About H. R. Pufnstuf, the completely wacky vintage kids’ TV show – plus see the opening credits

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HR Pufnstuf - retro TV show from 1969-1970
Despite its oversized spot in the memory banks of Gen Xers, there were only 17 episodes of HR Pufnstuf.  The kitschy kiddie TV show debuted in September 1969, and the final episode aired just four months later.

The program — with its human-sized puppets, garish sets and cartoonish antics — really earned its cult status through reruns that aired through the ’70s and into the ’80s. Here’s a look back!

TV’s H. R. Pufnstuf charms away the Saturday morning violence: Bye-bye to biff, pow and zap (1969)

Life magazine – October 31, 1969

The bad old times may be going bye-bye this year on Saturday morning TV. Though routine cartoon violence has been replaced often by shows that are merely routine, one children’s program substitutes genuine charm for alarm — NBC’s H. R. Pufnstuf, a million-dollar puppet show that bowls over kids as effectively as any biff, pow or zap.

Pufnstuf is an Oz-like fantasy about a real boy, Jimmy, who is kidnapped and spirited to an isle of people-sized puppets (played by real people) where the mayor, Pufnstuf, is a friendly dragon, his constituents forest types like Judy Frog, an owl and some talking trees.

For 30 minutes, houses sneeze, doors flirt and a way-out witch is lightly thwarted. Elsewhere, the old violent TV scene is not exactly vaporized—outer-space maniacs are still trying to suck nitrogen from the universe. But Pufnstuf saves Saturday — and other puppets should make kids’ weekday TV worthwhile, too.

Oct 31, 1969 H R Pufnstuf-001
Jimmy tangles with Talking Skull in a lab where Dr. Blinkey mixes a potion to soften and bend Witchiepoo’s magic wand. The show is the creation of Puppeteers Sid and Marty Krofft.

Saturday morning dragon could attract adults

By Joan Crosby, The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan) September 19, 1969

H. R. Pufnstuf may be the greatest boon to adult television viewing since Kukla, Fran and Ollie. But unlike that delightful children’s show, which was telecast in the early evening and which had such a huge following of sophisticated adults, H. R. Pufnstuf will have to change the viewing of habits of adult America if he is going to grab them for an audience. For Pufnstuf and his friends visit NBC-TV for 30 minutes at 10 a.m. every Saturday in the new TV season.

I visited the set in Hollywood and met the show’s star, Jack Wild, an Academy Award nominee for his performance as the Artful Dodger in “Oliver.” The result: Enchantment!

Oct 31, 1969 H R Pufnstuf Krofft TV for kids
In a new children’s TV fantasy the only “real” character is a boy, Jimmy, played by Jack Wild, shown here with show’s namesake, Pufnstuf (right), and some other puppet friendlies.

Pufnstuf, pronounced “puffin’ stuff,” is the name of a dragon, the mayor of Living Island, to which Jimmy (Jack Wild) comes after a storm shipwrecks him. Everything on the island is alive, including the forest, which has hippie trees, social trees, old-men trees, Indian trees. There are 38 different sets which can be used, and they, cost $1 million. There are 86 different characters.

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So far, the Krofft brothers, Sid and Marty, successful puppeteers branching into their first television with this show, have invested $350,000 of their own money in the show. Getting Jack Wild to star is typical of the expensive way thel Kroffts think. They were told they could get any kid to play the part and spend a lot less money for him.

“I saw Jack Wild in ‘Oliver’ at the premiere,” Sid said. “Then at intermission, I saw him in the lobby. I spoke to him and right then decided he was the one for our show.” He has a face worth a billion dollars, with a turned-up nose, blue eyes and shiny, long, brown hair that is always flying because he is always on the run.

Jack Wild with magic potion - HR Pufnstuf

You want to believe your eyes and talk to a kid, but you must keep reminding yourself you are really talking to an aware, bright young man.

Jack’s biography lists him as 15. Sid Krofft says they would like Jack to say he is 15. Jack can’t wait to say, “I’ll be 17 in September.” Because California laws require a teacher and social worker on the set when “children” are involved, Jack, even though he has completed high school in England, finds one around.

“She’s not too bad,” he says in his thick, Northern England accent, “but she keeps treating me as if I was 12 years old.”

And that, in a living capsule, is an introduction to Pufnstuf and his friends. While an early Sunday evening time slot might be more logical for a bigger audience, Sid Kroft says he’s not too unhappy about Saturday morning: “If we were a semi-hit at night, we’d just be another semi-hit. But if we’re a hit in the morning, we’ll be a smash.”

Oct 31, 1969 H R Pufnstuf
Witchiepoo the witch (Billie Hayes) campaigns for mayor on her Vroom-Broom with vulture copilot, Orson, and her hairdresser, a spider named Seymour
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H. R. Pufnstuf: A new adventure show for kids (1969)

The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) March 21, 1970

H. R. Pufnstuf, a colorful new adventure series featuring elaborately-costumed live actors in fantasy roles… Starring as Jimmy, in human form, is Jack Wild, the 15-year-old British actor who plays The Artful Dodger in the Academy Award-winning film, Oliver! Billie Hays stars as an eccentric witch named Miss Witchiepoo.

Pufnstuf is an Oz-like fantasy about a real boy, Jimmy, who is ship-wrecked on a living island inhabited by fascinating life-size scenery and weird and wonderful characters such as lovable Mayor Pufnstuf, a friendly dragon, and his constituents, forest types like Judy Frog, an owl and some talking trees.

Krofft TV show - HR Pufnstuf

Each week, Jimmy, with the assistance of Pufnstuf and his friends, tries, unsuccessfully, to return to his home. He is thwarted in these efforts by Miss Witchiepoo.

The boy and Pufnstuf are imaginative and resourceful in their efforts to find a way off the island. They organize fantastic shows to raise buttons (monetary exchange on the island) with which they will buy parts to build a vehicle to take the boy home.

Pufnstuf is designed and created by internationally-renowned puppeteers, Sid and Marty Krofft. They describe the series as “a total happening for everybody, which will introduce a new entertainment dimension yet unexplored on television.”

Manchester-born Jack Wild began his acting career in the London stage version of Oliver! in which he first appeared as one of Fagin’s young pickpockets. He then graduated to the role of Charley Bates, “third banana” among the youngsters. When Columbia Pictures cast the film, Wild was chosen for the role of the Dodger over 500 other applicants.

HR Pufnstuf - Sid & Marty Krofft - Play book

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H. R. Pufnstuf: Opening credits and theme song (1969-1970)

H.R. Pufnstuf theme song lyrics

H.R. Pufnstuf
Who’s your friend when things get rough?
H.R. Pufnstuf
Can’t do a little ’cause he can’t do enough

Once upon a summertime
Just a dream from yesterday
A boy and his magic golden flute
Heard a boat from off the bay

“Come and play with me, Jimmy
Come and play with me
And I will take you on a trip
Far across the sea”

But the boat belonged to a kooky old witch
Who had in mind the flute to snitch
From her broom-broom in the sky
She watched her plans materialize

She waved her wand
The beautiful boat was gone
The skies grew dark, the sea grew rough
And the boat sailed on and on and on and on and on and on

But, Pufnstuf was watching, too
and knew exactly what to do.
He saw the witch’s boat attack,
and as the boy was fighting back

Hhe called his rescue racer crew, as often they’d rehearsed
And off to save the boy, they flew
“But who would get there first?”

But now, the boy had washed ashore.
Puf arrived to save the day,
which made the witch so mad and sore
she shook her fist and screamed 7

H.R. Pufnstuf
Who’s your friend when things get rough?
H.R. Pufnstuf
Can’t do a little ’cause he can’t do enough

H.R. Pufnstuf
He’s your friend when things get rough
H.R. Pufnstuf
Can’t do a little ’cause he can’t do enough

HR Pufnstuf - Jack Wild 1969-1970

“See ya next week!”

“I sure hope so!”

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