If you grew up in the seventies and eighties, the works of puppeter siblings Sid and Marty Krofft were likely part of your everyday life. Starting in 1969 with their show H.R. Pufnstuf, then continuing on with series like Lidsville, Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Land of the Lost, and many others, the brothers’ contribution to television later went into syndication for decades after, their influence reaching far beyond the series’ initial runs.
One of their classic series, the female-centric superhero show Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, is getting a new lease on life as YouTube comedians Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart plan to reboot the series for a new generation for Legendary Digital Media. At Comic-Con, I got the chance to sit down with the creators and discuss not only the new Electra Woman show, but their other new projects, and decades-long legacy of family entertainment.
Nerdist: So the big news right now is that your classic female superhero series from the seventies Electra Woman and Dyna Girl is coming back as a comedy series with Legendary Digital.
Marty Kroft: Yes, we’re bringing it back with Legendary. We cast the two girls from YouTube, Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart.
Nerdist: Was it your idea to bring back Electra Woman and Dyna Girl? Or did they approach you? I know you guys made a pilot for an Electra Woman revival back in 2001 or so.
MK. I think it was them, along with Legendary. It took us a while to work it out. I have co-creative control, but you know…the word ‘control’ is always a problem. I’ve always said that control is good, but only if you do exactly what I want you to do. If you don’t, then I go crazy [laughs].
N: When you created the original back in the seventies, it was riding a wave of female heroes in popular culture. Aside from Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, you had Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman, and Charlie’s Angels all on the air. And then it all suddenly seemed to stop. We’ve had stuff like Buffy and Xena since, but never one big wave like in the seventies. Do you think we’ve gone forward or back when it comes to female heroes?
MK: You know, at that time there was the same problem that they’re having now, only now they’re begining to catch up. I tried to do Elektra Woman and Dyna Girl as a movie four or five years ago, but no one would touch it because they were women. Then all of a sudden, it’s ‘follow the leader’ time. You get one superhero that’s a woman that works, and then it’s OK.
Sid Krofft: Well, you wanna know something? We’re gonna bring it back. What goes around comes around. It’s time. Women are working far more in the industry than ever before. And there are more women fans than ever before.
MK: This new version is going to be more adult obviously, because of who they (Helbig and Hart) are. When we started the process, the first script had something like 400 profanity words. To which I said “no way, that’s not going to happen.” So now there’s maybe one. Now it’s all good. Fullscreen is the distrubutor, and they’re eight, eleven-minute episodes, which can be strung together into a movie. I think it’s turned out OK.
SK: You gotta move with the times. It’s 2015 now.
MK: We have another new series too, Mutt n Stuff, that premiered yesterday on Nickelodeon, Fridays at 10 AM, which we made with our partner Cesar Milan (The Dog Whisperer.) I always say, ‘You can’t mess with dogs, puppets, and kids.’
SK: Yeah, kids, puppets, and dogs. I started in the business when I was ten years old, I had a puppet act. I don’t know how good it was, but puppets always stop the show, along with kids and dogs. And I always got booked. I was the opening act for Judy Garland for over a year. Oh boy, do I have some stories about that. Plus I woked with Sinatra, Liberace, you name it.
N: With Electra Woman and Dyna Girl coming back, do you have any other of your classic properties from the seventies that you’re dying to bring back?
MK: We are going to bring back Sigmund and the Sea Monsters back for sure. We’re going to do a pilot. I don’t want to go straight to a series, I want to make sure it’s going to work first. Then we’re going to bring back The Bugaloos. I’ve got Cyndi Lauper to play Benita Bizarre, and hopefully produce the music. And it’ll be pop/country music.
SK: Well, our “first child” was H.R. Pufnstuf. That was always my favorite, so I’d love to bring that one back. But I loved Sigmund the Sea monster too. I came up with the idea for Sigmund one morning on beach in La Jolla.
N: Maybe your most beloved property of all is Land of the Lost. I know it came back as a movie in 2009, but that was met with, shall we say, mixed results. Any plans to make another attempt?
MK: Yes. We mad a big mistake doing it the way we did (as a comedic spoof film, starring Will Ferrell). We want to do it the right way. First thing we’re going to do is hire a writer, and pay them enough money—get a classic writer—and have them do the story that we want to do. And not go with a studio first.
N: Do you forsee it coming back on television again, or as a movie?
MK: Oh no, not on television, but as a motion picture. I mean, we don’t plan on spending $200 million plus dollars. That’s not what makes it work. We’re going to make a movie that has heart, characters, and make the Sleestaks who they are.
N: Let me just say, the Sleestaks scared the crap out of me as a little kid. It was that noise they made.
MK: I can tell you, there were thirty five of them in the movie, and they didn’t scare anybody.
N: The list of shows you’ve created is so huge, and they still live on in the hearts of the generation that grew up with them, like mine. A lot of people my age now share these shows with their own kids.
SK: It’s the most amazing thing, I can’t even tell you. At the time you create it, you don’t really know what you have, you just live in the moment. You go on to the next one. And you don’t know if it’ll last. But I could be in Topeka Kansas, hand someone my credit card, and they freak out at tseeing my name. And it’s been thirty, forty years. And a mother and her little girl sang the entire Puffnstuff theme song to me the other day, and when that happens, you just have to put your hand over your heart.