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Two Canadian brothers born in the early 1900s, sons of a clock salesman, they found a mutual love for puppeteering which led them on an amazing journey of a lifetime through the Land of the Lost, Sea Monsters, Bugaloos, Pufnstuf, Banana Splits and much much more. In this episode of the Dandy Fun House, I proudly bring you the story of the Yolas brothers, but you might remember them better as… Sid and Marty Krofft! Let’s step into the Fun House!
Hello and welcome to the Dandy Fun House, video show, podcast and blog! This is where we get lost in the land of retro pop culture, toys and games and all the fun stuff. I’m your host, Neil Dandy and in today’s episode, this is one I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but I sort of got held up wrapping up the year 2023. Now that that’s all behind us, I figured I’d kick off 2024 with a bang and bring you the story of the amazing creators of some of the most timeless kids shows of the 70s and 80s, Sid and Marty Krofft!
If you don’t know who Sid and Marty Krofft are, (I being in my mid-50’s find this almost unfathomable, but there might be some younger viewers, listeners and readers who have never heard of them and I want to be welcoming if you might fit this description.) these guys created iconic TV shows like Land of the Lost, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, The Bugaloos, H.R. Pufnstuf, The Banana Splits and a whole lot more.
A lot of their work was kinda like Muppets before the Muppets were a thing, but more fantasy type. I hope that made sense. Together, the Krofft Brothers’ resume boasts a whopping 26 television series and 21 specials! But to really get an idea of who these guys were, I think we need to start back farther…MUCH FARTHER!!!!!!!!!
Two Canadian brothers, Sid and Marty Yolas of Greek and Hungarian descent were born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1929 and 1937. Sons of a clock salesman, Peter Yolas, their family emigrated to the US in the early 1940s, landing in Rhode Island but eventually settling in New York City, assuming the more American last name of Krofft.
The father, Peter, in addition to his profession of clock salesmanship, also enjoyed the theatre and producing plays. Sid discovered a love for puppeteering and he performed some of his earliest work debuting in one of his dad’s stage plays, an adaptation of Snow White. From there, Sid had the puppet bug and went into the world of vaudeville as a teenager before running away with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which billed him as the world’s youngest puppeteer!
This allowed Sid to take his one-man show called The Unusual Artistry of Sid Krofft International and parlayed his newfound circus notoriety into being the opening act for iconic performers like Judy Garland and Liberace.
Meanwhile back in New York, Sid’s younger brother Marty started putting his older brother’s second-hand puppets to work, earning some money with local stage performances and honing his own set of skills and more importantly, business acumen.
His business smarts attracted the attention of older brother Sid, who eventually asked him to team up in an effort to bring his visions for bigger, better and more spectacular productions to life.
In 1957 they did just that, developing their first show together, a mature audience production entitled Les Poupees de Paris. They ran this production for several years, earning acclaim worldwide, performing for over 9 million people collectively while also providing more family themed productions for Six Flags amusement parks.
But it wasn’t until 1965 that they eventually found themselves making their television debut after being invited onto the Dean Martin show! By this time, they had built a renowned puppet costume and set building facility in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California and were approached by Hanna-Barbera to create set designs and walk around costumes for The Banana Splits, which went on to become a cult classic which is still enjoyed to this day.
In 1969 they struck a deal with NBC to produce their own TV series, HR PufnStuf, which featured colorful sets, lots of puppetry, life-size soft, Muppet-like characters and lots of rudimentary special effects. HR PufnStuf was a hit, a huge hit and it led to a movie with Universal Pictures.
DANDY FUN FACT!
Early in their career, Sid and Marty Krofft received a little sage advice from Mr. Walt Disney who told them, “Always put your name above everything you create because someday it’s gonna be worth something.” They took his advice and put their name at the top of everything they made, which is why their name is as recognizable today as the shows they created!
The Krofft brothers found their forte with Fantasy Adventure, mostly aimed at the Saturday morning kids audience, which they dominated. Throughout the 70s, Sid and Marty Krofft were a non-stop hit factory with shows like The Bugaloos, which kind of took the Banana Splits story model of a rock band made of animal characters and placed it into the insect world.
Sigmund and the Sea Monsters! I’m actually wearing my poor attempt at a sea monster hat right now. I think the kelp turned out alright, but the googly eyes and uni tooth turned out really bad so I had to take them off. Our rescue dog Carly has a fixation on googly eyes so I have to hide them or she’ll chew them all up because they’re the size and texture of a squeak toy.
These guys produced Land of the Lost and also the somewhat forgettable late 70s series, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, a low budget Wonder Woman meets Batman and Robin, and also Wonderbug, which was a low budget Herbie the Love Bug that looked more like Speed Buggy. In fact, almost everything they produced was low budget and extremely campy, which was also a large part of the charm and brilliant from a business standpoint! Money not spent is money in the pocket, isn’t it?
The Krofft brothers became so popular that at one point they entered a deal in 1976 with a developer to launch their own amusement park, the World of Sid and Marty Krofft in Atlanta Georgia, which unfortunately didn’t do real well, suffered poor attendance, and closed only six months after their grand opening.
DANDY FUN FACT!
Did you know that Sid and Marty Krofft built the set for the TV show All in the Family? This was used for the first two seasons!
As they progressed into the 1980s they found themselves putting their names on less successful shows such as Pryor’s Place with Richard Pryor, DC Follies which was a puppet show that skewered modern politics and also oversaw reboots of their classic shows like HR Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost, and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
Nonetheless their San Fernando Valley Factory stayed cranking, with touring stages for bands like Earth, Wind and Fire and anyone else who wanted that Krofft Brothers touch in their shows!
In the year 2000, Sid and Marty Krofft kicked off the millennium by dazzling the American Music Awards with giant 25 foot high puppets for the performance of the boy band N’SYNC.
In 2015 they teamed up with Nick Jr. on a show called Mutt N’ Stuff which followed the adventures of Calvin Milan, son of Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, and Calvin’s dog, Stuff. It lasted two years.
In 2018 the Krofft Brothers get honored at the Daytime Emmy Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award!
Sid was asked on the red carpet what his secret to success was and he replied, “Get Marty for a partner.” When Marty was asked who his favorite character was Marty replied, “My favorite character has got to be Sid.” Brothers to the end.
And in 2020 they received their long overdue star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2022 Krofft Kon was launched, which is a convention around all things Sid and Marty Krofft. Both brothers attended the inaugural year and the annual event to this day continues to feature stars of their various productions throughout the years which you can meet in person if you attend Krofft Kon.
Sadly the world lost Marty Krofft in 2023 to kidney failure at 86 years of age.
Sid still goes to conventions and loves meeting fans old and new and he’d love to meet you!
And ain’t that a how do ya do? There’s the story of Sid and Marty Krofft, the campiest, kookiest, cheesiest, craziest couple of brothers you ever heard of! Their works will live on in infamy for many a millennia to come!
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And that’s gonna do it for this episode of the Dandy Fun House. Time for me to puff my stuff right on outta here! I really appreciate you stopping by. Come back real soon right here to the Dandy Fun House where everything is always Fun and Dandy! Sea Monster Ya Later!