The Wonderful World of Sid & Marty Krofft: a craptacular fail

18 Apr

Not too long ago I was listening to the Adam Carolla podcast with guest Dana Gould.  Apparently, Dana had been working on a screenplay for Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.  Mercifully, it got canned.  I mean, bad for Dana and all that, but it’s for the greater good.  Most likely last summer’s turd blossom, the big screen adaptation of Land of the Lost, can take the lion’s share of credit for ruining the chances of Gould’s work ever seeing light.  However, hearing about that crapfest got me to thinking about an obscure footnote in Atlanta history and in my own childhood.

One of a kind in Atlantas Omni

When I was five I discovered the magic of shows like the above mentioned in addition to Dr. Shrinker, H.R. Pufnstuf, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.  They are all “from the creative minds” of puppeteer brothers, Sid and Marty Krofft.  Having my own children now, I know all too well that kids will watch anything that’s on TV.  Five year olds have neither taste nor discrimination.  Because of that whole “lots of brothers and the one television” situation at my house, I had these beloved Krofft shows put on ice.  Those boys usurped my getting to the TV first by simply telling my mother that all of the Krofft shows were drug culture propaganda disguised as childrens programming.  Maybe so.  I was crushed.  In retrospect, it was a brilliant ploy by the brothers.  But, I was going to be getting an opportunity to expose my parents to, and thus persuade them of, the awesomeness of all that was Krofft.  I’d make them see and then they would know!

A complex map

The year of 1976 is not only notable in U.S. history as the bicentennial of our great country; it also marks the year that The Wonderful World of Sid & Marty Krofft came to Atlanta and took up residence inside of downtown’s Omni International.   It was an indoor, vertical, psychedelic theme park that was dreamed up and designed by the brothers Krofft after their great success with creating and implementing shows and rides at Six Flags Over Georgia.  I spent weeks begging, performing perfunctory chores and dutifully brown nosing until my keepers agreed to take me to my Mecca as a birthday outing.  I would have done anything and given anything up to go.

Harlequin head

It was beyond anything that I could have expected…because it sucked!  Hard! Aside from listening to Mom and Dad chant “waste of money” over and over, it was not good…and at six, even I knew it.  It started out pretty great, riding a huge, world-record-breakingly tall escalator to the top of the park and being greeted by a pair of giant clown heads…and then it fell apart.

There was no shortage of weird talking trees and character people walking around and dancing like they were at a Dead show looking for a miracle, which only gelled my mother’s belief that everyone associated with the Kroffts was “on pot or glue”.

"Clearly on drugs," according to my mother

I was most looking forward to the crystal carousel.  It was a transparent, three-story merry-go-round made of imagined beasts, crystal trees and it was going to change my life.   Yeah, it was closed for repair.  Not only was it not operating, but also there was a barrier around it, so you couldn’t even get that close to it to see all of the wonder.  “I can’t believe we paid for this; what a waste of money.”

Pinball ride...Im sure it was a metaphor...for DRUGS

Even though the carousel was a bust, at least we could go on the pinball ride that was down a level or two.  Think of a huge pinball machine and you are in an orb bouncing from side to side and against big bumpers.  That’s totally cool, right?  It’s not especially cool when that ride breaks about 15ft. into it and gets shut down and you have to crawl out of the ball and walk off of the platform.  “What a waste of money”.  Again.

A family ejecting from the pinball

We did see a “show” that at least gave my folks a chance to sit down and tag a butt or two.  That worked out okay for me.  Things were starting to look up and I was pretty sure that I’d be watching Wonderbug at home again in no time.  Not so fast.

Our next station was the bottom level of the park and I was really excited.  This was where all the H.R. Pufnstuf stuff was going to be.  It was called “The Living Island”.  It was purported to be the real meat and potatoes of the whole experience and we were saving it for last.  To get there, you got on a big freight elevator that was meant to simulate being in a mineshaft.  Did you know that my birthday is the last day of August?  That means it’s hot.  Seasonally, this is not a time when you want to get stuck on an elevator.  For about ninety minutes I got to listen to lots of grown-ups muttering my parents mantra, “Such a waste of money.  I want my money back.”  And for the duration, between the bellyaching of bitching parents and disgruntled guests, I could hear the cackle of Witchiepoo and the sounds of shipwrecked Jimmy and his flute Freddy having adventures.

They haunt my daydreams

And I was stuck in a fucking fake mineshaft.  Once we were finally freed from the elevator we were given vouchers to return to the park as an apology.  We never made it into “The Living Island”.  My parents were pissed and it was over.  They practically dislocated my shoulder jerking me out of there.  I like to daydream in my head that it would have been just like Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’ rendition that you can see here.

In a cruel twist, the brothers that came with us and ditched us the moment we got there…had a blast.

And, on a side note, and this will surprise you…The Wonderful World of Sid & Marty Krofft closed within six months of opening.  In 20/20 hindsight it was a bad idea to open a theme park with four rides that don’t operate reliably in the middle of what used to be the scariest city ever.  The space is now part of the CNN complex and all that remains is that tall-assed escalator.  People were so pissed by that debacle that next to nothing has survived.  When the doors were shut they stayed that way and eventually it was all just demo.ed and put in the trash.  Where it belonged.

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3 Responses to “The Wonderful World of Sid & Marty Krofft: a craptacular fail”

  1. N. Richardson September 7, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Well, unlike the writer of this piece, I went and had a ball, literally. My date and I enjoyed the whole thing, nothing broke, and it was a pleasant tour. I was sorry to see it go.

    • Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! September 7, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      Lucky! The suckiness of my day at The (un)Wonderful World was such a giant disappointment. To this day, I never try to oversell something or get too geeked up about going somewhere, lest the elevator breaks!

  2. Shanna September 12, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

    This was a great writeup. Yes, this place looked like a creepy crapfest!

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