As a child, I was scared by everything from the Blue Meanies from The Beatles‘ Yellow Submarine movie to Waylon Flowers’ wise-cracking Madame puppet.
Admittedly, I was a weird kid.
But in my defense, growing up in the 1970s and ’80s meant that you were bombarded with supposedly lovable characters who were in fact nothing but weaponized nightmare fuel. (See the entire creative output of Sid and Marty Krofft for examples of this, especially, shudder, H.R. Pufnstuf). Chief among these marketable terrors were the characters featured Hanna-Barbera’s variety show/hellscape The Banana Splits.
Airing for two seasons from 1968-70, then repeated in syndication for perpetuity, this series combined the live-action antics of the animal-costumed characters Fleegle, Drooper, Bingo, and Snorky as they had indescrible adventures filmed at amusement parks that were intercut with other segments.
Most of the Splits-centric portions of the program had the animal pals getting into allegedly wacky adventures and singing songs. But due to their psychedelic character designs and the bizarre nonsensical nature of the scripts — you can trace the DNA of Adult Swim cartoons back to the randomness of shows like The Banana Splits — the entire enterprise was head-scratching at best, absolutely terrifying at worst. Seriously. The nightmares I had still come up in therapy from time to time. I wish I were joking. Take a look:
Anyway, this little journey into Stupid Trauma of My Past makes me feel oddly vindicated. You see, I am not the only person who thought Fleegle et al were shit-your-pants scary. Thus the news that SyFy and Warner Brothers Home Entertainment will return later this year in a revival of the characters (written by Jed Elinoff & Scott Thomas and directed by Danishka Esterhazy) that lets them embrace their horrific side.
Here’s the official synopsis:
The Banana Splits will offer a new take on the classic characters, which were first introduced to audiences in 1968 with The Banana Splits Adventure Hour variety program. In the upcoming horror thriller, a boy named Harley and his family (brother Austin, mother Beth, and father Mitch) attend a taping of The Banana Splits TV show, which is supposed to be a fun-filled birthday for young Harley and business as usual for Rebecca, the producer of the series. But things take an unexpected turn — and the body count quickly rises. Can Harley, his mom and their new pals safely escape?
The cast includes Dani Kind (Wyonna Earp) as Beth, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong (The Kindness of Strangers) as Harley, Romeo Carere as Austin, Steve Lund (Street Legal, Schitt’s Creek) as Mitch, and Sara Canning (The Vampire Diaries, A Series of Unfortunate Events, War for the Planet of the Apes) as Rebecca. The press release promises that “the beloved Bingo, Fleegle, Snorky, and Drooper will also appear.”
By mixing the IP mash-up of established characters with horror that made things like Afterlife with Archie and Scooby Apocalypse so succesful (with a dash of Five Nights at Freddy’s thrown in for good measure), this new take on The Banana Splits feels kind of inspired. But then again, I can’t hear the show’s popular theme tune (“The Tra La La Song”) without breaking out into a cold sweat. So your mileage may vary. There’s no word yet on a premiere date, but we’ll have much more on this as additional information becomes available. I just hope I can sleep tonight…