The Story Behind Land Of The Lost

Next: Pufnstuf And Other Stuff


Next: "The Greatest Earthquake Ever Known"...


For Land Of The Lost, the Kroffts hit on a concept that has fuelled stories from before the show was created right up to the likes of Jurassic Park .

"When I was eleven years old, my dad took me to see One Million BC with Victor Mature,” remembers Sid.

“It scared the hell out of me, because we'd never, ever seen a Dinosaur moving before. Yeah, in the old King Kong or whatever, way back in the '30s, but nothing like One Million BC . It made such an impression on me, that every year when we came up with a new show I always thought “Dinosaurs, wow, wouldn’t that blow everybody away?

“Especially as kids are so in love with them. And like The Swiss Family Robinson, every single show has a family, or a little boy or a little girl that is lost in a strange world - like The Wizard Of Oz . And you just root for them because you love them and you can relate to them and you can’t understand why they can’t get home.”

Land has a basic concept - Park Ranger Rick Marshall and his two kids, Will and Holly, are on a “routine expedition” in a raft when a massive earthquake sends them tumbling over a waterfall and through a portal in time and space to the titular world.

"We were trying to find a habitat that could feature dinosaurs and a family... and those two entities together worked out to be a really good combination," Marty Krofft remembers.

“Great things happen when you have imaginative people aboard, and we had Allan Foshko, who had worked with us on other things, and it was a very collaborative effort. You have a few nightmares and you come up with these wild characters and places."

Of course, given the extremely low budget they had to work with (Marty often jokes that it cost “$1.98 a show”), the series has the air of camp about it, with the actors over-reacting to stop-motion dinosaurs blue-screened in later and plastic props.

But for all the cheese, it became a beloved show in the States and has long since snatched the title “cult classic”.

Plus, it attracted some serious talent behind the scenes…

Next: Famous Pen-Wranglers


4. Famous Pen-Wranglers

For what was effectively a kids' show, Land managed to score some hefty talent to write episodes.

Literary SF heavyweights Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon and Ben Bova all contributed episodes, while a number of people who had been involved with Star Trek, including Dorothy "D.C." Fontana, actor-turned writer Walter Koenig and David Gerrold also bashed out scripts.

This might be attributed to the fact that the show was markedly different from the garish colours and weird puppet creatures of other efforts.

It was the Kroffts attempt to break into newer, more epic, and – for them – more reserved territory while still keeping the kiddie appeal.

The three main characters faced danger from the dinosaurs and also from slow-moving, hissing lizard-men creatures known as Sleestaks, who nevertheless lived up to typical bad-guy behaviour by never quite defeating our heroes (or being able to shoot straight with crossbows).

The Marshalls also encountered the Pakuni, a race of ape-like humans, and made friends with Cha-Ka, one of the creatures.

One element that marked the series out was commissioning linguist Victoria Fromkin to create a language for the Pakuni, which she based on the sounds of West African speech and attempted to build into the show in a gradual way that would allow viewers to learn the language over the course of many episodes. Talk about details…

The show went off the air after three seasons in 1976, and lay dormant for a while…

Next: Journey To The '90s


5. Journey To The '90s

In 1991, the Kroffts were approached by ABC, who wanted them to recreate the show with a bigger budget and a lighter tone.

They created the story of the Porter family, who were travelling the wilds of America when their truck falls through one of the show’s trademark time portals into the parallel world of Land Of The Lost.

There, the family encounters Sleestaks, Pakuni and sexy cave-girl Christa, a young woman who fell through the portal as a child and grew up alone in the Land.

This new version ran for two seasons, but never quite gained the popularity of the original.

Even back in 1991, the Kroffts were trying to get a deal in place to turn the concept into a movie. But nothing came of it until…

Next: Enter Disney...


6. Enter Disney...

In June 1995, the Walt Disney Company announced that Sid & Marty Krofft Productions had entered into an agreement to produce a theatrical film based on the original 1970s TV show.

Very little detail emerged about the Mouse House’s plan for the show, and there was no sign of a script for a long time.

In 1999, Ain’t It Cool reported that, “Sid and Marty Krofft have wrestled the Land Of The Lost movie rights away from Disney, and have raised finances themselves to make the film, presumably independently, although there's no confirmation of a new studio being involved or if they're shopping it around.

“The Krofft bros. are now working with Adam Rifkin, who co-wrote Small Soldiers , on the screenplay, and claim to be in ‘active preproduction.’

“They say the film won't be heavy CGI, but rather, a combination of FX techniques, and that the story will be more faithful to the original '70s show than the crappy '90s remake, and will include the Marshall family and the Sleestaks.”

They might have broken away, but they didn’t get anything going until 2002, when Sony stepped in…

Next: Sony Takes A Stab


7. Sony Takes A Stab

Entering into its own deal with the Kroffts, Sony tried in 2002 to get another version of the movie made.

Sony immediately began efforts to make a Land movie.

This was intended to keep the same basic elements of the original Krofft show but was geared for an adult audience.

The plans for the movie remake included far more vicious dinosaurs, fierce Sleestaks with claws and fangs who posed a very real threat, and grand, computer-generated environments. Sid and Marty Krofft reviewed the draft script and loved it.

Sony released a synopsis: "Before Mom dies, leaving the Marshall family shattered, she makes one last request that her ashes be brought to a Mayan archaeological site in Mexico, where she was working as an archaeologist to discover how one of the greatest civilizations known to mankind (the Mayans) simply disappeared.

“Once in Mexico, Rick, Will and Holly Marshall stumble into a wormhole, the same one through which the Mayans left our Earth, and journey to an alternate parallel universe, in which the dinosaurs never perished 65 million years ago and have continued to evolve all this time.

“It is there that they are tasked with travelling through this strange world, encountering bizarre creatures along the way (Pakuni and Sleestaks, of course), so that they may find their way back home."

But funding issues meant it never quite found its way to the screen. At least not until another studio picked it up…

Next: Universal Finally Cracks It


Next: Silberling Is Announced


"I sat down with the studio and hit them over the head, and said, 'Here's what you need to do, and what you need to secure.'"

With a script provided by Entourage’s Chris Henchy and SNL veteran Dennis McNicholas, the film entered production in March 2008 as one of the biggest ever seen at the Universal lot.

Dispensing with the idea of casting kids as Will and Holly, the filmmakers opted to turn them into a redneck attraction operator who gets sucked into the Land with Marshall, and an enthusiastic British research student who idolises Marshall and comes along for the ride.

Tropic Thunder ’s Danny McBride nabbed the Will role, while Anna Friel – complete with her proper accent for a change – would play Holly.

And despite the comic tone, Silberling is quick to point out that it’s respectful of the original. Well, mostly…

Next: Keeping The Flame


10. Keeping The Flame

“There are people out there who will never be happy. Some people want things fixed in time and space, others want to see a sense of humour about what the experience of the original was,” admits Silberling.

“So I'm not worried about it. It works for me and I think it'll work for people who haven't seen the original series. I wanted to build more and not shoot on location to echo the original show. We've improved the lighting, but it still feel handmade...”

The movie’s plot features a lot of what made the original show fun – dinosaur characters Grumpy and Alice, plus ape-boy Chaka, played in this version by SNL Digital Short regular and Hot Rod co-star Jorma Taccone.

While the first trailer showcased some distinctly dodgy CGI, the FX improved for the final version - although reviews haven't been exactly hysterical.

Still, if you’ve never seen the show (which many of us here in the UK have not), you can find it on DVD. Or just skip it and try the film on its own terms…

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Freelance Journalist

James White is a freelance journalist who has been covering film and TV for over two decades. In that time, James has written for a wide variety of publications including Total Film and SFX. He has also worked for BAFTA and on ODEON's in-cinema magazine.