The Banana Splits as an R-rated horror movie? This '70s kid is OK with that

Commentary: One banana, two banana, three banana, DEATH.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, and generational studies Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
3 min read

Fleagle, Bingo, Drooper and Snork. If these names ring some kind of long-lost bell in your mind, back there with the memories of Koogle peanut-butter spread, Schoolhouse Rock and Time for Timer, it's time to lock all your doors and start sleeping with a machete and a giant dog.

The Banana Splits are back as the main characters in a Five Nights at Freddy's-style horror flick, and the first trailer dropped Thursday.

I was a 1970s kid, so I watched a lot of television (duh), but it being the 1970s, much of it was terrible television. We watched whatever was on, whenever it came on, staring at anything that filled the time before all the TV stations switched over to golf or pro bowling and mom kicked us all outside to step on rusty nails with our bare feet while she drank Tab and smoked Larks.

I watched the original Charlie's Angels, endless Brady Bunch reruns, and everything Sid and Marty Krofft got their crazy puppeteer hands on. And I watched The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, Hanna-Barbera's first attempt at mixing live action and animation, with the costumes and sets made by the Kroffts because of course they were.

The Banana Splits were four guys in animal costumes who played music in a (terrible) rock band, had meetings in a (psychedelic) clubhouse, and drove around in the (coveted) banana buggies, customized six-wheel ATVs that looked like Fisher-Price-mobiles. 

Their clownish skits would introduce cartoon and live-action shorts (Danger Island! Micro Ventures!) Their theme song was the first earworm many of us kids came to know, starting out with a bunch of tra-la-las, moving into a one-banana, two-banana motif, and throwing in random, we-gotta-rhyme-this-somehow lines like "Flippin' like a pancake, poppin' like a cork/Fleagle, Bingo, Drooper and Snork."

And now The Banana Splits, of all the weird little pieces of nostalgic flotsam out there, have been resurrected for ... an R-rated horror movie? Yep. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Syfy are bringing back Bingo, Fleegle, Drooper and Snorky for The Banana Splits Movie, coming sometime in 2019, and it looks like they're not afraid to spill some blood. If you're familiar with the premise of the Five Nights at Freddy's video game series, well, it seems a lot like that, with costumed characters meant to be happy innocent entertainment for children, but who are actually psychotic murderers. 

But I'm OK with that. I get that the original show was terrible, even by my (very forgiving) 1970s kid standards. Their mouths didn't move. Snorky the elephant honked instead of talked. Danger Island was not all that dangerous. The Splits were often outsmarted by their cuckoo clock. 

But I don't love it because it's Citizen Kane. I love it because of all the dumb memories it's wrapped up with, how it makes me picture the hideous green carpet in our den, and the ancient console TV we watched it on, and the little round table where mom served us Campbell's chicken noodle soup. And maybe because of the goofy innocence of kids who hadn't yet been spoiled by computers and virtual reality and CGI, and who could still sit rapt in front of some moldering old animal costumes and a set jerry-rigged together with props left over from Laugh-In, and who never would've even thought of signing a petition to try to change any plot line.

There's no threat to my childhood from the Banana Splits going all Michael Myers for one two-hour movie. The trailer looks like a decent mix between faithful nostalgia and complete camp, and that's fine by me. I'll even watch it. Maybe with a bowl of Campbell's chicken soup or a jar of Koogle at the ready.

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