Many of the most colorful and fondly remembered children’s series of the 1970s and 1980s sprang from the imaginations of Sid and Marty Krofft. Their groundbreaking, live-action fantasy shows were mainstays of the Saturday morning airwaves, which had previously been the exclusive domain of cartoons. To this day, DVD box sets of beloved Krofft creations “H.R. Pufnstuf,” “Lidsville,” and “Land of the Lost” are brisk sellers, a testament to the artistry and charm of the Krofft brothers and the magical spell they cast on generations of TV viewers.
Sid & Marty first came on the scene when they immigrated from Montreal to New York City with their father, Peter Krofft. Sid Krofft (born July 30, 1929) had taken to puppeteering at an early age. This love for puppeteering would eventually lead him to his first job working for the Ringling Brothers Circus where he was billed as “the world’s youngest puppeteer”. Marty Krofft (born April 9, 1937) began his career doing several odd jobs including a Ford car dealership. He had worked on and off with Puppets alongside Sid, but he everything would change when the brothers decided to do the world’s first adult only puppet show Les Poupées de Paris. The success of this show would take them to new heights.
The Kroffts made their television debut in 1969 with NBC’s “H.R. Pufnstuf,” which centered on the magical adventures of boy named Jimmy, a talking flute and a six-foot dragon. The series, which introduced the brothers’ innovative mix of live-action and puppetry, was made into a Universal Pictures feature in 1970. The show continues to be broadcast around the world. “Pufnstuf” was quickly followed by “The Bugaloos” on NBC (1970) and “Lidsville” on ABC (1971). “Sigmund & the Sea Monsters” and “Land Of The Lost” premiered on NBC in 1973 and in 1974, respectively. Later kids shows included “Far Out Space Nuts,” “Lost Saucer” and “The Krofft Supershow,” which included installments of “Wonderbug,” “Big Foot & Wildboy,” “Electra Woman & Dyna Girl,” “Dr. Shrinker” and “Kaptain Kool and the Kongs.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Kroffts also found success as producers of popular primetime variety series such as “The Donny and Marie Show,” “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour,” “Pink Lady and Jeff” and the top-rated “Barbara Mandrell & the Mandrell Sisters.” Krofft puppets were also regular characters on other variety shows of the period.
In 1984, the Kroffts made the bold move of giving comedian Richard Pryor his own award-winning Saturday morning children’s series on CBS, “Pryor’s Place.” Besides capitalizing on Pryor’s irreverent humor, the show explored important social issues such as child abuse, divorce and the importance of reading. The Kroffts got political in 1987 with “D.C. Follies,” a satirical TV series lampooning current events with amazing, larger-than-life puppets of celebrities, politicians and newsmakers.
Proof that the appeal of the Kroffts’ iconic characters and timeless stories has not diminished can be found in the growing number of new fan sites online, strong sales of DVD collections and continuing enthusiasm for marathons on Nickelodeon’s “Nick at Nite.” In addition Vivendi Home Video is releasing more of the Krofft library on DVD later this year.
A whole new generation of kids will get to enjoy the further adventures of “H.R. Pufnstuf” (director Conrad Vernon) in the feature movie set up at Sony, as well as “Sigmund & the Sea Monsters” movie, which is set up at Universal Studios. “Electra Woman & Dyna Girl” and “Lidsville” are at the script-writing stage.
In the meantime, Krofft is helping Joe Ruby and Ken Spears find a home for their fabulous collection of unpublished Jack Kirby characters.