It’s time for the second edition of Five Retro TV Commercials, the series that I actually spent negative seconds coming up with a name for.
All five commercials in this round are from the mid ‘80s, when I was just the right age to see them 20000 times. Every frame you’re about to see is now permanently IN me. I still can’t go a week without quoting Jimmy from the Polly-O String Cheese ad.
Colossal Fossil Ice Pops! (1980s)
Finally! I knew I had this commercial buried somewhere, but it’s taken me over a decade to find it. My impression is that not very many people remember Good Humor’s Colossal Fossil pops, but holy shit did I love these things.
Each lemonade popsicle hid a gummy dinosaur, so eating one was like embarking on an archaeological dig, but better, because instead of bones you were excavating candy. I lifted the bulk of this paragraph from my 1st grade diary, pretty much verbatim. Can you tell?
Colossal Fossil ice pops taught me that gummy candies are way better frozen. No matter how weird that sounds, I swear, it’s true. Throw a bunch of inch-tall bears in the freezer sometime. Once you try them, you’ll wanna straight up pay me for the tip.
Photon Electronic Phaser Target Game! (1980s)
People generally have fonder memories of Lazer Tag, but I’ll always be loyal to Photon. Originally a Christmas gift for my older brother, I quickly appropriated the set and turned every one of my friends’ visits into what would collectively become known as the Crazy Beeping Gun Wars™.
My set didn’t have the cool helmets, but the guns were all you needed. Since they doubled as electronic targets for opposing shooters, the guns were the means to both victory and defeat. Three hits, and you were out.
We also had the little target device featured in this commercial, which made single player Photon games 50% less pathetic.
PS: The imaginary battle environment seen in this ad looks almost exactly like the real life Photon arena that used to live in Wildwood, NJ. (And presumably thousands of other places.)
I played there once. It was intense. I’m guessing it was back in 1989, because while I can’t recall who won, I absolutely remember me and my friend choosing “Batman” and “Joker” as our big screen display names.
Polly-O String Cheese! (1980s)
Folks, this is it. The single reason that people my age hold string cheese in such high esteem. If I have the story right, string cheese didn’t exist until the 1980s, and this commercial marked its introduction to the world.
Polly-O’s “best part of the pizza” pitch was sheer brilliance. It somehow made us correlate string cheese with pizza, which was all it took to make it a must-have snack for any kid who carried a lunchbox. At the time, they were practically fashion accessories.
String cheese remains wildly popular and now comes in more varieties than ever, but if you didn’t grow up with John Capodice presenting it in an actual pizza box, you cannot possibly comprehend how cool it used to be.
Clowny Crayons! (1980s)
Longtime readers may remember my fascination with Clowny, a series of “wacky” crayons that blended every color into one SUPER color.
None of Clowny’s products resembled “regular” crayons. One type was best described as a “crayon brick.” Another type could be worn as literal crayon fingertips. If you’re having trouble imagining such things, that probably explains why Clowny failed.
The big one for me was the Clowny “stick,” which looked and worked like a lipstick tube. As soon as I saw the commercial, I had to have that. It wasn’t a “passing interest” by any stretch. I went less nuts over getting a goddamned Nintendo.
Though this particular ad promoted a boxed set that included all of Clowny’s products, the various crayons were more popularly sold separately, briefly sharing shelf space with Crayola and Elmer’s. To that end, I remember speeding the me-getting-Clowny process along by swearing that I needed it for an art project at school.
I didn’t. I just wanted Clowny.
Rock Lords Action Figures! (1980s)
Rock Lords figures have turned up on Dino Drac before, so you already know that I’m a forever fan. Made by Tonka as a Gobots spinoff that ended up totally outshining its parent, Rock Lords threw Transformers and He-Man in a blender and ended up with the cherry limeade of action figure collections.
Each Rock Lord transformed into some type of boulder, and such simplistic final forms meant that Tonka could make the actual figures look extremely good. The gimmick was a powerful draw, but once you owned a two-headed monster with mean eyes and lava teeth, you could hardly stand to hide him in rock form.
Perhaps even cooler than the Rock Lords were their pets, the Rock Narlies — pullback toys that looked like the love children of pigs and Norfin Trolls.
Thanks for reading. I’ve hidden a link to Salt-N-Pepa’s Wikipedia entry somewhere on this page.