Legendary producers Sid and Marty Krofft brought their unique puppetry to Saturday morning television in the late sixties, creating one iconic series after another. They became a beloved institution in the process, capturing the hearts and minds of children and adults alike with their whimsical worlds of wonder.
For a while, Rhino was releasing entire series DVD box sets for all of their titles, including H.R. Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Land of the Lost, Lidsville, and The Bugaloos. But these sets have since gone out of print, and are no longer available. Well, don't fret! As Vivendi Entertainment has secured the Krofft catalogue, and are re-mastering each episode under the supervision of the Krofft brothers themselves for future releases.
On January 18th, H.R. Pufnstuf: The Complete Series DVD returns like you've never seen it before, packed with all new special features and great new artwork. Leading up to this fantastical, magical release, Vivendi has also unleashed an amazing compilation disc titled Sid and Marty Krofft's Greatest Saturday Morning Hits, which is available in stores now. The great thing about this particular DVD is that it offers remastered, never-before-available episodes of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl and Bigfoot and Wildboy.
We recently caught up with Marty Krofft to chat with him about the future of Krofft, including all of the home video releases that are planned for the near future, as well as the big screen adaptations he is planning for such iconic characters as the dragon mayor H.R. Pufnstuff and the beach dwelling Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.
Here is our conversation:
Why did you decide to re-release H.R. Pufnstuf first, when you still have so many wonderful titles that haven't been given the full series DVD treatment? Is it because of the re-mastering of the video?
Marty Krofft: Yes, the picture looks great, but that wasn't the reason. Look. The first time we had it out, there was no promotion. We sold a bunch. We sold about sixty thousand sets. But I think we're going to find a whole new audience now. We've done some extras that are different than before. But don't ask me what they are right now. I can't think.
Did you get Jack Wild back in to do some commentaries, or some behind-the-scenes documentaries?
Marty Krofft: Jack? I guess you don't know. He died of mouth cancer. It was not pretty. He couldn't talk. He lost his voice halfway through the surgery. We have extras with people from the show. Billy Hayes is still around. Witchiepoo. She is in good shape. I know we're going to do really good with the way we are doing this particular set. But other people have asked us that. We're making the H.R. Pufnstuff movie at Sony. So we are taking these titles, and we are making movies out of them. We have a deal at Universal set up for Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. And we're about to have another one set up with another big studio, to do our first animated movie. Lidsville. It's not set up, so I can't talk about it. But that will be a good one. Right now, it looks like all of our titles are going to come back as movies. We have The Bugaloos, we are developing that. It will be a whole new group of Bugaloos. We are putting together incredible music for that, for the kids. It will be country. No one has done that yet, so we are putting that together. It will be for Tweens. That will fit in with Miley Cyrus and the J.O.N.A.S! age group.
This Krofft compilation disc that came out finally brings Bigfoot and Wildboy to DVD. It's a little disappointing that we don't have a full series set yet, but as a fan, we're super excited to see it on here. How did you decide which episodes of Bigfoot and Wildboy to put on this thing?
Marty Krofft: We picked the ones that were never out. The episodes that have never made it onto DVD. We picked those. We just wanted to have this simple one come out. It's not expensive. We wanted to reintroduce it all to the audience. It's going into Wal-mart. We have a big order from there, and they are the key place in the country. All of the shows will eventually be out. We are working on Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. We are going to turn that into a feature. We already have a script. We're dealing with Bigfoot and Wildboy.
So there might be a Bigfoot and Wildboy movie? Get out of town!
Marty Krofft: Oh, totally! Bigfoot and Wildboy will be a movie. It's a great idea. We're also looking at Dr. Shrinker.
What are you guys planning with the H.R. Pufnstuf movie? I know it's going to be live action with costumed characters and puppets...
Marty Krofft: We had a big script meeting yesterday. We're already on our second draft. We have Dennis McNicholas writing. We contracted a guy who has never done a live action movie to direct. He has done a couple of small cartoons. Monsters Vs. Aliens and Shrek 2. Conrad Vernon is his name. So we got a good guy there. We are doing the origin story that we've never done. It's a little heavier. Its got the same tone as the series. We're not screwing with it. Because there were so many reruns of H.R. Pufnstuff. More than any of our other stuff. You can't mess with it too much. You'll really piss off the audience who grew up with it. Like you!
So we're going to see the origins of Pufnstuf. Are you still going to have Jimmy come onto the island?
Marty Krofft: Jimmy will arrive on the island. And Pufnstuf? We are going to show how he got to be mayor. We're not messing with it. We're not messing with the characters. I think it's going to have the humor that we need. It's also going to have the heart that we want.
Are you going to be able to get the original voice of H.R. Pufnstuf?
Marty Krofft: Lennie Weinrib died, also. So no. We are going to have to find a new Pufnstuf.
I'd imagine getting the voice right would be one of the most important elements of brining this to the big screen. You have to nail that voice, because it is so ingrained in our brains...
Marty Krofft: I know. We weren't able to nail it in the movie that we made in 1970. We didn't have Lennie Weinrib to do it then, so we had to get someone else. And we never got it nailed. It always bothered me. But it didn't bother the kids, or anyone else. We have to be careful with all of the repeats. The movie, though? I think we are going to do a good job on this movie. I am really excited about the H.R. Pufnstuff movie.
In being true to the original source material when it comes to bringing H.R. Pufnstuf to the screen, are you looking at some of the complaints that fans had about Land of the Lost? Personally, I loved that movie...
Marty Krofft: You are the only fan that wasn't pissed off. Its funny. The movie? We were dead by the time Land of the Lost opened. The critics who grew up with the show were pissed off, and they buried us before we even opened. And we were unlucky, we had The Hangover on top of us. We had to change our date, because Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out in July. We moved to June. Then The Hangover was opposite us. Who knew that was going to be so big?
What were some of the fans complaints about it? Seriously, I have seen every episode of Land of the Lost many times. I am a huge fan of the show. But I love that movie. I thought it captured the heart of the series. And then you have Will Ferrell and Danny McBride in there, saying all of the things we thought of as adults re-watching the show...
Marty Krofft: I wish you were the whole audience. Anyone who watches it on television loves it.
Its similar to what happened with H.R. Pufnstuf. That hit in 1969, yet the repeats kept it on the air, and later audiences are the ones that really gravitated towards it.
Marty Krofft: It's a big cult thing. We've given kids this new H.R. Pufnstuf: The Complete Series DVD, and they flip out. It drives their parents crazy. The funny thing is, we only had seventeen episodes. We repeated them so much, people thought we had a hundred. What we are going to do is release some of the DVDs that we have never released, and release some of the ones we have with all-new extras. And we are going to treat them all very special. Every few years, the audience changes for the kids. They grow up. Some of them miss it. The last H.R. Pufnstuf set didn't come out until 2004. And it has been missing since then. So there is a six-year span. Again, like I said, the promotion and the awareness the first time around was very low. Though, we still sold a bunch.
When you guys were with Rhino, it was my belief that Far Out Space Nuts was next in line to get a full series DVD set. Are you going to put that out soon, or are fans who already own the other full sets going to have to wait through re-releases of Sigmund and The Bugaloos to get to the ones they are missing?
Marty Krofft: Look, you are going to see everything soon. With Universal/Vivendi, they want it all out. We're the distributors in this deal, so we are the ones doing all of the work. We will get everything out.
What is the release window going to be like for each new box set?
Marty Krofft: Right now, other than H.R. Pufnstuf coming in April, we don't have a schedule yet. We're going to try and have releases every three to four months at the most.
What about Pryor's Place? As a huge fan of both Richard Pryor and The Kroffts, can you tell me when this DVD set is going to eventually come out?
Marty Krofft: We don't own that show. We sold that back to Richard Pryor's wife. But, Richard Pryor? He was a genius. He was sober when he did our show. He was definitely unusual to deal with. And he changed his mind one hundred times about whether he wanted to do it our not. Once he decided that he wanted to do it? He was a pro. Then he didn't want to do it again. I could write a book about my relationship with him. I had a close relationship with him. I talked to him every night. Not about the show. Have you ever seen him live?
No. I would have loved to. But I was too young. He had a weird persona. Sure, he was an adult comic. An R rated comic. But he had this strange pull on kids. They loved him. That's why you guys created this show...
Marty Krofft: I was at lunch with the President of Paramount. And I said, "Why don't you buy a show from us?" He said, "Who can you get?" I said, "What if I get Richard Pryor?" He said, "If you get Richard Pryor, you can have it." I didn't know Richard Pryor. But I knew his lawyer, who had worked for us at the beginning of his career. Actually, I was in New York, at the Meridian Hotel in the middle of winter. I had Jim Henson come up to my room. We were having a meeting. He said, "What are you doing next?" I said, Richard Pryor!" He went out the door. I went, "Why did I tell him that? I don't have Richard Pryor." That gave me the determination to make sure I went out, and I did get him. Ultimately, I was able to do it.
Why don't you write that book? That sounds like a fascinating book?
Marty Krofft: Well, first I have to sit down and write our book, before I write that one. (Laughs) Maybe I'll make it a chapter.
You didn't have anything to do with the book that came out before? The Pufnstuf and Other Stuff book?
Marty Krofft: No. We had some input. The guy that wrote it was a fan. He did most of it. He talked to everybody. He did a good job.
I think one of the most fascinating aspects of that book is the chapter on your legal troubles with McDonalds. Are you able to talk about that this far removed from the incident?
Marty Krofft: I can talk about it now.
According to the book, McDonalds was no longer able to use Mayor McCheese or Sheriff Big Mac because of their close resemblance to Pufnstuf. Yet, in resent years, we've started to see both characters pop up in both the McDonaldland cartoon that was produced a couple of years ago, and in the merchandising. When was it decided that these characters could come out of retirement?
Marty Krofft: We settled with them because they were the elephant, and we were the flea. When we settled with them, which was not for a ton of money, they had a right to use those characters. But only after we settled. At the time, we needed the money, because we were independent. So we made that deal with them. I don't think they retired the characters after the settlement. I don't remember what they did. I think they kept them going for a while. They basically stole Witchiepoo and Pufnstuf. Mayor McCheese was Pufnstuf, and The Hamburglar was Witchiepoo. They originally came to us to do this whole thing. It was one letter written by the ad agency that buried them. It said, "We want you to do McDonadland ala H.R. Pufnstuf." And they had access to our place. They probably hated us at the time.
They came in, saw what you guys were doing, and ripped you off..."
Marty Krofft: Yes. And they hired up most of our people.
Its weird, because McDonaldland is so iconic to those of us who grew up as kids in the 70s. It has stuck with me just as much as Pufnstuf. Yet it's all based on lies. When I tell other people who grew up in the 70s that McDonaldland was stolen from you guys, there is a general air of disbelief.
Marty Krofft: Sure. I know. It's the leading copy write case in the world. We've done a lot of things in our career. And that was one of them. It took thirteen years to make that settlement happen. We had to go to the appellate court to overturn the federal judge.
When you bring Pufnstuf to the big screen, are you going to bring in any knowing wink to that whole fiasco?
Marty Krofft: I don't think so. We are just doing this movie head-on. It's a movie that is going to have heart. Hopefully, it will make an impact. It will be live-action, but we will have some of the CGI. We are in 2010. We should have it. We learned a lot doing Land of the Lost. We are going to try and keep the integrity of it. We will have some low tech and some high tech.
Can you tell me more about what is going on with Sigmund and the Sea Monsters?
Marty Krofft: That is being developed over at Universal. That is a little slower in development. We have Dana Gould, who is writing it. We are working on that at the same time.
Have you started talking about casting?
Marty Krofft: We are always talking about casting. But we aren't ready yet. I start mentioning names, and then I may not get them.
It worked in getting Richard Pryor.
Marty Krofft: I didn't mention that name to anybody except the guy at CBS.
Well, and Jim Henson.
Marty Krofft: You're right. I forgot.
Back then, there wasn't the internet. But there was Jim Henson. And I am sure he went out and spread this rumor that you had Richard Pryor.
Marty Krofft: I don't think so. He probably left the room saying, "He doesn't have him."
As far as Jimmy goes, are you at all considering Russell Brand? I mean, will we see a grown Jimmy living on the island?
Marty Krofft: No! This is not going to be like Land of the Lost. Hiring Will Ferrell and Danny McBride, that made it almost like a spoof. This is going to be an actual H.R. Pufnstuf fantasy. We will have a kid living on the island.
bld|Is Justin Bieber at the top of your list for Jimmy?
Marty Krofft: Who?
Marty Krofft: Oh, of course! We have talked about him. The other day I said, "By the time we make this movie, he will be thirty-seven." We don't know when this is going to be greenlit. But it will be sooner than later.
Now, I want to go back to Bigfoot and Wildboy. It is my favorite show that you've ever done. How did you come up with the look for Bigfoot? A lot of Bigfoot enthusiasts think that you guys nailed it. And there is a rumor out there that you guys have actually seen Bigfoot.
Marty Krofft: Right. What we do is have our artists create what we want to do. Different people do different things. We pick the one that is most credible. We always pick great talent. Young talent. We're working in these areas. We have always had great artists working in house. Like, with the Sleestaks. They come up with their own versions of this stuff. And Bigfoot was the same thing.
What about the myths and rumors? That you guys had encounters with Big Foot?
Marty Krofft: Well...I think that since we never did drugs, that never happened. Right?
That does play a big part in the myth. People always claim that you must have created this stuff high on something. But it's impossible to have this much creative output when you're doing drugs.
Marty Krofft: I tell everybody, look...If we did as many drugs as they claim we did, we'd be dead today. Nobody can be creative, and go to work everyday, and be either drunk or loaded. That's not going to happen. Maybe the kids watching were, but not us making it. This is not what this was all about. Even though they all thought so. I guess that was a good myth. Everyone else is still asking about it.
Beyond the drugs, at the time Bigfoot and Wildboy came out, In Search Of with Leonard Nemoy was another very fascinating show for kids. Were you guys playing off the popularity of that show in creating your own?
Marty Krofft: I don't remember that show. No. I don't think so. I don't think we watched other shows. We weren't inspired by other things. But, like you said, I think Bigfoot and Wildboy could make a great movie.
I'll be first in line for that one.
Marty Krofft: One thing that excites me about you is that you are the biggest fan. It makes me feel good!
H.R. Pufnstuf: The Complete Series DVD will be available on January 18th. Sid and Marty Krofft's Greatest Saturday Morning Hits is in stores now.