Today: Another batch of retro TV commercials!
Like the five featured last time, these were all pulled from Batman: The Animated Series episodes that aired back in ‘93. For maximum effect, picture eight minutes’ worth of oddly touching Clayface moments between each one.
Terminator 2 Action Figures! (1993)
Since I’ve expressed my fondness for Kenner’s Terminator 2 line many times before, I’ll instead seize the opportunity to champion this particular commercial’s production values.
For one thing, they built a whole goddamn city to display the toys within. It looks like someone recreated Darkman out of model train paraphernalia.
While I don’t doubt that the set was simply repurposed from some older toy commercial, Kenner was terrific when it came to this stuff. Hell, even back in the vintage Star Wars days, they always made sure to put their Hoth vehicles over fake snow, and their Endor vehicles over piles of leaves.
And then there’s the script. I love hearing toy commercial kids narrate their adventures, but it’s especially endearing when one of them tries to do an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression.
To me, this is the best way to promote action figures. Show us what they can do, but stick ‘em in an environment that makes us forget the sad reality of our own off-brand carpets.
Magic Trolls! (1993)
The Troll doll craze of the early ‘90s had some interesting side effects, including several attempts to turn the dolls — which had largely carried the air of “card store novelties” until that point — into more substantial “toy store toys.”
In the boy-targeted aisles, we suddenly saw poofy Troll heads on all sorts of muscled-up soldiers and monsters, in lines like Stone Protectors and Troll Warriors. But Trolls were just as present in the girl aisles, as evidenced by this commercial, promoting Applause’s Magic Trolls collection.
Here we find Trolls re-imagined as large and fairly generic baby dolls — the kind you might find on the $5 shelf at your nearest discount store. Of course, there was one major difference: Instead of the bald, boring baby heads typically found on those dolls, Magic Trolls had huge Troll heads, with weedy tufts of neon hair.
With their simian features and thumbsucking action, they looked a bit like Monchichi ravers.
Cinnamon Mini Buns Cereal! (1993)
While the still-produced Cinnabon cereal is more or less the same thing, it lacks the flashy, kid-centric punch of Cinnamon Mini Buns.
This cereal felt like a major event during its early ‘90s debut. Really, any time a cereal company effectively “shrinks” an existing junk food, we flip. It satisfies our untapped lust for Wayne Szalinski’s ray gun, or alternatively just lets us pretend that we’re kaiju-sized destructobeasts. Either way, we’re glad breakfast doesn’t come with an audience.
Course, a cereal like this was hardly breakfast, anyway. This was couch cereal, to be munched on dry and mindlessly. The nostalgia people feel likely has little to do with Cinnamon Mini Buns’ flavor; it’s more because the cereal provided a crunchy score for all of the Super Nintendo games we beat, and all of the bad videos we rented.
Incredible Crash Test Dummies! (1993)
The public service announcements that introduced us to the Crash Test Dummies were actually sort of creepy, mixing black humor with some pretty brutal pleas for us to wear our safety belts.
Still, as the PSAs caught steam, they became less gory (gory in Crash Test Dummies terms, at least) and more slapstick. Match that with the fact that one of the characters was voiced by Lorenzo Music — easily identified by many kids as Garfield and Peter Venkman — and you had the makings of a surprise retail franchise.
Sure enough, Tyco launched their robust Incredible Crash Dummies toy line, filled with figures and vehicles that were made to be blown apart. Looking back, the characters came dangerously close to encouraging the very thing that they were created to discourage!
Meet 2-XL! (1993)
2-XL was one of those “teaching robots,” which like several of its cousins worked with audiocassettes. It was cool as hell, but I’ll never understand why so few toy companies constructed these robots to specifically act like surrogate best friends.
Learning math and the capital of Massachusetts was okay, but what I really wanted was a toy robot that could handle casual conversation. Just ask me how I’m doing, bro. If I tell you “terrible” and you say “that’s great,” you’re a dick, but at least you’re a dick that I can talk to.
Thanks for reading my stray thoughts about old commercials.
PS: Check the site early tomorrow, because the April Funpack is finally debuting!