10 tra la la true facts about the Banana Splits
Learn how the beloved children's show relates to Barry White, Rice Krispies and Lethal Weapon movies.
Top image: The Everett Collection
One banana, two banana, three banana, four… If you are not singing "Tra La La" by now, you were probably not born in the 1960s. Though it ran for just 31 episodes at the end of the 1960s, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was one of the most beloved pieces of children's entertainment of the era. The infectious theme song certainly helped.
The variety show, a sort of Laugh-In for little kids, centered on the fantastical musical group of a dog, a gorilla, a lion and an elephant. The Hanna-Barbera production featured bubblegum music, comedy skits, cartoons and action shorts. After its last original airing in 1970, the series lived on in reruns as The Banana Splits and Friends Show. Subsequent generations have fallen for the animals' rockin' charms thanks to a popular Liz Phair cover song and a 2008 reboot.
Here are some things you might not know about the Banana Splits.
1. Sid and Marty Krofft designed the costumes.
Between creating puppets for The Dean Martin Show and their breakthrough Saturday morning success with H.R. Pufnstuf, the budding children's television pioneers constructed the Banana Splits for Hanna-Barbera. It was the rare collaboration between the two iconic duos. How did it come about? In a 1993 interview with Film Threat magazine, Sid explained, "[We] were the only ones — including Disney — putting people inside of suits at the time. No one had ever heard of that."
Image: AP Photo / Harold Filan
2. It was originally meant to be called 'The Banana Bunch.'
In his autobiography, My Life in 'Toons, Joe Barbera explained that the original name for the series was to be The Banana Bunch. Unfortunately, there was already a children's book by that name, and the author refused permission to use the title. The change had repercussions with merchandising. Kellogg's had already printed up 1.25 million cereal boxes branded with "The Banana Bunch." They were tossed into the trash.
Image: The Everett Collection
3. Kellogg's gave away Banana Splits puppets in boxes of Puffa Puffa Rice.
Speaking of the Battle Creek breakfast giant, Kellogg's packaged plastic hand puppets in boxes of the gone-but-not-forgotten Puffa Puffa Rice and Froot Loops cereals. You would have to plow through many boxes to collect Bingo, Drooper, Fleegle and Snorky.
Image: Kellogg's / YouTube
4. Kellogg's released exclusive tracks.
In addition to the hand puppets, Kellogg's, the show's sponsor, offered original Banana Splits music to those fans who mailed in box tops. The company released two 45 EPs, for "The Tra La La Song" and "Doin' the Banana Split," which came with exclusive B-sides like "I Enjoy Being a Boy (In Love with You)," "The Beautiful Calliopa" and "The Very First Kid on my Block." The songs on these releases were in "twin-track" stereo, with the vocals in one channel and the music in the other. That made for easy home karaoke.
5. Barry White wrote music for the act.
Several rising musicians worked behind the scenes to give the Splits their groovy sound. Al Kooper, who played with Bob Dylan in his revolutionary electric phase, penned "You're the Lovin' End." Gene Pitney, who had credits like "He's a Rebel" to his name, was the songwriter behind "Two Ton Tessie." Perhaps the most unlikely man behind the music was sensual soul crooner Barry White, who wrote "Doin' the Banana Split." The first verse began, "Slippin' in one by one, we'll be doin' it, doin' it, doin' it."
6. "The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)" charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
Just barely. The cheerful ditty peaked at No. 96 on Billboard's Top 100 on February 8, 1969, sandwiched between Percy Sledge and Tiny Tim. That might not seem terribly impressive, but how many children's TV themes can you think of that charted?
Image: Decca Records / Discogs
7. The single version of "The Tra La La Song" is different from the TV version.
8. The advertising man behind "Snap, Crackle, Pop" wrote "The Tra La La Song."
Is there much difference between a brilliant jingle and a great pop hook? N. B. Winkless, Jr. of Chicago's Leo Burnett Agency came up with "The Tra La La Song" in his suburban home. He had previously written "Good Morning, Good Morning" for Kellogg's Corn Flakes and the "Snap, Crackle, Pop" song for Rice Krispies. The song was credited to Ritchie Adams and Mark Barkan, one of the music directors for the show, due to contractual reasons.
9. Richard Donner directed the "Danger Island" sequences.
Before Jan-Michael Vincent was darting through the skies on Airwolf, he was starring as Link on Danger Island, one of the live-action shorts aired inside The Banana Splits. Future Superman, The Goonies and Lethal Weapon director Donner was the man behind the camera for the serial adventures.
Image: Warner Bros. Television Distribution
10. The Banana Buggy and the Moon Buggy on 'Space: 1999' were the same ride.
The Splits zipped about in their cool Banana Buggies, which were modified versions of the amphibious six-wheeled vehicle for consumers known as the Amphicat. Snorky had his decked out in red polka dots, but Martin Landau opted for banana yellow with his Amphicat moon buggy on the cult sci-fi series Space: 1999.
Image: ITV Studios