In 1999, filmmakers Diane Bernard and Jeff Krulik completed a film that chronicles the creation of one of Saturday morning's greatest triumphs - Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.
In the 30 minute documentary (winner, Best Documentary at the New York Underground Film Festival in 1999), the filmmakers went right to the source - the original writer/creators of the unique kidvid classic. Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp debuted on Saturday morning, September 12, 1970 and was an instant hit.
No wonder, Mike Marmer and Stan Burns (the creators of the program) were known for their exceptional work writing for the best variety programs of the Sixties and Seventies - including Flip Wilson, The Smothers Brothers and The Carol Burnett Show, where they wrote many memorable routines including 'Went With The Wind', the famous 'Gone With The Wind' Parody (they won an Emmy for that one).
Marmer and Burns sold ABC on Lance Link because of their stint writing for 'Get Smart' - and Lance Link, Secret Chimp' was pretty much 'Get Smart' with fur and 'psychedelic' music. Lancelot Link was a super agent for A.P.E. (Agency to Prevent Evil) in a simian nod to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Lance's female sidekick was Mata Hairi and together they battled villains like The Duchess, The Baron, Wang Fu, Dr. Strangemind, Creto, Ali AssaSeen, and other evil agents of C.H.U.M.P..
The sets and props were elaborate, the costumes inventive, there was even a groovy rock band called The Evolution Revolution, whose songs were at least as catchy and pop refreshing as The Archies. These music segments ran between the adventure of Lance and Mata.
The narrator was Malanchi Throne, with the voices of Bernie Kopell (Love Boat), Dayton Allen (Winky Dink), Joan Gerber and Steven Hoffman.
The budget for the series was the highest ever (at that time) for a Saturday series - over a million dollars, necessary because of the production limitations inherent in working with animals. Many new lighting techniques had to be utilized to shoot the dark chimp faces; the animals were trained by industry veteran Frank Inn (Petticoat Junction, Benji).
For the first season, the Saturday show was an hour in length (9:00am - 10:00am) and included cartoon segments, the second season was a half-hour of reruns (12:30-1:00) without the music and cartoon interludes.