Classic Christmas Commercials, Volume 1!

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It’s already December? How did that happen?

Thanks to an unusually late Thanksgiving, it completely caught me by surprise. Now I’m panicking. It’s the month that flies by in a week! I’m two power naps away from January! Screw that.

Renewing Dino Drac’s celebration of all things red and green is my latest ongoing feature, Classic Christmas Commercials. It’s a horse I’ve been kicking the shit out of since the early 2000s, but thanks to another assist from Larry P., I’m now armed with enough old holiday ads to… I don’t know. Fill a really stupid cannon.

Ancient TV commercials are some of the best windows into Christmases past, and I’m confident that at least one of these will shoot you back to an era of bad haircuts and smaller shoe sizes. Enjoy!

M&M’s Holidays Candy!
(1992)

Not everyone knows this, but “holiday-colored” M&M’s isn’t a recent invention. I remember them being around in the ‘80s, and the only way I’m wrong is if my best friend’s mother used to pick the red and green ones out of normal bags in the spirit of Christmas. There is no way she did that.

Even by 1992, the special M&M’s were still being sold in quaint, old-fashioned packages. If you’ll take my meaning, that made them feel less like “candy” and more like “dessert.” These were the fork-and-knifers of the M&M’s set, and eating them made us feel so fancy.

Pay close attention at the nine second mark. Notice how the kid breaks from decorating his Christmas tree to perform a touchdown dance, seemingly in response to the voice-over’s announcement that each bag now included 14% more candy? Even if I was willing to suspend my disbelief and allow the idea that he somehow heard that, I’d still think the touchdown dance was too much.

Pizza Hut’s Pan Pizzas!
(1987)

If there’s one subset of Christmas commercials that I enjoy more than any other, it’s gotta be fast food Christmas commercials.

There were dozens of them, which led the younger version of me to believe that people really did treat fast food like special holiday “occasions.” You didn’t just buy and eat it. You put on a scarf, caroled in the car and then you bought and ate it.

Pizza Hut’s ad was a little dry by comparison, but since it was up against anthropomorphic Chicken McNuggets begging you to devour them at your Christmas party, of course it was.

I still love the idea of beating the holiday blues just by ordering pizza. It’s a believable premise, too. Pizza can fix just about anything. Dream up a really rotten day, and imagine it ending with pizza. Would you trade a good day that didn’t end with pizza for it?

Liar.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on VHS!
(1990)

This one is PRECIOUS. It’s fifteen seconds of pure bliss.

Here, parents were urged to buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on video for the low price of $24.99. It was what “every kid wanted for Christmas,” or so suggested the unseen spokesman with the super familiar voice.

I loved (and still love) that movie, so of course I had it on video. Mine was just a duplicated rental copy, though. That means I didn’t get the cool black box, with the movie logo surrounded by a ghoulish glow. Which, in retrospect, was probably worth 25 bucks.

The best parts are the cutaways to random tandems of kids shouting Ninja Turtle catchphrases. These were presumably lifted from the actual movie promos, because I don’t think anyone would’ve specifically filmed “man on the street” reactions to upcoming videocassette releases. Either way, I got to see kids wearing ridiculous sunglasses. I am happy.

Pepsi’s Winter Cool Collection!
(1990)

Since its connection to the holidays is so rich and deep, I will always put Coke ahead of Pepsi during Christmastime. Seriously, you can’t search for vintage Christmas photos without finding at least one old Coca-Cola ad. They usually feature Santa holding a bottle of Coke like it’s a bowling trophy. It gets to the point where cynics must wonder if the whole season wasn’t fabricated just to sell soda.

Pepsi’s never going to win the holiday war, but they came pretty close in 1990. The “Winter Cool Collection” redressed every Pepsi product with cheerful wintery labels, and if there was ever going to be a Christmas that I picked Pepsi over Coke, it’d have been the one when Pepsi had tie-wearing penguins on the cans.

Also: Thanks to this ad, I just spent fifteen minutes looking up why anyone would want to swim in freezing water. Apparently, it eases the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, which somehow isn’t a species of dinosaur.

Jell-O Christmas Jigglers!
(1993)

Bill Cosby has an idea! Since Santa Claus already gets forty trillion cookies, why not give him something different? Why not feed the fat man neon Jell-O in the shapes of trees and bells?

Bill seems more excited than usual, I guess because this was the one time he got to make star-shaped chunks of Jell-O dance along to Christmas music.

It may be my favorite of today’s commercials. Christmas-shaped Jell-O Jigglers have long been a part of my lexicon, but I’m not sure that I ever made the obvious leap to leaving them out for Santa. It’s a great concept.

Well, it’s a great concept with an asterisk. Look at how everyone handles the Jigglers in this ad. In real life, you could never do that! They’d break into gloppy pieces and ruin the holidays. I’m not saying that Kraft Foods used silicone Jell-O props, but I’m not saying that they didn’t.

I’m looking forward to spending the next 25 days being merry with you. Or 24. I don’t know. I can’t count. Happy Easter.

Note: A few paragraphs up, I used the word “lexicon.” There’s a strong chance that I used it incorrectly. If so, please overlook it. I’d rather be half-wrong and get to use the word “lexicon” than be 100% correct with no lexicon. Call it your Christmas present to me.

I celebrate the holidays all over the internet. Be sure to follow Dino Drac on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And save a slice of whatever stupid nut-covered pie that is for Mummy Shark, too.


46 Responses to Classic Christmas Commercials, Volume 1!

  1. Thanks again to Larry P. for donating the ads. Lots of great ones to come.

    Happy December, all!

  2. Re: Coke vs Pepsi

    Let’s not forget the Coqnac of Holiday Sodas, Pepsi Holiday Spice. Christmas hasn’t tasted as good since 2006.

  3. Don’t eat Santa’s Jell-O. Just don’t do it.

  4. I was going to say, “Why no Hanukah sodas, Pepsi?” But then I realized it’s 2013 and everything that can been invented has been invented. After a Google search, yep, Jones Soda already made a pack of Hanukah soda.

    In related Dinosaur Dracula news, remember that dinosaur in an egg statue you wrote about, Matt? I saw a similar one at Goodwill this week, except it was a dragon with jewel on it’s forehead. Thoughts?

  5. I’m not saying that Kraft Foods used silicone Jell-O props, but I’m not saying that they didn’t.
    They could well have been.

  6. It makes me so happy you’re looking at commercials from years ago again! I agree that there’s just something Christmassy about fast food. What marathon trip to the mall is complete without McD at the end? I hope you pull out a few classics (Scrooge McNuggets, Fruity Pebbles, Honey Nut Cheerios). I know you’ve looked at them before but they’re so iconic they deserve their place every year. Merry Christmas!

  7. 14%!!!! Check out that bag! 14%!
    CHEAPSKATES!!!!!!!!!!

  8. @Jaguart: I still have some cans of that leftover from my review way back when!

    @K: It’s probably not from the same collection, but “dragon with forehead jewel” is always a must-buy, especially from Goodwill.

    @Dr_Demento: I knew something was up. Not kidding — check out the Jigglers in this commercial. There’s no way that’s real Jell-O.

    @drew do: Some of the old classics will turn up for sure. Most of the “big” ones are ads I covered back in 2003, but since that involves serious digging to find crappy paragraphs, I think it’s time for a redo.

    @Lauren: Shit, you’re right, it’s not 40%… it’s only 14%! Now his dance was even less warranted.

  9. Every year, I go to Youtube and rewatch Christmas commercials. A few years ago I streamed old Christmas sitcoms, movies, and tv specials on a Justin.tv channel. I made sure to edit in vintage commercials to add to the charm of it. I got a few people saying is that a commercial? A commercial on the internet? LOL like I was getting money from the commercial being there. Others got it and enjoyed rewatching the commercials.

    I know a lot of people when the Titus Christmas episode was on they said I don’t know what this is but I do not like it. That made me laugh and I still think that is one of the best sitcoms of all time.

    I have all of those movies and tv shows/specials blocks on a hard drive and if I am feeling up to it I plug in that hard drive this time of year and rewatch some of the shows with the commercials added in.

    I love the Peter Folgers commercial, Fruity Pebbles ho ho ho I’m hu hu hungry, Scrooge Cheerios, Nestle dog puppets, McDonalds, their is just so many. Some of them fortunately still air. You would be surprised, some I haven’t seen for a few years on tv I catch late at night and think wow they still play that one? The Campbell’s one when the kid is a snowman and then thaws, they will not let that one die. The Corona Beer ones.

  10. What kind of a calculation is 14%, anyway???

  11. (sigh) Just think, there was a time before those M&Ms characters. Those M&Ms bags do look nice and classy. I wish we could go back to that and not have an obscene, cartoon M&M on very bag.

    I still have my original TMNT movie video tape. I like that Pizza Hut commercial prior to the movie. I seriously think that Pizza Hut pizza tasted better back then. They sure knew how to advertise it properly. Look at the presentation in the commercial. It makes the pizza look like a far classier item than it is.

    Jell-O Christmas Jigglers. They are meant for immediate consumption and not to leave out for Santa. For one thing, they’d melt just a little bit and another thing, I imagine that a few dust particles would land on them.

  12. You’re right about the jigglers, Matt. I remember being fascinated by the idea of them. I didn’t even like Jell-O that much. I just wanted to play with them. finally, I got my parents to buy and make me some Jell-O, and I don’t remember specifics but I remember the disappointment.

  13. If you guys want a serious trip someone has uploaded a copy of “A Muppet Family Christmas” on YouTube. Excellent special but the best part? It is a version TAPED off of TV in 1987 with commercials and bumpers intact. it is an excellent watch. Link is in my name.

    Now this is a special worthy of an old school Matt style review :)

  14. According to wikipedia, a lexicon is a catalogue of a given language’s words. so yeah I say you are using it right in a figurative sense.

  15. But in one of the shots, a kid clearly takes a bite of the Jell-O jiggler! Did that kid sacrifice his life for the sake of a commercial?

    MikeK: I agree that Pizza Hut used to taste better, and even the commercial there makes the pizza look better than it does now.

    Also: we got a Pizza Hut commercial, and a TMNT commercial that promotes Pizza Hut coupons. Don’t think we don’t know who is bankrolling this article, Matt!

  16. I love watching old commercials year ’round, but watching them with Dino Drac™ brand commentary? That’s a whole ‘nother level of special, so thanks for doing what you do!

    About Pepsi and the holidays, I haven’t seen this, but my wife tells me there’s a Pepsi Santa now? I think she said he was decked out in blue, the same way Coke Santa wears Coke colors. Weird.

    On M&M’s, my favorites are the ones that come in the larger, more plastic-like bags, rather than the more papery, smaller bags you get at the checkout. I don’t know why, but pour and eat those out of a bowl, and they just seem warmer and richer somehow.

    It sounds weird, I know, but it’s kind of like the difference between drinking a Coke from a glass bottle versus another container. Just a certain sort of magic, I guess.

  17. Like seeing the Pizza Hut ad on there. A fave tradition of childhood was for awhile there every Fri. my mom would pick my brother & I up from elementary school and take us directly to Pizza Hut for personal pan pizzas. So good. Sausage and a coke and if the timing was right an X-Men collector’s cup or Land Before Time hand puppet.

  18. Casual Jeff: They probably used fake ones for waving around, yeah, but for the one being eaten, I think I’ve heard of something you can add to Jello to make it firmer… I just can’t remember what.

  19. (Sorry to keep extra-posting– new ones keep popping up as I post!)

    Brian (Review the World): I remember Tuesday Night, Kids Night for Personal Pan Pizzas– Nickelodeon advertised that all the time. They had good toys, too, and Nick magazine.

    Book It! was also fun.

  20. Happy holidays Matt! Great update.

  21. remember all these commericials except the TMNT one! I always wondered who all those random kids were in the jell-o commercial? were they all cosby’s kids? or what? LOL.

    excellent write up on all these commericials….really enjoyed this one matt!

  22. I totally remember the M&M’s one and the TMNT one. I believe I have that exact edition of the VHS. Is it just me or do movies not do fast food coupons like that anymore? I mean, I know there’s a ton of cross-promotion now with cars and everything, but it seemed like back then, anytime you bought a VHS of a major tentpole movie, you’d get some kind of coupon with it. I don’t see that so much with DVD’s and Blu-rays these days.

    Also, did you guys notice the snippet of the 1-900 number just before the Pepsi ad? I’m wondering what that was for, especially considering it cost NINE DOLLARS PER CALL. I don’t think even calling Freddy Krueger back then would cost you nine dollars.

  23. @LBD– you gotta add packets of plain Knox gelatin to the jigglers and they will honestly become rubbery hockey pucks. The recipe is on the Knox package– doesn’t anyone else remember Knox Blox™?

    Happy December! Crap! I haven’t put the Halloween stuff away. Yay Matt!

  24. Bunch of memorable ads, especially the Jell-O one.

    The second Pizza Hut one strikes me as a bit chintzy; am I alone in this? I’m not a big fan of gift certificates in the first place, especially not for something as transitory as fast food, but at least when someone gives you $5 in McDonald’s gift certificates, it’s enough to buy yourself a meal. $5 for Pizza Hut probably wasn’t enough to buy a whole pizza even in 1987.

    “Merry Christmas! I got you most of a pizza!”

  25. Man, that kid doing the touchdown dance in the M&Ms spot is soooo easy toj ust pass over, yet so amazing! I love it!

    Pizza Hut definitely tasted better back in the day. Same with Domino’s, too. Then again, maybe I was just blinded by, respectively, the TMNT tie-ins and avoiding the Noid.

    I’ve never been a big Jell-O guy, but the old Bill Cosby spots, specifically ones for the jigglers like above, man, I always craved Jell-O after seeing those.

    That first TMNT movie coming out on VHS really was an event. The whole thing just felt so perfect. Even beyond the movie itself (which I and everyone I knew loved to death anyway), it was the box with the embossed cover, and the general design, even the Pizza Hut commercial at the beginning. The whole thing just felt so special. The videos of that and TMNT II are burnt into my memory for reasons well beyond the actual films, though those certainly are, too. Even with all the special features and whatnot, it’s a feeling that I’ve just never gotten from DVDs (sort of like how the old Batman tapes had the Diet Coke & Looney Tunes things at the beginning; if I had my way, the DVDs would include those, too, and not as extras, either. No, they’d go right before the movie, like they’re SUPPOSED to).

  26. I have so many Christmas/ Pizza Hut related memories growing up. Every Christmas Eve my family would go to Pizza Hut for dinner and I recall thinking it was because that restaurant was sooo fancy and upscale. Looking back there was a good chance my parents thought the same thing.

    I’m watching those kids make Jello Jigglers in that commercial and they are cutting the shapes out in the center of the fucking pan! Pulling that kind of shit will net you what? 3 Jigglers? Use the sides and work your way in, assholes! I know they’re just children but odds are (provided that childhood stardom didn’t ruin them) they’re all grown up now and can take the criticism.

  27. I was only 3-years-old when the Pepsi Collection came out, but wow, I wish they’d release them again, today. Those cans are awesome! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Very cool seeing these classics. Look forward to the next batch!

  28. Loved these… Unrelated, are you (Matt) going to make an amazon wish list? Or do you have one already? I’m trying to finish my Christmas shopping!

  29. Holidays! I remember for Easter they did an array of pastel colors. When I was young I thought they were their own brand so I was surprised as an adult when I went looking for them on the internet that they were, in fact , M&Ms.

    And I TOTALLY got the TMNT vhs that Christmas. I asked for it, even. I was nearly 16, true, but you can’t go wrong with the TMNT.

    Jell-O Jigglers always grossed me out. Especially with people handling them throughout the commercials. Like stop touching my fucking food, dude. Blech.

  30. I definitely remember that Pepsi ad

  31. That Pepsi ad features Max Grodencheck. He played the part of Rom, Quark’s bumbling Ferengi brother on Deep Space Nine. He’s the one holding the six pack doing the weird accent.

  32. I remember all of those ads but the Bill Cosby one (and the only reason I don’t remember that is my family didn’t have cable in December 1993). The big ones here were the Turtle tape and the Pepsi cans. My sisters and I were huge Turtle fans. We probably did get that video for Christmas 1990. Everyone in our family loved the Turtles. And those cans brought a lot back – we had them throughout December 1990, and I remember thinking as an 11-year-old that the cans were cute and the commercial was dumb. Now, I still think the cans are cute, and the commercial is silly but hilarious.

    (Oh, and I have very fond memories of that Pepsi Spice. The 20 ounce bottle was on sale for most of December 2006 at the grocery store where I work. I drank more soda that December than I ever did in 25 days or ever would again.)

  33. @LaryP: I know how you feel, I get disappointed when I put home alone on dvd on, and there is no pepsi comercial.

  34. I just showed my 3 kids some 1987 Christmas ads. Hits included the “Thanks Alex, Oreos” ad, “Sprite with the elves”, and of course, “Ronald McDonald skating”

    E. Claire (who will be 9 next month for all you old school X-Ers out there!!) commented how pleasant the ads were compared to today’s offerings. Hit me right in the nostalgia.

    I can’t wait to show her these. Thanks Matt!

  35. The red & green M&Ms are surprisingly effectively festive–for just being M&Ms that are colored green and red. My mom used to put those out in a bowl and they were always cheerful. In fact, I will now do that myself.

    By the way, I wanted to respond to your last post, but because of Thanksgiving-ness of those two days I was sleeping much of the time I would’ve written a response. I actually had one of the best Thanksgivings in many years because I DIDN’T visit any relatives, and I don’t mean that in a snarky way. At a certain point people become too miserable and difficult to make it worthwhile, and I stayed home with my mom and ordered a “turkey dinner” from a nearby place.

    I read this blog partly because you seem like you have a family that actually appreciates each other. I think a lot of people have become really distant from each other these days.

  36. @Manimal: Wow. NINE. That’s crazy. Love that you still drop by; hope the fam had a great TG!

    @port of car: Funny you should mention it… some of us were having a discussion the other day about how it’s nice every now and again to “do nothing” on a big holiday. (Well, not “nothing” really… but something lower key.) I’ve only been able to do that when I was sick, but it’s still kinda fun.

  37. Those commercials spanned my Middle School & Early High School years, thanks for that warm fuzzy nostalgic feeling!

  38. Bonus for the girl wearing the happy face T-shirt in the TMNT commercial! Those were a thing, weren’t they?

  39. I agree 100% about the red & green M&M’s. My Aunt used to put them out every year & I always thought they looked so pretty/festive..even just in a simple bowl. I drive myself crazy every Xmas finding them but they really catch your eye.

  40. I always feel compelled to thank you every time you remind me of once forgotten stuff from my childhood. I remember those Pepsi cans! Especially the Santa one. My boyfriend says he would rather continue to have ankylosing spondylitis rather than swim in freezing water. Its like purposely stubbing your toe to distract yourself from a headache.

  41. @MikeK — thank you for pointing out the days before those inane M and M characters. I despise those things because they treat all M and M buyer/eaters/lovers as if they need cartoon characters to sell them a great candy. I remember an ad for a gas station a few years back where the car pulls in and the CG gas pumps start dancing around. God! Are we in kindergarten?! (Rant over.)

    @Goob — I love that Folgers Mikey commercial. So touching, even today.

    @drew do — Muppet Family Christmas is lovely. So great to see Jim Henson washing dishes at the end. Glorious.

    Merry, merry everyone.

  42. Matt,

    I Just wanted to let you know that your site is fantastic all year, but especially this time of year. I love re-living Christmas’s of past. These commercials are fantastic. I also wanted to mention that I like when the radio stations go Christmas but I enjoy your “Jukebox” even better. The radio stations don’t play the great things that that conjure up Christmas in me quite like “Garfield’s-Gimmie or “Island of Misfit Toys” or even the opening theme from “Home Alone”. These things are Christmas to me…Thanks

  43. Totally had that VHS for Christmas 1990. The year we got our first VCR! Had one at my dad’s for years before that, but this was the first one owned by me and my brother and mom!

    I had a bootleg of TMNT about 3 months before it was on video, also. I felt so bad ass.

  44. Just a thought: Could they have frozen the Jell-O Jigglers? Or put them in the freezer long enough to firm them up enough to actually, you know, jiggle?

    Those M&M bags really do look classy as fuck. And if MikeK hadn’t mentioned the days before the M&M “characters,” I wouldn’t have even realized that I really don’t care for those guys. They need to bring back those classy holiday bags for the grown-ass folks.

    I like the idea of the Pizza Hut commercial, but like Morgan R. Lewis, I wonder whether or not a $5 gift certificate would buy a whole pizza, even in 1987. A personal pan pizza, sure, but a pizza for a family.

    I know I found the TMNT video under my tree that Christmas morning back in 1990. I remember having that one and The Secret of the Ooze, but I don’t think I ever owned a copy of the third movie, which is strange to me, since I still loved the Turtles and the time travel angle was (and is) right up my alley, even if the movie wasn’t that great.

    I don’t remember those Pepsi cans at all! I mean, we’ve always been a Coca Cola family, but I remember the summer cans Pepsi did that one year. Hell, I even had them on display in my room for years until one of them exploded. Those winter cans are even more awesome than the summer ones!

    That Jell-O commercial may be the only one that I remember. At least I think I remember it…it certainly seems familiar. Anyway, I like it. It makes me happy, for some reason.

    Great article, Matt! Looking forward to another Christmas season with my favorite nostalgia Internet…guy.

  45. There is just something about holiday commercials from the 80s and 90s that absolutely scream Christmas to me. It must be part nostalgia, but I love them just the same. And I love dinodrac for showcasing them in such a glorious manner. I suppose I could just watch them on YouTube, but Matt’s commentary just enhances the whole experience 100%. Looking forward to more!!

  46. I have always loved commercials from the 80′s and older. Especially if they are Christmas themed as well. The jingles, the times, the reliving great memories one sound and video bite at a time. I always get nostalgic with older Christmas commercials. Now off to YouTube to watch more…..again. :-)

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