In 1967, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera approached the Krofft Brothers to design costumes for a television show which would feature animated and live-action segments, with the whole show hosted by a bubblegum rock group ofanthropomorphic characters. The format of the show was loosely based on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. The Banana Splits Adventure Hour premiered on NBC on September 7, 1968.
The Kroffts give credit to the success of the series for opening the door for their own entry into television. NBC picked up the Krofft series H.R. Pufnstuf, which was launched during an hour-long special hosted by The Banana Splits on August 30, 1969.
The show's live-action segment Danger Island, a cliffhanger serial, as well as the short-lived Micro Ventures, an animated series consisting of only four episodes, ran alongside with the animated segments Arabian Knights and The Three Musketeers. Actor Jan Michael Vincent (billed as Michael Vincent) appeared in the live-action component Danger Island; all the live-action material filmed for the series' first season (including the Banana Splits and Danger Island segments) was directed by Richard Donner.
Each show represented a meeting of the "Banana Splits Club", and the wraparoundsfeatured the adventures of the club members, who doubled as a musical quartet, meant to be reminiscent of The Beatles and (especially) their NBC counterpart, The Monkees. The main characters were Fleegle, a beagle; Bingo, a gorilla; Drooper, alion, and Snorky (called "Snork" in the theme song lyrics), an elephant. Fleegle would assume the role as leader of the Banana Splits and preside at club meetings. The characters were played by actors in voluminous fleecy costumes similar to later Sid and Marty Krofft characters such as H.R. Pufnstuf. They all spoke in English (Drooper with a Southern drawl in the manner of Michael Nesmith, Fleegle with a pronouncedlisp), except for Snorky who "spoke" in honking noises.
The Splits' segments, including songs-of-the-week and comedy skits, served as wraparounds for a number of individual segments. In the second season, The Three Musketeers segments were replaced with repeats of The Hillbilly Bears, a cartoon segment that previously appeared on The Atom Ant Show (1965–1968).
For the first season, some of the live-action segments (specifically those used during the musical segments) were shot at Six Flags Over Texas, an amusement park located in Arlington, Texas. For the second season, filming took place at the Coney Island amusement park, located in eastern Cincinnati, Ohio. In many episodes, the Banana Splits would be seen riding on the Runaway Mine Train roller coasters, Log Flumes, Bumper Cars, Merry-Go-Rounds, and many other rides at Six Flags and Coney Island.
Famous too were the "Banana Buggies" mentioned in the theme song. These were seen driven by each live-action character in the opening and closing segments and occasionally in the wraparound and music video segments as well. The buggies were customizedAmphicat six-wheel drive all-terrain vehicles each decorated to resemble the character who drove them. Plastic 1/25 scale model kits were issued by Aurora Plastics Corporation under catalog number 832 beginning in 1969; these were never reissued by Aurora, but have since been reissued as high-end, resin-based kits.
The amusement park scenes in the original series were not filmed at Kings Island, which opened in nearby Mason, Ohio in 1972, some three years after filming for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour wrapped in 1969. But some of the rides seen in the series were relocated to Kings Island (following a flood which led to the closing of Coney Island; the park later reopened on a smaller scale) and the live-action scenes in the 1972 production The Banana Splits in Hocus Pocus Park were indeed filmed at Kings Island in Cincinnati.
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was one of the first two Hanna-Barbera productions in 1968 in which William Hanna and Joseph Barbera received executive producer credits; the other being The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where Edward Rosen served as producer on both series.They would not, however, assume the title full-time for another five years.The Banana Splits was also one of the first Saturday Morning cartoon shows to utilize an adult laugh track.
The series was syndicated on Cartoon Network during the mid-1990s, usually airing in late night hours. The show was removed from the station's lineup in 2003.