An Interview: Producer Allan Sandler on Lancelot Link Secret Chimp DVD release

By Laurie Coker

Here we have highlights from my interview with Allan Sandler, co-producer of Lancelot Link Secret Chimp and some cute stories from behinds the scenes. Sandler worked with series creators Stan Burns and Mike Marmer and a cast of talented chimps. I enjoyed traveling back in time with my grandson watching the 1970’s Saturday morning series Lancelot Link Secret Chimp, a spy spoof with a cast of chimps (see my review in our DVD section).  My grandson giggled through every episode we watched together and that always delights me. Having the opportunity to speak to Sandler proved to be a great deal of fun.

Sandler had some terrific stories about his time with the cast and the ape’s antics on set. During our all too brief phone conversation, Sandler told me several hilarious tales involving the chimp cast. My favorite is about a young chimp that wandered away from the set in the Valley and into a Renaissance Festival, which according to Sandler attracted “hippies.”  After the crew searched high and low for the chimp, in the late afternoon, two such folks returned him to the set, explaining that while he was with them, their new friend ate a hot dog, drank some beer, but because he seemed to be a bit high, they decide to stop letting him smoke marijuana.

I asked Sandler how they got the primates to appear to speak, he laughingly said with bubble gum, peanut butter and in some cases with simple training. He said these efforts kept writers on their toes trying to match dialogue with mouth movements. He also shared they made for an excellent cast, even when they were playful, taking the directors’ chairs, pretending to smoke, drinking soda from cups and he mused on how they, creature who typically don’t stand up right, would automatically stand on two feet at the director’s command for action and drop back down at the call to cut – his descriptions so clear I could see it for myself. He told tales of teaching the cast to eat spaghetti by sucking up one noodle at a time, to avoid a real mess and how, just like a human actors, the animals (members of SAG) got regular work hours, breaks, bathroom time and safety considerations. He even told me that Marmer and Burns would talk and joke with the chimps, who in turn with laugh and cut up too.

Finally I asked Sandler if he would ever consider reviving his stars and story in a modern move, and he said, NO – clearly and unequivocally. No, he said, it can’t be redone – today’s computer generation and modern filmmaking would take away from the uniqueness of the whole thing. And I am sure he is right! Which makes the release of Lancelot Link Secret Chimp 3 Disc Special Collector’s Edition so special. Inspired by bootleg copies of badly made copies of the original, Sandler saw to it that these special shows were beautifully re-mastered from the original films.

On a final note, Sandler told me about his reunion with Lancelot Link (I believe he said his real name is Congo) at L.A.’s Wildlife Waystation, where in a touch reunion Sandler spoke to the show’s former star. He told me that while Lancelot Link recognized him immediately, he made sure he was with his old friend, by sharing a peanut butter sandwich and he knew for sure when Lancelot threw up his pinky finger while he nibbled on the treat, a trick of high-manners he learned on the set.  Proceeds from DVD sales will go to help his old friend live out his life I comfort – noting that the old fellow shares his large enclosure with four female chimps. He steered me to the official website at lancelotlinksecretchimp.com and told me that I-Tunes offers the Evolution Revolution album.

I always enjoy an interview and I especially like the ones that take me back to simpler times. I wish I had time to share all of Sandler’s stories, but alas, I do not. Check out my review of the Lancelot Link Secret Chimp 3 Disc Collector’s Edition and better yet check out the set, hitting stores on May 29th and ready for preorder today!

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