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H.R. Pufnstuf

H.R. Pufnstuf is a children's television series produced by Sid and Marty Krofft in the United States. There were seventeen episodes of the show originally broadcast from September 6, 1969 to September 4, 1971. It was so successful that NBC kept it on the Saturday morning schedule for a full three seasons until August 1972. The show was shot in Paramount Studios and its opening was shot in Big Bear Lake, California.

Origins

The H.R. Pufnstuf character was originally created for the HemisFair '68 world's fair in 1968, where the Kroffts produced a show called Kaleidescope for the Coca-Cola pavilion. The character's name was Luther and he became the symbol of the fair.

Plot

H.R. Pufnstuf introduced the Kroffts' most-used plot scenario, revolving around a boy named Jimmy (played by Jack Wild) who had accidentally found Living Island, a magical place where everything was alive. The Mayor of Living Island was a friendly dragon named H.R. Pufnstuf (voiced by the show's writer Lennie Weinrib) and the costume was worn by Property Master Albert F. Bentley. Jimmy had been lured to the island with his friend, a talking flute named Freddy, by a magic boat which promised adventures across the sea. The boat was actually owned and controlled by a wicked witch named Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo (played by Billie Hayes) who rode on a broomstick-like vehicle called the Vroom Broom. Jimmy was taken in by Pufnstuf, who was able to protect him from Witchiepoo as the cave where he lived was the only place her magic had no effect. Apart from Witchiepoo, all of the characters on Living Island were realized via large, cumbersome costumes or puppetry. Since everything on Living Island was alive (namely houses, castles, boats, grandfather clocks, candles, books, trees, mushrooms), virtually any part of the Living Island sets could become a character, usually voiced in a parody of a famous film star, such as Mae West, Edward G. Robinson or most notably John Wayne as "The West Wind". A running gag is Witchiepoo always trying to steal Freddie-and always failing.

Cast

Voice cast

  • Lennie Weinrib - H.R. Pufnstuf, Bela Lugosi Tree, Dr. Blinky's Talking Book, Orson Vulture, Polka Dotted Horse, Stupid Bat, West Wind
  • Walker Edmiston - Boris Karloff Tree, Dr. Blinky, Dr. Blinky's Candle, East Wind, Grandfather Clock, Ludicrous Lion, North Wind, Redwood, Seymour Spider
  • Joan Gerber - Freddy the Flute, Grandmother Clock, Judy Frog, South Wind, Miles Vandusen
  • Andrew Dowsey - Freddy the Flute (1 episode)

Film

The show's popularity led to the release of a film spin-off in 1970, called Pufnstuf. The film featured guest appearances by Cass Elliott and Martha Raye. The show and the film were both notable for bright colors, fast edits, sped-up film, musical segments and pop culture in-jokes, and appealed to young adults almost as much as children.

In 2002, the Kroffts were in talk of a big-budget remake, to be made by Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies and Columbia Pictures. Plans for this remake have since been shelved.

The complete series was released as a DVD box set in the United States in February 2004. The film has also been offered on VHS, now out of print.

Tours

A number of USA stage show tours were run starring the same characters from the show.

In popular culture

The show was the subject of a successful lawsuit brought by the Kroffts against the fast food restaurant McDonald's, whose McDonaldland characters were found to have infringed the show's copyright. (Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions, Inc. v. McDonald's Corp., 562 F.2d 1157, decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1977.)

Billie Hayes reprised her role of Witchiepoo in the Lidsville episode "Have I Got a Girl for Hoodoo."

An epsiode of CHiPs featured H.R. Pufnstuf being stopped by the CHP!

Claims of drug references

The Krofft brothers have responded in several interviews to popular beliefs that subtle drug references existed in the show. For example, the title character's name "Pufnstuf" has been interpreted as a reference to smoking hand-rolled (H.R.) marijuana (puffin' stuff) — Marty Krofft has said the initials "H.R." actually stand for "Royal Highness" backwards — and the show's theme-song lyric "he can't do a little, 'cause he can't do enough" has been read as referring to the addictive nature of drugs. Pufnstuf has quotes like "Whoa dude!" and other "hippie" slang words. Lennie Weinrib, the show's head writer and the voice of Pufnstuf, has said, "I think fans gave it a kind of mysterious code-like meaning, like ‘Ah, was Pufnstuf puffing stuff? Like grass?’ Was it psychedelic? Was it drug oriented? Not to us, it wasn’t." In one 2000 interview, Marty Krofft answered the question by saying, "The Krofft look has a lot of color, but there were no drug connotations in the show," and he addressed the topic at length in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2004, in response to the question, "OK, let's get this right out in the open. Is 'H.R. Pufnstuf' just one giant drug reference?":

We've heard that for 35 years. We did not intentionally do anything related to drugs in the story. People thought we were on drugs. You can't do good television while on drugs. People never believe you when you say that, but you can't. The shows were very bright and spacey looking. They may have lent themselves to that culture at the time, but we didn't ascribe that meaning to them, and I can't speak to what adults were doing when they were watching the shows. We just set out to make a quality children's program.|40px|40px|Marty Krofft|St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 17, 2004

Authors of books on the show and its contemporaries, however, have not always accepted the Kroffts' alternative explanations for apparent references to drugs. David Martindale, author of Pufnstuf & Other Stuff, maintains that the Kroffts' need to attract an audience that are now parents of impressionable children forces them at least to downplay the double entendres: "But to deny it, the shows lose some of their mystique. The Kroffts prefer to remain playfully vague." Martindale said in another interview that he fully believes Marty Krofft's insistence that he did not use drugs, especially given that Marty's focus was that of a businessman, but Martindale describes Sid Krofft as "a big kid" and "a hippy," saying, "His comment when I told him we were going to do this book was - and I quote - 'Oh, far out.' He says these shows didn't come from smoking just a little pot, and you could say, 'Oh, yeah. It comes from smoking a lot of pot.' But I think he was very deliberately doing double meanings so the show could amuse people on different levels." Kevin Burke, co-author of Saturday Morning Fever: Growing Up with Cartoon Culture, argues that the "consistency of thought" in the rumors of drug references has a basis, although his co-author and brother Timothy Burke, a history professor insists "human beings are capable of achieving hallucinatory heights without chemical assistance." Contradicting his own position, Marty Krofft has either admitted or hinted in occasional interviews that the references were made knowingly; in one case, a writer reported that when pressed as to the connotation of "lids" in the title Lidsville, "Well, maybe we just had a good sense of humor," Krofft said, laughing." His comments to another interviewer were more direct; in a Times Union profile whose author observed, "Watching the shows today, it's hard to imagine a show with more wink-and-nod allusions to pot culture, short of something featuring characters named Spliffy and Bong-O," Krofft conceded that the show's title had been an intentional marijuana reference, as had Lidsville, but "that was just a prank to see if they could get them past clueless NBC executives" (author's words).

Parodies and tributes

One of the most notable parodies of H.R. Pufnstuf was "The Altered State of Druggachusetts", a segment on the HBO comedy series Mr. Show with Bob and David. The sketch consists of a failed pilot for a kids' show introduced by "Sam and Criminy Crafft" (Bob Odenkirk and David Cross). The show itself is similar to H.R. Pufnstuf, with drug references made humorously overt. Instead of a talking flute, the boy carries a talking bong, and all of the residents in Druggachusetts take or are living incarnations of various narcotics.

Nike made a skateboarding shoe for their SB Dunk line named after the show, with the colors of the shoe resembling those of Pufnstuf.

Excerpts from the show can often be seen playing on the TV in the hotel room Earl and his brother share in My Name Is Earl, and the October 18, 2007, episode features an extended scene with H.R. Pufnstuf as a super-crimefighter working alongside the title-character's brother in a fantasy creative-writing exercise.

H.R. Pufnstuf appeared in the South Park episode "Imaginationland." That episode also aired on the same week of his appearance on My Name Is Earl.

In the "Happy Birthdays" episode of George Lopez, it is said that H.R. Pufnstuf was one of George's childhood heroes, and a man in a Pufnstuf costume appears at Max's birthday party. Later on, George dances to the Pufnstuf theme with the man in the costume.

The rock band Everclear's music video for "AM Radio," a tribute to the 1960s and 1970s, features a short clip from the show.

The first season CHiPs episode, "Green Thumb Burglar" featured H.R. Pufnstuf pulled over driving a car. Ponch and Jon make him get out of the car and walk, as the costume obstructs the driving view of the road.

In Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, when Ace is roughly shoved against a car, he says, "Hey! What are you? H. R. Shovenstuf?", an obvious reference.

On the NBC television show Will & Grace in episode 1-09 "The Truth About Will & Dogs" "Will" becomes obsessed with a new puppy "Grace" adopted. While having an argument about the way Grace is treating the puppy, he accuses her of giving the puppy the "Witchiepoo Finger" when the puppy does something wrong. This is a reference to the character Witchiepoo and her trademark point.

In the sci-fi series Farscape, the character Utu-Noranti Pralatong is nicknamed "Witchiepoo" by the series' protagonist, John Crichton.

In recent internet culture, some consider H.R. Pufnstuf to be a close relative to the Pillsbury Doughboy, who is better known as Pop'N'Fresh.

References

External links

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