Friday, April 27, 2018

Sid Krofft and Marty Krofft Help Inspire Themes in Nickelodeon's 'Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'

Sid and Marty Krofft have often said that, through their programming, they “messed with kids’ minds.” But that has proven not to be a negative thing, as their programs not only entertained but inspired future content creators.

Iconic characters from Sid and Marty Krofft's "H.R. Pufnstuf"

“Instead of trying to capture grounded reality with their puppetry, [Sid and Marty] celebrated the absurd and embraced the cartoon sensibility,” Dan Milano, creator of Greg the Bunny and who later worked with the Kroffts on a feature adaptation of H.R. Pufnstuf, told Variety.

“They understand a child’s imagination and how fragmented and sweet — but with an edge of darkness — it can be.”

Milano discovered at an early age that it was entirely feasible to grow up and become a paid creator by watching Krofft productions.

“It made it so that I didn’t feel it was unusual at all that I would draw silly pictures, do silly voices, put on puppet shows, make them talk, and expect my parents’ friends to talk back to them as if they were real,” he says.

When Milano worked with the Kroffts on a proposed film adaptation of H.R. Pufnstuf he learned from the brothers the importance of partnership and being open to new ideas.

“I was testing and pushing ideas and found them to be so collaborative. That kind of confidence is part of their longevity. When people hold on too tightly and feel they have to have complete control, things tend to stagnate. Their willingness to collaborate was encouraging,” Milano says.

Nickelodeon’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Pictured (clockwise): Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and April O’Neil.

Even though Nickelodeon’s upcoming Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is in 2D animation — as opposed to the live action of Krofft productions — co-executive producer Andy Suriano says that many themes in his series were drawn from the Kroffts’ style.

“The turtles are going down to a hidden city and there are nods in that from not only Big Trouble in Little China but also H.R. Pufnstuf,” Suriano says. He he learned to suspend disbelief because of the Kroffts’ shows. “What I always dug about their productions is that they had such a kid-centric view, so I always try to keep in mind in my own work, ‘What’s the point of view of the kid?’”

Working with Legendary Entertainment on a project called Sidekick led Hannah Hart to being paired with the Kroffts in 2014. The result was a 2016 reboot of the Kroffts’ staple Electra Woman and Dyna Girl with Hart executive producing and portraying the latter character (with Grace Helbig as the former).

“Marty’s No. 1 concern was making sure that the original base of fans liked it and felt it was true to form,” says Hart of their shared venture.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint. The fact that we’re still talking about Sid and Marty Krofft is a testament to that.”

“Marty’s a larger than life character,” adds Helbig. “I was inspired by how hands-on he is with everything he works on and how his dedication and worth ethic have produced such an amazingly long career.”

Christian Jacobs, creator of Yo Gabba Gabba and a member of the music group the Aquabats, says he, too, grew up watching the Kroffts’ shows — from Saturday morning staples such as H.R. Pufnstuf and Land of the Lost to Donny and Marie — and being “very influenced” by them.

Jacobs later experienced a “surreal” moment when Buena Vista Television-Disney brought in the Kroffts so the brothers could pitch him a proposed series about his band.

“It was everything you’d expect — bats living in a house, a talking staircase and a talking mailbox. It was fantastic,” he recalls.

Cesar Millan, Calvin Millan and Stuff, stars of Nickelodeon's live-action preschool series, Mutt & Stuff. (Photo: Business Wire)

While the show didn’t come to fruition, Jacobs continued to work with the Kroffts, directing episodes of their Nickelodeon series Mutt & Stuff and shooting a pilot for a reboot of The Bugaloos.

“Sid and Marty Krofft and that age of television made me want to do what I’m doing now and hopefully I can carry that torch into the future for those tangible live-action shows,” says Jacobs. “They don’t make them like that anymore and I don’t think they ever will.”

Nickelodeon’s new animated series Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follows the band of brothers as they discover new powers and encounter a mystical world they never knew existed beneath the streets of New York City. The 2D-animated series debuts later this year on Nickelodeon. For more information about the show, visit

Also from Variety:

Sid Krofft and Marty Krofft Reflect on Road to Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award

Sid and Marty Krofft created memorable, magical Saturday morning live-action television shows including “H.R. Pufnstuf,” “Land of the Lost” and “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl,” but their success extends far beyond sea monsters, magic flutes and Vroom Brooms. They’ve entertained millions, employed thousands and inspired many of today’s content creators — they’re still in production today with “Mutt & Stuff,” which airs on Nickelodeon. Recently, a revival of “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” appeared on Amazon. Now, the dynamic duo is being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 45th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards.

“It’s not easy to be in the business with your relatives,” says Marty Krofft. “But we’ve lasted longer than most marriages in the world.”

“You just make it work,” says Sid Krofft. “We’ve been together professionally for 60 years. We argue, but that’s just part of being Sid and Marty Krofft. We could be a sitcom.”

Their showbiz longevity can be attributed to their having the perfect alchemy of business acumen, creativity and knowing when to stay and fight.

“The biggest thing for me is that I never, ever give up,” says Marty. “I am relentless about getting to the goal line.”

Sid’s sense of wonder was sparked in the late 1930s by attending a vaudeville show, spying an ad for a Hazelle Marionette in a Superman comic book, and watching “The Wizard of Oz” in a movie theater. These experiences fostered his interest in puppetry, fantasy and show business.

While Sid was traveling with the circus, Marty began to familiarize himself with puppets that his brother had left behind.

“I took the puppets and went out with the act,” Marty says. “I played the Catskill Mountains and I went back to Canada.”

The Kroffts were born in Canada before their family moved to Providence, R.I., and then, in 1946, New York.

After the circus, Sid invited his brother to join his show. Later, he started touring as the opening act for Judy Garland.

“She didn’t want a comedian ahead of her because they can bomb out,” explains Marty. “It’s all about warming up the audience, which Sid would do. You could count on his act being there.”

A brief meeting with Walt Disney in the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel resulted in advice that the Kroffts took to heart for years to come in their careers.

“Walt said, ‘I’ve heard about you guys,’” Sid recalls. “ ‘Can I give you some advice? Always put your name above everything that you create because someday it’ll be worth something.’”

Soon after, Hanna-Barbera hired the Krofft brothers to help them develop the Banana Splits, live-action characters who headlined a series featuring both live-action and animated shows. This led to NBC approaching the Kroffts about creating their own series for its Saturday morning slate.

Their first endeavor was “H.R. Pufnstuf,” which told the tale of young Jimmy (Jack Wild of “Oliver!” fame), who found himself marooned on the Living Island where magical friends helped protect him and Freddy the Flute (voiced by Joan Gerber) from menacing Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes).

The success of “H.R. Pufnstuf” led to additional Krofft shows including “The Lost Saucer” and “Far Out Space Nuts.”

In early 1970, an advertising agency contacted the Kroffts about incorporating their characters into an ad campaign for McDonald’s. After sharing much of their expertise, the brothers were told the campaign for the hamburger fast food chain was kaput. However, the following year, commercials for McDonaldland started airing featuring Mayor McCheese, who bears a striking resemblance to H.R. Pufnstuf (who is the mayor of the Living Island), and other characters and themes that had the Krofft imprint on them. The Kroffts sued McDonald’s for infringement and were ultimately awarded more than $1 million in damages. A framed copy of the check still hangs in the Krofft production office.

“It wasn’t the money,” says Marty. “It was that the flea beat the elephant.”

Less successful was their endeavor in the amusement park world. In 1976, the World of Sid and Marty Krofft, an indoor theme park in the Omni Intl. complex, opened in Atlanta. Six months later, due to poor attendance, it closed.

“It was the eighth wonder of the world,” recalls Marty. “It had pinball rides, an escalator going up nine stories and a crystal carousel that rode on a cushion of air — but it never worked. Usually, when you have a failure you never have to see it again, but I look at it every day — it’s the home of CNN.”

In the 1970s, the Kroffts produced the first two years of “Donny and Marie.” Later, then-ABC senior programming executive Michael Eisner approached the Kroffts about helming another show, and “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour” was born.

“We got a 50 share on the first night,” Marty Krofft recalls. “Michael was a mentor as was [programming executive] Fred Silverman. I was spoiled. Those guys could make decisions.”

Saturday morning programming began to evolve in the 1980s, and the Kroffts evolved along with it, bringing “Pryor’s Place” to CBS in 1984 and the syndicated politically themed series “D.C. Follies” in 1988 to nighttime.

The Kroffts have stayed in business even when they didn’t have a show in production.

“There’s always something to be found and [my father] can find it,” says Deanna Krofft Pope, Marty’s daughter and a producer and COO of Sid & Marty Krofft Prods. “If we didn’t have a show in production, there was always a clip [to be licensed].”

In 2002, H.R. Pufnstuf appeared in an episode of “The George Lopez Show,” which introduced the character to a whole new generation.

Many of the Kroffts’ shows have been re-created and relaunched, including “Land of the Lost” as both a TV series in 1991 and a feature film in 2009.

“The reboots are tricky,” says Marty. “If you piss off the fans, you lose them. We try to keep the integrity of the shows by moving them to the present.”

Both men are excited about the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Daytime Emmy ceremony. “It gives me a chance to thank all of the people who’ve worked for us. They’re all a part of this,” says Marty, but neither see it as a stopping point.

Currently, the Kroffts are producing “Mutt & Stuff,” a Nickelodeon series hosted by Cesar Millan’s son Calvin and which teaches kids about pets, friendship and loyalty. There are also plans to revive “Les Poupées de Paris” with David Arquette.

“We also have this new girl — Rachel Eggleston — she’s a star and she’s only [a tween],” Marty Krofft says of “Mutt & Stuff.”

“We’re good with talent. We know the winners from the losers.”


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