Classic Christmas Commercials, Volume 2!


I’ve been absent for a few days, because, as it turns out, December just isn’t my month!

Still, nothing can pull me out of a forced funk faster than a Friday the 13th happening during Christmastime. Thank you, Jason and Santa. Now my world is rosy again.

Here’s another batch of Classic Christmas Commercials, once again donated by Larry P. I guess reading Volume 1 isn’t mandatory, but I’ll say it is anyway.

Pepsi’s Nintendo Giveaway!

Pepsi’s “Nintendo Holiday Game” gave soda addicts the chance to win Nintendo systems and cartridges – or if they were really lucky, a brand spanking new Game Boy.

(I can attest to the brouhaha surrounding a Game Boy giveaway in 1989. When I didn’t get one for Christmas that year, I reacted as poorly as I hope I’ll ever react to anything.)

Ads like these always have money behind them, but this one had HEART. You can’t buy heart unless you’re willing to indulge the Wilson sisters with their ridiculous concert rider. Good luck finding 400 pens made out of peacock feathers. If I had an editor, paragraphs like this would never make it.

The ad mixed traditional animation with an 8-bit flavor to rave reviews, and if you’re not won over by the sight of Santa Mario treating a general store like Level 1-3, you’re horrible and there is no pleasing you.

Also, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for a clean version of the Nintendo-style Christmas music heard under the voiceover. NOTHING I wouldn’t do. If you have a copy, we can get as filthy as you want. It needs to replace the triumphant circus music as my ringtone. (I don’t know why my new phone had “triumphant circus music” set as the default.)

The Simpsons Christmas Special Promo!

I’m old enough to have gotten hooked on The Simpsons during the Tracey Ullman era. The Simpsons Christmas Special (aka, Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire) was the first “real” episode that aired, and in fact, until seeing it on TV, I had no idea that a regular series was in motion.

I can’t overstate how big of a deal this was. The Ullman shorts had already made The Simpsons the Best Possible Thing at my school, but this Christmas surprise signaled the real popularity boost. It wasn’t long before our principal was banning all Simpsons shirts from school, ostensibly because one of them had the word “hell” on it.

I can still vividly recall watching the episode during its original airing. I was blown away. It was funny and smart in ways that “shows meant for me” were never smart or funny. When you watch it now, it’ll seem mostly cheesy, but back in ’89, nothing was cooler.

Hershey’s Kisses “Elves” Commercial!

You know that commercial with the Hershey’s Kisses dancing around like bells, to the tune of We Wish You A Merry Christmas? You should. It was created a lifetime ago, but Hershey’s still buys TV time for it.

Less remembered is this somewhat-similar gem from ’87. Here, an elf has trouble keeping up with his chocolate assembly line, all thanks to Santa Claus’s grabby hands.

This ad is notable for its suggested scale. Elves had never been portrayed as being so tiny before. This one is barely as big as Santa’s fingernails! With the right mix of rum and tequila, watching this paves way for pleasant daydreams of a kaiju Santa.

I want that to be a movie. I want it almost as much as the Christmassy Nintendo music.

Batman Returns on Videocassette!

Batman Returns is my favorite Batman movie ever, and barring a big screen team-up with Amy from Congo, that ain’t changing.

This promo for the Batman Returns videocassette reminded me that, yes, technically, you could argue that it was a Christmas movie. (Not many Christmas movies open with Paul Reubens tossing his mutant son into a sewer, but uniqueness is rarely a flaw.)

The ad nicely captures the film’s icy gothic motif, but there is one thing that bothers me. That last line. “Wherever video is sold.” Wouldn’t “wherever videos are sold” make more sense? Wasn’t that the standard language in these commercials?

They must have been aware of this. Maybe the scriptwriter goofed, but goofed in a way that could be construed as intentional. Maybe it would’ve upped the budget an additional 5k to change the voiceover and graphics, so they decided that they were “just right enough.”

BUT IT STILL BOTHERS ME. It’s like a rancid cherry on top of an otherwise perfect sundae.

Maybe I’m just cranky.

Burger King Reindeer Dolls!

The previous ads were great, but this one is the most important. Because THIS is the commercial that will FINALLY explain where your weird reindeer doll came from.

Everyone has one. Even if you think you don’t… trust me, you do. There’s at least one of these beanbaggy reindeer dolls in every house. I can’t explain it; it’s just one of those things that IS.

Turns out, they were part of a Burger King promotion from 1987. The dolls were $1.99 with any purchase. Part of the profits went to local charities, and I love how the voiceover guy switched to his “endearing” inflection as he told us that.

…but what percentage, Burger King? How much of your cut went to Project Care? Silence can only lead to cynical assumptions. Was it like, three cents for every reindeer? Because that’s a glass ass brag.

Now, to celebrate what today is, here’s Jason Voorhees as Santa Claus.


I treat proportions like garbage.

56 Responses to Classic Christmas Commercials, Volume 2!

  1. Holy crap! My grandma has the reindeer in the long underwear! Like you said Matt, this finally explains where that weird reindeer doll came from.

  2. If December isn’t your month, sir, I do not know whose month it is.

  3. Here where I lived in Canada we didn’t have burger king when I was growing up.

    Our equivalent to those reindeer were these A&W Bear christmas tree ornaments. It seemed like every tree had one on it haha.

  4. True story my sister got a BK Reindeer when I was a toddler and I wanted it and she didn’t want to give it up. My mom (who could barely afford presents and fast food as it was) told us that we had to share and my sister (mind you who was maybe 5 years old) gave it to me and I promptly put it in my mouth and an allergen in the yarn caused me to vomit all over it. We never did get the smell out of it.

    I ended up buying her a reindeer for her birthday now that we’re in our late 20s and she loves it more than any present I’ve ever purchased for her.

  5. That Pepsi ad looks like the kind of animation you might see on a Simpsons Super Mario Bros. Parody!

    I’ve still got a Rodney the Reindeer doll. One of my favorite Christmas items, actually.

  6. December is your month Matt. :) I think that happens to all of us the closer to Christmas we get that “funk” starts to show up because next thing you know we’re staring at January on the calendar again. :(

    It’s going to snow tomorrow in your neck of the woods, maybe another round of taking pictures of strangers Christmas lights and wonton soup will snap you back.

    Love the classic commercials post. Thanks Larry P.

  7. I’m surprised you didn’t mention that the Simpsons Christmas is legendary because of the “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” song. People still sing that over 20 years later.

  8. I was just going to comment that I finally know where that Reindeer came from, and then your description predicted that I would say that. You’re a psychic.

  9. Everyone has one of those reindeer but me. I had a whole set of those suckers, and I’m pretty sure Rodney and his whole brood migrated back to the North Pole or Burger King. I wish I still had them!

  10. I had and loved those Reindeer for the entirety of the rest of my childhood. Even in Highschool when I had a closet full of stuffed animals I couldnt just abandon, I had those reindeer with the rest.

    Never forgotten them. Nice to be reminded of old friends. What was a once and done promotion was always a part of my life.

    Exactly why I love your website, it is me. What is throwaway culture to so many was a part of who I am.

    Merry F13!

  11. Rodney and Ramona Reindeer still grace my parents’ Christmas decorations every year. :)

  12. I want to say we don’t have any such reindeer in my house…but I just remembered my wife and I moving in together and a huge box of Ty Beanie Babies coming with her. It’s possible one of those reindeer is hiding in there somewhere.

  13. I still proudly display my Burger King Rhonda and Ramona reindeers every year at Christmas. Pretty sure when the day comes, I will buried with them as well.

  14. That NES-inspired Christmas music is pretty catchy. If I was a UFC fighter I’d use it for my walk-out song in December.

  15. “wherever video is sold”

    Maybe they are referring to the medium as a whole.

  16. Wow, it’s like you picked the one thing to headline this that would draw me in like nothing else. =) I’ve written about the Pepsi/Nintendo ad campaign at least two different times (the first is the commercial; the second was when one of the ad banners was on eBay).

    I’d still love to have that display, or banner. Tree? What tree? I’d roll this out during the holidays. (Okay, I’d still want a tree.)

    I missed the Ullman era of The Simpsons, so that commercial– and subsequently, the episode itself– were my introduction to Springfield. I thought it was just a one-off, but then they rolled out the series, and I was blown away like everyone else.

    My only gripe was that for the first several years, they kept reshowing the same Christmas special every year. I wanted something newer and fresher, and more fitting with the age of brilliance the show went through, and at least we eventually got some new material. The original is still great, though, don’t get me wrong.

    Those reindeer do seem familiar, but I don’t think I ever knew the original context– or actually had one.

    Great article! I do hope we see more before the fat man cometh. Maybe I should try my hand at one…

  17. I feel such a sense of relief because I really didn’t know where that reindeer stuffed animal came from. I’ll have my first restful night of sleep since I was 6.

  18. @ JohnV – My pleasure!

    The NES ad is a work of art. From the Christmas theme to the overarching feeling that Nintendo in general was at it’s peak when it aired, it’s just beautiful. Everything about it makes me want to bust a move, but since that would make people sad, I can just fire up the ol’ grey box.

    I think of Batman Returns as a Christmas movie. An occasionally twisted one, and certainly not It’s A Wonderful Life Part II, but a Christmas movie nevertheless. Not sure you’d want to replace Scrooge with it when you gather the family for holiday movie watchin’, though (then again, maybe that’s not a bad idea). However, even if Batguy Returns weren’t a Christmas movie, the commercial certainly is holiday-appropriate; it’s the purrrfect gift, after all!

    “Wherever video is sold.” Hmmm, never really noticed that before, but it IS an odd statement.

    The BK reindeer commercial comes from one of the childhood tapes that got me into this hobby in the first place, and it’s a longtime favorite. I indeed have one of the suckers (Ramona), which I found at a yard sale a few years ago. I pretty much flipped when I found it, and it’s all because of this commercial. Today, Ramona sits proudly on display in my messy house.

  19. I love it when you make me remember something that I couldn’t remember I remembered! As soon as I saw the cartoon Mario, the whole ad campaign came flooding back. What a great commercial.

    As a kid, for some reason the prop Hershey Kiss paper-flag-thingy was fascinating to me.

    Vee Langs: that story is hilarious and heart-warming. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Rodney and Ramona originated at Hallmark stores before BK sold them. We had a HUGE one that I got in my stocking one year as well as an ornament of him pulling a sleigh and Ramona inside it. They sold them for quite a few years after-not just plushies but figurines and other items, too-well into the 90s. Every now and then they put a new ornament or item out with his likeness.

  21. I’m surprised the “affordably low priced” line didn’t get any love in your post, Matt. I wonder if the copywriters tossed around “expensively low priced” before settling on “affordably low priced” instead?

    Those reindeers! They have been at every yard sale since the beginning of time! Now I know who they are and I am forever grateful.

    Unrelated, but, there’s a Mummy Shark Color Blanks figure in the works! Stay tuned…

  22. Dude, I’m right there with ya regarding The Simpsons Christmas Special (although I was unfamiliar with their Tracy Ullman existence prior to this Christmas Special). We’re nearly the same age, you and I, and it is a FACT that kids of approximately Bart’s age in 1989 went nuts for this dangerous new cartoon. I was hooked upon original airing. I laughed hysterically whilst watching it. It is one of the crucial turning points of my life.

  23. I too had a Rodney and my sister had Rhonda. Not sure if they were from Hallmark or BK. I clearly remember playing with them in our garage and building a fort for them with boxes and an old mattress. Great Christmas memories.

  24. Great post after a long week, Matt. Christmas is kicking into high gear now: a big storm coming to the East coast, I’ll finally be getting a tree tomorrow, shopping near completion. I look forward to being snowed in, decorating, baking something, and writing cards.

    For fans of weird and obscure Christmas music, Andy Cirzan’s newest compilation was released today. Free download and an entirely different podcast featuring rock/pop Christmas tunes can be found at the link below. Both are excellent. Cirzan’s collection and Christmas compilations are legendary.

  25. Whenever I see one of those Burger King reindeer at a garage sale or thrift store, I buy it. Same with the Target Kris Mutt.

  26. I could win “Game Paks” !?!

    Also I love when you bump in to someone you recognize from another sight on here Allspark represent LBD.

  27. The Allspark? Why not join us at Transformers Fans in Name Only, or

  28. I thought for the past 25 years that Reindeer was from Hallmark. Holy cow, when Matt said everyone has one I said No, it cant be. Then I nearly shat myself when that reindeer doll creeped on the screen! Mind is now blown.

  29. I only remember about half of these. I wish I had one of those reindeer. They’re adorable. No wonder so many of you hung onto them. Alas, the only Burger King in southern Cape May County closed in the early 80s. We wouldn’t see another open until well into the 90s.

    I’m surprised I don’t remember the Mario commercial. Nintendo was huge with us by that point. We would have drank as much Pepsi as our parents would have allowed (and then some) to win a Game Boy or another system or more games.

    My favorite here is the Hershey’s Kisses elf commercial. It’s one of the few in this batch I do remember. Even as a kid, I thought it was one of the cutest holiday commercials Hershey’s ever did, and I still do.

  30. Happy Friday The 13th Ya’ll!!!!!!! So far, my Christmas season is turning out great! I just finished watching Gremlins 2. Amazing movie. The weather is perfect, I’ve got a good buzz going, what more can a man ask for. Also, I agree with Matt. I want a normal version of that Christmas Mario music. It’s sweeet!

  31. Thanks for these commercials Matt! Their helping with my usual holiday slump compounded by being unemployed this year. It was an unexpected early Christmas present from my employer. What is it about old commercials that are just so much better than current ones?

  32. That’s crazy! I have three of the four reindeer, and never knew where they came from! Thanks Matt! (BTW, still looking for the fourth reindeer if anyone has some leads)

  33. Yes! I had the squinty eyed reindeer! Her name was Ramona – I still love that name! :D

  34. “The previous ads were great, but this one is the most important. Because THIS is the commercial that will FINALLY explain where your weird reindeer doll came from.”

    I was watching the ad and thinking “Holy shit! that’s where that reindeer came from! I had no idea it was from a BK promotion!”

    So…you’re right.

  35. Awesome post. I know this isn’t what you’re looking for, but I just thought it was notable that when I used the “Shazam” app on my iPhone, it interpreted the 8-bit Deck the Halls as “Deck the Halls Coventry Carol” by Tairona.

  36. Mark: Heya! Small world. =)

  37. Got my mini fun pack in the mail today! Love it! The Energizer Bunny ornament is now on my familys Christmas tree. And the wife loved the ice cream truck stickers! Thanks for everything you give us readers throughout the year and have a very merry christmas!

  38. I too think that “video” is referring to the format itself.

    I can’t say that I agree with you about Batman Returns. I think it’s a wretched movie. That movie bonkers and I they might as well have let the drunken Sean Young play Catwoman. She couldn’t have made the movie any kookier than it already is, and I’m sure we would now have fun behind the scenes stories with her in the cast.

    Anyway, the Christmas Hershey’s Kisses are a great nostalgic symbol of Christmas for me. All the kids in the family used to get those plastic candy canes filled with Christmas Kisses. The colored foil wrappers seem extra special, even today.

    It’s so easy to now be jaded about The Simpsons. Once a new show that scared the shit of older folks, it’s now an institution that Fox will NEVER let go. I can’t believe it’s been so long since that Simpson’s Christmas Special.

  39. I didn’t see the first episode of the Simpsons. I actually started with the third.

    I remember, because I’d just moved from Georgia, where I lived on a dirt road where we got 3 channels, all static. We were staying in a hotel when we first moved to California, and I saw two things on TV:

    1) I saw Mike Tyson lose to Buster Douglas
    2) I saw several episodes of The Simpsons, and another crazy show called “Married with Children”

    I guaran-freakin-tee that #2 changed my life a whole lot more than #1.

  40. Those reindeer dolls!!!! We had all 4! I loved them so much. Had no idea they were from BK.

  41. I had completely forgotten about those BK reindeer! My parents were named Rodney and Randi, so we got those two. I had Rodney, and loved him. I wonder what happened to them. My mom doesn’t know either. After my dad passed away when I was a teenager, then when my mom re-married and moved, a lot of things got lost in the shuffle. I’d love to have a Rodney Reindeer again. I’d love to have two, and give them to my kids as a little piece of my childhood and tribute to their grandpa they never knew.

  42. Great article, Matt! I knew you’d do something for the 13th!

    Larry P., you always have such a great selection of material. Looks like we live in the same area, too. I thought that the station ID on the Simpsons commercial looked familiar, and that would explain it.

  43. @ Reesie – Thank you very much! I definitely appreciate that. Unfortunately though, the tape the Simpsons ad came off of wasn’t one of my local finds (I’m a Northeast Ohioan, and our Fox affiliate at the time was WOIO TV-19; it’s WJW TV-8 now). It came from an out-of-state lot, though I can’t remember the location now (I’m thinking this one is WPMT TV-43, PA). I’ve got a LOT material from all over the U.S., so anything from anywhere can show up.

  44. here ya go Matt, one custom holiday ringtone based on a pepsi commercial from the late 80′s, no need to get filthy, unless you reeeaaaallly want to…

    merry christmas!

  45. YES!! I remember that commercial for Nintendo! There was a ridiculous rumor that an actual christmas Mario game existed….and someone’s cousin’s friend’s landlord won the contest and that was in the prizes. I also remember a douchey KFC cashier saying i existed too, since they were having a similar promotion.

    I had one of the reindeer from Burger King…I never had temper tantrums in public til that day…my mom was adamant about not getting one for me…I think they were expensive for a fast food toy promo. It also might have been the same time as those infinitely more awesome Christmas Muppet Babies. I guess mom’s figured one set of plush was enough.

    I think Randy Newman made that Hershey Kisses song…it’s in his style of composing.

    OMG Simpsons fever! I will never ever ever forget that school year! Every dam thing was Simpsons along with the boot leg T-shirts at every flea market or convenience store. I had a Bart man one.

  46. Indeed, Rodney and family were a Hallmark thing. I think I know the reason behind my mom’s hesitation about the Reindeer…our mall BK was making people buy a certain amount of food in order to purchase a deer. My mom argued that it was ANY purchase, meaning coffee or soda too, not a set amount. I believe she won the argument, as I did get Ramona and my mom has Rodney

  47. I can’t believe I don’t remember that Pepsi commercial. True, I’ve always been a Coke man, but I would think I would remember Santa Mario running amok in a grocery store.

    I can’t say I really remember the Simpsons promo, but I definitely remember the episode that started it all. I was a fan of The Simpsons even back in the Tracey Ullman days, but I’ll be damned if I remember anything about that show other than The Simpsons.

    That Hershey’s Kisses commercial is cute, but the Kisses playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is one of my favorite Christmas commercials, and this one doesn’t even come close.

    I probably had Batman Returns under the Christmas tree in 1992. I know I had it on VHS. I love movie. Michael Keaton is still my favorite Batman.

    Yeah, we don’t have one of those reindeer things and I don’t think we ever did. They’re cute, though.

    Looking forward to seeing the Mummy Shark figure, K!

    Great post as usual, Matt! Thanks to Larry P. for providing so many awesome blasts from the past for Matt to share with us!

  48. Matt
    “I reacted as poorly as I hope l’ll ever react to anything”

    Was this worse than when you didn’t get Modulok? (I remember your article on Modulok and how strongly you reacted every time you saw the commercial. :).

  49. Things I love about this article:

    1. Superb use of Brouhaha
    2. HEART’s concert rider
    3. Batman Returns

  50. I don’t remember the Pepsi NES promotion, but I do remember a Hostess chips promo in Canada from the same time. You got these little blue cards with a Nintendo character and the fine-print rules on one side, with a 3×3 scratch-off grid on the other, where you had to match 3 icons to win or something to that effect (I never won anything). They did another one a few years later when the Super NES was released and you had to match puzzle pieces to win the prize – I would have killed to get the top left corner piece of the SNES puzzle.

    I never had the BK reindeer toys, but I remember getting sheets of puffy stickers with the same characters on them. Maybe another Canadian thing?

    And yes, The Simpsons – one of those ‘switch the channel when mom walks in the room’ kind of shows. I think the first full episode I saw was where Santa’s Little Helper eats Homer’s Assassin running shoes. Years later, even mom developed a grudging admiration, going so far as to remind me in the fall of 1995 that the season 7 premier was on and they were going to reveal who shot Mr. Burns. I was kind of stunned.

  51. REINDEER DOLLS! I keep mine out year round in my “room of weird crap”. My mom always made me put them in the Christmas box every year over my objections, so now they are free. I had completely forgotten they came from Burger King.

  52. I own a Super Mario Christmas Pepsi themed trash can that I got from someone else. At last I know why said can was produced. It was clearly part of this particular ad campaign.

  53. When I saw that reindeer Burger King commercial, I could see the light bulb go on in my head. My grandma has one of those! Now I know the truth :P

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