DVD review – Kukla, Fran and Ollie
Summer is in full swing here at Wump Mucket Puppets super secret HQ. We hope that all our pals both far and near are having a great summer!
This afternoon I met with a writer for Cincinnati’s weekly newspaper CityBeat for an interview. Towards the start of the interview I was asked about my early childhood interest in puppetry, and what inspired me to become a puppeteer as an adult. One of the names that quickly popped out of my mouth was none other than Burr Tillstrom.
Vintage 7up soft drink magazine advertisement featuring Kukla Fran and Ollie on the television.
Burr who? I realize that his name may not be rolling off the tongues of many people these days, other than puppeteers and lovers of classic television. So, here’s a short bio…
Burr Tillstrom was the creator and single puppeteer of the Kuklapolitans, a troupe of 19 very personable puppets who’s name is taken from their leader, a small clown named Kukla, who with his dragon pal Ollie and Fran Allison, the sole human in the show, performed “a children’s show for adults” on national television. Did I mention that it was all ad-libbed on LIVE television?!?
My interest in KFO, as fans call them, began as a young boy in the early 1970s. I loved watching them as the hosts of the CBS Children’s Film Festival every Saturday morning on television. Ollie has always been my favorite, and certainly inspired me to create my very own dragon/serpent puppet, you know him as Cyril.
Cyril and his puppeteer love watching Kukla, Fran and Ollie!
For many years the only option to revisit the gentle humor of KFO was old video tapes. Eventually the internet provided us a chance to watch clips on the excellent and official Kukla.tv website.
It bothered me that this highly sought after program was seemingly lost to time.
Thank goodness I was wrong! And the wait was well worth it!
Under the caring guidance of producer Mark Milano, who is also a big fan of the show, three fantastic two-disc DVD releases have brought KFO into the 21st century in grand style. Not only have these wonderful programs been released on DVD for old fans to revisit, and make new fans of folks who may have not been around when they were first broadcast, but they are PACKED with bonus material!
Yes, as if it wasn’t enough to have KFO on DVD, we are treated to interviews, behind the scenes photographs, even home movies shot from the sidelines by director Lewis “Gommy” Gomavitz!
I could go on and on about how much I love these DVDs, yet I will simply suggest that if you have an interest in the history of either puppetry or television, buy them before they are all gone. Gems such as these don’t stick around very long.
So what are you waiting for? They are only available for purchase at Amazon.com. Once you finish a few shows may I invite you to join me and other fans at KFO Facebook page. We’re a friendly bunch of folks and would love for you to join us in celebrating Burr Tillstrom and his puppetry.