Saturday, November 13, 2010

H.R. Pufnstuf

H.R. Pufnstuf
November 1, 2010

The psychedelic atmosphere of those lovable 60s flowed well into the next decade, especially in the realm of children’s programming, thanks to the wonderful talents and vision of Sid and Marty Krofft. But of all their creations, which included such live-action offerings as Lidsville, The Bugaloos and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, perhaps no series was quite as trippy, quite as colorful, and quite as well remembered as H.R. Pufnstuf. Let’s take a look back.

The premise of the show was explained in it’s theme song. An English boy named Jimmy went for a stroll with his magic golden flute friend, Freddy. When they were beckoned by a boat to take a playful voyage, they fell into a trap set by the evil Witchiepoo, who coveted the powers within the magical musical instrument. Jimmy managed to outwit the witch by jumping overboard once the boat reached the mysterious Living Island, filled with its singing frogs and dancing trees. Not long after, he stumbled upon a friend and protector named Pufnstuf, who just so happened to be the mayor of this magical place.

Jimmy soon realized that just about everything on the island was alive, even such normally inanimate objects like candles, books, trees and (ahem) mushrooms. And there were plenty of characters around to interact with as well, including Judy Frog, Ludicrous Lion and deputies Cling and Clang. Not all the inhabitants were friendly though, as Witchie’s posse included such villains as Seymour the orange spider and Orson the vulture, who helped Witchipoo try to capture her elusive prey.

H.R. Pufnstuf featured plenty of music intertwined within the adventure, thanks to the talents of a cast that included Jack Wild, an Academy Award nominee from his role in the musical Oliver!, and the wonderful Billie Hayes (Witchiepoo) who had previously sung on Broadway. On the show, they treated young viewers to memorable songs such as “I’m a Mechanical Boy” and “Oranges-Poranges.”

Surprisingly, considering how well H.R. Pufnstuf is remembered by children of the 70s, only 17 episodes were ever produced. And although the show enjoyed a three-year run, ending in 1971, the show primarily consisted of reruns after the first year. In 1970, the entire gang, and guests that included Cass Elliot (of the singing group, The Mamas and the Papas) and Martha Raye (both appearing as witches) took to the big screen in the feature-length film, Pufnstuf.

Today, H.R. Pufnstuf remains one of the most fondly remembered children’s show from the 70s decade. Sid and Marty Krofft would develop plenty of other offbeat offerings that delighted viewers young and old over the years, but none could really compare to this one-of-a-kind spectacle that unmistakably represents the imagery of the era in all its colorful glory.

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