I’ve been absent for a week, which is exactly how long it would take for someone to steal me and leave an android in my place. Food for thought.
Below: The latest edition of Five Retro TV Commercials. These ads aired during DuckTales back in ‘88, so imagine them bookending quips from Ma Beagle.
Willow Action Figures! (1988)
I’ve still never seen Willow, but I certainly remember its corresponding toy line, since Toys “R” Us left those figures hanging on clearance racks until practically last week.
Made by Tonka, the figures were… unusual. The PVC warriors had no points of articulation, and each came wedded to a metal stand. Pair those traits with their demure sizes, and they seemed more like RPG miniatures than true “toys.”
FWIW, this commercial made the movie seem a heck of a lot cooler than the TV trailers did.
Berry Blue Kool-Aid! (1988)
Berry Blue Kool-Aid debuted in 1988, and was at the time the most shockingly vibrant of all Kool-Aid flavors. It honestly looked toxic, which of course made it all the more appealing to kids.
When you hear “blue,” you’re probably thinking of a deep color along the lines of tinted grape juice. Nope! This stuff was more like creamy windshield wiper fluid.
The strange color guaranteed that every child would try it once, but it was Berry Blue’s flavor that turned us into repeat customers. I could best describe it as a sharp lemonade mildly cut by a sweeter “berry” flavor. Sour as hell, but in a good way.
(Berry Blue has been out of production for years, but Kool-Aid’s current Blue Raspberry Lemonade flavor is a reasonable facsimile.)
The He-Man Hotline! (1988)
1988 was a HUGE year for kid-targeted hotlines. (On this one tape that was recorded in a single week, I counted at least ten different hotline ads, starring everyone from Will Smith to Heathcliff.)
In this commercial, He-Man handles the pitch himself, by way of existing cartoon footage that was (badly) dubbed over. The ad casually broke a thousand rules about advertising to kids, which was a major clue that neither Mattel nor Filmation had much of a hand in it.
I especially love the part where they hint at free toys that clearly weren’t free. This would be a potential class action lawsuit by 2017 standards, but the truth is that most networks wouldn’t even run this ad today.
Transformers Pretenders! (1988)
Hasbro’s first-gen Transformers collection hung around for longer than many fans realize, albeit with progressively decreasing popularity and progressively increasing strangeness.
Take these Pretenders figures, for example. Debuting in 1988, each transforming robot was tucked inside a humanoid “shell.” The Autobot Pretenders masqueraded as vague spacemen, while their Decepticon counterparts looked like stage bosses from Ghosts ‘n Goblins.
Even Hasbro struggled to summarize them in this commercial, because when you’re peddling “robots that turn into planes but also hide inside hollow fake people,” shit happens.
(They weren’t bad toys, mind you… just weird ones that didn’t scream “Transformers.” The goofy shells were the best parts by far, to the point where the hidden robots were more or less afterthoughts.)
These expandable containers looked like backyard party lights and inspired a horde of imitators. Though Popeet was developed for space-saving food storage, my family used the containers for pretty much everything BUT that, from coin banks to crude planters.
Best/worst Popeet memory: Remember “Field Day” from elementary school? When we were forced to run batons while a gaggle of disinterested parents halfheartedly clapped?
Around here, it was common practice for kids to lug giant water bottles into school on Field Day. Course, since water bottles weren’t nearly as ubiquitous in the late ’80s as they are now, you kinda had to plan ahead to make that happen.
Back in the third grade, I only remembered the “bottle thing” on the morning OF Field Day, so I was forced to use a Popeet container instead. It quickly became the preferred target for several classmates who desperately wanted to “play the accordion” with my giant mutant drink bottle.
One of them eventually succeeded, but in the process drenched himself with what he had assumed would be water, but was actually super sticky Lipton iced tea. He spent the rest of Field Day attracting bees. Like Lipton iced tea, revenge is sweet.
Thanks for reading.