If you grew up in the era of Saturday morning cartoons, you most certainly knew of, or even watched, The Groovie Goolies. The cartoon took the famous monsters we know and love and turned them into loveable characters who taught science, brought you monster news, read fairy tales and even played in a band. Let’s start summer the Universal Monsters Universe way by telling the story behind this classic cartoon.
The Groovie Goolies premiered on CBS September 12, 1970. It was a spin-off of Sabrina The Teenage Witch (not to be confused with the 1990s live-action program starring Melissa Joan Hart), a spin-off of Archie, and even aired as Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies from 1970-1971. The show ran for thirty minutes and was structured as a variety show rather than a storyline cartoon like Scooby-Doo or The Flintstones. It was set in Horrible Hall which was a boarding school for monsters. There were segments such as “Dracula’s Schoolhouse” and “The Mummy’s Wrap-Up” along with musical segments by one of the various character bands on the show which were a spoof of popular real-life bands of the time. “Weird Windows Time” was the part of the show for various jokes and riddles by one of the monsters.
The show featured numerous monster- and creatures-of-the-night-based characters but only four were based on the classic Universal Monsters and one a play on the name of a Universal Monsters actor. Drac was the main character who ran Horrible Hall. Unlike the real Dracula, he did not suck blood. Instead he frequently lost his temper and played the organ piano in the Goolies band. Frankie was the Frankenstein Monster who ran the Muscle-leum gym and played the bone xylophone/drums in the band. Frankie even doubled as the hero Super Ghoul. Whenever he was hit by lightning or electricity he would exclaim, “I needed that!” Wolfie was based off of the Wolfman who was always howling for a good time. Dressed in his hula shirt, board shorts and flip-flops, Wolfie played the lyre in the band and could be seen cruising in his Wolf Wagon.
The show also got a hold of the famous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and transformed them into one character with two heads, Dr. Jekyll and Hyde. The right head was a human head and the left head was a green monster-looking head. They would both squabble and bicker as to which head was correct. There was a character who was not based on a specific monster but an actor who played one. Bella La Ghostly was the vampire receptionist at Horrible Hall. Her name of course is a play on Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi. The supporting characters were a wide array of ghosts, witches, skeletons and goblins among others who made Horrible Hall their playground.
In 1971, Sabrina The Teenage Witch and The Groovie Goolies became separate entities. Unfortunately, the Goolies would only run one more season while Sabrina lasted three more. They were brought back in a crossover special with characters from Looney Tunes. In 1975, ABC re-aired the show for one season. In 1978, the show was officially put into syndication. Despite its short runs on television, The Groovie Goolies still maintains a strong following even today as it has since been released on DVD as the Saturday Mourning Cartoon Collection minus the original laugh track. I did happen to catch an episode or two on TV when I was younger and the show was fun to watch. It was the classic style of most cartoons of that era with the bright colors, laugh tracks and song-and-dance numbers. The Groovie Goolies are hard to come by these days but their memory will always live on. So let’s start summer the right way by remembering these loveable characters, especially The Rolling Headstones and their hit song, Chic-a-Boom.
(Joe Grodensky – @JoeGrodensky)