Written/Created by: Matt
Posted on 2.13.03.

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Let's give some credit where credit is due.  I've washed all the walls and painted them blue.

You might not have heard 'em referred to as 'Wacky Wall Walkers' before, but chances are good that you've owned quite a few of these sticky octopi toys. The early-80s fad raked in almost 100 million nationwide, despite the ultra-cheap production costs involved. Wacky Wall Walkers' popularity wasn't the result of a killer advertising campaign, but rather sheer dumb luck and a good mind for the American psyche. With all the studies that've gone on over the years to determine what it is that really makes us all tick, how come it takes some guy with no kind of psychology degree whatsoever to figure out that everyone would've just adored little rubber octopus figures that crawled down walls?

You have to remember - 80 million might sound like a lot, but it really doesn't do the success of Wacky Wall Walkers justice. A good percentage of them were distributed either in quarter vending machines or as prizes in cereal boxes. Even if you assume that they all cost twenty-five cents a pop, (wholesale prices were actually far less than that) the '80 million bucks' quickly defines the hold of these things at a population total of 320 million Wacky Wall Walkers. Everyone in the whole damn universe had one. In silent fashion, these little creatures had usurped the championship title in the Fad Heavyweight Class, and even though their novelty has all but died out today, they're still remembered as a success story almost without equal.

I was bit by the bug, too. I couldn't have been more than six-years-old at the time, but there was certainly a point where my entire existence centered in on my mission to own a Wacky Wall Walker. The phenomenon began it's journey to the top long before I was old enough to care, and by the time I caught wind of their religious shine, they had just about run out of steam. Still, one last hurrah was in order, and it was about to be thrown in my face with as much force as six tropical storms and that bouncer who only lasted one day on Cheers because Norm didn't care for his gruff demeanor. Naturally, it all started during breakfast.

I was a Corn Pops junkie for a while. I never could stick with a particular cereal for long, but Corn Pops had a pretty lengthy stay on the inside cover of my diary's 'your personal favorites' list. Why I needed to tell myself what my favorite breakfast food was, I'm not really sure. I guess it's possible that I would've completely forgotten my penchant for Corn Pops by the time I hit my mid-30s, so maybe the diary was just trying to preserve my taste buds' natural inclinations before all the cigarettes killed them off entirely. Something always struck me as magical about these Corn Pops. I felt like I was eating little golden nuggets, like the Federal Reserve was using their personal shavings to decorate and flavorate popcorn in a covert operation uncovered only by yours truly. Plus, they tasted like candy.

On occasion, I'd try out different cereals even while still entrenched in my love for Corn Pops. I couldn't understand why this particular cereal had such a hold on me, but I was willing to try anything to bat away the obsession. I even tried eating oatmeal, which at the time, did nothing for me on the palatability scale aside from making me think of baby vomit and losing my appetite altogether. I tried out Kix, but grew tired of the unattractive orange box by the second bowl. If I couldn't gaze at the backside of a cereal's box while eating it, I simply could not eat the cereal. Soon I moved on to Sugar Smacks, which were interesting but had the unfortunate side effect of making a five-inch area around my mouth stickier than a used condom. In the end, I'd always come back to Corn Pops. There was never any real chance of escaping it, so I chose to embrace my breakfast lord instead. Things remained that way for a long time, and do you wanna know why?


Because I gotta have my Pops.

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And that takes us to the Wacky Wall Walkers, the fascinating little creatures that'd soon change my life forever. The Kellogg's Company started offering up these monsters in specially marked boxes of their cereal brands. Wacky Wall Walkers had been a huge hit in years past, but now they were gonna have a chance to inspire a whole new generation of people who were in desperate need of an excuse to throw shit at the walls. Kellogg's bought the Wall Walkers by the trillions, amassing a collection which had a sum mass three times larger than that of North Dakota. Still, Kellogg's had little interest in getting in the Guinness Book for it's impressive collection of spidery slime toys. No, they wanted every kid in America to have one. All they'd have to do is eat Kellogg's brand cereal exclusively. That's a fair trade, right?

Kellogg's extended the offer to almost all of their varied cereal brands, fashioning an advertising campaign to promote this brainstorm the likes of which wouldn't be seen again till ABC got the 'brilliant' idea years later that everyone in America would've just loved watching a television show about people in plastic dinosaur costumes imitating Simpsons characters. The marketing scheme paid off - every kid in the country was soon begging and pining for their very own Wacky Wall Walker. With the added advantage of being able to get one from any of the many Kellogg's cereal brands, I was able to choose what I wanted to eat for breakfast while still being able to take home a squishy octopus figurine. It was a thrilling moment, and I opted to go with Kellogg's Corn Pops. Why?


Because I gotta have my Pops.

It's possible that some of you have never had the chance to experience a Wacky Wall Walker in all of its glory. Others of you might've simply forgotten how wonderful they were. Before we continue, maybe I should tell you exactly what these godsends were all about...


With a bulbous head about an inch in height, the Wall Walkers looked very much like any old octopus. Their creators might've thought differently, but the rest of the world dictated history by screaming, in unison, 'HEY...THING LOOKS LIKE AN OCTOPUS!' Indeed it did, but that wasn't the selling point. Made from a semi-sticky type of rubber that felt like a balloon filled with cold creme, the Walkers were able to literally walk down walls without falling off and hitting the floor. Sure, it only worked part of the time, but that's not the point. They came in various colors, and the ones in Kellogg's cereal even glowed in the dark. Times were simpler, and people were decidedly fascinated by the Walkers' 'magic' abilities. It's a sad commentary on the available leisure activities of this era, I realize, but there's nothing wrong with a little mindless octopus-throwing when the situation calls for it. Who wouldn't want to cap off breakfast by chucking gooey demons at nearby walls? Cigarette after sex. Octopus-throw after Chex.

Throughout the years, Wacky Wall Walkers appeared with different numbers of legs. Some had four, some had six, some had eight, and one had forty, but he was a mutant fluke. Kellogg's opted for the ones who had seven, since it made them hard to write off as plain ol' spider, insect, or octopus toys. The featureless faces only added to their mystique. No, these Wall Walkers were an entirely new entity, probably of extraterrestrial origin. Proof of alien existence never came cheaper than a box of Corn Pops.


Actually, the story about how Wacky Wall Walkers came to be is pretty interesting. Ken Hakuta, who'd later be known as television's 'Dr. Fad,' spotted a similar toy in Japan and knew it was a hot concept. He bought the rights, and after producing and distributing some of the beasts, the Walkers gained momentum. 80 million dollars in sales later, and here we are. If you've ever taken a marketing class, you might've heard this story before. Some professors explain the tale as a lesson in how marketing works, and how success isn't always dependent on a clever ad campaign. The Walkers rank just behind Stew Leonard's Food Mart and 3-M's Post-It Notes as the most unlikely heroes of college marketing classes. America's affinity for all the stickyish toys we've seen over the years started right here with the Wacky Wall Walkers.

PS, in regard to the kid on the right in the above picture, I'm going to have to apologize. Considering that our Congo Activity Book article was pretty recent, I hated to have to include yet another picture of Amy the Gorilla. Still, in the concern of historical accuracy, I can't leave the picture out. That's the way Kellogg's marketed the Walkers. It's not my fault.


The creatures truly took pride in their act. After taking your Walker out of the cereal box, you'd spend a few minutes shoving it up your nose. No really, you would - it almost always took on the scent of Froot Loops by being trapped in there for so long. The only thing better than a gooey octopus is a gooey octopus that smells like those towelettes handed out in Chinese restaurants.

Pleasant odors aside, the Walkers' true superpower stemmed from their ability to cling to surfaces and casually 'walk' downward. It wasn't a perfect technology. Sometimes the Walker wouldn't stick, and other times it'd stick for a nanosecond before hopping down to the floor and getting absolutely covered in rug dirt. If you practiced your style of throwing, the octopus usually had little trouble performing its magic trick. Once stuck, you had just a scant few seconds to make the popcorn and grab a ringside seat for the year's most highly anticipated event: The Wacky Wall Crawl.


Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture shown above most definitely fits that train of thought. And who am I to break tradition? Click here for your thousand words.

To skirt around copyright law and fuck with our heads, Kellogg's called their version of the slimy monsters 'Wacky Wall Walkers.' Semantics aside, they were essentially the same ones millions of people enjoyed for years. The Walkers still exist, in many forms actually, but they'll probably never regain the popularity they once experienced. This makes me sad, because I just know there's gonna come a time when the only thing I need from the world is a rubbery octopus that can stalk its way down the bathroom mirror. I'd hate to have to go questing around the planet for one. Kellogg's, are you listening? Bring them back, or I'm switching to oatmeal again. Ewww baby vomit.

Anyway, when this giveaway was going on, I made my mother go to the grocery store to bring home a box of Corn Pops with the glorious creature inside. Sadly, our supermarket hadn't restocked their Corn Pops stock, so she brought home a different cereal with the Wacky Wall Walker offering. I wasn't pleased. After throwing the kind of tantrum that still causes me embarrassment well over a decade later, I persuaded her to drive all the way across town to see if any other supermarkets had Corn Pops. I'm sure she wasn't too happy having to partake in this endeavor, but I hadn't been more serious about a request in all of my life. I wanted a Wacky Wall Walker more than anything, but not at the risk of losing out on my number one breakfast. On this fateful day, my poor selfless mother was spoon-fed a terrible lesson about her unshowered son...


I gotta have my Pops.


Follow the above link to download and watch Kellogg's Wacky Wall Walkers Corn Pops commercial. See it in action. Live life to the fullest. Chuck an octopus. Be happy.

Remember that Nike Transformers contest we were promoting a few weeks ago? Well, several X-E readers took home a prize. See, not all contests are fake and nasty. UGO's running another one, this time giving away a brand new Sony Watchman every day in February. It's free to enter, and you won't get spammed by doing so. Click heah yo to throw your name in the hat!





 


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