Television airings of the classic Universal Monsters movies had given the franchise a renewed popularity in the 1960s. Having grown up with those films, Filmation producer Lou Scheimer decided to create a humorous homage to them.
|Welcome to Horrible Hall.|
Scheimer hired Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In writers Jack Mendelsohn and Jim Mulligan to develop the series. They ultimately settled on the scenario of a group of monsters living together in a castle and performing in a band. Initially, the castle, named Horrible Hall, was meant to be an inn that would be frequented by various guest monsters and ghouls resulting in the title Monster Inn; emphasizing both the setting and serving as a parody of the Laugh-In title, of which the show would take heavy influence from. There would also be a villain named Syndey Sneaking-Slyly trying to get to a treasure buried beneath the castle. Once that aspect was dropped, the name “The Kookie Spookies” was adopted for much of the show’s early production until they were forced to change it as it sounded too close to Hasbro’s short-lived “Kooky Spooky” toyline. Ultimately, the group and the show became “The Groovie Goolies” (the unique spelling designed to avoid any claims of copyright infringement from other companies; although the traditional “ghoul” did appear from time to time).
|Frankie, Drac and Wolfie play for Bella, Orville, Hagatha, Hauntleory, Icky, Goo, Ratso and Batso.|
The Goolies were comprised of Drac (Larry Storch), a pastiche of Dracula, the short-tempered leader who played the pipe organ; Frankie (Howard Morris, doing a loose impersonation Boris Karloff), based on Frankenstein’s monster, who was the easygoing head of the Muscleleum Gymnasium and played either bone xylophones or drums (later misinformation would call Frankie the son of Drac and Hagatha); and Wolfie (also Morris), based on the wolfman, who spoke in a mix of beatnik, surfer and hippie slang and played a lyre-like instrument. Other residents of Horrible Hall included Hagatha (Storch & Morris), a plump witch that served as the chef and had a sentient broom named Broomhilda; Bella La Ghostly (a play on Bela Lugosi, voiced by Jane Webb), the vampiric switchboard operator; Dr. Jekyll and Hyde (Morris), the resident doctor with a human and a monstrous head (a play on the dual nature of the original monster); Mummy (Morris, impersonating W.C. Fields), the resident newscaster with a penchant for first aid and often became unraveled; Boneapart (Larry D. Mann), a skittish skeleton in a Napoleon hat (a nod to his namesake) that often fell apart; Ghoulihand (Storch), a giant talking glove; Batso and Ratso (initially Storch, but later Dallas McKennon), two imps who often stole treats and played mean practical jokes that often backfired on them; Hauntleroy (Morris), Hagatha’s nephew who was selfish and two-faced; and Icky (Storch) and Goo (McKennon), two gargoyle-like creatures that were the resident pets along with Rover (Mann), Frankie’s pet dinosaur, and Fido, Wolfie’s pet piranha. Of course, other familiar trappings from the genre made appearances such as ghosts, man-eating plants and sentient furniture.
|Sabrina being bored by Drac.|
Groovie Goolies debuted on CBS on September 12, 1970. The show was picked up by Head of Children’s Programming Fred Silverman who was looking for a compliment to their successful Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Since both shows featured witches, it was decided to package Goolies together with Filmation’s other offering: Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a spin-off of their popular The Archie Show. The hour-long Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies featured two 15-minute Sabrina segments and a 30-minute block of Goolies, with both sets of characters crossing over into each other’s shows.
|Ratso and Batso trading barbs during Weird Window Time.|
The series was written by Mendelsohn and Mulligan with Bob Ogle, Chuck Menville, Len Janson, Jim Ryan and Bill Danch. As said, the show took strong inspiration from Laugh-In and featured a similar structure of quick skits and jokes. “Weird Windows Time” was a direct spoof of Laugh-In’s Joke Wall, where the Goolies would pop out of various places and trade jokes. Each Goolie had a special segment: Dracula’s Schoolhouse, where Drac taught mad science; Hagatha’s Bedtime Stories, where she read a popular fairy tale to Frankie and the other residents all acted out the roles; Home Movies, which had the character’s watching videos from their pasts; The Mummy’s Wrap-Up, where Mummy would deliver news stories about other monsters; and Wolfie’s Theater, which was similar to Hagatha’s stories but with a stage performance set-up. Often, the characters would deliver educational tips about various subjects to the audience. A recurring gag saw Frankie being struck by lightning and then remarking “I needed that!”, as well as possessing the dual identity of inept superhero Super Ghoul.
|The Mummies and the Puppies.|
Each show also featured two musical numbers; one performed by the Goolies, and another by a guest band. Those bands included The Bare Bones Band, comprised of three skeletons; The Mummies and the Puppies (a play on The Mamas and the Papas), comprised of a family of mummies and dogs; The Rolling Headstones (a play on The Rolling Stones), made up of three living tombstones; and The Spirits of ’76, which had three ghosts wearing the tricorne hats common during the 18th Century. Other groups conceived of during pre-production but not used were The Japanese Beatles, The Rolling Rocks, The Door Jammers and The Snapping Turtles. The songs were written by and arranged by Richard Delvy (as Linda Martin), Ed Fournier (as Sherry Gayden) and Dick Monda. Fournier and Monda also provided vocals with Bob Markland, Chris Sciarrotta and Dave Mani. The series’ background music was composed by Ray Ellis (as Jeff Michael), with additional music and sound effects provided by Horita-Mahana Corp. and Jan Moore. The titles of the songs would go on to provide episode titles for home media releases, as the original episodes went untitled and were only classified by their production numbers.
|Some random tomfoolery.|
Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies was the highest-rated children’s program in 1970. In 1971, CBS split up the two shows. Sabrina was removed from the Goolies intro and replaced with clips from “The Monster Trio” song number, and was omitted by changes to the theme song’s lyrics. They also moved the show to Sunday mornings and paired it with Tom and Jerry. After a single season there, CBS cancelled Goolies. However, the characters continued to appear in Sabrina and became series regulars in 1972. That same year, they also appeared on rival network ABC in Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies, which aired as part of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. ABC would later broadcast reruns of Goolies in 1975. The characters made two final new appearances in episodes of The New Archie and Sabrina Hour, and Frankie was featured in the show’s closing credits. Despite its short run, Goolies was broadcast globally and translated into many languages. The show was so popular in France that the characters were included on a float in France’s 1986 Carnaval de Cholet.
|The Groovie Goolies rocking out.|
As with The Archie Show and The Hardy Boys, Filmation heavily pushed the musical aspect of the series. An album of 10 songs was released by RCA Victor Records in 1970; 8 of them had been featured on the show with “Save Your Good Lovin’ For Me” going on to be the only single, while “We Go So Good Together” and “Spend Some Time Together” were exclusive to the album. Featured on the cover was Monda, Fournier and songwriter Jeffrey Thomas in costume as Drac, Wolfie and Frankie, respectively; roles they would later reprise for the live-action segment of Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies, although Thomas and Fournier switched roles (home releases of the special would omit the live segments). Neither release sold particularly well, although a revised version of “Chick-a-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)” by Monda under the alias Daddy Dewdrop reached at #9 on the Billboard singles chart. A live version of the Goolies briefly toured in 1971 lip-synching to the series’ songs. Their make-up was provided by Wes and Robert Dawn.
|A spider provides a tennis net for the Goolies and Mummy.|
The French version received its own album in 1983 by Magical Ring Records under the translated title “Les Croque Monstres”. Only the theme song was carried over and translated; the rest of the songs were new monster-themed ones and covers of other hit songs. To promote the album, a band dressed up as the Goolies (including Mummy) performed the theme song. The album would be reissued in 2013 by Balthazar Music with a slightly different track order. In 1992, Bonton released a pair of albums titled Bubusou in Czechoslovakia featuring all 33 of the show’s songs translated by Jiří Josek.
Groovie Goolies saw numerous releases onto home media. On VHS in the United States, Embassy Home Entertainment released Haunted Hijinks in 1985 and United American Video released Double Feature in 1989 and Live from Horrible Hall in 1990. In the United Kingdom, Select Video released Groovie Ghouls in 1985 that would be re-released by Kids Kollection in 1990, and Intervision Video included three episodes in both volumes of Filmation’s Children’s Cartoon Festival: Groovie Goolies in 1988. In Germany, Select Video released Geisterstunde in Horrible Hall in 1986, Die Lustige Monster Show: Im Horrorschlob & Das Gruselkabinett in 1990. Argentina and France had one release each with Mis Adorables Monstuitos from Buena Onda Home Video in 1986 and Les Croque Monstres by Sunbird Junior in 1989. On DVD, in the United States BCI/Eclipse released The Saturday “Mourning” Collection in 2006 which contained the whole series, then split it up between the two The Frightfully Funny Collection releases in 2008. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment would release a best-of collection in 2012 called simply Groovie Goolies. In 2009, Savor Ediciones Emon released the complete series in Spain as Mis Queridos Monstruos, and Australia would get their own release in 2016 from Universal Pictures.
|Bella helping in the kitchen.|
Goolies received its fair share of merchandising as well. During the show’s run, there was a coloring book and a magic slate produced by Whitman, puzzles depicting scenes from the show made by Fairchild, a collection of figurines by Chemtoy Corporation, candy with prizes, and a series of costumes by Ben Cooper, Inc.. In 2010, Monstarz released limited edition maquettes of Drac, Frankie and Wolife. In 2017, Hot Toy Cars partnered with LB Customz to make two limited edition die-cast cars featuring graphics of the Goolies in the form of a VW Drag Bus and a Dairy Delivery truck.
|Drac taking the skelevator.|
In 1977, Filmation produced the package program The Groovie Goolies and Friends comprised of their properties that had too few episodes to syndicate individually. Goolies reruns were rotated with The New Adventures of Waldo Kitty, Lassie’s Rescue Rangers, The New Adventures of Gilligan, My Favorite Martians, M-U-S-H., Fraidy Cat and Wacky and Packy. While each show retained their original end credits, Filmation created a new intro for the package and animated new bumper segments where the Goolies would interact with the characters from the other shows.
|Drac and Bella moonlighting with Prime Evil on GhostBusters.|
Over the years, Filmation planned several revivals of the show in various forms that never saw fruition. The idea of a feature film was floated in 1978, and in 1984 Filmation came up with the concept of Fright Camp which would star the children of the original Goolies attending a summer camp. They also toyed around with The Goolies, which would have featured the characters as toddlers as part of the growing babyfication craze started by Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies. Ultimately, Goolies would live on in Filmation’s GhostBusters cartoon via recycled elements, including the Skelevator (an elevator made of bone), a skeleton character who fell apart, and the appearance of Drac and Bella’s character models and animations as new characters.