H. R. Pufnstuf was one completely wacky & fun vintage kids’ TV show

H. R. Pufnstuf was one completely wacky and fun vintage kids' TV show at Click Americana

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“H.R. Pufnstuf” is an American children’s television series that was produced by Sid and Marty Krofft in the late 1960s. The show tells the story of Jimmy, a boy shipwrecked on Living Island, an enchanted place where everything, including the houses and the clocks, is alive. Jimmy, along with his talking flute named Freddy, navigates the whimsical island under the watchful eye of HR Pufnstuf, the island’s friendly dragon mayor.

Throughout the series, Jimmy and his friends outwit Witchiepoo, the comedic yet villainous witch, as they try to find a way for Jimmy to return home. Despite its brief run, HR Pufnstuf became a pop culture phenomenon due to its psychedelic visuals, memorable characters, and catchy music.

Scene from retro wild TV show H R Pufnstuf (1960s)
Years on air: 1969-1970
# of seasons: 1
# of episodes: 17


  • Jack Wild as Jimmy: A shipwrecked boy who ends up on Living Island, Jimmy is adventurous and caring, always willing to help his friends.
  • Billie Hayes as Witchiepoo: The primary antagonist of the show, Witchiepoo is a bumbling witch who is constantly trying to steal Freddy the Flute.
  • Roberto Gamonet as H.R. Pufnstuf: The good-natured dragon mayor of Living Island, Pufnstuf helps Jimmy evade Witchiepoo’s clutches and is always coming up with plans to keep Freddy safe.
  • Joan Gerber as Freddy the Flute: Freddy is a magical talking flute and Jimmy’s best friend. He’s the target of Witchiepoo’s plots because of his magical abilities.
  • Walker Edmiston as Dr. Blinky: Dr. Blinky is a kind but slightly scatterbrained owl who serves as Living Island’s doctor and apothecary.

Welcome back to 1969, when color TV was a novelty, and an affable dragon mayor was stealing the spotlight every Saturday morning.

Launched by the extraordinary inventive brothers Sid and Marty Krofft, “H. R. Pufnstuf” — a live-action, puppet-filled series — was a roller coaster ride of fun, fantasy, and out-of-the-box creativity. (And by “creativity,” we mean complete and wonderful wackiness… the kind that made many people wonder out loud what the show’s inventors were tripping on, even after the Kroffts denied that the process included chemical enhancement.)

Krofft TV show - HR Pufnstuf

The show revolved around a young boy named Jimmy who is shipwrecked on Living Island, a magical place where everything is alive (including the island itself). Jimmy’s only company is Freddy, his talking flute. Their nemesis? Witchiepoo, a scheming witch with an appetite for power and Freddy’s magical abilities.

The series’ title character, H.R. Pufnstuf, was the mayor of Living Island. His costume design as a dragon that walked on two legs was a certainly departure from the traditional depictions of dragons. But it was his un-beast-like compassionate heart and friendly demeanor (right down to an “aw shucks” Southern accent) that made him a favorite with kids.

H. R. Pufnstuf comic book cover (1970)

Together with an eclectic cast of talking objects — including books, alarm clocks and trees — Pufnstuf embarked on wacky adventures to protect Jimmy and Freddy from Witchiepoo’s evil clutches.

But “H.R. Pufnstuf” was not just about its zany characters and plots. Its psychedelic visuals, paired with a memorable theme song, helped to create a surreal viewing experience that was far ahead of its time. In its own quirky way, the show tackled themes of friendship, bravery, and the ongoing battle between good and evil.

The program — with its human-sized puppets, sets that were the very definition of retro, cartoonish antics, and a laugh track — really earned its cult status through reruns that aired through the 1970s and into the ’80s.

The show's creators, Sid and Marty Krofft, with Pufnstuf
The show’s creators, Sid and Marty Krofft, with Pufnstuf

Despite having only one season with 17 episodes, the characters and distinctive aesthetic of “H.R. Pufnstuf” made it a vivid piece of television history.

There was a short-lived offshoot of the series that ran from 2015 to 2017 that was also created by the Krofft brothers. Aired on Nick Jr., it was called Mutt & Stuff — but “Stuff” in this case was a giant stuffed dog, and the pooch’s uncle was none other than Pufnstuf himself. They even revived the big guy for the new show! Take a look:

YouTube video

Whether you were a fan back in the day or learned about the show later, you can find out more here about H.R. Pufnstuf — a show that dreamed, laughed, and marched to the beat of its own magic flute.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Oranges Poranges (Oranges Sporanges/Smoranges)

Here’s a video clip of the famous Witchie Poo talent show song when she asks, “Who said there ain’t no rhyme for oranges? ”

YouTube video

H.R. Pufnstuf: Saturday morning dragon could attract adults (1969)

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.

HR Pufnstuf - Jack Wild 1969-1970

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!

ALSO SEE: The Banana Splits Adventure Hour intro, theme song, lyrics & more on this trippy retro kids’ show

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.

Vintage H R Pufnstuf comic book - The Bewitching Bonnet

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.

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 the 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.

Retro 1970 H R Pufnstuf Fun Rings inside boxes of cereal

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.

ALSO SEE: Revisit Sid & Marty Krofft’s ‘Land of the Lost’ TV show

“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

DON’T MISS: The original ‘Wizard of Oz’ Broadway musical pretty much looked like nightmare fuel

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.

Jack Wild with magic potion - 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.

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HR Pufnstuf comic book - Great Sea Horse Race and Jumbled Genie (1972)

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.

ALSO SEE: The Monkees: ’60s singer-spoofers offer crazy fun – Interviews & the TV show opening credits

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

YouTube video

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

Scene from retro wild TV show H R Pufnstuf (1960s)

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

He 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

“See ya next week!”
“I sure hope so!”

HR Pufnstuf - Sid & Marty Krofft - Play book

ALSO SEE: How many of these vintage Saturday morning cartoons & TV shows can you remember?

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