The younger half of the creative powerhouse that was Sid & Marty Krofft has died, passing away on November 25, 2023. Eight years younger than Sid, Marty Krofft died Saturday at age 86 in Los Angeles of kidney failure, his family announced. The younger Krofft was the savvy businessman who, partering with his older brother Sid, amassed an entertainment empire fueled by psychelic kids’ TV hits such as The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, H.R. Pufnstuf and the sci-fi fandom cult favorite Land of the Lost.
The geniuses behind the beloved puppet characters Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky were already renowned theatrical puppeteers before their remarkable journey into television. In 1968, they were handpicked to design the costumes for NBC’s thrilling live-action segment of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. Little did they know that this endeavor would lead to an immediate sensation among young viewers. The vibrant characters, members of a rock band, stole the hearts of audiences during the show’s run from September 7, 1968, to September 5, 1970, and have since become cherished icons through countless reruns.
Following their success, NBC approached the talented brothers once again, this time with a request to create a Saturday morning kids show of their own. And so, the brothers unleashed their creative powers, giving birth to the whimsical world of H.R. Pufnstuf. This enchanting series tells the tale of a young boy named Jimmy (played by the talented Jack Wild) who finds himself stranded on a magical island. Accompanying him on his extraordinary adventures is the delightful character known as Pufnstuf, an endearing dragon originally inspired by the brothers’ creation for the 1968 HemisFair in San Antonio.
While the first season consisting of 17 episodes captivated audiences, it may come as a surprise that only that one season of H.R. Pufnstuf was ever produced. Despite NBC’s proposal for a second season, their offer fell significantly short of covering the brothers’ production costs, leading them to decline the opportunity. Thus, production on Pufnstuf came to an end in 1970, but its memory endured through reruns that allowed subsequent generations to revel in its magic.
Undeterred by this setback, the Krofft brothers wasted no time in embarking on new projects. They followed up Pufnstuf with other groundbreaking creations, including The Bugaloos (1970-72), the Claymation marvel Lidsville (1971-73), the charming Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (1973-75), and the captivating Land of the Lost (1974-76). This last series even inspired an ill-fated film adaptation starring Will Ferrell, which hit the screens in 2009. The Krofft brothers’ incredible imagination and ingenuity continue to shape the landscape of pop culture to this day.
Krofft was born in Montreal on April 9, 1937, and he and his family later lived in Maine, Rhode Island and the Bronx. For PR, the brothers liked to say that they came from a long line of puppeteers going back many generations. In truth, the story was fabricated. Their father was a clock salesman who emigrated from Greece in the early 1900s.
Marty joined his brother full-time in 1958 after Sid’s original assistant left, and they opened Les Poupees de Paris, an adults-only burlesque puppet show that played to sold-out crowds at a dinner theater in the San Fernando Valley. It was Les Poupees which, according to Marty, took them from being Sid’s act to being a business. The show drew an estimated 9.5 million viewers in its first decade of performances.
Pufnstuf‘s psychedelic sets and costumes were a big hit with college kids, and The Beatles asked for a full set of episode tapes to be sent to them in England. The look of the show prompted many whispers that the brothers took drugs (pot for sure, maybe LSD as well?), something Marty denied.
The Kroffts’ style was so popular that McDonald’s copied it to create Mayor McCheese and McDonaldland for an early ’70s advertising campaign. The Kroffts sued, winning a reported seven-figure settlement in 1977.
Marty is survived by brothers Harry and Sid; daughters Deanna (and her husband, Randy), Kristina and Kendra (Lou); grandchildren Taylor, Karson, Griffin, Georgia and Drake; and great-grandchild Maddox. He married Christa Rogalski in 1965, and she proceeded him in death in 2013.
Donations in his name can be made to Marley’s Mutts.
Sid wrote to his followers on Instagram Saturday: I’m heartbroken over the loss of my baby brother.
I really know that all of you meant the world to him. It’s YOU that made this all happen. Thank you for being there with us all these years. Love, Sid.”
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