Welcome to Dino Drac’s latest series, Five Retro TV Commercials!
I thought it was silly to limit my “commercial posts” to the holidays, especially since so many of my favorite TV commercials have zero to do with Halloween or Christmas. So here we are. I expected more fanfare.
Each entry in this series will examine five commercials from the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s. They’ve all been pulled from my personal tape collection, which has now grown so large that it was either do this series or say “fuck it” and build a tape igloo. Enjoy.
(Or don’t, so I have an excuse to build the tape igloo.)
Pogo Bal! (1980s)
Ah yes, the Pogo Bal, so named because “Saturn-Shaped Trampoline Thing That Always Injures You” just didn’t have a nice ring to it.
I so badly wanted to be a pro Pogo Baller, but I could only ever get the thing to act as a catapult, which me of course as the unwitting grapeshot. Given the Pogo Bal’s popularity, I assume others had better luck.
I shouldn’t be surprised. We could be in the kitchen and you can ask me to grab a spoon, and I’d still manage to free the entire San Diego Zoo in the process.
Mrs. Butterworth’s Wacky Flavors! (2000s)
Back in 2000, Mrs. Butterworth got funky with three new kid-targeted syrup flavors that all sounded like candy. This was the in-thing at the time, and there’s little doubt that Mrs. B was influenced by the likes of Heinz EZ Squirt ketchup and those screwy Hidden Valley Ranch dressings.
The flavors included Strawberry, Buttery Cinnamon and Cinnamon Apple. The thought of a “buttery cinnamon” pancake syrup now has me daydreaming about a straight-up molasses martini, which I’d only drink in the privacy of my home after a particularly horrible day, as a sort of “you’ve earned this” consolation prize.
PS: I’m not a fan of this commercial. Kid-targeted Mrs. Butterworth flavors called for an anthemic music video filled with neon lights and cartoon kids giving sequential thumbs ups. Instead there’s a drooling man-baby, and I’m like, “Is this really gonna put people in the mood to eat anything, let alone an unproven variety of syrup?”
Lucky Charms with Swirled Whales! (1980s)
Dudes, this was the shit. It’s probably my all-time favorite cereal-related promotional campaign. Back in the ‘80s, a series of episodic television commercials told the story of Lucky the Leprechaun, trapped on a big rainbow with a multicolored whale. That alone merited every trophy, but wait, it gets better.
Throughout the promotion’s duration, Lucky Charms cereal added swirled whale marshmallows to the mix. They tasted just like the existing marshmallows, but looked so damn cool. Even after 30+ years, I don’t think they’ve been topped. They’re the best cereal marshmallows there have ever been. I’ve probably written that about other marshmallows, but I mean it this time.
I wept like hell when the swirled whales went away, and I still have no idea why they did. After so much fuss, you assumed they’d become a permanent inclusion. Why spend months forcing kids into swirled whale marshmallow addictions if you were just gonna cut the supply as soon as the hype peaked?
Masters of the Universe Dragon Walker! (1980s)
The team behind the original Masters of the Universe toys were nothing if not inventive, and in the wild west toy-making days of the early ‘80s, few precedents existed to dissuade them from lunacy.
As such, kids were rewarded with completely bizarre yet wonderful toys, which could’ve only worked as advertised by way of black magic. The Dragon Walker is a perfect example. It did indeed “walk,” but in such strange fashion that I’m at a complete loss to explain its method of locomotion. (Seriously, watch the commercial. How do you describe that?)
It took a severe suspension of disbelief to buy this as an effective mode of transportation, but if there’s anything kids are good at, it’s severe suspensions of disbelief. I owned this thing, and it was incredible. Kind of like a wind-up car, but better, because the “car” was actually a dragon head attached to skateboard feet.
Circus Fun Cereal! (1980s)
From a distance, Circus Fun seemed like a “generic” cereal brand — like something in the vein of Billy Bear’s Fruity-O’s, or Marshmallow Rice Crunchies. If you grew up avoiding it for that reason, BOY did you miss out.
In truth, Circus Fun was one of the most inspired cereals ever. With so many different pieces in play, every bowl looked like you poured five different cereals into it. It was totally unreal. I know Circus Fun existed, and yet I still watch the commercial expecting it to turn into an Adult Swim parody.
The “circus” theme was kinda lame even by 1980s standards, but man, the shoe fit!
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed doing so, good news: I have enough material for another thousand entries. Stay tuned.