Sid and Marty Krofft have often said that, through their programming, they “messed with kids’ minds.” But that has proven not to be a negative thing, as their programs not only entertained but inspired future content creators.
“Instead of trying to capture grounded reality with their puppetry, [Sid and Marty] celebrated the absurd and embraced the cartoon sensibility,” says Dan Milano, creator of “Greg the Bunny,” who later worked with the Kroffts on a feature adaptation of “H.R. Pufnstuf.”
“They understand a child’s imagination and how fragmented and sweet — but with an edge of darkness — it can be.”
Milano discovered at an early age that it was entirely feasible to grow up and become a paid creator by watching Krofft productions.
“It made it so that I didn’t feel it was unusual at all that I would draw silly pictures, do silly voices, put on puppet shows, make them talk, and expect my parents’ friends to talk back to them as if they were real,” he says.
When Milano worked with the Kroffts on a proposed film adaptation of “H.R. Pufnstuf” he learned from the brothers the importance of partnership and being open to new ideas.
“I was testing and pushing ideas and found them to be so collaborative. That kind of confidence is part of their longevity. When people hold on too tightly and feel they have to have complete control, things tend to stagnate. Their willingness to collaborate was encouraging,” Milano says.
Even though Nickelodeon’s upcoming “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is in 2D animation — as opposed to the live action of Krofft productions — co-executive producer Andy Suriano says that many themes in his series were drawn from the Kroffts’ style.
“The turtles are going down to a hidden city and there are nods in that from not only ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ but also ‘H.R. Pufnstuf,’” Suriano says. He he learned to suspend disbelief because of the Kroffts’ shows. “What I always dug about their productions is that they had such a kid-centric view, so I always try to keep in mind in my own work, ‘What’s the point of view of the kid?’”
Working with Legendary Entertainment on a project called “Sidekick” led Hannah Hart to being paired with the Kroffts in 2014. The result was a 2016 reboot of the Kroffts’ staple “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl” with Hart executive producing and portraying the latter character (with Grace Helbig as the former).
“Marty’s No. 1 concern was making sure that the original base of fans liked it and felt it was true to form,” says Hart of their shared venture.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint. The fact that we’re still talking about Sid and Marty Krofft is a testament to that.”
“Marty’s a larger than life character,” adds Helbig. “I was inspired by how hands-on he is with everything he works on and how his dedication and worth ethic have produced such an amazingly long career.”
Christian Jacobs, creator of “Yo Gabba Gabba” and a member of the music group the Aquabats, says he, too, grew up watching the Kroffts’ shows — from Saturday morning staples such as “H.R. Pufnstuf” and “Land of the Lost” to “Donny and Marie” — and being “very influenced” by them.
Jacobs later experienced a “surreal” moment when Buena Vista Television-Disney brought in the Kroffts so the brothers could pitch him a proposed series about his band.
“It was everything you’d expect — bats living in a house, a talking staircase and a talking mailbox. It was fantastic,” he recalls.
While the show didn’t come to fruition, Jacobs continued to work with the Kroffts, directing episodes of their Nickelodeon series “Mutt & Stuff” and shooting a pilot for a reboot of “The Bugaloos.”
“Sid and Marty Krofft and that age of television made me want to do what I’m doing now and hopefully I can carry that torch into the future for those tangible live-action shows,” says Jacobs. “They don’t make them like that anymore and I don’t think they ever will.”