Have you ever wondered what kind of crazy things you would see if you were strung out on drugs? Maybe yellow dragons? Talking trees? How about a golden flute with diamond acne? According to the world of Sid & Marty Krofft, that is exactly what they saw every week during the filming of the children’s (?) classic television show H. R. Pufnstuf!
“Can’t do a little, ’cause you can’t do enough (drugs)!”
Even the makers of this psychedelic program admit that it appealed on three levels: 1) to children 2) to adults, and 3) to hippies who were smoking the funny stuff! However, joking aside, Sid Krofft did clarify in the interview on this set that there was no overt attempts to add drug culture to the program. His brother, Marty, added that no one could produce a program of any kind while high on drugs! Makes sense. But you just know we aren’t done with the drug humor yet!
The complete series contains seventeen episodes that were originally broadcast Saturday mornings from September 6, 1969, to December 27, 1969.
Launched in 1969, labeled the Summer of Love by some, the show revolved around the adventures of Jimmy, a young boy trapped on a magical Living Island, where virtually every object, animal and plant can talk and oftentimes move. The evil Witchiepoo tries to steal Jimmy’s talking golden flute, named Freddy, while Jimmy tries to escape the island and return home. Jimmy is protected and guided by the island’s Mayor, a friendly dragon named H.R. Pufnstuf.
Drug culture references are heavily inferred against this program but cannot be justified. I’ve read articles on the connection of this show to illegal drugs, and although some seem plausible, many are a stretch at best. For example, many interpreted the H. R. in the main characters name to be code for “Hand Rolled”, with his title of the Mayor being short for “marijuana.” Again, Sid Krofft debunks this theory by telling us in the interview on this set that the H R was actually Royal Highness reversed, to represent Pufnstuf’s Mayoral standing. The main character name was simply a reworking of Puff the Magic Dragon, a popular song at the time.
This debate aside, you can’t deny this program was super trippy! But I think it was all in good fun, with the Fourth Wall being broken often, especially by Witchiepoo.
All 17 episodes are contained on this 3-disc set. The extras are wonderful! They contain interviews with Sid and Marty Krofft themselves, Billie Hayes (Witchiepoo), and Jack Wild (Jimmy).
I was also delighted to learn that former Mouseketeer Sharon Baird did several characters. She performed in the puppet costumes and provided the voices. Speaking of voices, many characters mimicked the sound of famous stars of old, such as Ed Wynn, Judy Garland, John Wayne, and others. It’s fun to try to recognize the nods to these well-known personalities!
To conclude, I’d like to share some of the lyrics from the opening credit sequence. It may just add fuel to the drug theory fire, but you be the judge:
“Once upon a summertime, just a dream from yesterday,
A boy and his magic golden flute heard a boat from off the bay.
“Come and play with me, Jimmy, come and play with me,
and I will take you on a trip, far across the sea.”
A trip, eh? Nothing to see here. Just a boy with a magic flute listening to and trusting a talking boat. Obviously this program wasn’t concerned with Stranger Danger! Fortunately (?) for this young lad, there’s another weird stranger about to come into his life. Who, you may ask?
“Whoa, I got, you got, everybody do got someone who cares, by the name of:
H. R. Pufnstuf!” (Mr. Hand Rolled Puffing Stuff)
FUN FACTS: The Krofft team had to sue McDonald’s for copyright infringement over how closely the McDonaldland Characters mirrored the world of Pufnstuf. This promotion was used in commercials from 1971-2003. The Kroffts also claimed that specifically the character Mayor McCheese was an infringement on their copyrighted character “H.R. Pufnstuf” (a mayor himself). After many years and appeals, the Kroffts won over one million dollars in damages. So if you ever wondered what happened to McDonaldland, and why it disappeared, now you know!