I’ve been doing some spring cleaning, because that’s technically still possible in June. I badly need to free up space, so as much as I’ll miss that Jenga game with half of the bricks missing, it’s all for the greater good.
In the process, I dug up more piles of homebrew VHS tapes, all loaded with old TV commercials. One was a real goldmine, filled with shows recorded from the USA Network back in 1990. Everything in this edition of Five Retro TV Commercials comes from that one tape:
Batmania on Dance Party USA! (1990)
This is easily among my greatest finds. The thumbnail is dull, but trust me, you DON’T want to miss this video.
As a lifelong chorophobic, I can’t say that I was a regular viewer of Dance Party USA. From what I gather, the show featured everyday kids dancing to pop songs in a converted Lazer Tag arena?
Apparently, Dance Party USA had an all-Batman episode, or at least an all-Batman segment within an episode. That episode likely aired in 1989 during the height of Batmania, so I’d assume this promo was for a repeat broadcast.
It’s an insane mash of kids twirling along to Prince’s Batdance, all while wearing Batman shirts. As much as I want to locate the full episode, I doubt that it could ever live up to the hype created by this fifteen-second promo. This is just AMAZING. I’ve watched it at least a hundred times.
Pay special attention to the blonde in the tie-dye Batman shirt. Girl was so good at commanding attention that the editor gave her THREE hero shots. (Her rockin’ dance at the five-second mark is my new favorite thing. I must believe that she continues to work in entertainment, because if one cannot parlay that dance into a lasting Hollywood career, it really is just about who you know.)
Godzilla loves Honey Nut Cheerios! (1990)
I’m hardly the first person to toss this on YouTube, but I’m amazed that more people aren’t still talking about it. This is a top tier Honey Nut Cheerios commercial — not quite to the level of Mumbling Scrooge, but certainly just a step below.
Here we have the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee literally hurling cereal down Godzilla’s throat, thanks to old repurposed movie footage. We even get helpful translations of Godzilla’s roars, with “reeeeaaahhhyyyrrrr” being Godzilla-speak for “honey and nuts.”
I couldn’t love this more. General Mills should’ve made a whole movie-length bit out of it, and offered the VHS for five proofs-of-purchase. If there’s anything worth waiting 6-8 weeks for, it’s a cartoon bee saving Tokyo by throwing food at Godzilla.
Rat Fink and the Rad Rods! (1990)
Though Rat Fink has been around since the 1960s, I only know him from this short-lived 1990 toy line, Rat Fink and the Rad Rods. Interestingly, I seem to be one of maybe six people who’ve ever heard of these toys, which were in and out of stores so fast that I can’t rule out the possibility that they got yanked over a choking hazard.
Whatever the case, they were way cool and deserved more praise. Each set consisted of a little rubbery creature and a bizarre friction-powered car. In flavor and vibe, the toys were somewhere between Food Fighters and Trash Bag Bunch.
If the line was unsuccessful — and to be fair, I’m only speculating that it was — I’d assume it was because Rat Fink had zero stroke at the schoolyard. Pretty hard for a rat from the 1960s to compete with Burton’s Batman and the Ninja Turtles, y’know? It’s not like Rat Fink had a cartoon or anything.
These were the toys kids received as birthday gifts from people who barely knew them, and ended up enjoying more than they ever thought they would. At least, that was my experience. Thanks, Aunt Patty! (Nobody really calls me “Matthew,” Aunt Patty.)
Andre visits the Honeycomb Hideout! (1990)
Hah, this is the commercial I gushed about on the Purple Stuff Podcast a few months back. It’s the best Honeycomb Cereal commercial of ‘em all, and I believe that to such a degree that even the slightest hint of blowback will result in an immediate block.
This one had everything. There was the Honeycomb Hideout, which was the leading reason why so many people my age grew up obsessed with treehouses. Then you had the incredible Honeycomb Robot, which beat Conky, R2 and even Kevin from Saved by the Bell on the list of robots I would’ve traded organs to own.
As if that wasn’t enough, you also had ANDRE THE GIANT, rejuvenated by his star turn in The Princess Bride. (In fact, Andre’s appearance here winked more to that movie than to his wrestling career.) I’ve literally never seen Andre happier, though I suppose it’s no shock that the key to a giant’s heart is Honeycomb Cereal.
Commercials like this were so effective in making me think of Honeycomb in a certain, special way. It wasn’t so much a “cereal” as a “gateway snack.” I’d grab a box and imagine it as my ticket to secret clubs and pool parties. When such things never materialized, I’d drown my sorrows in 16 ounces’ worth of corn starch. A vicious yet delicious cycle.
The Real Ghostbusters Zap a Dog! (1990)
This Real Ghostbusters toy commercial is harmless enough, but it’d never fly in 2019. Call me a softie, but I’m not sure that turning a dog into a sheet ghost so you can chase it around with foam missile launchers is an applaudable suggestion.
(Reminds me of the time I stalked our family dog with a plastic lightsaber. I ran headfirst into the side of our kitchen table, and I absolutely deserved that lump.)
Memories blur, but I’m pretty sure I had that Ecto-Blaster. It was basically a Nerf gun with Ghostbusters trappings. Packaged versions are absurdly expensive these days, but perhaps a little less so if you find one in the bilingual box. Hey, do you know how to say “Ecto-Blaster” in French? Ecto-Tireur!