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The Banana Splits: The Funny Animal Bubblegum Pop Band, Facts And Trivia

Entertainment | March 14, 2021

Source: IMDB

The Banana Splits were a band consisting of anthropomorphic animals -- actors in costumes -- who played pop music on their show The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. They had their roots in 1967, when William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who had already had success with numerous shows, including Tom & Jerry and The Flintstones approached Sid and Marty Krofft to ask them to design the costumes for a new television show, which would combine live action and animated segments. The Krofft brothers agreed and designed the puppets for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. The show, which seemed to draw inspiration from Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, premiered on September 7, 1968. Incidentally, the band members from The Banana Splits appeared on one episode of Laugh-In.

Dressing Was An Adventure

Toy versions of The Banana Splits and their dune buggies. Source: (Burlington Retro).

The hosts of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour were an anthropomorphic band very similar to The Monkees, living together in the Banana Pad, which was decorated with pop art. The band members each rode their own dune buggy both inside and outside of the Banana Pad. The actors wearing the costumes were all between the ages of 18 and 24, and they had to be acrobats in the suits, which cost $40,000. And getting dressed was quite a feat. They started to dress using perspiration absorbing undergarments, followed by a jumpsuit to keep the perspiration in, a shoulder harness to hold the head on, and an air conditioning unit strapped around their waists.  

A Guitar-Playing Dog And A Drumming Ape

Source: (Pinterest).

Fleegle, a greenish-brown dog decked out in a red bowtie and brownish-orange chucks is the leader of the band. His tongue hangs and out he talks with a bit of a lisp. He is also the one who collects the mail, and he is organized, although he overestimates his intelligence. Jeff Winkless wore the suit, and Paul Winchell provided his voice.

Bingo, the orange ape, is the strongest character, the one who takes on the heavy tasks. He wears white glasses and a yellow vest and has a nasally voice and a toothy grin. He sings, plays the drums and answers Fleegle’s riddles. He would do anything to help a friend; however, he manages to break everything. Terrence Winkless wore the suit, and Daws Butler provided his voice.  

The Lion Strums The Bass And The Elephant Plays The Drums

Source: (ClickAmericana).

Drooper is a fast talking lion with a Southern drawl, who loves to confuse Bingo and is always trying to con someone. He plays the bass, sings, and wears yellowish-orange glasses and spats. He spends a lot of time getting out of his share of the work in the Banana Pad so that he can devote more time to philosophical endeavors. One of his acts is trying to empty a trash can that throws trash everywhere, and another is answering fan mail from fictional fans. He has declared himself the “braines” of the band. Anne Winthrow wore the suit and Allen Melvin provided his voice.

Snorky is the mute organ playing elephant of the group. He wears pink glasses and a green vest with yellow stripes. He is always late, never does anything right, and takes the blame whenever anything goes wrong, even if the mishap was not his fault. He always takes dares, despite Bingo’s attempts to stop him. His experiences do not thwart him and he remains undaunted. His suit was worn by James Dove and Robert Tower and no one provided his voice. Instead, he communicates through honking sounds, and one of the other characters translate.

Additional Characters, Humans And Otherwise

The Banana Vac. Source: (The Banana Splits Wiki-Fandom).

Other than the band, additional characters include an unseen announcer, The Sour Grapes Bunch (silent females all named Shirley who brought notes to the band members and danced in “Doin’ the Banana Split”) and The Dilly Sisters, (two females who play acoustic guitars and sing “The Mexican Hat Dance” nd “Ta-ra-ra Boom de-ay”). And there were some other non-humans as well: The Banana Vac, Cuckoo Clock, and Goofy Gopher. The Banana Vac, something that looked a little like a moose, was a blue head with brown hair. The Banana Vac sported light bulbs on his head instead of antlers, and made comments and helped to introduce segments. Cuckoo Clock also helped to introduce segments, and provided snarky responses to the question: “what time is it?” Finally, Goofy Gopher’s main role was to pop up to announce that the show would be right back.  

The Episode Format

Cuckoo Clock. Source: (Banana Splits Wiki-Fandom).

Each episode opened with the characters frenetically riding their buggies, dancing, and riding amusement park rides with the theme song, “The Tra-la-la Song,” playing. Each episode included the adventures of the band members as well as the song of the week, comedy sketches, and segments. These comedy sketches spawned the phrase “Hold the bus,” which wass the sign for the Splits to behave like they had been driven mad by a mailbox which wouldn’t give Fleegle the mail, a garbage bin which wouldn’t accept Drooper’s trash, or the Sour Grape girls.

The Show Included Live Action And Cartoon Segments

The Danger Island Segment. Source: (Pinterest).

The segments in the show included “Arabian Nights,” “The Three Musketeers,” and perhaps the best-known segment “Danger Island,” a live-action serial. Danger Island was filmed on location; in Danger Island, the shipwrecked Professor Irwin Hayden, played by Frank Aletter, had to outrun natives, dangerous animals, and pirates. The segment included the cry of “Oh oh Chongo,” referring to the character Chongo, the master of bird sounds.

In one of the other segments, “The Micro Ventures,” real microscopic life became the background. Professor Carter and his children Patsy and Tommy became microscopic themselves to examine cellular life from the point of view of the cell. When they encountered giant animals and bugs, they sped away in their microscopic dune buggy.  

The Music Behind The Show

Source: (ReelRundown).

As the main characters were a band, music played a central role. The songs were written by professional songwriters, including N.B. Winkless Jr., a jingle writer for Kellogg’s, who reportedly wrote the theme song, and Barry White, who wrote “Doin’ the Banana Split,” which was performed by Drooper on the show. Although White wrote the song, he did not perform it, and much of the lead vocal work for the music was done by Ricky Lancelotti, who was uncredited. “Doin the Banana Split" actually made it onto the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 96 on February 8, 1969. Other songs were performed by journeyman musicians and singers. 

One song did not have a real connection to the show however: Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier.” Although some noticed similarities between Marley’s song and “The Tra-la-la Song,” there is no evidence that Marley was inspired by the song, nor is there any evidence that Marley even knew of it or the show.

A Legacy In Merchandise And Movies

Merchandise from the show. Source: (World Collectors Net).

Although the show only ran for 31 episodes, it did spawn merchandise. Kellogg’s gave away plastic hand puppets in boxes of Puffa Puffa Rice and Froot Loops. If you mailed in box tops, the company also gave away ’45 EPs for “The Tra La La Song,” and “Doin’ the Banana Split.” The EPs included exclusive B-side tracks like “I Enjoy Being a Boy (In Love With You),” “The Beautiful Calliopa,” and “The Very First Kid on my Block.” Aurora Plastics produced kits to make a plastic model of the buggies for two years, and, of course, there were lunch boxes and thermoses.

It also served as a starting point for the careers of some involved with the show. The Banana Splits helped the Krofft brothers enter the realm of television with their own series, H.R. Pufnstuf. Richard Donner, who directed some of the ‘Danger Island” segments, would go on to direct Superman and Lethal Weapon. Jan-Michael Vincent, who was credited as Michael Vincent, was also featured in “Danger Island,” as Link.  And of course, without the television show, we wouldn't have the comedy/horror movie of the same name.  

Tags: Hanna-Barbera | Sid And Marty Krofft | The Banana Splits

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!