Welcome to the latest edition of Five Retro TV Commercials, starring me, my cat and a broken Mer-Man character bust. Us three.
Sunkist Fun Fruits! (1980s)
I was partial to Fruit Wrinkles, but there’s no denying that Sunkist’s Fun Fruits were THE fruit snacks of the ‘80s. Originally shaped like bloated pill bugs, this commercial marked Fun Fruits’ graduation to other, louder shapes.
The “Letters” and “Numbers” varieties were intended to placate strict parents, because if you’re not gonna be healthy, at least be educational. The “Animals” version was the clear chaser, unless you’re really gonna claim that you’d prefer a gumdrop shaped like the number 9 to one that resembled a tiger.
Animated like one of those old school storybook videos, this particular commercial wasn’t nearly as cool as other Fun Fruits ads, which were usually done with live actors.
I mean, I don’t care if Generic Boy is a cartoon or a real person, but there’s a big difference between an animated tree and a ten foot Evil Dead prop with plate-sized googly eyes. (And if you prefer the former, you’re definitely the same asshole who picked “9” over the tiger.)
Trix Cereal with Brighter Colors! (1980s)
Heh, it’s ironic that I found this ad now. If you haven’t heard the news, General Mills changed Trix’s formula to exclude artificial colors, leaving kids with a healthier but duller-looking cereal.
While a commendable move, I think it’s gonna take a while for kids to accept a version of Trix that doesn’t look like clown hair.
Now let’s contrast their fresh ideals with those of yesteryear. This commercial promoted Trix’s then-new brighter colors, which at least to the layman’s brain conjures images of cereal scientists just doubling the usual amount of food dye. You’ve come a long way, Gee Millsy.
Side note: I gotta award bonus points to the Trix Rabbit for dressing like a background character from Saved By The Bell’s third season.
Big Red! (1980s)
If you’re anywhere near my age, you’ll remember this one. More specifically, you’ll remember the song. So kiss, a little longer, blah blah blah.
The jingle is legendary, but I have much sharper memories of that quick “Big Red vs. Dentyne” shot, where Wrigley’s used a stand-in for Dentyne that looked more like its wrapper than the actual sticks. (And also kind of like the Staryu to the Canadian flag’s Starmie? Think about it.)
As a kid, I didn’t quite get the gag, and instead believed that Wrigley’s was misrepresenting its own gum with red-and-white sticks that looked nothing like real Big Red. This used to infuriate me, since the fake gum seemed like heaven and the fact that I couldn’t chew it was by any fair person’s measure a total disaster.
I’d carry this notion through the decades, and in fact only learned the Dentyne truth after sharing this same story back on X-E, and getting corrected by 50 readers who — frankly — couldn’t believe my stupidity. Gahhh.
Hot Wheels Color Racers! (1980s)
I guess it’s mundane technology by today’s standards, but Color Racers was a pretty hot line in the ‘80s. Something about drowning playthings in the kitchen sink just made us feel so… energized?
I was obsessed with this commercial as a kid, and for a very specific reason. Mattel was running a contest for a literal Mustang convertible, and the only way to win was by finding a Color Racers car that revealed a secret congratulatory message when run under the faucet. Uh, WOW.
Forget the Mustang: All *I* wanted was a three-inch Volkswagen that said “GRAND PRIZE” on its side door. Thing looked like a broke ass Bumblebee who solicited promotional skins to make ends meet.
Cookie Crisp with High-Bounce Balls! (1980s)
I’ve written about Cookie Crisp enough for one lifetime, so let’s instead focus on the advertised freebie: High-bounce balls, which were basically the same “superballs” that we used to buy from supermarket vending machines, but two times larger and full of sparkles.
Remember how important superballs used to seem? All we ever did was make them bounce into inaccessible locations, but getting a superball always felt like a big deal. It was the real life equivalent of finding a power-up in a Nintendo game; a comparison which I’ll admit made more sense in my head than it appears to on this page. Gahhh.
I still have a few of the Cookie Crisp high-bounce balls hiding somewhere in my office. For cereal prizes, they’re intense. Big, glittery and propulsively capable of visiting Saturn.
Thank you for watching five old commercials. Or maybe you should thank me. Say it with silver.