I’m back with another edition of Classic Christmas Commercials, once again donated by our friend Larry. This is a particularly great batch, featuring everything from Ghostbusters toys to wacky Chicken McNuggets, and if you’re lucky, extra cheap cologne.
Hills was a Massachusetts-based chain of department stores, and I’m quite certain that I’ve never lived within driving distance of one. I’m sad about that, as according to this commercial, the chain’s mascot was a crossbreed of Santa Claus and one of his elves. Shockingly, a helium-voiced Mini-Santa isn’t even the best part of the ad!
Smaller chains didn’t have to play like the big boys. Ever notice how rare it is for Toys “R” Us to show panning shots of store shelves in their commercials? There are many reasons for that, not the least of which being very complex relationships with the companies they get their products from. In the rare cases when such shots were used, it’s a safe bet that the featured toys were carefully selected. (Meaning, the shots of those shelves were mockups.)
With a place like Hills, none of that shit mattered. You’ll see toys from every maker in this ad, and man, there are some beauties. My favorite has to be the stack of Real Ghostbusters Proton Packs, which today would be worth triple the amount Hills spent to produce this commercial.
If you want to drive yourself crazy, try to identify all of the toys in the “showroom shot” near the end. There are around 500 things surrounding Mini-Santa, and 490 of them would be tough to recognize even if the video didn’t have so much dub-damage. You’ll still see enough to be incredibly jealous of Mini-Santa.
If Christmastime has an official fast food chain, it’s gotta be McDonald’s. For so many years, McD’s has tied themselves to the holiday season with a mix of unforgettable commercials and the occasionally festive food offering. In this case, we got both!
Holiday Chicken McNuggets were regular McNuggets at heart, but they came in special boxes and with limited edition sauces. (Cranberry Orange and Apple Cinnamon!) Since McNuggets were easy to sell in volume, McDonald’s was always insisting that we serve them at our Christmas parties. It’s by far the food they pushed most in their holiday commercials, and Pavlovianly enough, I still can’t look at a Chicken McNugget without thinking of Christmas. And of several Snopes pages.
Also: I try not to throw to X-E too often since the site is currently torn up by bad PHP, but I need to make an exception in this case. Back in 2011, I got my hands on one of the original Holiday McNuggets boxes, and tried to recreate the special sauces. It didn’t go so well, but what a way to spend an afternoon.
TMNT II on VHS Commercial!
Oh, this one is a treasure. The fact that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II videocassette had a dedicated commercial isn’t so surprising, but I can’t believe that it was so completely Christmas-themed! And not only that, but what a huge production! A live action shoot with a costumed Ninja Turtle!
In the ad, one of the Turtles (Mikey, I think) pretends to be Santa Claus, sneaking into houses to drop off copies of his movie. The more you read that sentence, the more you’ll appreciate the concept. Since the script only called for him to be seen behind a frosty window, we may assume that this was no movie-quality costume.
The commercial implicitly said that the tape was the “perfect holiday gift,” and remembering what it was like to be a Ninja Turtles nut in 1991, they were absolutely right.
(I saw TMNT II in theaters on its opening weekend, by the way. People can laugh about Vanilla Ice and the fact that mutagen somehow improved Shredder’s clothes, but when I was 11, that was a complete and total four star affair. Hell, it still is!)
I suppose I’d have to classify this as “nightmare fuel,” but at least it’s cute nightmare fuel. Here, a bunch of weird, vaguely Muppet-esque dogs sing about how Nestle candy is fucking awesome. All of the dogs have whale teeth, and unfortunately, they’re not afraid to show them.
The lead dog is named Farfel, who was a much bigger star in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In 1992, Nestle celebrated Farfel and Christmas with special holiday packaging on their most popular candies.
(And that was a much bigger deal in 1992 than it would be today. Back then, far fewer foodmakers went all-out with the seasonal stuff. Why else would I have spent so many Christmases eating After Eight dinner mints, of all things?)
English Leather Commercial!
This commercial is older than I am, but similar English Leather gift sets are still sold today, and they’re another of the really weird things I always associate with Christmastime.
…that might be because I was on the receiving end of such a set. God, how did that happen? I know that my friend across the street got the same set for Christmas, and I’d be surprised if we were even in junior high school by then. Were our mothers drunkenly shopping together, or is it really possible that we both asked for cologne that year?
Worst of all, I can actually remember using it. Now, I’m not going to knock English Leather, but given its historically low price and appearances in such esteemed boutiques at 7-Eleven, it wasn’t exactly “refined.” And of course, being a kid, I had no idea how cologne worked, and more or less used it to drown my entire upper torso. I’d end up stinking like the bug repellant aisle in Home Depot.
Even so, I remember being so proud of my first official cologne. The set also came with a bottle of aftershave, which I assumed to just be more cologne, with a slightly different scent. Sometimes I’d use both at once.
I guess I was at that delicate age where you’re too old for what you really like and too young for what you really want. You’d spend a year or two getting cheap cologne, bad sweaters and endless battery-operated coin sorting banks. That wasn’t just me, right?