The Banana Splits
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (also known simply as The Banana Splits) is an American television variety show produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and featuring the Banana Splits, a fictional rock band composed of four funny animal characters in red helmets. The costumed hosts of the show are Fleegle (guitar, vocals), Bingo (drums, vocals), Drooper (bass, vocals) and Snorky (keyboards, effects).
|The Banana Splits|
Original title card
|Also known as||The Banana Splits and Friends Show|
|Directed by||Richard Donner (Season 1) |
Tom Boutross (Season 2)
|Theme music composer||Nelson B. Winkless Jr. (credited to Ritchie Adams & Mark Barkan)|
|Opening theme||"Tra La La (One Banana, Two Banana)"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||31 + shorts|
|Producer(s)||Edward J. Rosen (Season 1)|
|Running time||45–48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Hanna-Barbera Productions|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||September 7, 1968 –|
September 5, 1970
The series ran for 31 episodes on NBC Saturday mornings from September 7, 1968, to September 5, 1970, and in syndication from 1971 to 1982. The show features the Banana Splits band as live-action costumed characters, who host both live-action and animated segments within their program. The Banana Splits was Hanna-Barbera's first series to feature live action with animation, following a 1967 telefilm, Jack and the Beanstalk, which did the same. The costumes and sets were designed by Sid and Marty Krofft, and the series' sponsor was Kellogg's Cereals.
In 1967, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera approached Sid and Marty Krofft to design costumes for a television show, featuring animated and live-action segments, hosted by a bubblegum rock group of anthropomorphic characters. The format of the show was loosely based on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and the characters appeared on one episode of that show. The Banana Splits Adventure Hour premiered on NBC on September 7, 1968. In his autobiography, Barbera said that the show was originally going to be called The Banana Bunch, but permission could not be obtained from the author of a children's book by that same title.
The Krofft brothers credit the series' success for making possible their own entry into television, H.R. Pufnstuf. NBC picked up the Krofft series, which was launched on August 30, 1969 during an hour-long special hosted by the Banana Splits.
The show's live-action segment Danger Island, a cliffhanger serial, as well as the short-lived Micro Ventures, a part-live action, part-animated series consisting of only four episodes, ran alongside the animated segments Arabian Knights and The Three Musketeers. Actors Jan-Michael Vincent (billed as Michael Vincent) and Ronne Troup appeared in the live-action component Danger Island. All the live-action material filmed for the series' first season, including the Banana Splits and Danger Island segments, was directed by Richard Donner.
The Splits' segments, including songs of the week and comedy skits, served as wraparounds for a number of individual segments.
For the first season, some of the live-action segments—specifically those used during the musical segments—were shot at Six Flags Over Texas, an amusement park located in Arlington, Texas. For the second season, filming took place at the Coney Island amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio. In many episodes, the Banana Splits were seen riding on the many rides at Six Flags and Coney Island.
The "Banana Buggies", mentioned in the theme song, were customized vehicles driven by each live-action character. The buggies were customized Amphicat six-wheel drive all-terrain vehicles, each decorated to resemble the character who drove it. Plastic 1/25 scale model kits were issued by Aurora Plastics Corporation, under catalog number 832, beginning in 1969. These were never reissued by Aurora, but they have since been released as high-end resin-based kits.
The Banana Splits was one of the first two Hanna-Barbera series in 1968 in which Hanna and Barbera received executive producer credits, the other being The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Edward Rosen served as producer on both series. This Hanna-Barbera series was also one of the first Saturday morning cartoon shows to feature a laugh track.
- Fleegle – A greenish-brown dog wearing a large red bow tie, black buttons, brownish-orange chucks, and his tongue is always sticking out, giving him a lisp and similar to Tigger as to his laugh. He plays a guitar and sings. Fleegle acts in the main show include leading club meetings, collecting envelopes from an uncooperative mailbox, and doing news reports. Suit performed by Jeff Winkless (1968), Ginner Whitcombe (2008), and Terry Sauls (2019 film). Voiced by Paul Winchell (1968–1972), Bill Farmer (2008), and Eric Bauza (2019 film).
- Bingo – A nasal-voiced orange ape wearing white glasses and a yellow vest, featuring a toothy grin. He plays drums and sings. His act is answering riddles asked by Fleegle. Suit performed by Terence H. Winkless (1968), Casey Hadfield (2008), and Buntu Plam (2019 film). Voiced by Daws Butler (1968–1972), Frank Welker (2008), and Eric Bauza (2019 film).
- Drooper – A lion with a very long tail wearing yellowish-orange glasses, spats on his feet, and speaks with a Southern drawl in the style of Michael Nesmith. He plays a bass guitar and sings. His acts include trying to empty a trash bin that automatically spewed its contents and answering mails from fictional fans. Suit performed by Anne W. Withrow (1968), Adam Grubner (2008), and Kori Clarke (2019 film). Voiced by Allan Melvin (1968–1972), Carlos Alazraqui (2008), and Eric Bauza (2019 film).
- Snorky – A mute furry elephant wearing pink glasses. He becomes a regular elephant in season 2, wearing a green vest with yellow stripes. He communicates through honking sounds akin to a clown horn and one of the other Splits would translate what he is saying. He plays a keyboard. His act in the show is using a vacuum. Suit performed by James Dove and Robert Towers (1968–2008) and Brandon Vraagom (2019 film).
- Announcer – The unseen announcer is the one who introduces the Banana Splits and certain acts. Voiced by Allan Melvin (1968–1972) and Eric Bauza (2019 film).
- The Banana Vac – A blue moose-like head with brown hair and light bulbs on his head. He hangs over the entrance of the clubhouse making different comments and often helps the Banana Splits introduce segments. Voiced by Allan Melvin.
- Cuckoo Clock – A clock with a blue and yellow bird head inside that gives snarky remarks to the "What time is it" question. He also helps the Banana Splits introduce segments. Voiced by Paul Winchell.
- Goofy Gopher – A gopher who lives in their flower pot. Voiced by Paul Winchell.
- The Sour Grapes Bunch – A group of silent human girl characters who are all named Charley (portrayed by Sheri Freeman). They take turns bringing written notes to the Banana Splits. The Sour Grapes Bunch danced one song with the title characters. In the first season on October 5, 1968, a song debuted entitled "Doin' the Banana Split", as all five girls appeared together with the hosts.
The show had four segments:
- Arabian Knights – Prince Turhan (voiced by Jay North), his cousin Princess Nida (voiced by Shari Lewis), and their allies Fariik the Magician (voiced by John Stephenson), Raseem the Strong (voiced by Frank Gerstle), his donkey Zazuum (voiced by Don Messick), and shapeshifter Bez (voiced by Henry Corden) work to free Persia from the evil Bakaar the Black Sultan (voiced by John Stephenson) and his enforcer Vangore (voiced by Paul Frees).
- The Three Musketeers – Based on the novel of the same name. Athos (voiced by Jonathan Harris), Porthos (voiced by Barney Phillips), Aramis (voiced by Don Messick), and D'Artagnian (voiced by Bruce Watson) partake in new adventures fighting the enemies of the crowned heads of France King Louis XIV (voiced by Don Messick) and Queen Anne (voiced by Julie Bennett). They are sometimes assisted by a queen's handmaid named Lady Constance Bonacieux (voiced by Julie Bennett) and her young nephew Tooly (voiced by Teddy Eccles).
- Danger Island – The show's only live-action segment. This adventure serial depicts archaeologist Professor Irwin Hayden (portrayed by Frank Aletter), his assistant Lincoln "Link" Simmons (portrayed by Jan Michael Vincent), and his daughter Leslie (portrayed by Ronne Troup) having adventures on an unnamed island chain with a shipwrecked merchant mariner named Elihu Morgan (portrayed by Rockne Tarkington) and his sidekick Chongo (portrayed by Kim Kahana) as they avoid a group of bumbling yet heavily-armed modern day pirates led by Captain Mu-Tan (portrayed by Victor Eberg).
- Micro Ventures – A four-episode segment where Professor Carter (voiced by Don Messick) and his children Jill (voiced by Patsy Garrett) and Mike (voiced by Tommy Cook) use a shrinking machine to shrink themselves and their dune buggy to miniature size to explore and experience the world from the perspective of an insect.
In the second season, The Three Musketeers segments were replaced with reruns of The Hillbilly Bears, a cartoon segment that previously appeared on The Atom Ant Show (1965–1968). In reruns, episodes of The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show, The Adventures of Gulliver, and The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were aired on the show.
The Banana Splits was syndicated in 1971 to local stations under the title of The Banana Splits and Friends Show, but with several other series included in a package deal. All the Banana Splits episodes were syndicated in this package alongside The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Atom Ant Show, The Secret Squirrel Show, and The Adventures of Gulliver.
The show's theme song, titled "The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)", was credited as being written by Ritchie Adams and Mark Barkan, but that was merely contractual. In fact it was written by N. B. Winkless Jr. on the upright piano in his living room—a piano that also spawned the "Snap, Crackle, Pop" jingle, among others. Adams and Barkan were music directors for the show. The song was released as a single, attributed to the Banana Splits, and peaked at number 96 on Billboard's Top 100 in February 1969. The version included on the We're The Banana Splits album is the same recording heard at the beginning of the show, while the single version is an entirely different arrangement and recording of the song, featuring an additional verse.
The Banana Splits' bubblegum pop rock and roll was provided by studio professionals, including Joey Levine ("I Enjoy Being a Boy", "It's a Good Day for a Parade"); Al Kooper ("You're the Lovin' End"); Barry White ("Doin' the Banana Split"); Gene Pitney ("Two Ton Tessie") and Jimmy Radcliffe, who provided his songs ("I'm Gonna Find a Cave", "Soul", "Don't Go Away Go-Go Girl", "Adam Had 'Em" and "The Show Must Go On") but did not contribute vocals to Splits recordings.
The music director was music publisher Aaron Schroeder, while production duties were mainly handled by David Mook. When a heavier R&B vocal was needed, the music producers usually turned to singer Ricky Lancelotti, who was billed in the show credits under his stage name Rick Lancelot. Lancelotti went on to record several songs with Frank Zappa. In 1968, The Banana Splits released an album on Decca Records titled We're the Banana Splits.
An unusual claim is that the song may have inspired Bob Marley, with the striking similarity between the song's chorus and the bridge of the Bob Marley and the Wailers song "Buffalo Soldier". A story by BBC in 2010 examines the claim.
US punk rock act the Dickies covered the theme song in 1978, entitled "Banana Splits (Tra La La Song)". Their recording reached Number 7 in the UK charts and appears as a bonus on the CD reissue of their 1979 album The Incredible Shrinking Dickies.
The Banana Splits' adventures continued in comic books. Gold Key began publishing a comic version in 1969, releasing eight issues through 1971. Drawn by Jack Manning, these stories followed the musicians either trying to find work or on the road between gigs.
- Hanna-Barbera Educational Filmstrips
- Learning Tree Filmstrip Set
- Learning About Holidays with The Banana Splits (1982)
In August 2008, Warner Bros. Consumer Products announced a multi-platform release featuring new comedy shorts and music videos; this debuted on Cartoon Network starting on September 2, 2008. Bill Farmer voiced Fleegle, Frank Welker voiced Bingo, and Carlos Alazraqui voiced Drooper. The relaunch included a live show and a website, as well as a CD and a DVD featuring 13 new songs, released by Universal Records. In addition, a child-themed area named Banana Splitsville was placed at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina's Hard Rock Park rock-and-roll theme park, which later became Freestyle Music Park before closing permanently in 2009.
2019 comedy horror film adaptationEdit
On February 19, 2019, Warner Bros. Television Group's Blue Ribbon Content division announced that it was collaborating with Blue Ice Pictures on producing a film adaptation of The Banana Splits television series collectively named The Banana Splits Movie, which would serve as an R-rated parody of slasher films. Danishka Esterhazy was hired to direct the film, based on a script written by Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas. On June 13, 2019, Syfy Wire released the official trailer for the film.
The plot follows a family attending a taping of The Banana Splits television series, in which the titular characters are animatronics with artificial intelligence instead of humans in costumes. However, the family and everyone else present are soon trying to survive when Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky go haywire upon learning of the cancellation of their show. In their rage, their programming malfunctions, starting a killing spree around the studio by targeting the crew members and the adults. The film premiered at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 18, 2019, and was released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment via Blu-ray and DVD on August 27, 2019. Eric Bauza lent his voice to Fleegle, Bingo, and Drooper as well as the show's announcer.
On September 21, 2009, Warner Home Video released the complete first season on DVD in Region 2. The six-disc set consists of 36 edited half-hour episodes of The Banana Splits and Friends Show as aired on Cartoon Network and Boomerang. The series was also released on VHS.
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