Just about every former kid who grew up in the late 60s has fond recollections of The Banana Splits. With a format loosely based upon the popular prime-time show, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, The Banana Splits combined live-action, psychedelic rock music and classic animation, all offered up with a generous helping of both short comedic sketches and lengthier episodic features.
The stars of the show were a group of four anthropomorphic animals, who, when not mixed up in their comic adventures, also happened to be members of a successful rock group (think The Monkees, but furrier.) The group was comprised of Fleagle (a beagle,) Bingo (a gorilla,) Drooper (a lion) and Snorky (a miniature elephant.) The fleecy foursome served as hosts for the show, and also appeared in various pun-filled sketches, as well as in their own music videos (long before MTV) which usually captured their escapades in various amusement parks such as Six Flags Over Texas and the Coney Island Amusement Park in Cincinnati, Ohio (not to be confused with King’s Island.)
Many fans will also fondly remember a recurring live-action feature segment called Danger Island. On the island resided Professor Irwin Hayden, who along with his crew had to contend with an assortment of angry natives, fearsome wild animals, and just for good measure, dastardly pirates. Richard Donner (who would later bestow the Lethal Weapon film series on the world,) directed the Danger Island segments, which featured a young actor named Michael Vincent, later to be known as teen hunk, Jan Michael Vincent.
Another recurring segment with its own share of excitement was The Three Musketeers. Based on the classic literary work, it featured all of the familiar characters – Porthos, Aramis, Athos and D’Artagnan – as well as a newcomer named Tooly. Each week they performed their gallant service to the Queen in one brave adventure after another. Not to be outdone, the Arabian Nights offered up its own brand of heroics each week as Prince Turhan and Pricess Nidor battled the evil Bakaar and tried to recapture their rightful throne. Alongside the pair were three magicians – Bex, Farik and Raseem – who provided magical spells and sorcery when necessary. Zasu, the donkey provided comic relief and a little kick (literally) to the segments.
Professor Carter and his young offspring/assistants explored the microscopic world in Micro Venture. Having shrunk the kids down to microscopic size (a premise that would show up years later in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) the kids examined cellular life up-close, while contending with enormous insects and other beasts. Luckily, they always had their microscopic dune buggy to make a quick getaway when needed. Various classic cartoons were offered up in between live segments that included The Hillbilly Bears (once a part of The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show). Later, in syndication, The New Adventures of Huck Finn would offer up even more live-action adventure.
The Banana Splits ran from 1968-1970 and was produced by Hanna-Barbera, with costumes designed by future Saturday morning icons, Sid and Marty Krofft. Innovative and offering a glimpse into the future of children’s programming, The Banana Splits redefined kids entertainment for generations to come.
If you were a regular viewer of The Banana Splits, or if you just have that pesky theme song stuck in your head, we welcome your thoughts in our comments section as we tip our hats to this furry fab four.