Jumping the Soapbox: A Banana Splitting Headache and Hanna-Barbera’s Confusing Existence

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The Banana Splits is owned by Warner Bros

All other copyrights are the property of their respective owners.

Do any of you even know who The Banana Splits are?  Of course not!  They were on the lower tier of Hanna-Barbera creations and because they were live action characters they never got that extra bump of popularity that many of their other creations did when they started randomly pairing them up on shows like Yogi’s Gang where they flew around in a giant flying ark.  Yeah, Hanna-Barbera is weird like that, but the thing about The Banana Splits is… I actually really like them!  I remember watching a marathon of episode back when you had to actually watch TV on a TV, and I thought it was a fun little slice of sixties nonsense!  A bunch of dudes in animal costumes playing bubblegum pop and doing slapstick?  What’s not to like!?  And guess what?  THEY’RE MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT THEM!!  OH BOY!  It looks like someone has finally realized how groovy these cats (and dogs and monkeys and elephants) are and are giving them the big screen treatment they deserve, right?  RIGHT!?

Sigh…

So it turns out that SOMEONE thought it would be brilliant and edgy to take lovable characters aimed at children… and turn them into monsters in a horror movie; straight up.  I mean yeah, they’re clearly playing up the absurdity of it but it just looks like a miserable experience outside of how senseless its UNIQUE SELLING POINT is.  Actually, even more blatant than the simple “shock” value of taking character aimed at kids and making them creepy (congratulations; you’re where Creepy Pasta was twenty years ago) is that they are only doing this to beat the Five Nights at Freddy movie to the punch.  I mean they weren’t robots in the original series either within the fiction of the show (they were anthropomorphic animals in a band) or the reality of its production which was done by people in costumes which is CLEARLY the case here as well.

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“WHAT IS MY PRIMARY DIRECTIVE!?”     “Okay, try to be like this video game, but NOT like this video game at the same time.”     “DOES NOT COMPUTE!!”

Now I’m sure the big question that ALL of us have in regards to this is… WHY!?  WHAT IS WARNER BROS (and its parent company Time Warner) THINKING!?  There’s GOT to be more to this than just a studio losing all semblance of dignity for a direct to video and direct to SyFy feature, right!?  Well to find out, I had to do a bit of research on Hanna-Barbera to see what could have led to… whatever this is.

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Not your Daddy’s Hanna-Barbera

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As hard as it is to believe, there IS some precedence to what is going on here as Warner Bros has been willing to experiment with its Hanna-Barbera brand in the past with a great amount of success.  First and foremost is its slate of Adult Swim shows featuring the characters; Space Ghost Coast to Coast, The Brak Show, and perhaps the best of the lot Harvey Birdman.  Now you’d THINK they’d continue with this trend, but after Birdman went off the air in 2007 they just kinda… stopped.  For some reason it’s actually pretty hard to get a clear idea of what Hanna-Barbera shows and movies are out there for a solid decade as I can’t seem to find a definitive list.  This is probably because Hanna-Barbera as a studio was absorbed into Warner Bros Animation back in 2001, so the only time these character would ever come up were in their productions, and outside of Scooby-Doo (and oddly enough ha short lived revival of The Banana Splits in 2008) the entire catalog was more or less dormant outside of one off appearances here and there like Fred Flintstone showing up in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy and the recent WWE crossovers involving The Flintstones and The Jetsons.  That all started to change however in 2016 when DC Comics (also owned by Warner bros) started their Hanna-Barbera Beyond line of comics to try and squeeze a few nostalgia dollars, and most importantly drum up a bit of shock value by putting them in DARKER AND EDGIER stories.

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Crisis on Infinite Franchises

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As hard as it is to believe, these weird excursions have actually gotten quite a bit of positive buzz.  I’ve been meaning to read a few of them for a while now, but after looking into it a bit for this piece I might just put it at the top of my priorities list; especially that Snagglepuss series where they reimagine him as a gay fifties play write.  Sadly we’re not here to talk about the GOOD ones, rather the one most relevant to our discussion here.  There is a Banana Splits/Suicide Squad crossover, and it is TERRIBLE.

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NOBODY SHOW THIS TO DAVID AYERS!  We can’t be giving him ideas…

Now I definitely plan on ripping this a new one at some point in a full recap, but the whole thing is utterly asinine with no real sense of what the Banana Splits were ever about.  That Scooby Doo Apocalypse book may not have high reviews, but AT LEAST it’s an extension of the Scooby-Doo premise.  At least The Flintstones gets that it starts as a working class comedy and builds from there.  In this they’re nominally musicians, but they’re ALSO skilled mercenaries!?  Perhaps that’s part of the problem here though, that the Banana Splits were NEVER particularly suited to have their own narrative.  They were a fake band that hosted a TV Show, and while I could see something like a Wayne’s World riff or even a Rise and Fall Music storyline working for them, there’s not much to chew on for this property.  It’s probably why Warner Bros is letting the SyFy channel of all places make a goofy robot horror flick with them.  Honestly, the best part of this comic is the eight glorious pages of Snagglepuss they threw in at the end which is SO much better and should be getting its own movie instead.

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No one can pull off an ascot like THIS smooth cat!

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The End… FOR NOW!!

What makes this trailer so disappointing, aside from the obviously cynical nature of it all, is that Warner Bros has thus far did a pretty excellent job of updating their characters and letting new creative voices run with them in interesting ways, yet this feels like a complete step backwards.  This is the kind of crap I expect SEGA to try and pull with Sonic the Hedgehog if that first movie of theirs turns out to be flop; not from the same company that gave us Harvey Birdman and The Snagglepuss Chronicles.  That said, after doing all this research to try and gleam some sort of context for why this exists in the first place, I want to give them the barest shred of the benefit of the doubt.  It still looks to be a really cheap and uninspired horror flick, but I hope there’s more going on than what we’ve seen so far.  Probably not (again, SyFy), but if a pink cat can make it as a writer in the fifties, then why can’t this movie do a decent Five Nights at Freddy’s cover!?

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