Over hill and highway those banana buggies go,
Comin' on to bring you the Banana Splits Show!
Makin' up a mess of fun,
Makin' up a mess of fun,
Lots of fun for everyone!
The Monkees were cooler, even in reruns. And The Partridge Family became must-watch kiddie-tv, something that the Banana Splits never quite achieved among my friends. Nevertheless, we all watched the show, at least sometimes. Maybe we only wanted only to keep pace with Danger Island, but we watched.
The Banana Splits ran from 1968 to 1972, first as The Banana Splits Adventure Hour on NBC and later in syndication as The Banana Splits and Friends. The final, syndicated season consisted of earlier material from the Splits and other cartoons, re-edited. Hanna-Barbera's first live-action show, the series recalls the work of Sid and Marty Kroft, in no small part because those kings of saturday morning furry drama designed the costumes.
Flippin’ like a pancake; poppin' like a cork:
Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snork!
The Splits consisted of:
Fleegle the beagle and group leader, who played guitar. He was voiced by Paul Winchell and played by Jeffrey Brock.
Bingo, a gorilla/orangutan laid down the beats for the beasts. Daws Butler did the voice; Terrance Henry receives credit for the costumed performance.
Drooper, a lion, played bass. He spoke with a distinctive southern drawl. Daniel Owen gave him voice, and Allan Melvin, movement.
Snorky, an elephant of sorts, played both keyboard and guitar. Robert Towers wore the outfit. "Snork" does not actually speak, but makes honking noises. In what appears to be an inside joke, Don Messick gets credit for the voice work. Messick, in fact, did voices for most of the series' cartoons. Snorky sported two different looks. In the first season, he is covered him with long, Cousin Itt-like fur, suggesting a gray mammoth. In the second, he looks more like a elephant.
Being animals they wore few clothes. Fleegle sported an outsized bowtie; Bingo, a vest, while Snork wore Harry Potter specs. However, they maintained a group identity by donning 19th century firemen's helmets. The foursome hung in a clubhouse that featured a mounted monkey's head that lit up and a blue cuckoo-bird that often announced upcoming features. Their clubhouse trashbin was alive, and (as might be expected from a trashbin) had a rather poor attitude. They apparently hired the same painters for their pad as the Partridge Family did for their bus; sixties color and psychedelia swirled everywhere.
The Splits themselves appeared in mediocre sketches and bubblegum pop numbers. They had rivals in the Sour Grapes Gang, who communicated through messenger girls. The show's best entertainment was left to the various cartoons and live-action features which the group introduced.
"Uh-Oh! Chongo! It's Danger Island next!"
An assortment of features made up the bulk of the Banana Splits' hour on television. Most of these were originally created for the show, but developed fan followings of their own.
This animated fantasy featured a group of Middle Eastern superheroes who joined together after the swashbuckling Prince Turhan was deposed by evil-doers. Aided by the belly-dancer-suited Princess Nida (the voice of Shari Lewis), fez-capped strongman Raseem, spell-casting Fariik, shape-shifting Bez, and Zazoom the donkey, he struggled to get his kingdom back. Naturally, the Knights faced various villains, and got to ride around on a nifty magic carpet.
The Three Musketeers
Sticking reasonably close (for a Hanna-Barbera cartoon) to Alexandre Dumas, this featured the continuing adventures of D'Artagnon, Porthos, Athos (voiced by Jonathan Harris of Lost in Space fame), and Aramis.
A creation of a young Richard Donner, this thrill-a-moment live-action serial was the show's most popular attraction. Due to its influence (the phrase, "Uh-oh! Chongo!" quickly caught on in kiddie culture. It's a reference to a jungle boy who appears in the show) and popularity (this is why most kids I knew watched The Banana Splits), it has been discussed in a separate node.
The Adventures of Gulliver
This loose adaptation of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels had its hero searching for his missing father in the land of the Lilliputians and other places.
This entry had a small run, limited to a handful of episodes. A precursor to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, it had one Professor Carter taking his kids Jill and Mike on various miniaturized educational adventures.
The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
This one featured three child actors as Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, and Huck in adventures that had little to do with Mark Twain. The leads were real; the backgrounds and other characters were animated. The effect was bizarre. Ted Cassidy provided the voice of Injun Joe.
Later episodes of the series also included reruns of the short-lived Hillbilly Bears cartoon and other Hanna-Barbara features.
Four bananas, three bananas, two bananas, one,
All bananas playing in the bright warm sun.
After the run finished, the Splits appeared in a made-for-tv movie, The Banana Splits in Hocus Pocus Park. A sort of furry mix of MGM's Wizard of Oz, the Krofts' H.R. Pufnstuf, and the Monkees, it actually took the group on an adventure of their own. Their live-action sequences were filmed at King’s Island amusement park. Early on, however, the Splits and a little girl named Susy (Michelle Tobin) pass through a billboard and switch to animated form, which allowed for movement and activities that would have been beyond the actors in theme-park costumes. Jeff Brock was the only original Split who did the costume work for this film.
During their career, the Banana Splits appeared on The Della Reese Show, a Pasadena Tournament of Roses pre-parade show, and an episode of Laugh In. Bingo also made a cameo appearance in an episode of The Brady Bunch, when the happy blended family visited an amusement park.
At the height of their fame, the Splits "performed" several concert, playing along to pre-recorded music. They could not be said to have lip-synched, since the costumes' lips did not move. None of the TV Splits actors actually performed at these musical events; it was cheaper to hire local actors to don the outfits.
In 2000, the Cartoon Network produced a short run of animated adventures involving the Banana Splits. The series made a few new fans. Episode #5 features an interesting crossover, with Dick Dastardly and Fred Flintstone both appearing.
One banana, two banana, three banana four,
four bananas make a bunch and so do many more.
Most of the Splits' music is entirely forgettable, but their theme, "The Tra La La Song," by Ritchie Adams and Mark Barkan buries itself deep in the listener's brain, never to be removed. It has also penetrated the world of legitimate pop. The chorus of Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldier" is a note-for-note swipe. L.A.'s the Dickies have covered the track, and one of the highlights of 1995's Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits is Liz Phair and Material Issue's sugar-high-energy rendition. In 2008, Ida Maria scored a hit with "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," which features a chorus very similar to the "Tra La La Song."
The Splits released an album, singles, and EP giveways from Kellogg's-- one of several companies to sell Splits-related merchandise.
Bingo eats his Apple Jacks as fast as he can chew
'Cause he knows if it's from Kellogg's it's the best for you!
The usual suspects became involved with promotional tie-ins and spin-offs. Kellogg's used them in commercials and put them on cereal boxes. For a time, Fleegle smiled out from the Honey Smacks box; Drooper appeared on the Puffa Puffa Rice box, Snorky shilled Froot Loops, and Bingo smiled on the Apple Jacks. During this period, the cereals frequently gave away Banana Splits related trinkets as prizes.
Aurora, predictably, built a model kit. It included a single customizable Banana Buggy and all four Splits.
Gold Key published a comic book, which gave fans the wild, Hard Day's Night-style adventures we always knew the Splits had once those Banana Buggies disappeared over the horizon. It ran from 1969 to 1971. The stories took place in a cartoony version of the real world. The humans seemed unconcerned about the presence of four psychedelic anthropomorphs. Other Gold Key comic books, meanwhile, promoted the show's official fan club.
Of course, there were puppets, tambourines, posters, and other items. Merchandise continues to appear, mostly aimed at the nostalgia market. The old Aurora kit has been reissued by RetroResin, with the option of purchasing extra buggies. Long after the show's finale, the Splits continue to appear, as beanie babies and bobbleheads.
Not bad for psychedelic animals who spent most of their show being usurped by limited animation and a feral jungle boy.
UPDATE: A new Banana Splits show premiered in 2008, accompanied by a website and new songs. The revived Bananas quickly split the scene.
The Banana Splits Web. http://www.dfcom.freeserve.co.uk/hbw/banana/
Banana Splits. 80sNostalgia. http://www.80snostalgia.com/classictv/bananasplits/
Banana Splits according to Wingnut. http://www.wingnuttoons.com/Banana_Splits.html
"The Banana Splits." The Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062543/
Topher’s Breakfast Cereal Guide: Page 7. http://www.lavasurfer.com/cereal- kelloggs7.html