lasted it's first (and only) season.
Remake fever is in the air again, however, and shows from our childhood are constantly getting resurrected - and the Krofft productions are ripe for remake - "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl" have already died nicely, and in 2002, rumour has it the big druggy dragon (no... not Barney), will be coming back to the big screen in a remake of H.R. Pufnstuf.
Sid and Marty still work in costuming and giant puppets. Nowadays you'll find them working on such projects as costumes for "The New Zoo Revue," the mascots for the Atlanta Falcons and the Houston Astros, the legendary Pink Panther costume, as well as the "Kool-Aid Man" pitcher.
The brothers did not, contrary to popular belief, create any McDonaldland characters however. In fact, it was the source of a painful lawsuit lasting nearly a decade. At a time when the Krofft brothers were beginnging to be sought for their popular characters, an ad agency called Needham Harper & Steers, was soliciting McDonald's with a fantasyland concept. NH&S figured a campaign featuring the popular H.R. Pufnstuf characters might be just the thing, and in a letter dated August 31, 1970, Needham told the Kroffts that it was going ahead with the idea and they could expect a fee for creative services. Oddly, a short time later the agency told the Kroffts the campaign had been canceled. Not exactly true, of course. The agency had signed the McDonald's account and apparently figured it could cut out the middle man and stiff the Kroffts. "Former employees of the Kroffts were hired to design and construct the costumes and sets for McDonaldland," a federal appeals court later wrote. "Needham also hired the same voice expert who supplied all the voices for the Pufnstuf characters to supply some of the voices for the McDonaldland characters." Despite all of this, NH&S failed to pay Krofft, Inc. their due.
In 1971, when the first McDonaldland commercials began airing the Kroffts sued for copyright infringement. When the case went to trial in 1973, the main evidence presented was several H.R. Pufnstuf episodes and McDonaldland commercials, showing obvious similarities. McDonald's and Needham responded that the show and the commercials weren't exactly the same. While Mayor McCheese and Pufnstuf were each the mayor of a fanciful land, McCheese was a cheeseburger in pink formal wear while Pufnstuf was a dragon. The jury wasn't buying. Neither was the appeals court in 1983. "We do not believe that the ordinary reasonable person, let alone a child, viewing these works will even notice that Pufnstuf is wearing a cummerbund while Mayor McCheese is wearing a diplomat's sash," the appeals court wrote. The court held that the defendants had wrongfully appropriated the "total concept and feel" of H.R. Pufnstuf. Judgement, Plaintiff - $50,000.
The following lists every production by Sid and Marty Krofft. Unless otherwise specified, all were live-action with humans and puppets.
IMDB - http://www.imdb.com/
The Living Island - http://www.livingisland.com/
World of Krofft Online - http://www.worldofkrofft.com/
Yesterdayland - http://www.yesterdayland.com/
Krofft Fan Network - http://www.krofft.net/
The World of Sid and Marty Krofft DVD collection
Dave Thomas's FAQ - http://www.rt66.com/dthomas/70s/childtv/krofft_facts.txt
And hours of devoted television watching...
"Can't do a little 'cause you can't do enough"