Marty Krofft and his brother Sid are behind some of the biggest family television series of all time. From H.R. Pufnstuf to Donny & Marie, Land of the Lost and Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, odds are, if you grew up in the 1960s, ’70s or ’80s, you’ve watched one of their many TV hits.
These days, the brothers, now 78 and 86 years old, respectively, are bringing their talents, and some familiar story lines, back to the screen — this time via the digital world.
Marty Krofft spoke to StreamDaily Feb. 25 just as shooting was set to begin on the remake of the classic kids’ series Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.
The original show was part of NBC’s Saturday morning line-up from 1973 to 1975. The pilot of the reboot will stream on Amazon’s SVOD service later this year, though no specific date has been set for its premiere.
The Kroffts have also revived Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, a 1970s’s live action-adventure series that originally starred Diedre Hall and Judy Strangis. The reboot, a co-production with Legendary Digital Media, is slated to run on Fullscreen’s yet-to-launch SVOD, and features YouTube stars Hannah Hart and Grace Helbig in the title roles. Krofft said the show will also be re-packaged as a feature-length movie and distributed direct-to-consumer on iTunes in June.
The content, said Krofft, is timeless: “We didn’t know it at the time, but everything we made was evergreen. I used to tell people, ‘Your grandkids will be watching this show,’ and turns out I was right.”
There are some new tricks the brothers have had to learn, however, to adapt to the new streaming reality.
Krofft said he and his brother are glad to make content for any platform, but admitted it is difficult to get the desired production quality given smaller budgets in digital compared to linear.
“You don’t want anyone to look at something and know how much money you did or didn’t spend,” he said of the struggle.
Of course, production quality is not the foremost concern for children: “They look at it and say ‘We like it’ or ‘We don’t like it’.”
But the legendary creators are definitely mindful of the reaction of older fans (the parents of the latest crop of young viewers) to the renewed stories, especially if they were loyal to the original.
“There are a lot of fans, they could still sing you the theme song 40 years later. They’ll get pretty pissed off if you just go change stuff. You can’t really change it, just like Disney can’t change Mickey Mouse. It’s better to have something you don’t have to change in the first place,” said Krofft.
That means that the plot and characters — particularly signature puppets, like Sigmund — will stay more or less the same, he said.
Sigmund is aimed at children 11 and under, said Krofft. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, meanwhile, is aimed at millennials and older (teen) Gen Z viewers.
Of the latter project, Krofft said working with established digital talent like Helbig and Hart (who have more than five million online subscribers between them) will almost certainly bring the series a whole new fanbase of loyal, Gen Z and millennial audience.
“What’s great is Grace and Hannah come with their own audience. You’ll have fans of the original, fans of Grace and Hannah, and fans of strong female roles. What more could you ask for?” he said.
The Kroffts initially developed the reboot starring the Youtubers four years ago, but put the project aside pending a more favorable fan environment.
“At the time, no one was really interested in female superheroes,” said Krofft.
Now, with the rise of female leads in action movies — like Daisy Ridley in the most recent Star Wars film — and the impending return of Wonder Woman to the airwaves, that’s all changed.
“You have to follow the leader,” he said. “Once one person does it, everyone’s doing it. You either hop on the train or you miss it.”
Krofft acknowledged that while TV viewer trends have shifted, both in terms of what people like to see on screen and the screens they watch it on, the recipe behind good content remains the unchanged.
You need “characters that are likable (and) humor that people appreciate,” he said.