Welcome to December! Like clockwork, the minor draft from the window I sit beside — endurable through most of the year — now has my right hand feeling like the discarded prisoner from Star Trek VI’s snow jail sequence.
Most of the ads in this edition of Classic Christmas Commercials are from the mid ‘90s. I was still a kid by then, but only barely, and I counted on the Christmas season to really let me feel like one. Looking back at stuff from that era hits differently. It’s not wistful nostalgia as much as archaeological analysis. I figure myself out through old Velveeta commercials.
Gremlins on WPIX! (1993)
In November of ‘93, my beloved WPIX ran Gremlins in prime time. I’ll spare you another mile-long explanation of WPIX, but in summary, it was like the broadcast version of the USA Network — a place for cartoons, sitcom reruns, and movies that ruled your world five years prior.
I shouldn’t need to argue that Gremlins is a Christmas movie, because of course it is. The furry protagonist was a Christmas present, after all.
That was one of the first films I requested when my family discovered the “connect two VCRs to copy video rentals” trick, so I hardly “needed” to watch WPIX’s ‘93 broadcast. I’m sure I did, though, because it meant that strangers were watching it at the same time. That’s still cool in 2020, but before the internet, the connectivity factor was off the charts.
Dunkin’ Donuts for Christmas! (1994)
These days, the folks at Dunkin’ do their best work during the Halloween season. When I was a kid, they were way better at Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong. Dunkin’ still makes terrific holiday-themed donuts, but they aren’t as… tastefully gaudy? Check out the donuts in this commercial. That’s really what they looked like back then. Less like donuts, and more like the front covers to o-shaped storybooks.
If you’re not buying that, you should still watch the commercial. It features Fred the Baker as Santa Claus, and he’s flying a sleigh and everything.
Frosty on CBS! (1994)
It’s subtle, but having lived through it, I definitely pick up on that uniquely “1990s” attempt to make everything in the script sound like it came from some maniacal hybrid of Zack Morris and a Ninja Turtle.
Frosty the Snowman, First of His Name, Way-Cool Durable Dude. I’ve always adored his special, and while it never managed to unseat Charlie Brown or Garfield for siiillllver and gold, it absolutely scored my bronze medal.
I think it’s one of the older specials that holds up best, no matter what sort of lens you put on it. Rudolph’s life lessons haven’t aged well, and Linus’s fully denominational speech wouldn’t sail as easily in 2020, but a hat that brings snowmen to life? That’s timeless.
Velveeta’s Holiday Salsa Dip! (1994)
Given my history in posting goofy recipes that very often have something to do with cheese, it won’t shock you to hear that I am all about this Velveeta commercial.
Here we learn that mixing salsa with Velveeta creates a wonderful holiday dip. Like a mild chile con queso, which back then wasn’t quite so ubiquitous, even if it clearly inspired Velveeta’s recipe.
I’m 100% doing it. As an Italian, my cheese slots were slated at birth and governed by law, and have never included one for Velveeta. I’ll seize upon any arguable excuse to buy a block of that stuff. Even a two-step recipe from a 26-year-old TV commercial.
Happy Meal, Happy Holidays! (1994)
I was already “too old” for Happy Meal toys by 1994 — in quotes because I still occasionally went for them, but only when the toys were plainly irresistible. Like I’m supposed to eat McNuggets and not take the Batman: TAS Catwoman figure? Please!
The toys featured in this promotion didn’t stir me back then, but looking back, I can certainly see the appeal. Presented under one holiday-themed umbrella, we got a set of Cabbage Patch Kids figures and a set of Tonka trucks. The retail versions of both brands’ toys were huge, so it was kinda neat to see them miniaturized.
(Weird to see Cabbage Patch Kids score Happy Meal toys in 1994, considering that their peak popularity was a full decade prior. In fact, when you Google “Cabbage Patch Kids 1994,” most of the matches have something to do with this Happy Meal. Maybe McD’s was already doing nostalgia grabs, I dunno.)
Thanks for reading, and big thanks to my friend Ryan for donating the tapes where most of these ads were found. If you missed the previous edition of Classic Christmas Commercials, it’s over here, and if you’re into this sort of thing, good news: Another edition is coming soon!