The Banana Splits
|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)
|Starring||Jeff Winkless (as Jeffrey Brock)|
Ginner Whitcombe (as Fleegle 2008)
Terence H. Winkless (as Terence Henry)
Dan Winkless (as Daniel Owen)
James "Jimmy" Dove
|Voices of||Paul Winchell|
|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|
|Executive producer(s)||William Hanna|
|Producer(s)||Edward J. Rosen (Season 1)|
|Running time||45–48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Hanna-Barbera Productions|
|Original release||September 7, 1968 –|
September 5, 1970
|Related shows||The Skatebirds|
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour is an American hour-long, packaged television variety program featuring the Banana Splits, a fictional rock band composed of four funny animal characters. The costumed hosts of the show are Fleegle (guitar, vocals), Bingo (drums, vocals), Drooper (bass, vocals) and Snorky (keyboards, effects).
The series was produced by Hanna-Barbera, and ran for 31 episodes on NBC Saturday mornings, from September 7, 1968, to September 5, 1970, and in syndication from 1971 to 1982. The costumes and sets were designed by Sid and Marty Krofft, and the series' sponsor was Kellogg's Cereals. The show features both live action and animated segments, and was Hanna-Barbera's first foray into mixing live-action with animation. A R-rated horror adaptation has been announced, which will be released on DVD and digital in summer 2019, with an airing on the Syfy channel coming later in the year.
In 1967, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera approached Sid and Marty Krofft to design costumes for a television show which would feature animated and live-action segments, with the whole show hosted by a bubblegum rock group of anthropomorphic characters. The format of the show is loosely based on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and the characters appear 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 to be called The Banana Bunch, but they could not get permission from the author of a children's book by that title.
The Krofft brothers give credit to the success of the series for opening the door for their own entry into television, H.R. Pufnstuf. NBC picked up the Krofft series, which was launched during an hour-long special hosted by the Banana Splits on August 30, 1969.
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, run 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, is directed by Richard Donner.
Each show represented a meeting of the "Banana Splits Club", and the wraparounds featured the adventures of the club members, who doubled as a musical quartet, meant to be reminiscent of the Monkees. The main characters were Fleegle, a beagle (possibly crossed with a flat-coated retriever); Bingo, an orange-furred ape (possibly half-orangutan); Drooper, a lion; and Snorky, called "Snork" in the theme song lyrics, an elephant.
Fleegle would assume the role of leader of the Banana Splits, and preside at club meetings. The characters were played by actors in voluminous fleecy costumes, similar to later Sid and Marty characters like H.R. Pufnstuf. While Snorky "spoke" in honking noises, the other three spoke in English—Drooper with a Southern drawl in the manner of Michael Nesmith, and Fleegle with a pronounced lisp.
The Banana Splits would interact with other characters in their clubhouse:
- Their Cuckoo Clock who would give a snarky remark to the "What time is it" question.
- The Banana Vac is a moose-like head that hangs over the entrance to the Banana Splits' clubhouse where he would make different comments and would often help the Banana Splits and the Cuckoo Clock introduce the segment.
- Goofy Gopher is a gopher who lives in their flower pot.
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 would be seen riding on the Runaway Mine Train roller coasters, Log Flumes, Bumper Cars, Merry-Go-Rounds, and many other rides at Six Flags and Coney Island.
The Sour Grapes Bunch is a group of human girl characters from the Banana Splits. All the girls were named Charley, and all took turns bringing a written note to the Splits. None of the Sour Grapes spoke in the entire series. However, they would dance one song with the Banana Splits. In the first-season episode on October 5, 1968, a song debuted entitled "Doin' the Banana Split", as all five girls appeared together with the Splits.
Also featured were the "Banana Buggies" mentioned in the theme song. These were seen driven by each live-action character in the opening and closing segments, and occasionally in the wraparound and music video segments as well. The buggies were customized Amphicat six-wheel drive all-terrain vehicles each decorated to resemble the character who drove them. 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 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. They would not, however, assume the title full-time for another five years. This Hanna-Barbera series was also one of the first Saturday morning cartoon shows to utilize a laugh track.
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 Troupe) 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 repeats 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.
|Character||Suit performer||Voice actor||Instrument|
|Fleegle (beagle dog)||Jeff Winkless (1969) (billed as Jeffrey Brock)
Ginner Whitcombe (2008 version)
Bill Farmer (2008 version)
Eric Bauza (2019 horror film)
|Bingo (ape)||Terence H. Winkless (billed as Terence Henry)
Casey Hadfield (2008 version)
Frank Welker (2008 version)
Eric Bauza (2019 horror film)
|Drooper (lion)||Dan Winkless (billed as Daniel Owen)
Adam Grubner (2008 version)
Carlos Alazraqui (2008 version)
Eric Bauza (2019 horror film)
|Snorky or "Snork" (elephant)||"Jimmy" Dove in season 1 song segments
Robert Towers in most other segments
|(character was mute)||Keyboards|
|Cuckoo Clock||N/A||Paul Winchell||N/A|
|Banana Vac||N/A||Allan Melvin||N/A|
|Goofy Gopher||N/A||Paul Winchell||N/A|
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.
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 now appears as a bonus on the CD reissue of their 1979 album The Incredible Shrinking Dickies. They still perform this cover live at almost every concert. It was also featured in the movie soundtrack of Kick-Ass, during ten-year-old Hit-Girl's brutally violent fight scene.
A cover of the show's theme song performed by Liz Phair with Material Issue is included on the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits, produced by Ralph Sall for MCA Records. Another rendition was performed by rock & roll comic C.C. Banana on the 2005 cartoon tribute album "Complete Balanced Breakfast."
A cover of "Don't Go Away Go-Go Girl" by pop-punk band Mr. T Experience was issued on the 1993 tribute album Banana Pad Riot and their Big Black Bugs Bleed Blue Blood and Our Bodies Our Selves CD releases. The 1988 landmark release "Sub Pop 200" included a version of "I'm Gonna Find a Cave" retitled "Gonna Find a Cave" by the band Girl Trouble. "Sub Pop 200" featured recordings from many soon to be notable bands, Nirvana, Green River, Mudhoney, Soundgarden and others from Seattle's Grunge music explosion that followed.
Chicago-based musician Ralph Covert, who records children's music under the group name Ralph's World, covered the theme song under the title "The Banana Splits (The Tra La La Song)" on his 2001 album At the Bottom of the Sea.
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.
New York-based alternative rock band They Might Be Giants have covered "I Enjoy Being A Boy (In Love With You)", released as part of their podcast.
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.
In August 2008, Warner Bros. announced a multi-platform release featuring new comedy shorts and music videos; this debuted on Cartoon Network starting on September 2, 2008. 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 TV movie
On February 19, 2019, Warner Bros. Television Group’s Blue Ribbon Content division announced that it is producing a film version of The Banana Splits, which will venture into a horror-like setting, scheduled to be released direct to streaming through Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and to air on Syfy in the United States in 2019. According to the synopsis, a young boy named Harley is spending his birthday with his family at a taping of The Banana Splits, and the outing takes an unexpected turn that involves a rising body count after learning that the show is being cancelled, resulting in the characters (who are actually robots) taking on lives of their own. Danishka Esterhazy is directing the feature based on a script by Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas.
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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