Hey, I'm back. Sorry this one's so late, I just couldn't find the words to describe old commercials featuring Roddy Piper having mental breakdowns and cartoon toothpaste tubes staging rock concerts. Here's another batch of 1980s ads (and a few sprinklings from the 90s), with downloads, and paragraphs that you'll probably skip over. My kingdom for a skim-through. Be sure to read the previous installment if ya haven't already, because if I'm being honest, the ad spots in that article were a lot more interesting than what's in store for today: dog food and girly dresses.
The Early Birds Game:
Made by Parker Brothers, the "Early Birds Game" pitted players against one another, armed with overstated long-necked fowl who battled to collect the most rubber worms. I'd love to know how this one was pitched to King Parker. I actually owned this game as a kid; though I never really figured out the plastic bird mechanics and thus never really played "Early Birds," I was way fascinated by the happy amount of colorful rubber worms included, each with the requisite segment lines and a bulbous head that so eloquently shouted "carry me in your pocket at all times." The game's shelf life wasn't anything to caw home about, but even during the years after Toys 'R' Us moved on to new flavors, I held on to those stupid rubber worms. Watch the commercial, you'll see. You'll have to squint a bit, but those rubber worms were obviously the interim collect-and-love deities between pet rocks and Norfin Trolls.
Real Ghostbusters Toys:
The Real Ghostbusters line was already well established by the time Ghostbusters 2 hit theaters, but that didn't stop Kenner from cashing in on the box office smash anyway. It sort of worked both ways: RGB existed even more prominently as a cartoon show, with a sloppy green ghost named "Slimer" being the arguable lead character. In Ghostbusters 2, Slimer took his bit role from the first movie and turned it into an Emmy award winning performance, all because of his proven stroke from the cartoon. I know I'm getting convoluted here, so let's skip to the part where I say "this commercial is sort of based on Ghostbusters 2." Kenner was advertising a bunch of new ghosty figures and the 'Busters with their color-changing "slimed" outfits, and where are the battles staged from? A big plastic Statue of Liberty. It's the ultimate homage to the ultimate sequence of modern day cinema -- that being the six minute stretch where Lady Liberty blasts gospel music out of her head and stepdances across the Hudson. The four Ghostbusters were immortalized as action figures at least a dozen times over, but the versions shown here were some of my favorites. Mostly because they came with demonic spitball monsters, and yes, you see those in the ad.
My First Sony:
You should remember these. "My First Sony" was a collection of perfectly adequate electronic devices made for the young consumer, ranging from Walkmans to cassette recorders. They worked just as well as Sony's real offerings, but these versions were safely encased in big, bulky red plastic -- the kind that let the gadgets survive at least four or five slips down the stairs. More memorable than the pricey gizmos was the jingle heard in this ad, containing such clever lyrics as "I like pizza pie, I like macaroni! But what I love is My First Sony!" It's even better when you consider how all of the singers shown are wearing big red Star Wars props that weigh about as much as their heads. In an era long before children skipped the middleman and just outright bought the stuff marketed towards their parents and older siblings, "My First Sony" seemed like a pretty decent idea.
What's so special about "Tonka Hyperdrivers," one of the fifty-thousand race car track sets thrown at us in the 80s? Well, see, this one was really fast. Hyperfast. I don't know much else about the things -- apparently, the cars were free range. As opposed to most of these sorts of racing sets, you didn't necessarily need the track to see the cars go apeshit. I'm not sure if it's just a clever trick by the ad's producers, but the cars certainly seem to have been a bit bigger than the norm -- nearly fist-sized beasts, in all sorts of wild colors, with protective plastic bumpers so they could crash into brick and live to tell about it. The point would be more poignant if Tonka Hyperdrivers could talk, but I plead the metaphorical.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Figures:
Finally, something I can talk about without faking knowledge. Here's a great ad from Playmates' TMNT toy line, featuring some of the lesser known but still totally in my personal heaven kinda characters that came out later on in the franchise's life. I was still way into collecting the figures at this point, but it'd grown from "must have everything right now" to "pick 'em up as I find 'em." Nevertheless, I owned every figure shown here and used to cuddle with 50% of them. Shredder introduces "Mutagen Man," his new charge and easily in my top 50 action figures ever. He was some wacky dude with a clear, water-filled body that had all kinds of organs and garbage floating around inside. In the spot, Mutagen Man grabs a pile of mutagen ooze, because his name suggests such actions, and runs over to some of the Turtles' newest pals poised to kill. The new heroes include "Napoleon Bonafrog," who makes up for being the lesser-known of the two frog figures by looking a Hell of a lot cooler, and "Ray Fillet," a ray-themed figure capable of turning different colors when placed in water. Playmates soon canned the color-changing feature and released Ray without it, so for a time, a color-changing Ray Fillet toy was your ticket to Aruba Paradise. These days it sells for about three bucks or so.
Just before Mutagen Man can mutamurder the heroes, "Panda Khan" arrives at the scene to kick some serious ass with his twenty plastic swords and etched-on doomsnarl. The commercial is also notable for having a different actor supply Shredder's voice, one who sounded absolutely nothing like the original and who's skilled imitation was only on par with that of any 3rd grade playground games of roleplaying TMNT freeze tag. Playmates never rested on their laurels after the TMNT collection became an official hot commodity -- they continued to do their part with some really great, enticing ads, and this one is really close to being a good example.
I'm only realizing it now, but you know what's fucked up? How amazing most dog and cat food commercials are. The level of creativity and hard selling that went on during Friskies' and Alpo's ad campaigns was comparable to those of Ford Motors, and if you really think about what we're buying here, it's pretty incredible that the market's this competitive. There's a reason why I can remember the jingle for "King Kuts" canned dog food even after not seeing the ad for a good 15 years. Every expert in the world says that pet food's promotion and packaging is only designed to entice the people feeding the animals, and that's right down to the two-toned steak-shaped pieces of kibble. As I can owner, I admit that we're often swayed simply by the fact that one brand of cat food features a picture of a particularly cute cat on the box, altogether shunning other brands because the cats on their boxes were ugly. I don't know if "Mighty Dog" is/was considered a healthy brand for doggies, but I doubt many owners could resist buying it after seeing the dog in this commercial, dressed like a superhero, flying through space as an announcer more or less ushers in the slimy grub as the second coming of Christ.
The World Wrestling Federation:
Before they got the "F" out and spent half of their programming time on mock reality competitions revolving around how well a woman can balance her breasts in mid-handstand, the WWF was famous for having Hulk Hogan beat up a bunch of bad guys. Hulk's first real star opponent was the guy shown in this commercial, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Piper isn't anywhere near as beloved these days, but wrestling fans sometimes forget what a gift for the gab the guy once had. The ad's only purpose is to remind viewers of the WWF's television show, but that doesn't stop Roddy from turning his thirty seconds into a forum for discussing everything from grandmothers to the Loch Ness Monster. Piper was actually so good as a bad guy, he ended up being cheered nearly everywhere he went -- and even while being booed, everyone still loved him. Non-wrasslin types may also remember Piper for his starring role in They Live, a sci-fi flick from 1988 about tricky sunglasses and aliens who subliminally advertise their goals.
Cocoa Pebbles Cereal:
We all know the gimmick of Post's Pebbles cereal commercials -- Barney disguising himself as somebody else to trick Fred into handing over a bowl full of yum. The best part was how Barney would outright tell kids at the start of each ad that he was about to trick Fred, remaining unbelievably confident even after poor Flintstone fell for the gag 7,500 times in a row. This commercial displays one of Barney's strangest plots -- he dresses as a talking, robotic vacuum cleaner and offers Fred a free house cleaning. Fred, never the skeptic, happily lets the death machine into his house, and what do you know? The first thing it sucks up is Fred's Cocoa Pebbles. Within the vacuum's hidden chamber, Barney keeps a pinkie to the sky as he downs the cereal. Fred eventually catches on, but by that point the vacuum had transformed into a car and Barney was halfway across Bedrock.
Hey look, it's toothpaste for kids! Colgate has for years tried to replicate the success of other franchises' mascots, never quite capturing the same effect as Domino's "Noid" or the Energizer Bunny. This time, they're trying to turn a singing, glam rock toothpaste tube into a hit character. While it's interesting to see toothpaste grow star-shaped eyes and grab a mic stand, I don't think this was one of Colgate's better attempts -- especially when you consider that Crest had already done something similar by dressing up a toothbrush like Jon Davidson.
"BK Doubles" were a collection of souped-up double-cheeseburgers from Burger King -- a little something to lend the fast food would-be giants an extra edge in their ongoing war with McDonald's. Instead of going the normal route of introducing a new single sandwich every few months, Burger King aimed for bigger results by unleashing no less than six new sandwiches simultaneously. The BK Doubles had some weird varieties in their hat, ranging from "salsa burgers" with jalepeno cheese to three-pound barbecue bacon burgers. Lots of meat. The ad features two guys stuck in a television set grabbing at props from a Burger King commercial airing on another TV set a few feet away -- not quite a direct approach in getting the world to eat more double-cheeseburgers, but at least they shirked the obvious.
Tonka Dress 'N Dazzle:
There's been zillions of girly dress-up kits like Tonka's "Dress 'N Dazzle," but how many of them included "three-in-one glamour gowns?" That's right, folks -- it's the dress that transforms into...other dresses! A trio of young Hollywood hopefuls get the honor of spreading the word, and you've gotta know that the first two girls were jealous that the other one landed the ad's only killer line: "I'll wear the short and sassy parrrrty dress!" Shit rolls right off the tongue.
The Mickey Mouse Playhouse:
Wow, I wasn't expecting this commercial to be so...well, LOUD. It starts off with a wee Mouseketeer inviting everyone in the neighborhood into her new Mickey Mouse Playhouse, and you betcha...every kid in town runs at her like an attack dog. Incidentally, an attack dog is also shown running at the Mickey Mouse Playhouse like an attack dog. The Playhouse was just that -- a big plastic clubhouse for kids to waste afternoons eating cookies inside. The thing had a slide, puppet show stage, vinyl windows and even a little tunnel for kids who were too stupid to open the front door. Not much fun for anyone over a few years old, but the especially little kids had to absolutely love this thing. Dunno how much it retailed for, but the wind-waving Mickey flag on top probably boosted the price by a good fifty bucks.