Monday, February 2, 2009

HR Puffnstuff

My sister Becky sent me a link to this.

It is the theme song to the Saturday Morning TV Show H. R. Pufnstuf. According to the Internet, it ran on TV from 1969 to 1972. I was very little then, and I don't remember much at all from my life in those years, yet when I watched that theme song it was like repeating a dream that I'd had before, and forgotten. I also found the first episode online, and watched that too.

Just like a crazy dream, it would sound preposterous if I were to describe it to someone:

"Well there was this big-headed mayor with a dragon tail and cowboy boots, and witch just like in Wizard of Oz, but she was more colorful and funny. All of the trees and buildings and objects could talk, and there was a frog that was just like Judy Garland, and talking cloud heads with John Wayne, and sometimes everyone would just start to sing and dance to music that came from nowhere!"

The psychedelic colors and reference to "puffin" in the name have apparently led to speculation that the whole thing was one big drug reference. After watching the episode I don't think so. It's possible that Sid and Marty Croft were influenced by the times they were in, but to me they were just trying to throw everything into a show that they thought might appeal to a kid and keep them watching.

And we were mesmerized, I remember that much. My parents were probably glad enough to have us occupied with the TV and a bowl of Count Chocula so they could fit in some well-deserved relaxation on Saturday mornings. I think I had a secret crush on that Jimmy with his magic flute, English accent, and wide-collared yellow shirt, who wouldn't?

Looking at the show now, the production quality is truly awful, the jokes are terrible, and clearly political correctness was a concept yet to be invented. And yet it is captivating, not just for the nostalgia but because it is so incredibly bizarre.

Kids shows today are different. They are every bit as targeted and produced as the programming for adults. There is some quirkiness, such as in the brilliant Sponge Bob Square Pants cartoons, and Jeffrey just started watching a new show called Flap Jack that is certainly on the weird side, but the difference is that the weirdness is intentional. I think that the kookyness that found it's way into the old 70's cartoons (and those Rankin-Bass animations) got there because nobody cared very much what went into the children's programming, and they let the hippies do it.

So we have this unique generation of us that were subliminally influenced by the idea of talking houses, sea-monsters for friends, dentist elves, misfit toys and who knows what else. Maybe it made us think more creatively. Or not! I don't know if this stuff had any lasting effect on me, but it sure feels sweet to go back for a moment, like eating a bowl of Sugar Smacks.


Anonymous said...

Everyone likes Sugar Smacks, even this guy:


kid_curry said...

That is the freakiest thing I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Now I can't get that theme song out of my head. Thanks!
- Renee

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mindy- Why don't you blog about your first love- Bozo the clown? You must have been glued to that show. I don't remember HR Puffnstuff. I never paid much attention to children's shows but couldn't believe that Telatubbies had been on for quite a while. That must have been the worst - for kids under 3, I guess. Even that gay Spongepants character seemed more interesting. Aunt C.

Aunt Kathy said...

For LITTLE Kathy, back in the 50's the best cartoon shows were "Popeye" and "Rocky the Flying Squirrel". I loved Bullwinkle and those Russian spys!
Sometimes I currently put on "Curious George" while putzing around the house. Charming! My birds hear George laugh and their crown feathers stand straight up!

Rebecca Binno Savage said...

Glad I sent you something that inspired a blog entry! When I played that "youtube" of H. R. Puffinstuff here at home it stopped Hal in his tracks. He remembered it!

I got the youtube post from my friends via facebook. I've found facebook to be very nostalgic!