Part one of my three-part set visit to Universal’s “Land Of The Lost” went live on Monday over at Ain’t It Cool. Today, I’m going to run the full text of my twenty minutes with Sid and Marty Krofft, the men most directly responsible for me eventually trying hallucinogens.
Oh, sure, I’ve heard all of the denials over the years, and they’ll repeat them in the interview you’re about to read, but even if they continue to deny it forever, and even if they personally weren’t under the influence, I can think of few people who have left behind a pop culture legacy so vividly acid-soaked, so completely bizarre and surreal. Every single one of their shows in the ’70s sounds like the end result of a three-day desert mescaline binge, and over the years, the greatest cult audience for their work has been the stoner crowd, who mostly fell in love with the shows when they were kids.
We decided to take a walk away from the soundstage where they were setting up a shot for “Land Of The Lost,” and we found a quiet corner of the Universal backlot where we could sit and chat. The first thing I brought up was the short-lived Krofft theme park that they opened in Atlanta. That building now houses the CNN Center, but back in 1977, it was very briefly the strangest place on Earth. And if you’re curious about it, either check out the Wikipedia page or this PDF about the park.
And now, we join our conversation already in progress…
[more after the jump]
Motion/Captured: Lifelong fan, guys. I grew up on it. I remember Saturday mornings were about certain lineups every week that you looked forward to, and you guys were a huge part of my childhood.
Marty Krofft: Hey, thank you.
M/C: I actually went to your theme park. I lived in Florida at the time.
MK: Oh, you were one of those few people. 700,000.
M/C: Yeah… went to the theme park. My friends and I made the pilgrimage with our families at one point. And it’s great, because now I have the DVD’s of “Land of the Lost” and “H.R. Pufnstuf,” and I’m sharing them with my kids who are three and one.
MK: They like “Pufnstuf”?
M/C: They love it. They love watching that and “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters”. Sigmund’s huge. And it’s great to watch them enjoy those things and see that they’ve endured. I was able to call a friend of mine who’s in his late 30’s, like I am, on the way over here and say I’m going to Sleestak Plaza today, and he got really excited. He’s like, “Awesome! What’s it going to look like?”
MK: Does he have any cash? We can get him over here.
Sid Krofft: Marty and myself feel like it’s the second batch of “Star Wars”. You’re going to bring your kids and even though they didn’t grow up with “Land of the Lost”, because, hey, this is what I grew up with, and the kids are going to enjoy it even more because their dad or their mom loved it so much, so they’re going to pay more attention.
M/C: Well, there’s something great about seeing… look, some of the remakes, some of the things that are being done now feel very, to me, commercially motivated, but seeing you guys here and knowing that you’ve been involved and knowing that they value what you have to say about it…
MK: Well, they wouldn’t be here if they didn’t. They’ll honor the movie when we do “Pufnstuf” and “Sigmund” next. This will be the same thing. You don’t want to do another episode, but you don’t want to take the easy way for this and get everybody pissed off, you know? If we were to change the Sleestaks into something else, the fans would have booed when they came on the screen. Now they may cheer… hopefully.
M/C: Well, it’s exciting because they are Sleestaks. They’re recognizable… and they’re really…
SK: You saw them.
Drew: They’re beautiful sculpts, but they’re Sleestaks. They’re absolutely what I remember. And in a way, when you see things as a child, you see them with the best eyes possible and you don’t notice budget and you don’t notice backdrops and you don’t… you know things just are what they are and you buy them a certain way. Doing the film this way, it’s almost like you’re making what we remember.
MK: They’ll notice the budget. This movie cost more than everything we did in our entire career, but don’t tell Universal. They don’t want anybody to notice that.
SK: What’s really going to be exciting, too, to the theatregoer is a couple of things. I feel they’re going to have a lot of fun. That’s what I want to do when I go to the movies, plus it’s going to move. Every three or four minutes you’re somewhere else. So it’s not like…
MK: Now, when Sid says all this it sounds egotistical, but let me tell you why he says it. We created “Land of the Lost” with all these people… especially Brad Silberman. He’s re-creating it. So if we hired all the wrong people, you know… then we’d have a problem. We didn’t. They all loved the show. Bo Welch is the Art Director.
Drew: He’s great. Bo Welch is amazing. And going from the things that you guys did that are so iconic and so familiar and to have a guy like that come in and sort of riff on it? Were you involved in the design process? Did you come in and talk to Bo?
SK: Well, we didn’t want to be rude, but since we’re doing it this way, it’s not a problem.
Drew: Of course, no.
MK: So go ahead.
SK: No, we would go in constantly right at the top of getting the green light or even before that. Before we got the green light, Universal lets you get a skeleton staff, you know, so you can start. You put a budget together so you can see what this script is going to cost, and then you wait for the green light. And that was a happy day when we got that.
M/C: You guys initiated this version of it?
SK: Yeah, what actually happened… and Marty will tell you and I don’t know…
MK: Well, first of all if I can correct what he says… in here… we didn’t have a skeleton crew, okay? We had a full amount of people before the picture was picked up so that we could be… we could never have made it. They knew the strike was coming with the Writers Guild and the possible actors… with SAG… so we started months before with about 50 people, maybe more. So I don’t call that a skeleton crew. So when they pressed the button… I mean we have right now, I think, 350 people on this.
M/C: Most of the big budget stuff that I go to now, we see lots of green-screen. We see things where they build up part of the set and then everything is an expansion. Walking in there was a delight. That’s a set.
SK: That was exactly what we wanted. We had to have CGI but we didn’t want the CGI to overwhelm the live-action, because the live-action has a mind and it has a heart. The CGI has less of a heart, so we’ve got a lot of heart in this thing, and the great thing is we’ve got comedy this time, you know, against jeopardy. We have a great script.
MK: And our dinosaurs have personalities. They’re not just wild animals…
SK: … but they’re not cartoons, either.
MK: The dinosaurs are scary, but they’ve got names. They’re Grumpy, Alice… and Grumpy hates Marshall, who’s Will Ferrell. We always have a problem when we say Will because we’ve got the character Will is Danny McBride and Will is Marshall so forget about it. Thank God the girl isn’t called Alice.
M/C: It’s a great cast, too. Will and Danny together especially… I’m very excited to see them working together.
MK: You don’t know the half of it. Danny is great. Will, of course. And you know what’s great about Will, if you’ve never worked with him before? Well, first of all, he’s a great person. I mean, there’s no nothing… zero problems in the whole place, but Will is a sharer. Will, he can give Danny a line and a line he gives turns it up. I’ve never seen anything like this. We’ve worked with a lot of stars and performers.
M/C: This generation of comedy, these guys, like the Judd Apatow group, the Will Ferrell and Adam McKay group… I’ve seen that. It’s really generous, and they love to make each other look good.
SK: It’s like a whole family. Once we had Jimmy Miller, who’s the producer with us… he was our manager at Mosaic and all their managers, you know… once you get one of them in that camp, you have everybody. At one point, I think we had five writers from “Saturday Night Live” punching out the script at the table, and I know Adam McKay was back in. He originally was going to direct it, and I think he just didn’t want to do it. Fortunately we have Brad Silberling, who’s unbelievably talented and knows his business, and this is a complicated picture and he has it together.
M/C: I think Brad’s a confident visual film maker, and I think…
SK: Brad is so incredible on detail. He’s unreal. Everything has…
M/C: It’s a really interesting combination with him with Ferrell and McBride, because they are so sort of loose, and there’s such a great sort of organic thing that happens with them, and then to have a guy who’s that precise as a filmmaker… it’s kind of an exciting mix.
SK: You know, Will Ferrell came up to me about a week ago and he said “I hope the audience is going to realize we were standing in a real set… I hope everyone realizes this is all real”.
MK: You can absolutely see it.
M/C: Yeah, it feels different.
SK: You know the difference between dinosaurs and this. What you’re seeing here, I mean there’s 20 other sets like this…
M/C: That’s amazing.
SK: This one here in Sleestak Plaza, this one is different totally from the Pylon Plaza with the trees, because this one has all of the angles and the edges. The other ones were softer, you know? So of course the trees… Will’s standing next to the tree, right near the people… it’s like Tom Thumb. So the scale of this “Land of the Lost”…
MK: We had an opening set that we were only in for nine days, and we were sick when they tore it down. I mean, it was amazing.
M/C: Don’t you wish you could just store them all somewhere and just have them for…
SK: Bo said if there’s a sequel, don’t worry about it. We’re going to go other places.
MK: Well, I think we’ll duplicate some of this, but it’s hard for us to see the stuff being torn down today. There’s a bulldozer in there that’s as big as the Empire State Building, smacking away at something. I’m saying they should have saved it all because we didn’t save everything we did. Because it’s hard to carry it around, but right now, we probably threw away $5 million because on eBay this stuff one day will be worth a lot. But you know, you just can’t do it.
M/C: Yeah. It’s always amazing what survives from the television shows and things from a certain era because it was ephemeral to you guys. It was something you were using while you were making the show and it wasn’t memorabilia to you. How is fandom now in terms of your interaction with them? Has it changed you? Do you have an online presence? Do you deal with your fans directly? It’s got to be different than in the 70’s when you had fan clubs and things like that.
SK: They used to send us tons and tons of mail.
MK: We had no way of answering it. So right now today all we want is to have… supposedly there’s 30 million fans out there, okay? If they each send a dollar I’m going to move to Hawaii, okay? But you’re talking about…we have not really been in touch with our fans yet. This is a new beginning for Sid and Marty Kroft, and the great thing is that we still have a good memory. We walk fast so things are okay today.
SK: Tell him about the….
MK: We can’t do that this month
SK: No, about MySpace…
MK: yeah, that’s….because it’s not happening yet. This month it’s happening. Can we go off the record?
[That’s exactly what we did for a moment. I turned the recorder off, and they told me about the presence they were preparing to debut at MySpace. That’s happened since the interview, so if you want to check it out, you should. It’s a nice way of getting lots of legal Krofft Superstars clips out there, and worth wasting some time with at some point.
Once we finished talking about it, I switched the recorder on again.]
MK: … and signing autographs at shopping centers.
SK: … and Marty’s been great because he’s held onto everything.
MK: That was the one thing we did. We own everything we ever did. We’ve taken a bath doing some of it. We were robbing Peter to pay Paul.
M/C: I think it’s changing in terms of content creators and ownership because of online distribution, because of the ease with which you can reach an audience. It’s different, so I do think the power’s going to shift a bit back to content creators. You guys did that at a time when people didn’t. Even Hanna-Barbera, so much of their stuff they ended up not owning anymore after a while.
MK: They sold out years ago. That’s been sold three times.
M/C: And it’s a shame, because now there’s no real sense of custodianship and nobody cares.
SK: Let me tell you what happens when you sell out. You get the check, and the minute you cash the check, nobody calls you anymore. The biggest resource is not cash in our lives. We’re fine. So we’ve got a family, we’re fine. We’re going to keep it a family business and we’ll see what happens. Someone asked me what’s the company worth? I said I don’t know. $50 million? I have no idea. I’ll tell you what it’s worth, I told the guy. Whatever somebody offers, whether I take it or not. So anyway, of course we’ve been down that path a few times with people who wanted it, but a couple times we almost needed to do it. We were lucky that it didn’t happen. So right now this is all good. “Pufnstuf” is next, and then “Sigmund and The Sea Monsters” is not far behind.
M/C: And “Pufnstuf” is a go? When’s “Pufnstuf” happening?
MK: No, no. We’re right now in the middle of something, so that’s not done yet. The other one is in the development process and we’re getting ready to do that with a studio.
M/C: Do you know how you want to do each of them? Do you know what ways you want to update them?
SK: We don’t know how we want to do it, but we know what we don’t want to do.
MK: Because how are we going to do it involves other people. If I get somebody in… if we get the… what’s his name in to do it….Edward Scissorhands….
SK: Johnny Depp?
MK: No, not Johnny Depp.
M/C: Tim Burton?
MK: Tim Burton. If we get Tim Burton in, we’re not going to tell him how we see it. We’re going to hear what he says, and if he’s way the hell out there, we’re not going to do it with him. I’m not saying we’re going to do it with him anyway.
M/C: It’s just finding the right fit. Somebody you feel like…
MK: It’s finding the right match for how it feels, you know?
SK: We really lucked out big time here because everybody… the crew, everybody… is so incredible.
MK: So, is it a go? No, until it’s put together. The pieces are great, so if we keep hyping and selling this thing we’re making a mistake. You know what? Because we ain’t done anything like this before. This is new territory.
M/C: That’s kind of exciting. So you guys, in a way, are breaking into big-budget film making right now.
SK: What’s exciting is we don’t have to do much here but be cheerleaders. Be there giving an idea once in a while. Don’t bother the director. If there’s lint on the costume, you know? If we hired the wrong people, we’re dead. But we didn’t here, so let them recreate it. There’s no ego in that. If you look at it all, the cave opening is the same. The Sleestaks are almost the same. Chaka’s almost the same. We know that the look is great, but you don’t make a movie on the look.
M/C: The one question in talking to my friend on the way over as I was explaining what I was going to do… he said “So it’s Marshall, Will and Holly?” And I said no, and I explained that it’s a different dynamic.
SK: That’s all it is. We didn’t do the same… the fans will be pissed off no matter what we do… not all of them, but we had some death threats already. These people have to grow up already, you know? But Mickey Mouse, I’m sure… I’m sure nobody ever called or sent Walt Disney a death threat. But our fans are like radicals. It’s great. So Marshall, Will and Holly… I mean they’re there, but it’s a different relationship. What, you want to do another episode? That wouldn’t work.
M/C: I like that it’s a different dynamic. You guys shook it up. I think Will’s character, the set up for him, is great. All the stuff about why he’s disgraced and how he’s disgraced. It’s a lot of fun.
MK: It’s all good. And Will, too. He’s got a great character.
M/C: So it’s different stakes… for who these characters are when they vanish into this. It’s not just as random and as dumb luck in a way.
SK: Right. And Marty will tell you the day that Will Ferrell, in that big forest set, they were sitting around a campfire and he came in with a banjo and he sang, “Marshall, Will and Holly…” and if you saw the crew…
MK: No one expected it to happen.
SK: No one. Everybody just… tears in everybody’s eyes.
MKroft: On a lot of films, it would be like “Let the composer do everything new, you know… have his own ego. Let’s change this, let’s change that.” We didn’t have any of that. Everybody is honoring what we did, now. Is this concept going to work the way we’re doing it? Seems that way but you know what? We’re going to wait until July 17, 2009.
Indeed, and the wait’s almost over. Thanks to Universal and to Sid and Marty Krofft for taking the time. I’ll have my final bit of “Land Of The Lost” coverage on Ain’t It Cool in the days ahead, and a very special interview from another upcoming movie here on Motion/Captured tomorrow. I promise that this one will Kick Ass.
See you then.