Everyone who reads this site knows that I'm a junkie for old commercials. In my view, they go much further in personifying an era than any of the iconic movies, television shows or music that surrounds our thoughts about a particular year or decade. On another token, I find the ads of old to have much more charm than what we're spoon-fed these days; while still exploitive by nature, there's an innocence to many of these commercial spots that'll rose-tint your nostalgia glasses a whole lot quicker than anything else can.
Here's a collection of ads that aired during the 1984 Macy's Parade. These are the real deal, not a "representation" of what could've been advertised at the time. They run the glorious gamut from children's toys to more adult Christmas gifts, and as they were shown during the busiest shopping period of the year, we got to see a whole lot of stuff. I've encoded twenty-five of the commercials, give or take, all in Windows Media Player format. Again, the sound might be a little off-sync, but that should be expected from something taped off television very nearly two decades ago. If you think thumbing through an old Sears Wishbook would jump-start your pines for the past, wait till you get a load of this crap...
McDonald's was one of the parade's biggest sponsors over the years, and perhaps it's never been more evident than in 1984 -- Ronald McDonald could be seen during virtually every commercial break. He was everywhere. I've included a few of the McD's ads in this section, but if you're a fan of the clown, this will likely be your fave. Ronald, under the guise of conversing with some tennis player who may or may not be famous, introduces his new line of "Ronald McDonald Digital Watches." They came in red or blue! The tennis player's son marvels at the devices, letting out an unabashed "wowww!!" as if the things could transform into Optimus Prime and sprout Nerf boomerangs. They didn't -- they were just watches, and if memory serves, pretty crappy ones at that. Oh well: some of the profits went to the Ronald McDonald House, so even if the damn things broke even in the presence of water or if something reasonably close to them fell on the floor, at least it was (partly) for a (vaguely defined) good cause.
There were several commercials on the video that I left out of this section in favor of doing a whole article on 'em down the line, and while this one is certainly cool enough to warrant that, I just couldn't resist showing it off. I don't think there were many boys in the early 80s who didn't own He-Man's "Castle Greyskull" playset, but for the villain in all of us, this was even better. It's the Masters of the Universe "Snake Mountain" playset -- Skeletor's humble home! This was an amazing toy. To a five-year-old, it felt unreasonably huge, and best of all, it actually had more features than He-Man's house. Who woulda thought that Skeletor was better off? Major points of interests include a grimacing demon built into the wall who flapped his gums endlessly, plus an echoing microphone that let any child sound like the fucking devil. As an added bonus, a plastic green serpent could be twirled around and negotiated to look like he was eating He-Man. What more could a kid want? Generally, most of us made the understandable mistake of asking for Castle Greyskull first, only to realize afterwards just how much cooler Skeletor's hangout was. Then we cried until our parents bought us a second giant 50-dollar playset. Then we cried until they bought us enough action figures to fill both of them. Then we cried just because.
The advent of digital cameras seem to have knocked the usefulness of a trusty ol' Polaroid camera down a few notches, but these were some of the most classic Christmas gifts people could receive in years past. The camera's "fad era" passed over me, but I definitely remember a long ago Christmas season when one of my older brothers wanted nothing more than a Polaroid camera -- it was the absolute topper of his wishlist, regarded the same as most kids would a new bike or a video game system. Now they're just sorta "there," and yet kids still remain the most likely candidate for a Polaroid present. This commercial is one of many advertising the beast -- two kids marvel at what the camera can do, and I'm pretty sure Santa Claus is nearby because someone's "ho'ing" in the background. Santa and Polaroid. Got it?
Oh man, these next two ads are great. Promoting NBC's then-hottest shows with all sorts of absolutely 80s digital effects, the commercials play out more like a Nick@Nite parody spot. In this one, we get two quick teasers for Thanksgiving-themed episodes of "The Cosby Show" and "Family Ties," with Michael J. Fox getting the honors of saying "Tonight!" from the sanctity of the tiny blue box NBC trapped him inside.
Here's the second NBC teaser, this time promoting "Cheers" and "Night Court." Seems like Cheers didn't put together a Thanksgiving episode that year...pity. Still, you had turkey and yams all over Cosby, Family Ties and Night Court -- that's a pretty good backdrop for any holiday dinner. Ted Danson gets to say "Tonight!" this time, assuredly driving an envious Richard Moll to the very brink of sanity. Oh, while we're on the topic -- I'm not sure how the cable networks organize their syndicated programs elsewhere, but I haven't seen "Night Court" on television in years. Why is that? Every other old sitcom has gotten their just desserts for the retro renaissance, so what's wrong with Bull? Is it the Marsha Warfield thing? Has "stuffed armadillo" shown up a tad too remotely on audience survey sheets? Come on, the show wasn't that bad. It's even better if you pretend the last season was a bad dream, like Roseanne did with her show. I want my Night Court back. Now I know what to ask for when I win the Great Turkey Wishbone Battle of 2003.
Ah, the real Geoffrey. The guy in the giraffe suit. It's nice that Toys 'R' Us kept their mascot around for all these years, but the most recent Geoffrey -- a literal giraffe who speaks -- can't match up with the original. The clumsy costume made for all sorts of bumpy movements, and even the best camera tricks couldn't mask the fact that whomever was stuck inside that hideous orange thing was having the worst day of their life. This particular commercial sums up TRU's former ad campaigns perfectly; you've got everything from Geoffrey to a bunch of adults making baby noises because THEY DON'T WANT TO GROW UP, THEY'RE TOYS 'R' US KIDS. Look closely and you might even recognize a few faces -- most notably, a young Jenny Lewis, who later starred in the 90-minute Nintendo commercial known as The Wizard. Oh wait, now that I look again, that might be the robot girl from "Small Wonder." Hard to tell, especially when you have eighty-five commercials left and stopped caring an hour ago. After finishing up with their song number, we're shown a bunch of the year's hot ticket items...
Well, thank God. I've been looking for legitimate proof that those Kronoform robot watches made it into stores, and thar she blows. Don't misjudge 'em as an obvious rip-off -- made by Takara, the electro-toys actually predate "Transformers" by several months. Thirteen bucks was reasonable enough for the robot monsters, though it is strange just how little that price would appreciate if the things were sold again today. Toys are amazing bastions of "profit and demand" theories if you look at 'em hard enough, and, they're fun to play with! Gigggggles. :D
Also advertised was that old "Trivia Challenge" board game, the one you don't remember because nobody played it. It came with a steep price tag of nineteen bucks -- a bloated retail price that might've gone more unnoticed had they not advertised a god damned giant plastic turtle-shaped table and chairs set for just four dollars more immediately following. Kind hard to justify buying the stupid board game when you could sit your ass in a giant turtle for just four bucks more.
The "6x6 High Risers Power Cruiser" is a little difficult to describe -- watch the commercial and you'll see what I mean. It's apparently some kind of six-wheeled devil car that houses a comparatively gigantic flashlight and another six-wheeled car that may or may not be a NASA vehicle for Mars exploration. Just as the puzzle begins fitting together, the bigger car grows a robot head and starts eating mice. That said, it looks like something I would've been begging for as a child. I probably overlooked it because there weren't any "High Risers Power Cruiser" cartoons all the cool kids at school would've told me about.
More McDonald's fun takes us to what's both the most depraved and my personal favorite of their promotional schemes -- live Chicken McNuggets, complete with eyes, mouths, and on occasion, hair. Even more amazing is the fact that there are two completely separate legions of Living McNuggets -- the more jovial and goofy variety usually seen alongside a hungry Ronald McDonald, and what's shown above: Adult Living McNuggets. They're still aiming for comedy, but it's of a higher brow.
We've seen McD's McGriddles beat the odds this past year. The strange breakfast sandwiches seemed like such an awful idea, but they essentially ended up boosting the company's profits up to levels that caused stockholders to stop carrying on about how dated the poor clown and his merry pals were. Similarly, those McNuggets breathed new life into McDonald's. They actually debuted in 1984, and their immediate rise to top is evidenced by the sheer number of Chicken McNugget commercials airing during this one measly parade. Seriously, there had to be at least five different ad spots, all rotated at least three times a piece. This equates to 15 instances of seeing Chicken McNuggets during the parade, a fact that becomes more attractive after realizing that you could eat one nugget out of a 20-piece box for every time you saw them on television, and you'd still have five leftover for lunch. See? See how much more attractive that fact became? It's a good time for the great taste.
"Mantech Robot Warriors" -- another lost treasure. They weren't very popular, though that's got way more to do with the line's lack of a cartoon tie-in or an ad campaign more clever than "hey, throw some kid in front of the camera and have him yelp about the toys; put him in a white labcoat for no apparent reason." Nah, come to think of it, the labcoat emphasized your role as doctor and surgeon and god. See, almost every body part of a Mantech warrior could be pulled off and rearranged at your discretion, and even mixed and matched with the other figures. Few action figure toys this hands-on managed to keep that intangible "action figure charm," whatever it is, but these done did it good. Though pricier than a He-Man figure or another plaything of comparable size, Mantech warriors were a lot more fun to play with. Until you lost their heads and arms. Then they sucked. You'd be surprised how many battles He-Man won sheerly by not having a detachable head. Like three or four, easy.
Kitt & Kaboodle. Girl & Pony. Woman Meets Equine. Whatever you call it, it's a young lady on a young horse, and it's capable of walking around your living room even if both you keep both hands and every other hand in the room up your ass. Great attention to detail and realism were paid in this one -- check out how much bigger Kitt's head is when compared to her horse's. It's like watching the plump retard girl trying to ride the puppy Dad brought home when none of the other kids would play with her. Only better, because you can buy and control it.
Rub-A-Dub Doggie -- this one's been real obscured over the years, but those who remember it do so with fondness and dogness. It's pretty basic, really...just a toy dog that's safe for the bathtub. Rub-A-Dub's ears were made of some kind of alien material that could get wet without much ruination, and though his plastic main body might seem boring and plain at first glance, we must consider the unbridled FUN that came along with washing that plastic body with the included and very bone-shaped sponge. The commercial is wrong for several hundred reasons; insinuating a love tryst between girl and dog was second only to the number of nipple shots shown within. Our society's changed a bit from those days -- you can show baby ass all over the television, but little girl nipples are usually off-limits. It's probably for the best. A lot of you are really sick.
But wait...there's more! Follow the link below for another heap of commercial reviews and downloads from the '84 parade, including a chaise lounge made entirely from a giant Timex watch, and of course, more Chicken McNuggets.