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H.R. Pufnstuf (Television Show)

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H.R. Pufnstuf

H.R. Pufnstuf was Sid and Marty Krofft's first television show, based on a show the Kroffts developed earlier. Seventeen episodes and reruns aired on Saturday mornings from 1969–1971. It was shot on a sound stage at Paramount Studios.

PlotEdit

A young English boy named Jimmy had gone out to play with his magical golden talking flute, Freddy, the only magical talking flute in the world; but when Jimmy accepts a ride in a beautiful talking boat, he falls into a trap set up by a kooky old witch named Witchiepoo, who wants Freddy for herself; Jimmy washes up on the shores of Living Island, a magical island where everything is alive, and is rescue by Mayor Pufnstuf and his Rescue Racer crew, Cling and Clang.

H.R. Pufnstuf was a talking dragon, who takes it upon himself to protect his new friends Jimmy and Freddy from Witchiepoo, who will stop at nothing to steal Freddy, and is aided by her two bumbling flunkies Orson and Seymour (a talking vulture, and spider, respectively). Helping in protecting Jimmy were the wise old owl Dr. Blinky, who lived in a living house that was ill due to being subjected to the fireplace's excessive smoking; Judy the Frog, Judy Garland's frog doppelganger; The Four Winds, which consisted of a cowboy face for The West Wind, an Asian face for The East Wind, a country girl for The South Wind, and a frozen Jack Frost-like face for The North Wind; and the legion of talking trees. The Witch also had talking trees of her own, who were always on the look-out for whenever someone would trespass in her garden, as did her tribe of talking mushrooms; another of Witchiepoo's flunkies was Stupid Bat, who proved himself to be just that.

Witchiepoo always relied on some kind of lame-brain scheme to sneak into Living Island and find a way to swipe Freddy, from dressing herself and Orson and Seymour as a rock band of singing fruits, to passing herself off as a kindly old lady selling tainted candy; if things didn't go as planned for her, she would take to her Vroom-Broom (a high-tech broom she would fly on), zapping at the citizens of Living Island with her magic wand, which would sometimes limp in exhaustion if she used it too much. Pufnstuf's cave is the only spot on the island where her magic has no effect, coincidentally.

Cast Edit

Voice cast Edit

  • Lennie Weinrib - Mayor H.R. Pufnstuf, Orson Vulture, Stupid Bat, West Wind, Horsey, Indian Tree
  • Joan Gerber - Freddy the Flute, Judy the Frog, Lady Boyd, South Wind, Shirley Pufnstuf, Bela Lugosi Tree
  • Walker Edmiston - Dr. Blinky, Seymour Spider, East Wind, North Wind, Ludicrous Lion, Grandfather Clock, Hippie Tree

Episodes Edit

H.R. Pufnstuf was produced for seventeen episodes for the 1969-1971 season for Saturday mornings on CBS; because the show was so popular, reruns of the seventeen episodes continued to be broadcasted for the new seasons until 1973. Unlike the Kroffts' other shows, this show was shot on 35mm film, rather than video tape, which was standard for most television shows in the 70s.

Main article: H.R. Pufnstuf Episodes

Production NotesEdit

After seeing the work the Kroffts had done with the costumed characters for The Banana Splits, and seeing their puppet workshop, the head of children's programming of CBS, Fred Silverman, and his assistant, Bud Grant, asked the Kroffts to do their own show for their Saturday morning lineup; after Marty delivered a presentation to Silverman to look over on a train trip, the series was picked up for the fall 1969 lineup, and seventeen episodes were ordered. The Kroffts began production right away, but already there were complications that set in; in the first part, CBS had budgetted the show for $54,000 an episode, which barely covered the costs to make the series - a lot of what ate up their budget were the puppets that had to be built, and the sets that were built on a soundstage at Paramount Studios, as well as the fact the Kroffts wanted the show to be on film rather than video tape. Another budget eater were the scripts - the two writers who wrote for the show, Lennie Weinrib (who also voiced Pufnstuf and other characters) and Joe Harrison put too much content in each script that they tried to add to production; to help manage their budget, Marty called veteran television producer Si Rose to look over the content. Originally signed on for half a day, Rose attempted to re-write all of the scripts to condense them into a typical half-hour Saturday morning show, but since it got more involved, Rose signed on as executive producer, and helped keep things in order to keep the Kroffts from going over budget even more (at some points they were anywhere between one to three million dollars over budget on the show); Si Rose was also responsible from bringing a sitcomish atmosphere to the Krofft shows by convincing them to use a laugh track. In spite of all that, the budget problems became so bad, the Kroffts couldn't afford to finish filming most of what was left for them to work with, this is why the final episode of H.R. Pufnstuf was a flashback episode; also, when the new head of children's programming for the 1970-1971 season offered a five percent increase for a second season, the Kroffts turned down the offer, knowing that the increase in the budget would result in even more money being lost, so ultimately, the show lasted for the one season and seventeen episodes.

  • The name H.R. Pufnstuf was derived from two things - "Pufnstuf" was based on the popular song of the time "Puff the Magic Dragon" by Peter, Paul and Mary, taking that, and knowing there was going to be "all this other stuff" involved is where "Pufnstuf" came from; Sid Krofft and Lennie Weinrib have said that the H.R. comes from the initials for "royal highness" being turned around. Originally, CBS refused to accept this title for the show, reasoning that "Pufnstuf" sounded too effemininate, whereas now, most people reason that "H.R. Pufnstuf" is basically "hand-rolled puffin' stuff" (marijuana).
  • Penny Marshal originally auditioned for the role of Witchiepoo, both neither Sid nor Marty felt she was able to pull off a witchy role; Billie Hayes later came into their office, jumped on their desk, and delivered the witch's trademark cackle, and was hired on the spot, thus resulting in only two people trying out for the part. Sid Krofft was invited to London to watch a rough cut of the movie Oliver, and knew that the "Artful Dodger" was the perfect kid for their show; after a wild goose chase through-out London, Marty became Jack Wild's legal guardian during his stay in the U.S. to film H.R. Pufnstuf.
  • Production began in the summer of 1969, and the filming schedule was so vigorous; Joy Campbell once stated some days, it would be so hot inside the costumes that you could literally feel the steam bilow out of them. Sid did admit that back in those days, nobody thought to insolate the costumes, and that often times performers for their live puppets show felt like they were doing a prison sentence.
  • Having toured with and opened for Judy Garland, Sid basically conceived the character of Judy the Frog in her honor.
  • Contrary to popular belief, McDonalds did not rip off H.R. Pufnstuf, in fact, they were the ones who asked the Kroffts to design a "McDonaldsland" concept for them for commercials, but after all was said and done, McDonalds claimed they decided to pull the plug on the concept, and that was supposedly the end of that, but months later, when the Kroffts saw the McDonaldsland commercials on television, they sued McDonalds over the use of the characters and sceneries, and didn't receive a settlement until thirteen years later.

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