Sleestaks, Grumpy And Cha-Ka: 'Land Of The Lost' Facts & Trivia
Left: a Sleestak from 'Land of the Lost.' Right: Cha-Ka. Sources: firebreathingdimetrodon.wordpress.com; IMDB
For three seasons, Land Of The Lost's Sleestaks, Cha-Ka and and other creatures captivated children and the occasional adult. Created by the Krofft brothers, award-winning purveyors of children’s television, Land Of The Lost represented a more realistic brand of fantasy than the cartoonish furry characters of their previous series H.R. Pufnstuf and The Banana Splits. NBC only made one request to the Kroffts: can there be dinosaurs?
'Land Of The Lost' Had Real Writers
Alongside the astute decision to hire the Kroffts, the show hired two renowned fiction writers: Ringworld creator, Larry Niven and Ben Bova, a six-time Hugo winner. NBC’s Saturday morning hit also roped in a future NBA champion Bad Boy to play one of their infamous Sleestaks. Here’s a bevy of trivia and fun facts for Land Of The Lost to revel in.
Traveling To The 'Land Of The Lost'
The Marshall family may have wanted to return home after falling into a 1,000-foot waterfall that doubled as a time warp to an alternate universe but youthful viewers loved their “lost world.” Filled with strange Sleestaks creatures that resembled wide eyed Jackson chameleons who walked upright, Land Of The Lost thrilled kids.
The Sleestaks came from the same mind, David Gerrold, who gave Star Trek fans their iconic “Tribbles.” The Kroffts approached Gerrold with their concept, “'There's this family, and they fall down a waterfall, and there's dinosaurs, and monkey-people, and a couple of other things.' And then they asked, 'Can you do something with this?'" which was how the Sleestaks were born.
Along with the hissing Sleestaks, “Grumpy” the Tyrannosaurus Rex terrorizes the Marshall family, chivvying them around their strange new world. The giant claymation dinosaur assuredly prepped a generation of kids to geek out over Jurassic Park many years later. “Grumpy” and “Big Alice,” an Allosaurus, served as the two giant ominous creatures, lording over the scurrying Marshall family.
Spencer Gilligan, who played Rick Marshall, actually left the show over a dispute over merchandising. "We had a difference of opinion, let's put it this way, on using my face for stuff and paying me — lunch boxes, compasses — where they were selling them," he later revealed. "I thought it was only fair that everyone should get their fair share." Apparently, Gilligan wanted a piece of that Grumpy action figure money.
A 'Bad Boy' Sleestak
Funnily enough, the small budget show could only afford three Sleestak uniforms and utilized TV chicanery to multiply their numbers on screen. Even more hilariously, the most famous Sleestak by a country mile is none other than NBA champion and famed Detroit Piston Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer.
Taking college tours during his senior year in high school, someone suggested the near seven-foot Laimbeer try out. "It was easy money. People on TV only work 20 minutes out of a whole day," Laimbeer remembered. "It was a lot of fun and a good experience, especially when you were 18 years old." Despite the wild costumes, the famously churlish Bad boy enjoyed himself, "We had to wear wet suits and full masks and everything." We were supposed to be their enemies and we mainly just hissed on the show. It was a lot of fun." According to Wesley Eure, who played Will Marshall, "Bill was the most popular Sleestak."
After the second season Spencer Gilligan left the show and the writers needed to fill the void. Enter Cha-Ka, played by ten-year-old Philip Paley. An especially smart member of the Pakunis, Land Of The Lost’s neanderthals, Cha-Ka was saved from becoming Grumpy’s lunch by the Marshall family. Cha-Ka and Holly Marshall, played by Kathleen Coleman, formed a close relationship.
Paley thought their relationship gave the show a purity. “The allure of the show still is that it’s great for kids.” It’s filled with intrigue and it’s a little bit scary and there’s a lot of innocence in the characters, particularly between Cha-Ka and Holly and how they interact. We’ve always known it was a positive show — people love the characters, people were really into it. It imprinted on people some really good things from their childhood.”
Seemingly unnecessarily, the show contracted Victoria Fromkin, a Ph.D., from UCLA to create the Pakuni language. She conceived an entire 300-word vocabulary with syntax for the show. Fromkin would literally translate scripts from English into her Pakuni language. Her goal was to create a language kids could actually learn.
Tags: Children | Land Of The Lost | Sid And Marty Krofft
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