Marty Krofft, famous for co-creating beloved kids TV series like H.R. Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, and Land of the Lost with his brother Sid, died on Saturday at the age of 86, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The brothers first began in television design and costumes and characters for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, which led to an invitation to create their own show, the now-iconic H.R. Pufnstuf. Describing their working relationship in an interview with the Archive of American Television in 2000, Krofft’s older brother Sid said, “I get a dream, and Marty gets it done.”
Sid and Marty Krofft became famous for their magical, whimsical style that has often been described as psychedelic. Surprisingly, though, they weren’t always involved in children’s entertainment. The pair got their start as theatrical puppeteers, opening an adult-oriented burlesque puppet show, Les Poupees de Paris, together in 1958.
Marty Krofft and his brother Sid created puppets together for a variety of live entertainment venues, including the 1968 HemisFair in San Antonio, Texas, where they debuted a dragon character named Luther who was reworked into the lead character of Pufnstuf for the series that bore his name.
The brothers’ style was so singular that, in 1977, the pair was able to successfully sue McDonald’s for copying their character designs as the basis for Mayor McCheese and the McDonaldland characters.
The styles and designs of Sid and Marty Krofft became popular outside the younger set as well, with the short-lived but popular H.R. Pufnstuf finding an audience among College students, who of course wondered what kind of stuff was being puffed. While the Psychedelic look of the series invited rumors about drug use inspiring its whimsical world, Marty denied there was any such connection, saying in 2016, “You can’t do a show stoned.”
Though it is now the stuff of legend among people who grew up in the 1970s, Sid and Marty Krofft’s H.R. Pufnstuf was canceled after its first season because NBC would not pay the brothers enough money to return. The brothers’ style was so singular that, in 1977, the pair was able to successfully sue McDonald’s for copying their character designs as the basis for Mayor McCheese and the McDonaldland characters.
Marty Krofft spoke of their distinctive style with its bright colors and edgy designs, saying, “Disney doesn’t have an edge.”
The pair went on to create The Bugaloos, which ran from 1970 to 72, Lidsville (a 1971-73 Claymation series), Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (1973-75) and Land of the Lost (1974-76), all of which met with great success in syndication.
Marty Krofft spoke of their distinctive style with its bright colors and edgy designs, saying, “Disney doesn’t have an edge.” While other creators eventually sold out to corporate interests, the brothers maintained control of their creative output, mostly with success, even opening The World of Sid & Marty Krofft theme park in Atlanta, Georgia. The park only lasted six months because of the economic recession in the 1970s, but the Croft Brothers independent spirit persisted.
Sid and Marty Krofft continued developing shows until 2015 with the Nickelodeon series Mutt & Stuff, which even featured a Pufnstuf cameo. Marty Krofft was preceded in death in 2013 by his wife, Christa Rogalski, whom he married in 1965, and is survived by his brothers Harry and Sid, three daughters Deanna (and her husband, Randy), Kristina and Kendra (Lou); grandchildren Taylor, Karson, Griffin, Georgia and Drake; and great-grandchild Maddox. Donations in his name can be made to Marley’s Mutts.