The Banana Splits
|The Banana Splits|
Original title card
|Also known as||The Banana Splits and Friends Show|
Richard Donner (Season 1) |
Tom Boutross (Season 2)
Jeff Winkless (as Jeffrey Brock)|
Ginner Whitcombe (as Fleegle 2008)
Terence H. Winkless (as Terence Henry)
Dan Winkless (as Daniel Owen)
James "Jimmy" Dove
|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|
Worldvision Enterprises (1979–1992)
Turner Program Services (1992–1996)
Warner Bros. Television Distribution (1996–present)
|Original release||September 7, 1968– September 5, 1970|
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was an 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 were 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. The costumes and sets were designed by Sid and Marty Krofft, and the series' sponsor was Kellogg's Cereals. The show featured both live action and animated segments, and was Hanna-Barbera’s first foray into mixing live action with animation.
History and description
In 1967, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera approached Sid Krofft 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 was loosely based on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. 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, 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.
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 gorilla (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 Krofft characters such as 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 Splits' segments, including songs-of-the-week and comedy skits, served as wraparounds for a number of individual segments. 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.
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. One of the members of the club—Charley, usually played by Shirley Hillstrom—would bring a written note to the Splits. None of the Sour Grapes spoke in the entire series; however, they would also do a number 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.
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.
|Character||Suit performer||Voice actor||Instrument|
|Fleegle (beagle)||Jeff Winkless (1969) (billed as Jeffrey Brock)
Ginner Whitcombe (2008 version)
Bill Farmer (2008 version)
|Bingo (gorilla)||Terence H. Winkless (billed as Terence Henry)
Casey Hadfield (2008 version)
Frank Welker (2008 version)
|Drooper (lion)||Dan Winkless (billed as Daniel Owen)
Adam Grubner (2008 version)
Carlos Alazraqui (2008 version)
|Snorky or "Snork" (elephant)||"Jimmy" Dove in season 1 song segments
Robert Towers in most other segments
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 slightly out-of-tune 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 speed punk 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 (surprisingly appropriate as Liz Phair and three cast members of the Banana Splits attended New Trier High School) 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 & 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.
Home media releases
On September 21, 2009, Warner Home Video released the complete first season on DVD in Region 2. The 6-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. Warner Archive has yet to release the complete series on DVD.
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- The Banana Splits Adventure Hour on IMDb
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- Interview with Shirley Hillstrom (now Sheri Freedman), who played Charley the Messenger of the Sour Grapes Bunch