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.

Image: Hanna-Barbera Productions / Discogs

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."

Image: Hanna-Barbera Productions / Discogs

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.


The single version expands the shorter television version, adding a rocking bridge and some alterations in the arrangement. Click on the links to hear the differences. 

Image: Hanna-Barbera Productions / Discogs

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.

Image: Kellogg's

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

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VaughnBaskin 41 months ago
JoeSHill 41 months ago
This NBC Saturday Morning TV series was both successful and high exceptional, especially for a Hanna-Barbera Production- the very first of its kind! NBC had debuted the series in Early 1968, and almost immediately, it became a hit! with the animated "Arabian Knights" & "The Three Musketeers" (and later, "Micro Ventures") the segment was complemented by the live-action serial, "Danger Island", that starred Frank Altetter ("IT'S ABOUT TIME"), Rockne Tarkington ("BLACK SAMPSON") Jan Micheal Vincent ("AIRWOLF") and Kim Kahana, who played "Chongo", who later went on to become a successful stuntman in Hollywood, along with Ronnie Troup, Bobby Troup's daughter, who played "Lesley", and Victor Eberg who played "Mu Tan, The Pirate"-a great segment for a beloved NBC Saturday Morning series from the late 60s- but the Bubble Gum music was also the finest, and among the people who contributed to its music were Mark Barkan and Ritchie Addams, who were later used in Filmation Associates' "THE ARCHIE SHOW" on CBS in Fall 1968. but other people who were involved with "THE BANANA SPLITS" were folks like Fouad Said, who also worked on NBC's "I SPY", and Anthony Spinner, who was a producer of "THE MAN FROM UNCLE" and "SEARCH", and William Faralla, who worked on Irwin Allen's "LOST IN SPACE" (Jonathan Harris also voiced one of the Three Musketeer characters in the series) so after NBC canceled the series after the 1969-70 TV season, Taft Broadcasting, the then owners of Hanna-Barbera Productions, had officially released the series into domestic TV syndication in Fall 1970 under the title, "THE BANANA SPLITS AND FRIENDS SHOW" which including "SECRET SQUIRREL and ATOM ANT" (1965) "THE ADVENTURES OF GULLIVER" (1968), and the former NBC series, "THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN" (1968-69) an impressive half live and half animated series that was worthy of an Emmy Award. the reruns were heavily circulated throughout most of the 1970s and '80s- and in 1972, The Banana Splits made a brief return on "THE ABC SATURDAY SUPERSTAR MOVIE" in "The Banana Splits In Hocus Pocus Park" in a half live and half animated TV film from Hanna-Barbera. In Fall 1977, Hanna-Barbera attempted to duplicate the success of their Banana Splits format by creating "THE SKATEBIRDS" for CBS Saturday Mornings, which were live-action costumed birds on roller skates, along with the animated "Wonder Wheels, "The Three Robonic Stooges", and the live-action "Mystery Island", was featured the Robot from "LOST IN SPACE" as computer robot POPS. the 1977 series failed in midseason, and was canceled in 1978, proving that Hanna-Barbera could not succeed the popularity of "THE BANANA SPLITS".
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