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Joseph Scarbrough launched what he called "The Scarblog" as a way of cataloging his work over the years, as well as going into greater detail of things on his mind (known as "Unfinished Thoughts").

Saturday, May 5, 2018

My Unfinished Thoughts on Sid & Marty Krofft

I often write about Jim Henson and/or his work with the Muppets, or other projects of his from on this blog - but can I help it? The man is my biggest hero; he's one of the reasons I was inspired to become a puppeteer. That isn't to say that he's my only inspirational hero, though. There have been other noteworthy puppeteers whose influence has rubbed off on me - such as ventriloquist Shari Lewis: that's such an amazing skill, and a tough one to master at that. But perhaps the ones who have been a significant amount of inspiration on me are the ones who practically owned Saturday Morning TV in the 70s and 80s with their psychedelic worlds of strangers in strange lands befriending all sorts of wacky foam rubber creatures, while always thwarting off some outlandish villain in heavy make-up.

I am referring, of course, to Sid & Marty Krofft.


Walt Disney always said to put your name on top of what
you produce.
As much as I admire Jim Henson for what he's done with the art of puppetry, I admire the Kroffts for not only that, but also for their consistent and protective business practises as well (well . . . evidently, Marty is the one with a knack for business; Sid, not so much): as independent producers who worked tirelessly to keep their enterprise afloat with meager budgets that didn't even begin to cover the costs for their lavish sets and life-sized foam rubber creatures, the Kroffts are really the poster boys for artistic entrepreneurs. Taking advice from Walt Disney himself, the Kroffts never sold out to bigger conglomerate corporations (lookin' at you, Jim Henson Company), never sold off their intellectual properties (still lookin' at you, Henson Company), and managed to hold onto everything they ever created over their decades-spanning careers (my eyes haven't left, JHC). This is why the Kroffts are among my biggest heroes: they're savvy enough to make sure that nobody out there takes anything away from them, and remain very protective of what they've created . . . something that Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. and Janice Karman learned the hard way after they sold the Alvin and The Chipmunks franchise to Universal Studios in the 90s. While much of what I've done to craft my puppetry comes from Henson, much of my business sense (or, what little sense I've been able to make of business) most definitely comes from Krofft - whatever I create, I intend to hold onto for dear life.

With dozens of shows, a number of specials, and even an odd number of movies under their belts, the Kroffts were recently honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 45th Daytime Emmy's this year!

If you can believe it, Sid & Marty Krofft are back in action! Just when you think they'd be spending time kicking back, relaxing, and enjoying the fruits of their labor from years past (Marty has said if you retire, and stay home watching daytime television, you'd be dead within a month), the Kroffts have brought in a surge of new projects, from their successful preschool series on Nick Jr. MUTT & STUFF, to digital reboots of SIGMUND AND THE SEAMONSTERS and ELECTRAWOMAN & DYNAGIRL, the Kroffts are certainly beginning to leave a mark on a new generations of fans to enjoy!

Not just ElectraWoman & DynaGirl . . . this is ElectraWoman & DynaGirl -
ON STEROIDS!
Granted, I haven't seen much of their new work - aside from seeing a number of episodes of MUTT & STUFF on Nick Jr., their reboots of SIGMUND AND THE SEAMONSTERS and ELECTRAWOMAN & DYNAGIRL are on platforms I don't have access to, so all I've been able to see of these are online clips, trailers, promos, and what have you. From what I've seen, it's absolutely amazing to see what the Kroffts can do when they actually have budgets to work with! If you know your Krofft history like I do, their shows from the 70s were almost always over budgeted . . . I don't think networks realize that puppetry is not an inexpensive art form - and while the networks would budget the Kroffts' shows for a few thousand dollars, it actually took a few million to create their expansive puppets, costumes, sets, props, and everything else. This time, however, that doesn't appear to be the case. In fact, looking at examples of the Kroffts' recent outings, the difference is quite startling: the production values look almost cinematic, and the puppets and suits almost look like something you would except to see from Jim Henson's Creature Shop. It's almost as if the Kroffts broke free from the confines of limitations and stomped them into the ground.

A magical world of flat, cardboard scenery
With that being said however, I'm also sensing a feeling that what the Kroffts are gaining in budgets and advances in technology, they're losing in charm. Both Sid and Marty have joked that back in the day, the networks would see how much they could produce for as little money as possible, and as a result, if there's one thing that their previous shows are known for is their campiness: through all the limitations the Kroffts had to work through, we got show after show after show after show with sets looking like they were made out of painted cardboard; stiff-looking characters with mouths that didn't necessarily hit each syllable properly, or large googly eyes that had no focus; not to mention the primitive, low-quality video tape recording. Nevertheless, the World of Sid & Marty Krofft was something people hadn't ever seen before, so it can definitely be argued that it was those limitations, small budgets, and campiness that gave Krofft shows their charm - because what they lacked in financial stability, they made up for with adventurous stories, engaging plots, unique premises, and wacky, yet lovable characters.

This isn't unlike what I wrote about a few years ago, about how puppets are now being built so perfectly and flawlessly that they're actually becoming cold and artificial in the process.

But to reiterate, one of the main reasons for the Kroffts' campy look of the 70s and even into the 80s was meager budgets handed out by the networks. Now that we're seeing what the Kroffts can do when they have actual budgets to work with, who knows? Perhaps if they had this kind of financial backing way back when, this could be what Krofft shows were meant to look like all along. As I said, there's certainly a very grand, cinematic scope to their current work that was lacking from their older work (with, perhaps, H.R. PUFNSTUF being an exception, considering it was shot on film as opposed to video tape). Clearly, these aren't the Krofft shows of previous generations . . . but again, the Kroffts are garnering all new generations of fans now that they're back in action, and it's wonderful to see they're still going strong after nearly six decades of psychedelic and magical adventures in puppetry and live action; who knows where all this may lead them in years to come?

And again, after those six decades of Krofft magic, they more than deserved their Lifetime Achievement Award!

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