H.R. Pufnstuf Helped by Wild Things But Don't Expect a Copy
After the surprise success of the once thought-to-be-doomed adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, it looks like the successful hybrid of old school puppetry and CG technology used to bring the Wild Things to life has given a boost to Sid & Marty Krofft's contemporary adaptation of the classic 60's and 70's psychedelic series H.R. Pufnstuf. From an interview with NY Daily News (via SlashFilm), it sounds like the Krofft's have moved on past the lackluster performance of Land of the Lost this year, and are ready to get back to their roots to capture the whimsical, bright-colored world of Living Island. Read on!
Marty Krofft makes it very clear how Spike Jonze and his Wild Things have made things a little easier for H.R. Pufnstuf, saying: "Wild Things is very, very good for us. We always wanted to do low-tech costumes and high-tech heads. But it'll be a big difference in tone, of course — we'll be bright, not dark." While I never expected an H.R. Pufnstuf film to be a thought-provoking, profound piece of cinema, it's good to hear that Krofft knows his material needs to remain whimsical and fancy-free. Trying to duplicate the meticulous, well-crafted emotional connection Jonze was able to create between the characters of Where the Wild Things Are and its audience isn't something that fits the style of the Kroffts' work, though.
Krofft notes that they've learned their lessons from the recent blockbuster bomb Land of the Lost. "We went with comedy, which got it green-lit. But we didn't know it was going to go so far in the PG-13 direction and so close to an R rating. Our characters are all likable, and we have so much goodwill from our fans. So, now we know: Don't mess with what's worked." Coming from someone who enjoyed Land of the Lost as a standalone comedy, it was not a good adaptation of the classic TV series. It lacked the adventure and excitement that anyone familiar with the show wanted to see, and thus it didn't jive with the right audience.
Over at SlashFilm, writer Brendon Connelly seems to be displeased that Krofft doesn't seem to embrace the contemporary elements that he believes made Wild Things such a crowd pleaser. Connelly notes:
"I dare say [Krofft is] right in all respects accept one - they will need to mess with what worked in the 70s, and not just in technological terms. Where the Wild Things Are worked not because of the blend of muppet fuzz and CG fizzogs but because of it's respect for the audience, and it's soft, genuine and mutual relationship with current hipster fashions." He continues, "I think a movie that tastes like sunshine spread on a girl scout cookie is probably not even possible any more, let alone wise."
Unfortunately, I don't understand why Connelly thinks that the Kroffts going back to their roots with sweetness of H.R. Pufnstuf automatically means that the film will not have the utmost respect for its most loyal fans, and that the replacement of hipster fashions with a sunny disposition will make the film crumble. What's not wise about making a film bright and whimsical? I'd like to point out that the producers still reeling from Land of the Lost are the very same behind H.R. Pufnstuf, and they had plenty of success with lighthearted, fun family fare with Elf, a film that has become a modern holiday classic. When it comes down to it, H.R. Pufnstuf just doesn't have the same thematic elements of Wild Things, so I wouldn't expect it to try to be Wild Things.
The simple fact is, Wild Things succeeded not only because Spike Jonze respected his audience, but because he knew who his audience was. As Eric D. Snider of Film.com says very succinctly, Wild Things "wasn't made with kids in mind as the primary audience… it's a movie for adults about childhood." This is further confirmed by the fact that the Associated Press says parents with children made up just 27% of the film's opening-weekend audience. Krofft has the same mindset as Jonze in that he's keeping the material very close to his heart, and the hearts of all of those who grew up loving the adventures of H.R. Pufnstuf as well.
He says: "Someone said that we [got in the heads] of every kid in the '70s, and they hung with us." Combine the loyalty to their fans, lessons learned and the imaginative vision of director Conrad Vernon, and I'd say we've got something magical to look forward to. Of course, we'll keep you updated on the status of this.