It’s been nearly a full year since the last edition of Five Retro TV Commercials, which means little to you but for me is definitive proof that time moves faster when you’re an old rag.
The good news is that I spent the downtime collecting more old TV commercials than I could ever reasonably cover. If the next Dino Drac focus group demands more editions of Five Retro TV Commercials, dude, I’m so armed.
Star Tours at Disneyland! (1987)
I’ve only been to Disneyland once. It was part of a whirlwind California vacation that doubled as a business trip for my father. We hit most of the big spots, from Universal Studios to the super touristy parts of Hollywood, but it was all a mad rush that didn’t leave time to digest any one specific location.
All I remember about our trip to Disneyland is Star Tours, which had only recently opened. Needless to say, experiencing it was a life-or-death situation. The wait was beyond insane and ate up roughly 70% of our Disneyland time. To date, I think it’d still qualify as the longest line I’ve ever been on.
The ride was great, but my favorite part actually happened before it. To drum up excitement while you waited, they stationed audio-animatronic versions of 3PO and R2 somewhere near the start of the line. They were “movie quality” to the point where even a Star Wars nut like me could tell no difference. Being within spitting distance of the real actual C-3PO was such a dream come true, it wouldn’t have mattered if the ride sucked.
I returned from California with a farmer’s tan and a Star Tours poster. The tan faded in weeks, but that poster was on my bedroom wall forevaaaa.
Masters of the Universe POWER TOUR! (1987)
You know what’s weird? The “first chapter” of Masters of the Universe was inarguably on its last legs in 1987, yet that was the year when so much of its coolest shit came out. Ya gotta give He-Man credit for going down swinging.
1987 was when the toy line scored some of its biggest triumphs, like Scare Glow. 1987 was when the live action movie hit theaters, ruling extraordinarily hard no matter what the critics said.
1987 was also the year of THE POWER TOUR, a live show starring our favorite MOTU characters. Only a small percentage of He-Man fans saw it live, but we’re all pretty obsessed with it. Whenever someone posts that promo shot of the Grizzlor ballerina, we’re like fruit flies on spilt soda.
When you’re into MOTU and you hear “Skeletor,” you kind of mentally divide things into separate Skeletor categories. There’s the original animated one. The live action one. Then the live action one in gold. There’s also an outer space one, and a 2002 one, and I think there’s going to be a 2021 one next year? Oh, and don’t forget the one from the Macy’s Parade, and there are probably eighteen more from comic books.
But there’s also a Power Tour Skeletor, with a unique look and history. It’s like that for every character that turned up in the show. This broadens the franchise’s scope, adds splashes of color and intrigue, and most importantly gives us more stuff to look up on fan wikis. I’m glad the Power Tour existed.
McDonald’s Becomes RocDonald’s! (1994)
If we can consider “McDonald’s” a film genre, The Flintstones is one of its best examples. Not as high on the list as Mac and Me, and I guess Richie Rich beats it too, but it’s at least above Coming to America.
In 1994, McDonald’s and The Flintstones twirled around each other like unchecked vines. I don’t know if I could name another movie that McDonald’s went to bat so hard for. The “RocDonald’s” gag from the film bled into the real world, with McD’s even allowing its sacred McRib to serve at the pleasure of Wilma.
The McRib became part of McD’s “Grand Poobah” meal, a Flintstones-branded indulgence that also included supersized fries and a Coke the size of your head. And that was just for the older crowd! There were also curiously upscale Happy Meal toys, and the kid-targeted commercials that went with them.
I imagine that this partnership was a not-insignificant part of the movie’s success. I mean, just from my own experiences, I know that I had zero interest in An American Tail until Fievel turned up on that McDonald’s Christmas stocking. Studios didn’t sign their lives over to Ronald just for the hell of it, you know?
Mortal Kombat Handheld Game! (1994)
Some write off the old Tiger Electronics games as “terrible,” but I’m not sure that’s fair. Terrible in comparison to actual handheld systems like the Game Boy or Game Gear? Sure, but that’s like comparing a flash drive you get for free by visiting a car dealership to one of those big orange things from LaCie.
It was all about ~mindset~. These games weren’t made to be intensely played as much as just fiddled with. Like battery-operated sneaker tongues or something. They were the entertainment equivalent of emergency rations, never your first choice but always better than nothing.
Maybe I can blame Grandma. Before I got a Game Boy, those crude handhelds were how I survived trips to her house. I know none of you ever visited my late grandmother, but believe me when I say that her house was the most boring place on the planet. Network television with bad reception. Wrapped mints acting as the only junk food. Couches that resembled the ornamental ones from mid-level funeral parlors. Throw a Tiger Electronics game into that arena, and it was like Haymitch sent you a parachute.
Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II! (1987)
This album ruled, with no asterisks for irony. I’m not saying it wasn’t cheesy. It was a novelty album with songs about pro-wrestlers, sometimes sung by pro-wrestlers. Of course it was cheesy.
But looking over the track list again, I’m surprised they didn’t try to push at least some of those songs for real radio play. One of my favorites was Derringer’s Demolition, which served as the same-named tag team’s entrance theme and was a genuinely great metal track. (I hope it was metal, anyway. I mean, the wrestlers definitely were.)
Then there was Piledriver, the song that gave the album its name. Sung by actual-wrestler Koko B. Ware, you’re never going to convince me that it couldn’t have been a Top 10 hit, even if only for a week or two. It’s really that good — a total rock anthem that was right at home in 1987.
It wasn’t like you had to follow wrestling to enjoy the songs. Hell, we were just talking about Mortal Kombat — y’all remember “Techno Syndrome” from 1995, right? Do you really think everyone who listened to that knew what a “Mortal Kombat” was? Shit was sandwiched between Ace of Base singles on Z100. We could’ve done the same for Koko, that’s all I’m saying.
Thank u 4 reading. <3