It shouldn't shock regular readers of X-E to learn that, when it comes to revisiting the past, nothing gets my fires going better than an old commercial. For the most part, everything we grew up with is still readily available. If you're feeling nostalgic for some toy you played with at age five, chances are good that eBay'll provide salvation. If you can't get that ancient video game out of your head, it's usually just a quick search n' download away. What made us want these items back then has become more lost in the shuffle, and while finding an old plaything is fun, seeing the ad that made me beg and plead for it takes things to a whole new level. I will supplement this made-up answer with the truth: they're strange and often hilarious, and I long for another television era featuring Hulk Hogan in Honey Nut Cheerios commercials.
In sprit, and because I don't feel like writing about anything that requires a long attention span, here's ten commercial reviews with downloads for each. A few of the ads have been mentioned on the site before, but all of the downloads are an X-E first. Probably an Internet first, too. I can't picture many people feverishly tracking down G.I. Joe color-changing action figure ads. The files are in WMV format, at about 1-1.5 MB a pop. Quality ranges from halfway decent to shut-it-off terrible. Which ones are which? I want it to be a surprise.
Bugs Bunny's Kitchen Safety Tips:
This thing used to scare the shit out of me, so I'm assuming it's from between '82 and '84. A message from the Shriners Hospitals starring Bugs Bunny, the audience was taught valuable lessons in children/kitchen safety. As I recall, Fred Flintstone was in a few of these Shriners spots, too. Where'd they get this kind of pull? And what are "Shriners?" I never bothered to ask before. Are those the guys who wear fezzes?
Bugs Bunny, looking as he always has with Mel Blanc behind the mic and all, isn't here to make jokes today. He's here to properly list and organize the number of ways a child could be severely injured or killed in the kitchen. It's by far my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon ever. Sometimes speaking in rhyme, Bugs picks out specific items in a real life and real outdated kitchen. When he points to something, it turns into a cartoon. Not sure if I'm explaining that correctly, but when Bugs started talking bad about a coffee machine, its plug cord turned into an animated cobra and began hissing at me.
If you remember the anti-drug PSAs from the time, you might recall some of 'em being pretty scary. It wasn't always the huggin' mommies and the rappin' basketball players. Sometimes the campaigns were designed to frighten you into submission. You probably won't think it's the same case here when you download this clip, but as a small boy watching Bugs introduce the Hidden Monsters of the Kitchen, I ruined far too many pajama bottoms.
Aside from keeping your cords safely tucked, you should keep cookie jars away from hot ovens. "So kids don't get more than a treat!" The preliminary warnings only served as the warm-up for what Bugs really wanted to talk about. Pots. Pots on the stove. Containing BOILING HOT WATER. The background score moves from engaging to absolutely haunting, as the pot o' water morphs into animated form, complete with the meanest face you've ever seen. Quickly, the pot grows red hot, expanding and shoving its fanged head right in front of the camera. You'll keep waiting for Bugs to shut him down, but it doesn't happen. Not even Bugs Bunny could match wits with the evil pot o' water. The lesson? Keep pot handles turned in, so kids won't pull on 'em and get doused with a gallon of scalding hot water. I rate this lesson: invaluable.
Matchbox's Voltron Lion Set:
Of the toys everyone seemed to own, the Voltron lion set had to be in the top ten most high-end. Voltron wasn't just handed over to children who scored above a "B" on their spelling tests -- we had to spend one of our biggest holiday cards for this bitch. Expensive and massive, Voltron was the toy that made me break a neighbor family's phone time laws by calling after midnight just to brag to a classmate about owning it. There were several versions of Voltron through the years -- some made of cheaper plastic, others with vehicles replacing the lions -- but this commercial reflects the best kind of all: lion-version, made of diecast metal. Heaviest figures I've ever owned, at least in comparison to size. Of the many times I'd trip over all the garbage littering my bedroom floor as a kid, landing knee-first on a Voltron lion was the worst ending of all.
Being a regular viewer of the Voltron cartoon wasn't a prerequisite of owning the toys. I wasn't. This was all about having a showpiece in your collection -- something way too gigantic and glorious to keep any who witnessed it from drooling. Voltron was a great thing to bust out on the day Neighbor Joe knocked on the door to boast about his new "My Buddy" doll.
Knight Riders Impossibles Set:
There haven't been an extraordinary number of Knight Rider toys, but the ones we got were amazing. There was the infamous Knight Rider Power Wheels: a tricycle with too much attitude to be anything but black. For the more fortunate, a Knight Rider pedal car afforded kids the chance to drive around in what looked like an honest-to-goodness K.I.T.T. car...albeit a little smaller. Even better than the bikes and cars was a series of -- take a breath -- Knight Rider shoelaces. Black, with two words on 'em. Repeated over and over again. Knight Rider Knight Rider Knight Rider. If nothing else, the losers of second grade could at least have cool feet.
You're gonna wish you had what this commercial is peddling: the Knight Riders Rough Riders Impossibles set. A long name for a cool toy, it was sort of a futuristic race car track that defied all laws of gravity by having a miniature K.I.T.T. drive positively upside-down, up and down walls and through your very soul. The crazy track, with all of its misshapen loops and curves meant to illustrate the supercar's super abilities, looked like a pile of parts, half-constructed, left to die by the child who couldn't figure out how to put them together. Alas, this is how it was supposed to appear.
Incredibly, David Hasselhoff stars, with K.I.T.T. being properly voiced by William Daniels. I can't believe I didn't have to look up Daniels' name first. Thank God for Feeny Trivia Speedrounds. Hasselhoff boasts that the included car could do things even K.I.T.T. couldn't, prompting the auto of the hour to protest. Made by LJN, who couldn't quite take the Knight Rider crap to the same sales level as their collections of Thundercats and WWF figures. K.I.T.T.'s as much to blame for that as anyone, as you'll see with his halfhearted pitch in the ad. Dumb car.
"Wuzzles" were some of the most conceptually unique of the 80's girly dolls: a merry band of crossbred creatures just waiting to be adopted! With characters like "Bumblelion," each doll was a mutant hybrid of two different animals, all cherubic. The franchise did pretty well, branching off into other kinds of toys, coloring books, and even a cartoon show with really bright colors.
Any success the Wuzzles had was due to the commercials, each featuring an annoyingly irresistible jingle poorly lip-synched by the happiest group of happy children in happy history. In looking over some old toy catalogs, I've noticed that Wuzzles were ridiculously expensive for what they were, sometimes retailing for as much as 20 bucks a pop. Oh, those poor children who couldn't live without bee/lion mutant dolls. They only had one avenue, and it was damned expensive. Learn more about the Wuzzles in this old article.
Masters of the Universe - Buzz-Off & Whiplash:
This Masters of the Universe ad introduces two new action figures to the collection -- the heroic "Buzz-Off" and Eternia's latest foe, "Whiplash." The commercial aired near the middle of the MOTU's run, evidenced by the fact that He-Man and Skeletor were already up to wearing those neat battle-damaged outfits with the spinning chest injuries.
Two children puppet the figures, even adding their own character impressions. "I, Skeletor, have another warrior named Whiplash!" Whiplash had a giant green tail, and using the ever-present hip-swinging feature found on MOTU action figures, you could make the dude whip down piles of empty soda cans. The tail also made Whiplash one of the few He-Man figures capable of standing under its own power after the second week of playing. This was a great card for Skeletor's hand, because even within the motley confines of He-Man's allied powers, there's not a single hero with a giant green tail. Instead, our champion ups the ante with a human bee.
Buzz-Off was always one of my favorites, at least in toy form if not on the cartoon -- a big, beautiful bee with translucent bee wings and a big bug-eyed helmet, plus some weapon that looked like a metal detector dipped in chocolate. Buzz-Off somehow felt more like a deluxe figure compared to the others, with spiky legs, alien eyes and that wacky sailor shirt. The commercial pits these new characters against one another, presenting no clear winner. That's up to you. I'm gonna put my money on Buzz-Off, because to date, bees have never failed me.
Nintendo - Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!:
Ah, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! The uncrowned king of the Nintendo Entertainment System. As much fun as it was to make Little Mac punch everything, the real selling point of the game was its gamut of evil boxing characters, each with their own catch-phrases, nuances and signature moves. Old fans could probably recall every last facet of the game, from the 003 code to hit Super Macho Man to that strange fluid shine on the bottom of Great Tiger's feet after you sent him to the mat. Kids who had this thing played it a lot. Though word-of-mouth was just as powerful as the commercial in getting people to buy the game, it's still a great ad. They even got Tyson himself to star in it, dubbing over his maniacal laugh with someone who sounded scarier doing a maniacal laugh.
The game would've probably sold by the millions even if it sucked, but it's easily among my favorites for the system. It just never grew tiring, no matter how many times you beat it, no matter how many times you killed Don Flamenco. The commercial features Tyson wandering through a hall of Nintendo screens, finally settling in the center to give the game a whirl. Proving the champ's boundless dedication, he wears tights and gloves even for video game boxing matches.
Ads are a sea of lies, but Nintendo's commercials were usually a good indication of how much you were going to enjoy the game. They always went the extra mile to advertise their destined top hitters, and between the million dollar set and the million dollar celebrity spokesperson, kids knew where to shove their next batch of birthday money at.
Hulk Hogan & Honey Nut Cheerios: I've written about this commercial before, and now you can finally see it. One of the all-time greats, it's the Hulk Hogan Honey Nut Cheerios ad. It's bee versus beast, and Cheerios' top toon has his work cut out for him. Watch in awe as Hulk Hogan more or less threatens to eat every infant on the planet before being cooled down with a soothing bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Hulk was really feeling it here, appearing to be just one small emotional transgression away from exploding on the spot. The bee, even though he was drawn in several months after Hulk had already returned to his mountain castle in Spain, looks positively terrified. I still can't believe God didn't hand the reigns over to Hulk Hogan after seeing this.
You've probably never heard of Galoob's "Dozzzy" dolls. I can't find any information on the things anywhere, with this commercial so far being my only proof of their existence. Apparently some kind of bedtime sleepydolls, each Dozzzy could talk, and each Dozzzy's head lit up in the dark. Fair enough. I'm not mentioning the ad because of the dolls, but rather the two kids charged with getting the word out...
It's Rudy Huxtable! And the fat neighbor kid who filled in whenever Kenny was sick! Thanks to Galoob, we're about 64 people away from a Cosby reunion. Rudy fares pretty well for herself, while the fat kid just sorta grunts at odd intervals. Dozzzy dolls came in "boy" and "bear" varieties -- a Dozzzy for every bedside preference, even the sicker ones. Obviously another in a long line of challengers to Teddy Ruxpin's throne, Dozzzy never caught on. I bet that gave Rudy a complex. An "I can't sell dolls for shit" complex.
I wish I knew the fat kid's real name. I'd love to hit IMDB and see what D-level Cinemax exclusives he's starred in since. I bet he got killed and fucked a lot.
Coleco's "ALF" plush was one of my guiltiest pleasures throughout childhood, but this version was even more desirable. "Storytelling ALF" was yet another Ruxpin wannabe, but it's hard to find any fault with an ALF doll that tells stories or sings pop songs depending on which cassette you shoved up his ass. Really expensive, but nothing could make a kid glow quicker than a seemingly alive doll based on the coolest television character since Orbity.
Storytelling ALF came with a cassette tape and read-along storybook, commanding attention like no other toy could. In the ad, five children become positively enamored with their new pal, hanging on his every word as if anything coming from the battery-operated voicebox in his stomach made any sense. One of the time's best treasures, Storytelling ALF hasn't even skyrocketed much in value over the years. In fact, if you're able to find him on the auction block, he'll frequently run less than his original retail price. You'd think all those phone commercials would've done something for his notoriety. Then again, Carrot Top. More ALF info can be found here.
G.I. Joe Shadow Ninjas:
Okay, I lied -- this ad's from the 90's. G.I. Joe's reign over the smallscale action figure market during the 80's wasn't easily let go by Hasbro, who tried just about everything to keep it afloat. For example: on the wall behind me is a packaged G.I. Joe "Manimals" figure; a soldier who transforms into a crocodile wearing football equipment. The "Shadow Ninjas" shown in the commercial aren't quite as offbeat, and they're probably one of the few late, desperate attempts from Hasbro that actually worked.
The gimmick was simple enough. The figures were basically the same as kids were used to, with all sorts of posable joints, plastic accessories and serious uniforms. One thing separated this lot from the rest: their outfits changed color in water. Bathtime buddies, military style.
Most of the figures mentioned in the commercial don't strike a chord with me, but Hasbro was smart enough to include "Snake Eyes" and "Storm Shadow" -- two perennial favorites -- in the group. It wasn't just the outfits that swapped colors in water: even the figures' skin became white and translucent when drowned, illustrating the warriors' "ninja invisibility." A comparative few of you will likely remember these, but had they come out just a few years prior, we would've been all over 'em. Kids love that color-changing water shit. On the flipside of our birthright fears of falling and loud noises, we came out of the womb loving color-changing toys.
That about wraps it up for this batch. Can't wait to see my server bill. Commercial junkies new to the site should have a field day over at our (my, mine) 80's Ads section, where over 100 spots await your clicks. If that's not enough for you, hit the two Thanksgiving Day Parade features (One, Two) for more downloads.