True, there's some mysteries man is not meant to solve. Fortunately, such mysteries are usually of a far higher posture than Hi-C fruit drinks from years past. Today, we answer all questions pertaining to the grandest of all beverage puzzles. Today, we learn the truth behind Ecto Cooler.
Originating as a promotional cross-branding with the popular Real Ghostbusters cartoon, Hi-C threw the familiar form of "Slimer" on each box of the former "Citrus Cooler" flavor -- a mixture of tangerine and oranges -- and renamed it to sound more, I dunno, goo-ish. To call the experiment a success is a gross understatement; Slimer's stay on the Hi-C juice labels far outlasted his tenure on Saturday morning television. As little back as five years ago, Ecto Cooler still shone through the grocery aisles with Slimer's gloppy green face on the package. Keep in mind, by that point, the drink was being marketed towards many kids who at best only had a vague recollection of The Real Ghostbusters. Of all the franchise's successes, the Ecto Cooler story is in a league of its own.
I've written about Ecto Cooler several times on the site, each time growing a more intensely pulsating thirst to find out the truth. Between the almost unnoticed fall from grace to the always perpetuating stories about current Hi-C flavors perfectly mimicking Ecto Cooler's formula, there were far too many questions left unanswered to be satisfied with mere speculation and loosely pieced together fractions of evidence. I wanted -- no, I needed to know all there was to know about this most elusive toxic green punch. Admittedly, there were bumps along the way. I've been wrong about some things, and for that, I can only seek penance from powers higher than even Slimer. Still, I think I've finally made some real progress. I'm not without a few lingering inquiries, but for the most part, I'd say the Ecto Cooler mystery's finally been solved -- with the help of X-E readers, Minute Maid, and the enchanting, forseeing visions only brought on by the mystical powers of peyote.
We'll see it all. We'll see Ecto Cooler in its infancy, even before it hit the stores. We'll tackle the urban legends surrounding the drink's current availability, separating fact from fiction with a climax scene that will BLOW YOURRRRRRR MIIIIIINNNND. We'll even see honest-to-goodness scanned receipts from the supermarket! To the name of Slimer, thine holy day is established. People didn't start celebrating Christmas till they learned Jesus' birth date. People didn't start celebrating Slimermas till they learned the truths of his existence. August 18th. August 18th is now Slimermas. You don't get off work, but at least it's warm enough to have barbecues when it falls on a weekend. You know what goes great with BBQ'ed burgers? Ecto Cooler.
The world first saw Ecto Cooler in a strange commercial playing up its forthcoming release. I can think of few fruit juices that had teaser trailers, so even before the enormous brand loyalty, somebody knew Ecto Cooler was special. It starts off with a deli stockboy carrying in a box of Hi-C juices, all the while humming the Ghostbusters' familiar theme and kicking his legs in correspondence with the song's hard beats. You know how various entertainment mediums will often take a familiar, well-known song or theme, but "soup it up" to sound more dynamic or majestic for a moment of importance? Never quite like this before. You'd swear that they hired God's choir to belt out a wordless siren song to match GB's theme song. Insanely upbeat. The only people who didn't understand this as a sort of "building up" towards something incredible were deaf. Something was about to happen...but what?
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Upon opening a mysterious box of Hi-C unlike any he'd ever seen before, Stockboy Steve is met with a harmonious green light. It's even better than seeing the holy white light since you don't have to have a heart attack first. Stockboy Steve is drawn in, as most anyone would be, altogether forgetting that one grating truth about harmonious green lights. Sometimes, they're ghosts.
Indeed, with the stealth of a fresh asteroid and the vigor of Vigo, Slimer exits the box and continues his usual behavior pattern of going positively batshit crazy. Stockboy Steve becomes visibly shaken, only leading to Slimer himself growing so afraid that he ricochets across the deli in pinball-like fashion. Funny blah blah, but that's not the important part. At this point, our closest look at the "real" Slimer since the movie was his animated form. This commercial was the only way to see an almost live-action Slimer once again. It didn't look too much like the original, but at least it wasn't a complete cartoon.
And that sold the millions. Slimer could've unveiled his new line of 10,000 dollar Slimer motorcycles -- kids were going to find a way to get it. We were baited, and now we were hooked. Thankfully, Slimer's offering was far more affordable than motorcycles. He just wanted us to buy juice!
Yes, juice. Ecto Cooler Hi-C juice. An ominous narrator explains that Hi-C's newest flavor was "coming this summer," and in the final shot, shows Stockboy Steve using the romancing taste of Ecto Cooler to get over his ghost fright. Ecto Cooler was born, and despite the commercial's magnitude, nobody could've predicted just how successful the drink would become.
I was certainly of the "juicebox in the lunchbox" age during Ecto Cooler's heyday, and honestly, I don't think there was a kid, male or female, who would've chosen any other beverage over Slimer's. It was this immense status symbol; any child who had Ecto Cooler had a distinct advantage over any who didn't, despite the usual hierarchies of popularity and social stance. It was an ace in the hole for losers, and a security blanket for the class leaders. For whatever reason, it even transcended the scope of the television show Slimer came from. Though vastly impressive, all good things must come to an end. The world forgot to mourn the loss of Ecto Cooler, and now we're paying for it. As far as Minute Maid is concerned, the flavor is and will remain discontinued.
Ecto Cooler didn't die immediately with Slimer, being sold with various other icons on the box, but even the name itself soon vanished. Over the years, many fans have claimed that a current Hi-C flavor was in reality a reincarnated Ecto Cooler. I first heard about "Orange Lavaburst," a supposed heir to the Ecto throne. I believed it. Even after trying the Lavaburst, I swore that it was Ecto Cooler. Wishful thinking. After being tipped off by some others who firmly believed Ecto Cooler was actually a different flavor, I researched my previously unresearched claims and learned the awful truth: Ecto Cooler was partly tangerine-flavored. Orange Lavaburst had oranges, but it didn't have tangerines. Or lava, while we're at it.
No, I was advised that "Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen" was the true Ecto Cooler II. At first, I thought people were being a little presumptuous -- it was easy to consider this flavor as a Slimer cousin because of the odd "mouth" icon on the packages, colored in Slimer's green hue. When I tried it, I lost my reservations in a sea of what was definitely Ecto Cooler. I knew that I'd said it before, but this time, dammit, I was sure of it.
Yet, there really wasn't any proof. There was room for doubt. Had this been a murder case, the jury would've been hardpressed to support my arguments. Even as it was, not everyone was nodding in agreement. More information was needed. A number of X-E readers sent inquiries into Minute Maid -- the parent company of Hi-C -- and were rewarded with some commendably courteous responses that shed some light on the ongoing mysteries. Here's the most common response from Minute Maid, verbatim:
Well, how about that? According to Minute Maid themselves, Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen was -- at the very least -- an extremely close relative of Ecto Cooler. I have to say, these guys were bombarded by a whole lotta letters in the past few weeks. Most of the readers who sent in questions forwarded me the responses, and there's minute differences in each to where you wouldn't look at them as form letters. For such a silly question, they were pretty cool about it. Unfortunately, even Minute Maid wasn't able to answer everything. What they couldn't give us was what we needed most: the exact listing of ingredients for the original Ecto Cooler drink. Only then would we know the truth...was Ecto Cooler really out there?
Collectively, we sat, pondered, debated, thought, and drank more Hi-C. Without that needed moment of clarity to make things understood, we required more evidence. A man I know only as "Nick" threw the legion of Ecto-Wonderers a bone. Upon buying packages of "Orange Lavaburst" and "Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen," he noticed something peculiar on the receipt. The following picture and scan are courtesy of Joshua R., another reader who confirmed Nick's claims with his own receipt...
I never would've seen this coming...
Orange Lavaburst turned up with a perfectly normal "HI C ORANGE" notation on the receipt. What did Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen turn up with? "HI C ECTO COOL." I've since noticed the same thing when paying for the juice. If Tangergreen wasn't Ecto Cooler, it was too damn close to tell. But see, that's the thing. It might be very, very close -- but we didn't know how close. It might've very well been a repackaged Ecto Cooler even in the eyes of Minute Maid, but nobody knew if the exact formula remained unchanged through the years. After all, there's edibles to return to the market with the very same name that don't taste exactly the same as their ancestors. The case was strong, but we still lacked the smoking gun. From where I sat, there was truly only one thing that could be done. Frankly, the only way to solve this mystery was by going out and finding...
Yes folks, it's the real thing. It's Ecto Cooler, with Slimer on the box, sealed, from 1997. (yep, it was still around in 1997) The box display a different scheme than Slimer's first packaging, proving that Ecto Cooler even managed to survive a massive upgrade to Hi-C's overall look. I could sit here and gush over the box all night long, but the reason it's here is simple: WE NEED TO COMPARE ITS INGREDIENTS TO SHOUTIN' TANGERGREEN. WE MUST DO IT. NOW.
On the left, "Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen." In the middle, "Ecto Cooler." On the right, the stupid box of "Orange Lavaburst" that no longer holds any meaning for us. I compared the first two, and lo and behold, I do declare, I now decree: PEOPLE, WE HAVE FOUND THE NEW ECTO COOLER.
Save for the dyes tagged on to the end of Ecto Cooler's ingredients list, the two share a precise formula. As far as taste is concerned, Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen IS Ecto Cooler. So why doesn't this victory seem insurmountably sweet? Well, I guess it all goes back to the real reason kids bought Ecto Cooler in the first place. It was green.
...which takes me to the final piece of the puzzle.
In previous Ecto articles, I've shown pictures of Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen poured out into a glass. It was piss yellow, free of any dyes. Hi-C promoted that point of interest on each package as "the juice that doesn't stain," but Ecto fans would gladly risk a little staining for an Ecto Cooler II that was the same color. While compiling this article, I remembered something one of the hunters mentioned -- Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen seems awfully short-stocked compared to the other Hi-C flavors. In a fit of panic, we headed to the grocery store to pick up the last of their stock. That's all I expected it to be, but our story has just one more little curveball. Most of the Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen packages, like all of the other flavors, promoted the "no staining" feature. Except for a few in the back. These, strangely, mentioned nothing about stains. When we got home, I found out why.
In the above picture, you'll see Ecto Cooler on the left, and the two varieties of Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen. One is from the box with the "no strain" notation, the other is from the box that neglected a stain notice. What does it mean? Check out the color comparison...
Mystery solved. If you can find Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen Hi-C, without the "no stain" label, you have found Ecto Cooler. The road to these findings has been long, sometimes arduous, and full of trips to the grocery store. For the ends of unmasking an Ecto Cooler still available to all, it's absolutely been worth it. I'd like to thank Minute Maid for their help, those select readers who did some detective work, and Slimer, for being a color that translated so well in juice form. Ecto Cooler may seem to be gone, but for those with eyes more important than the literal ones, it's very much still with us.
From high class socialites to owners of "Female Body Inspector" T-shirts, the celebration will never end.
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