I’ve been digging through stacks of home-recorded VHS tapes, searching for more old TV commercials. It’s seriously one of my favorite things to do. I even wear a special outfit.
Below: Another batch of retro TV commercials. This time, they’re all from the ‘90s, when grunge was big and every chip got a spinoff ranch flavor.
Batman Returns: The Batcave! (1992)
Kenner made tons of desirable Batman toys during the ‘90s. Just as importantly, they knew how to advertise them.
I’m especially fond of their TV commercials from the Batman Returns era, which perfectly captured that film’s wintry, gloomy feel. (Right down to the liberal use of fake snow, which I bet tasted sugary.)
This ad focused on the Batcave Command Center playset, which was certainly a step up from the older Batcave made by ToyBiz — even if that one was showier in a cartoony sort of way. Basically, this new Batcave was for kids who liked aggressive toys with senses of realism. The old one was for kids who wanted Batman’s secret lair to make them think about ice cream.
The commercial also highlighted some then-new action figures, including that kickass Bruce Wayne with the removable Batman costume. (Easily among the most beloved of all ‘90s action figures, in and out of the DC universe.)
More quirky was Kenner’s Penguin figure, which famously looked nothing like Danny DeVito. It was a revamp of a much older DC Super Powers figure, based on Penguin’s appearance in the comics.
(I’ve never been clear on why they didn’t make a “DeVito” Penguin. Was the character too gross? DeVito’s fees too high? Did they just want to save cash by reusing an old mold? Every time I ask, I get a different answer. You people make me so mad.)
Super Stinkers Water Guns! (1993)
Oh God, these things.
The situation was that Larami’s Super Soaker guns had become so enormously successful that other toy companies wanted a piece of the pie. At the same time, the Super Soaker was so golden that the only real way to compete was by doing what Larami did, differently. Hence, wackadoo shit like this!
Remco’s Super Stinkers came with liquid “ammunition” that stunk like everything from pepperoni pizza to sweaty sneakers. The guns weren’t nearly as powerful as Super Soakers, but surely some kids were willing to trade range and precision for the ability to make their enemies smell like garbage cans.
I don’t get the impression that these were big sellers, but it wasn’t for Remco’s lack of trying. A hummable TV commercial where kids get transformed into giant slices of monster pizza? You had to be a little bit curious.
The Video Game Exchange! (1993)
Judging by this commercial, Video Game Exchange looked like an old world GameStop and had a casual atmosphere. Not sure about that used game? No worries, they’d let you try it! Right there in the store! Ten bucks says they had bowls of mini-sized Krackel bars, too. Free for the takin’!
I soooo would’ve went there every afternoon to “audition” games that I had no intention of ever buying. One of the glories of youth was having a not fully-developed sense of how annoying I was. So what if I treated Video Game Exchange like that greasy arcade from the bowling alley? I was always polite.
PS: The music heard in this ad could score a montage of Rambo selling cars.
Beast Wars Action Figures! (1996)
I didn’t pay attention to the Beast Wars TV series until it was just about over, but I fell in love instantly. Even putting aside the winks to G1 fans, that show was smart, funny, often touching, and even sometimes spooky. I still recommend it to anyone who’ll listen, loudly and with much gesturing.
When the corresponding toy line debuted, I still hadn’t seen the show. I viewed the collection of animal-themed Transformers almost as novelties. “Megatron as a Tyrannosaur” was always going to be worth a chuckle and an affirmative nod, but the character became so much cooler once you watched the series.
(For those who never have, he wasn’t “Megatron” in the G1 sense, but a new baddie who was like a weird, wonderful amalgam of Thanos and Frasier Crane.)
The toys were cool and you certainly have my blessing to track them down, but if you’ve still never bothered with the series, please, change that! You can binge the whole thing in one weekend, and you won’t be sorry if you do.
Fruity Pebbles featuring Barney the Troll! (1993)
Remember the Troll craze of the early ‘90s? I sure do. I spent more than one summer trying to fish Troll dolls out of Atlantic City claw cranes, and I never dared to attempt any big moves until I’d blown on Troll hair for luck.
Further evidence of the era’s Troll obsession was this Fruity Pebbles commercial, wherein Barney Rubble dressed as one in order to trick Fred. Keep in mind, Post wasn’t doing any Troll-related promotions or giveaways. The dolls were so popular that simply acknowledging their existence proved that your finger was on the pulse. YOU were the cereal who understood a generation’s pain and plight.
Thanks for reading — more old commercials are coming soon! Or soonish.