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|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||September 7, 1968 –|
September 5, 1970
|Related shows||The Skatebirds|
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (also simply known 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 series originally 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 it was Hanna-Barbera's first foray into mixing live action with animation.
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, orange chucks. His tongue is always sticking out, giving him a lisp. He plays a guitar and sings. His acts in the main show include leading club meetings and collecting envelopes from an uncooperative mailbox. Suit performed by Jeff Winkless (1968), Ginner Whitecombe (2008), and Terry Sauls (2019 horror film). Voiced by Paul Winchell (1968 — 1972), Bill Farmer (2008), and Eric Bauza (2019 horror film).
- Bingo — An orange gorilla 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 horror film). Voiced by Daws Butler (1968 — 1972), Frank Welker (2008), and Eric Bauza (2019 horror film).
- Drooper — A lion 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 horror film). Voiced by Allan Melvin (1968 — 1972), Carlos Alazraqui (2008), and Eric Bauza (2019 horror film).
- Snorky — A mute furry elephant wearing pink glasses. He becames a regular elephant in season 2, wearing a green vest with yellow stripes. He comunicates through honking sounds, and one of the other Splits translates 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 horror 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. 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. They take turns bringing written notes to the Banana Splits. They 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 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.
The Banana Splits were syndicated in 1971 to local stations but with several other series in a package deal. Several other series were put under the Banana Splits Banner. All the Banana Splits episodes were syndicated in this package as presented but also The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Atom Ant Show, The Secret Squirrel Show, and The Adventures of Gulliver were syndicated under this banner. On The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Banana Splits opening was played and one of the Banana Splits announced "The Banana Splits presents the Adventures of Huck Finn".
After the commercials, the Adventures of Huck Finn ran with the Huck Finn Adventures end credits running at the end. The Adventures of Gulliver was handled the same way except the Banana Splits themselves appeared for a few seconds saying "And now, Gulliver". The Banana Splits end credits still ran on that. For Atom Ant, the Banana Splits first announced at the end of the opening "The Banana Splits presents: the Atom Ant Show". Then after each commercial break, the group hosted each of the three cartoons which consisted of Atom Ant, Precious Pupp, and the Hillbilly Bears. The end credits of the Banana Splits show ran as well. On Secret Squirrel, the Banana Splits song played and one of them announced "The Banana Splits presents: the Secret Squirrel Show".
On Secret Squirrel the Banana Splits hosted each of the three cartoons including Secret Squirrel, Squiddly Diddly, and Winsome Witch. The Banana Splits' end credits also ran on these. Most stations ran each group once a week. The shows were likely syndicated as a package due to the limited number of episodes of each show. These were run this way on local stations throughout the 70's and into the 80's. After Cartoon Network launched the shows were aired on their own and independent of each other.
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 punk band, The Vindictives did a version of “Two Ton Tessie” for the before mentioned “Banana Pad Riot” tribute compilation, and was later released as part of their “Curious Oddities and the Bare Essentials” compilation album. It was also covered by Texas punk band, Bickley in 1998.
The “Banana Pad Riot” tribute, in addition to the Mr. T Experience and Vindictives songs, also included: Wisconsin band, Boris The Sprinkler performing “We’re The Banana Splits”, and Seattle band, The Young Fresh Fellows performing “Doin’ The Banana Split.”
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.
New Hampshire punk band, The Queers, also covered “I Enjoy Being A Boy (In Love With You)” on their 1998 album, “Punk Rock Confidential.” It also appeared on their “Everything’s Okay” EP the same year.
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. Consumer Products 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 horror film adaptation
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 take place in a horror-like setting. 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. However, they are soon trying to survive when Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky become evil upon learning of the cancellation of their show and, in their rage, their programming malfunctions, starting a killing spree around the studio. 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 to positive reviews from critics.
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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