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The Banana Splits Got a Movie. It’s Probably Not What You Think.

Recasting a sweet children’s show as a macabre, gory horror movie is, nevertheless, a renegade move. It’s especially startling considering the source material comes from Hanna-Barbera (now owned by Warner Bros.), the animation studio behind such family-friendly 1960s favorites as “The Flintstones” and “The Yogi Bear Show.” As Bill Hanna wrote in his 1996 memoir, the characters he developed with Joseph Barbera “were likable, they were funny, and you could tell that they cared about each other.”

It was a working formula. “The Flintstones” became the first animated show to air in prime time, and cartoons like “The Jetsons” and “Scooby-Doo” helped establish the Saturday morning cartoon. “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour” was Hanna-Barbera’s first live-action addition to the Saturday morning lineup, modeled after the psychedelic pop-music romps of “The Monkees.”

The new movie’s sinister twist is, to put it mildly, a departure from that formula. Jesse Kowalski, who curated a 2016 exhibition about Hanna-Barbera for the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., said Hanna and Barbera “would have hated it.”

“They were very protective,” added Kowalski, who had not seen the film. “They were trying to make feel-good shows.”

Attitudes, like the corporate ownership, may have changed. Last month, Warner Bros. Animation announced it was rebooting “The Flintstones” as a prime-time animated adult comedy series. And the idea of a grown-up, “flipped genre” reboot for the Banana Splits had been kicking around Warner for some time, said Peter Girardi, executive vice president of alternative programming for Warner Bros. Animation and of Blue Ribbon Content, a division of Warner Bros. Television Group.

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