Earlier this week, Warner Bros. and Syfy released a quirky trailer revealing four familiar furrys from the wholesome ’60s/’70s Hanna-Barbera series The Banana Splits … with a sadistically chilling twist. Featuring the loveable Bingo the Gorilla, Fleegle the Beagle, Snorky the Elephant and Drooper the Lion from a time long since past, the live-action re-imagined characters seem to have homicidal tenancies and an insatiable thirst for blood in the upcoming horror film The Banana Splits Movie.
Treating their son, Harley (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong: The Kindness of Strangers) to a live taping of The Banana Splits TV show for his birthday, Beth (Dani Kind: Wynonna Earp series), Mitch (Steve Lund: Bitten series) and big brother Austin (Romeo Carere: Pyewacket) set out to make a day to remember. With eerie, suspicious observations from security, it appears that something may be up with the animatronic Chuck-E-Cheese’s-esque characters. When the show takes a dark turn as the foursome mechanical furrys turn sadistic, this unravels into one birthday Harley and his family is sure to never forget. That is, if they survive the night.
While the premise of The Banana Splits Movie is clearly a horror film adaption from the ’60s/’70s children’s television show, the trailer screams more than just your standard slasher flick influences. Featuring four nostalgic characters out for gruesome fun following the warning of a security guard, it isn’t difficult to see a strong underlying influence of Five Night’s At Freddy’s. First launching as an indie video game created by game developer Scott Cawthon in 2014, Five Nights became a mega success among young gamers searching for thrills and jump scares in their virtual experience. There have since been six installments in this survival horror series as well as several spin-offs and novels. It makes sense that a film adaptation would be inevitable. So, why is Warner Bros. releasing this nostalgic blend of two generations? I’m speculating that it may be due to licensing issues, contract deals and all the red tape that comes with development hell.
In April of 2015, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the popular video game series intending to create a Five Nights film adaptation with 2017’s It creators Roy Lee, Seth Grahame-Smith and David Katzenberg producing. However, development was brought to a halt when a wrench was seemingly thrown into the mega studio’s plans. According to Deadline, the small studio responsible for horror hits such as Get Out, Blumhouse holds the rights to Five Nights At Freddy’s as of last March 2018. Along for the ride to bring the video game story to the big screen is writer, director and producer Chris Columbus who is best known for his work on the ’80s cult classic hit Gremlins. With Cawthon assisting with development, fans of Five Nights At Freddy’s became excited at the prospect of finally seeing their favorite game come to the big screen. However, last November, Variety reported Cawthon’s decision to scrap the finalized script because it did not match his vision. The gaming developer has since taken all responsibility for the disappointing delay while a new script has been undergoing development.
After losing the rights to Five Nights At Freddy’s, Warner Bros. seems determined to carry out their plans to deliver something similar to their original prospective idea. And it is apparent that delays are a nonissue in this camp. While the risk of this feature being rushed through production is real and it might not be the film fans of the franchise have been waiting for, The Banana Splits does look like a fun horror survival flick. Though the young cast does not have much that stands out in their resume, award-winning director Danishka Esterhazy (Black Field, 2009) may be successful in bring together this new, creepy Five Nights-esk re-envisioned adventure of Hanna-Barbera’s The Banana Splits. At the very least, this feature might be a satisfying substitute to tide over Five Nights fans until Blumhouse’s long-awaited release.