Dinosaur Dracula!

French Toast Crunch is back!

I know I’m late on the draw and that 99% of you have already heard the news, but for the remaining 1%: French Toast Crunch is back!

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It’s true!

The cereal debuted in 1995 but was discontinued in 2006. From then until now, you could only find French Toast Crunch on “DO YOU REMEMBER EATING THESE?” listicles, sandwiched between photos that were callously stolen from Dino Drac.

General Mills didn’t just catch wind of the growing nostalgia — they made it their main selling point. French Toast Crunch is being marketed almost as a relic, celebrated not just for what it is, but for the bygone years it reminds us of.

(And I’m down with that. With so many of the recent junk food revivals, that’s secretly been the point. Why not just come out and say it?)

The box design is mostly unchanged, with the same fiery red background and the same perfectly arranged spoonful of cereal. Read More…

Extremely Old Bubble Gum.

Tonight’s random topic: BUBBLE GUM. Very old bubble gum that I spent too much money on. Turning frivolous purchases into Dino Drac content is my eternal salvation, so here we are.

Below: Five bubble gum brands from the ‘80s and ‘90s. May they help you remember a time when perusing the candy rack at your local deli meant everything in the world.

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OUCHIES

While Ouch (properly styled as “OUCH!”) still exists in a less-interesting form, this is the original version. Made in the early ‘90s, Ouch was like a less flashy Fruit Stripe. In truth, the gum couldn’t have mattered less. The real reason everyone bought it was for the insanely cool packaging.

Sold in tins meant to look like Band-Aid containers, each stick was wrapped in a bandage-like wrapper. “Band-Aid gum” doesn’t sound immediately thrilling, but the draw was in carrying around blazingly pink aluminum tins. That was our version of “accessorizing.”

The best part was how you could repurpose the tins after the gum was finished. I’m sure a great many of you will look at that photo and remember how well they worked as portable coin banks. Read More…

Saturday Television of a Misspent Youth.

Back in junior high, I spent a lot of my free time alone. I don’t mean that to sound maudlin; I had friends, and we’d hang out often enough. Thing was, we had few common interests, and whenever they ran off to do whatever normal boys did, I hid at home.

This was during the early ‘90s, and I can’t sugarcoat it: Those were pretty lonely times. My experiences certainly weren’t unique, as I’m sure a lot of you were also victims of demographics, living in neighborhoods where, God dammit, not one other person was anything like you.

I made plenty of friends in high school — many of whom drove — and suddenly those years spent bored and bewildered were just a part of my past. I didn’t miss them then, but the weird thing is how much I miss them now.

A quiet freedom (literal and figurative) comes with solitude, and I can’t help but idealize those long ago weekends, when I threw myself into hobbies and discovered everything that made me tick. I’ve spent my whole life dabbling in obsessions, but most of my truest passions were defined in that era. (And I know that they’re the truest, because I had no audience.)

The bulk of those weekends were spent in my bedroom, which was less a “bedroom” and more my own personalized ecosphere. It wasn’t just a place to sleep — it was a place to live. In there was access to everything that kept me sane, from toys to videos to Nintendos to back issues of Starlog. The walls were covered with pleasant sights, the shelves topped with plastic joy. There you’d find me filling out order slips for vintage Star Wars collectibles, reading books about sharks, and drawing bad ripoffs of The Infinity Gauntlet. I didn’t know it, but I was happy.

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I watched a lot of TV on those weekends, on a half-fritzed hand-me-down with perpetual fuzz and three of the buttons missing. Nothing makes me remember that time of my life quite like those old shows.

In a sense, those weekend programs were my friends, dropping by to provide me with much-needed distractions. I counted on them, big time. I’m not talking about Saturday morning cartoons, either — I was already a little old for those, and besides, it’s okay if Saturday mornings are boring. It wasn’t until late afternoon that joining the Little League started to seem like a good idea.

In the early ‘90s, weekend programming on network television was… interesting. There you’d find made-for-syndication sitcoms that never played on weekdays, stuck in horrible Saturday timeslots that guaranteed audiences no larger than two dozen. By late afternoon, the more popular syndicated shows would get their first-runs. Finally, in the dark of night, there was my beloved parade of eerier entries that made going to sleep with the lights off tough.

Below are six examples. At the time, none of these shows were anything approaching my “favorites.” I started watching them simply because they were the best case scenarios. Every single one of them reminds of those lost ‘90s weekends, when I was stuck in my bedroom to stew-or-swim. Seeing a mere snippet of any of them makes me feel simultaneously depressed and inspired, as impossible as that sounds. Read More…

Five really old cans of Chef Boyardee.

Let’s look at five ancient cans of Chef Boyardee pasta, because of course I have those.

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Pac-Man Pasta!

From 1986, it’s both my oldest can and the prettiest… even if one must approach “golden chicken flavored sauce” with healthy trepidation. The milky, yellow glop looks not entirely dissimilar from cat vomit.

Intellectually, I get that “golden chicken” only implies that chicken-based sauce is naturally yellow. Still, pairing those words makes me imagine a splinter group of mutant chickens that I’ve never known to exist outside the confines of Pac-Man Pasta.

On the upside, the pasta shapes include Pac-Man, ghosts and power pellets. On the even uppier upside, the label’s gorgeous blue background gives it a subtly oceanic theme, which despite being miles away from canonical lore still somehow works for Pac-Man. Read More…

Deadsites: “The Beast” 1996 TV Movie!

These Deadsites posts are always tricky. For every entry that seems to resonate with you guys, there’s another that maybe three people on the whole planet are interested in. Admittedly, today’s entry runs the risk of falling into the dreaded latter category.

I can’t afford to care, because GIANT SQUID!!!

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From 1996, get a load of NBC’s official site for The Beast, a rather infamous television movie based on Peter Benchley’s nearly same-named novel. It’s about an enormous squid that terrorizes a small town, with little regard for its natural habitat. (Benchley also wrote Jaws, and it would be perfectly accurate to call both his novel and this adaptation “Jaws with a squid.”)

Ever since childhood museum trips told me about giant squids’ deep sea battles with sperm whales, I’ve been a huge mark for them. I was all about this mini-series in 1996, even if it ended up being kind of dopey and way too long. (My favorite bit had the impossibly huge mother squid — the movie’s “big bad” — surfacing to inspect its murdered offspring… literally reaching its tentacles over land and into a pool to check her baby’s pulse. It pained me to skip Married With Children, but vengeful mommy squids didn’t land on TV often.)

Reviews of the film are frustratingly disparate. Genre fans give its cheesier elements a pass, because we know that movies like this are always kinda cheesy. The problem was that The Beast was a prime time network special, more commonly reviewed by “pros” whose normal duties did not involve looking for the bright side in protracted movies about bloodthirsty squid. Read More…