Filmation

Five Things – 07.25.16 – World’s Tiniest Engineers

Ghostbusters

No, not that one.

In 1975 Filmation had a live-action series about a couple of guys and a gorilla who hunted ghosts.  It was about as different from the 1984 movie that would come as you could imagine; it was aimed directly at children and focused on slapstick rather than actual paranormal enthusiasm for its comedic value.  It was pretty hokey, and it died on the vine after only fifteen episodes.

Obviously, after the mega-success of the 1984 film, there was interest in making a television series.  After an unsuccessful attempt to work with Columbia Pictures to produce a cartoon that tied in with the movie, Filmation chose instead to resurrect the original series in animated form.  Because Filmation owned the rights to the title, they were able to come to the table with a cartoon simply titled Ghostbusters – tricking second graders all over the country into watching their show.  Myself included.  Columbia Pictures, whose cartoon actually did relate to the film, had the ante-upped title The Real Ghostbusters.  Columbia Pictures had the superior series, but Filmation’s effort wasn’t without its charm.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters featured the sons of the 1975 series’ protagonists, Jake Kong Jr. and Eddie Spencer Jr.  Tracy the gorilla was the bridge between the two generations, working with both teams.  Rounding out the team are Belfrey, a pink talking bat, and Skellevision, a skeleton television.  While there were gadgets involved in detecting and catching ghosts, the show on the whole was consciously low-tech but also high concept; the characters rode around in an old haunted jalopy named Ghost Buggy that could also fly.  This was a pretty big point of distinction between this series and The Real Ghostbusters.

Skull Phone Ghost Buggy

Sixty-five episodes were produced for daytime syndication, and a toy line followed.  It fared better than you’d think it would but it was really no match for our Ghostbusters – either on screen or in the marketplace.  Still, there’s something fun about it – it celebrates the supernatural in a sweet, goofy way that you saw less and less of in the ’80s, and still less today.  Plus, it’s gorgeous. Check it out.

 

How You Can Help Win The War

Here’s an interesting wartime pamphlet about things civilians and laborers can do to help win the war.  It’s interesting to see things like “drive carefully” and “don’t get hurt” included with the more obvious “don’t blab what you know”.

How You Can Help Win The War

 

1991 Canadian Anti-Drug PSA

This 1991 Canadian anti-drug PSA plays like a Tim and Eric sketch.  To say it didn’t age well is an understatement – would this have resonated with kids even back in 1991 when it was made?

That “COOL” gets me every time.

 

Frustration 1973 Box Art

I love the painting of the family on this 1973 Frustration (known as “Trouble” here in the U.S.) box art.  Particularly because it looks like that kid is in some serious pain.

Frustration

 

Exciting Ant Farm

From the “Always Wanted, Never Had” files…

Exciting Ant Farm

 

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Defense

Five Things – 7.11.16 – Real Sick, Real Quick

Man From The 25th Century

This 1968 Irwin Allen production never got off the ground, and it’s kind of a shame.

25th Century

Tomo was abducted from his 1951 Earth life and given combat and telekinesis training on a distant planet 500 years in the future by alien beings, his ultimate mission being to return to 1951 and destroy an Earth defense project named Project Delphi.  Weird, right? He’s given a final review by the alien board and his skills are found wanting, but they’re out of time.  They need to send him 500 years back in time right now. I can only assume that’s due to some limitation of time travel that my 21st century brain can’t comprehend.

Council

Saucer

Tomo returns to 20th century Earth as Robert Prentice, a man on his way to start working at Project Delphi.  That was easy! On the way there, the Project takes control of his car and drives him the rest of the way.

25th Century

He’s given a tour of the facilities and quickly tries to blow it all up. He’s captured and exposed as a traveler from the future.  The aliens who sent him decide that he’s too knowledgeable to let live, so they send a spacecraft to destroy him… and a bunch of innocent people. Tomo/Prentice is shocked that he was working for the wrong team and works with the 20th century Earthlings to repel the attack.

Delphi Defense 2

They successfully beat the aliens back, for now.  We never find out what happened after that, because the pilot never made it to series.  Like I said, kind of a shame – there was something there.  It’s rough and there are some gaps of logic but it’s still a lot of fun. Check it out.

 

Don’t Put It In Your Mouth

This 1993 Canadian PSA answers the ‘why’ of that age old command not to put just anything in your mouth – in nightmarish fashion.  And then tacks on a message about not taking anything from strangers. Or putting an item taken from strangers into your mouth.

 

Wartime Kraft Cheese Ad

I don’t know what bugs me specifically about this wartime ad for Kraft cheeses. Maybe because I’m not sure I associate Philadelphia Cream Cheese part of a wartime-thrift diet? I still love the design and the audacity of the effort, though.

Kraft Wartime

 

World’s Finest Victory Garden

Now THIS is a wartime effort I can get behind!

Victory Garden Worlds Finest

 

Merlin Commercial

This 1980s commercial for Parker Brothers’ Merlin electronic game doesn’t do much to sell me on it.  I remember this thing being confounding and confusing even back then when we were harder up for entertainment. I wonder if anyone would have the patience for it now.

 

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Sizzler

Five Things – 07.04.16 – You’re Weird Too, Then

Dollar a Second

This 1981 reboot of a 1950s game show seems centered around insulting and humiliating people while occasionally throwing them a few dollars, and also about confusing the rest of us.

Dollar A Second

Bob Eubanks conducts this train wreck in which contestants earn the titular Dollar A Second for as long as they’re on stage.  A counter overhead keeps track of how much they’ve earned.  The contestants are dressed ridiculously (by the show) from the get-go, putting them at an instant disadvantage.

DAS Contestant

They’re then given a string of “A or B” questions and tasks to perform in either case instead of just verbally answering.  Once a contestant gets an answer wrong they’re taken to the next level of humiliation, where they Pay the Penalty.

Penalty 2

Here they’re given a Russian Roulette sort of choice to make, where all but one choice could put them back into the game and the fourth embarrasingly knocks them out. There’s not really a final round – they count on the players quitting and taking their winnings or continuing and getting knocked out.  Pretty half baked.  The pilot didn’t get picked up, so we’ll never know if it would have evolved past a crude trivia show that got cheap, uncomfortable laughs from captive audience members.

Here’s an episode. Like I said, train wreck.  Hard to watch, hard not to watch.

 

My Weekly Reader

Dreams of Space has a couple of roundup posts for a weekly children’s publication called My Weekly Reader.  These editions predictably focus on our 1950s efforts to conquer space and because of this they’re right of my alley.  Hit the link for all of them, here are some of my favorites.

1960nov7weeklyreader

1965weeklyreader

1958nov10weeklyreader

 

The 1976 Travis 4th of July Parade

This Super 8 footage of Travis, RI’s Bicentennial Parade really gets me.

 

1991 Sizzler Promotional Video

This 4+ minute image piece for the Sizzler is the most dramatic, most nineties, most beautifully perfect image piece for a family-and-budget-friendly restaurant I’ve ever seen.  They don’t make image pieces for family-and-budget-friendly restaurants like this anymore!

 

Sony Super Walkman

It’s slightly smaller!

 

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Remote

Five Things – 06.27.16 – All Seven Functions

The Diamond Head Game

Despite being shot on location in beautiful 1975 Hawaii, this very short lived game show didn’t accomplish much beyond giving host Bob Eubanks a chance to get a tan.

Diamond Head Game

The Diamond Head Game featured four mini-rounds consisting of basic trivia with contestants pulled from what can only be referred to in this post-Arsenio era as a Dog Pound. These contestants are also the entire audience, presumably given the restrictions of the location, and they’re really happy to be there.

Dog Pound

Once all four first rounds are done, the climb up the mountain begins.  The four winners of the first round are pitted against each other to remember a list of nouns and recall them one after another.  This is as mind-numbing to watch as it sounds.

Final Four

Once a winner emerges from the mountain climb the final round begins: the money volcano.  Or, a wind chamber with flying tickets.

Volcano

The contestant is given one last chance to trade their haul for a secret prize and, if they decline, are given each ticket they collected one at a time. The tickets have dollar values or prizes on them, but if a contestant pulls a one dollar bill they lose it all.  They’re given the chance to bow out and keep their winnings after each ticket is revealed.

Trade

Here’s the show – it’s actually really worth watching for the novelty of a mid-70’s game show shot outdoors in a beautiful location but not for much past that.  For every element in the game there’s a show that did it better.

Also, the theme song was another Alan Thicke joint, too. That guy is made of theme songs.

 

RCA Remote Control

This 1960s introduction film for the remote control is pretty charming. While it’s definitely impressive and I can appreciate the waves this thing made at the time, I imagine somebody in the future will look at a how-to video for a Harmony remote or Homekit integration with the same smug appreciation.

 

Kite PSA

In which a mime performs a terrifying death before two children to illustrate the dangers of retrieving kites from power lines.  Canadian film and television was painted with a really special brush back in the ’80s.

How about that appearance?

Mime

 

Color Computer 3

Love this commercial for the Tandy Color Computer 3.

And an accompanying print ad.

Color Computer 3

Just plug it into your TV!

 

Florida Oranges

Keep a pitcher cold and handy!

Florida Oranges

 

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Whew Intro

Five Things – 06.20.13 – A Neon Sign Designer

Whew!

This short lived Game Show featured an amazing set, a strange format, and good old Rod Roddy.

Whew!

Whew! is basically a string of lightning rounds with a little twist – in the “normal” part of the game one contestant tries to get through the board in a set amount of time while the other places ‘blocks’, little land mines that take away five seconds each time they’re uncovered.  If the blocks are uncovered, the defending contestant gets the money.

Blocks

The first contestant to win two rounds gets to go to the final round, which is basically the same thing but with ten ‘villains’ delivering the questions and no blocks. If they can make it through each villain they get the grand prize, $25,000.

25000

The set is pretty fantastic, but I have a hard time putting my finger on specifics.  It alternates between a grandiose production and something in somebody’s basement, but you can tell someone had their eye on design in all components – even in the live, composited stuff.

Whew Set Lightning Final Round

Whew! lasted just over a year before being cancelled – April 1979 to May 1980.  A pretty wacky show, and it moves really fast.  Here’s an episode.

 

Home Alone (NES)

Of course there was a Nintendo game for Home Alone; there was an everything else for Home Alone, so why not  a game for the NES?

Home Alone Cover

Different versions of the game were made, each platform having its own format and objectives.  In the NES version (developed by Bethesda, current developers of the Elder Scrolls and recent Fallout series!) the premise is pretty simple: evade Harry and Marv for 20 minutes until the police show up. Kevin picks up different traps and places them around the house to slow the Wet Bandits down.  It’s not as easy as it looks. Get caught and it’s game over.

Oh No

Here’s a longplay.

 

Pepper’s Ghost

I wish I knew more about this fantastic 19th Century poster.  What I do know is there’s a wrong way to put a bunch of different fonts together, and then there’s this way.  I can’t stop looking at it. It’s beautiful.

Pepper's Ghost

 

What is Pippin?

A somewhat dry intro to Apple’s ill-fated video game console, the Pippin.  Would you have paid $700 for this in 1995?

 

J’attendrai

Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli never fail to scratch the itch.

 

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Motorway

Five Things – 6.13.16 – Now That We Know What Hi-Fi Means

Finders Keepers

What if Highlights magazine and Legends of the Hidden Temple had a baby and that baby married Supermarket Sweep? It would be an outrage, that’s what if.  Babies can’t get married!

Finders Keepers

Nickelodeon had lightning in a bottle in the ’80s with their game shows – Double Dare, G.U.T.S., and the aforementioned Legends of the Hidden Temple were all really original ideas that celebrated being a kid.  Finder’s Keepers was…kind of a mess.

FK Contestants

The show pitted two pairs of kids against each other in two rounds of hidden picture to earn the right to ransack rooms of a house in order to find a specific object.  The objects were ridiculously hard to find, sometimes even for the host, and if one team failed the other team got points.  This is what usually happened.

Challenge 1

Hidden Ball

The team that has the most points after two rounds, either by finding hidden pictures or by not-not-finding the hidden objects, gets to go to the final round. Here they go across the whole house with the added task of figuring out what object they need to find based on some really poorly crafted riddles.

Finale

It’s a pretty good idea for a game show, but there are so many points where either a lack of skill or a lack of care on the showrunner’s part kept it from being a good game show.  Still, I can’t imagine the kid audience in the ’80s being discerning enough to pick the show apart on these things.  I sure wasn’t.

Here’s an episode from 1988.  Plus some great Nick bumpers.  In pretty good quality, too!

 

Newton Guided Tour

When you bought the Apple Newton, one of the first PDAs back in 1994, this video was included to show you how to use it.  It’s a little dry and could be about ten minutes shorter, but there’s a lot to like about the cheesiness of it all.  The music, the sedated narration, the fashion, and the very ’90s montages of people using this bulky obscenity in the real world contribute to make this a great snapshot of the realities and the aspirations 1994 technology. We wanted to be 2010 so badly!

 

Thorazine Ad

I don’t know if this 1958 print ad for Thorazine is supposed to make me as antsy as it does.  Seems kind of counter to the message.

thoraz5

 

British Motorway Public Information Film

This short PSA from the ’80s about how to use the motorway is probably the prettiest thing I’ve seen this week.

 

The Teppaz Presence

Runner up.  This vintage ad for the Teppaz Presence Player is pretty gorgeous, too.

Tepper Presence

 

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Strawberries

Five Things – 6.6.16 – I Hope That You Still Love Me When This Is Over

The New Treasure Hunt

This colorful 1973 game show is a little bit Let’s Make a Deal, a little bit Deal or No Deal, and a lot of bizarre.

Treasure Hunt Title

The show, a reboot of Treasure Hunt from the 1950s, uses the old familiar trope where a master spy has hidden $25,000 in one of thirty gift packages laid around a television set.

Splitscreen

The host, Johnny Jacobs, goes through three rounds in which three females (always females) were selected for a chance to try and find the loot.

Crowd

Contestants

When a contestant picked a package, they were also given an envelope that had a dollar amount on it. She then had the option of keeping the money or rolling the dice on the contents of the package.  The package’s reveal was intentionally long and drawn out, often including sketches or gags, to play on the contestant’s emotions.

Old Timey Car

 

This aspect of the show was apparently a driving reason behind the show’s decision to only feature female contestants – in addition to the creepy idea that females’ emotions were easier to exploit, they also feared the males’ reactions to being strung along and frequently let-down. The seventies, ladies and gentlemen!

Reaction

At the end of the episode, if the check has not been claimed, the spy briefly returns to reveal where he stashed it. As a spy would do.

Spy End

Makes sense.  Here’s an episode.

 

Thayer’s Quest

Rick Dyer’s Videogame company, RDI Video Systems, had designs for a laserdisc-based home console called Halcyon that could play Dragon’s Lair-type content at home.  The Halcyon was scrapped but the flagship title for the system, Thayer’s Quest was converted to play in arcades on old Dragon’s Lair cabinets.  Check out a walkthrough – the animation is pretty incredible.

Could you imagine playing this in your living room in the 1980s?

 

Le jardin Anime

This beautiful French coloring book from the 1920s or 1930s is featured over at 50Watt.  Hit the link for more scans, these are some of my favorites:

Le Jardin Anime Cover

Seesaw

Strawberries

Coloring

 

1970 Playmobil Little People Ad

Of all of the great things about this ad, the glimpses of the ’70s living room and the great synth button toward the end are at the top.

 

Glass Works with Vinegar

Or, you could just use vinegar.

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Kid's Court

Five Things – 05.30.16 – And The Wind Would Carry Your Light To The Skies

Kid’s Court

Court shows are the connective tissue of the daytime TV schedule.  They seem to be necessary components for local TV stations to function. They’re everywhere and have been everywhere for decades.  Perhaps I have rose-colored nostalgia glasses on (I have several pairs), but I feel like the court shows of the 1980s were a little more level-headed and not the dramatic scream-fests that they are today.  Wapner wouldn’t tolerate that sort of behavior.  Nickelodeon’s kid-centric version of The People’s Court was a good show – not necessarily in the sense that it was fun to watch so much as that it did a great job of taking that dispute drama and putting it into a forum that worked for children audiences.  Also, it was pretty fun to watch.

Kid's Court Title

Kid’s Court featured comedian Paul Provenza as the host but not the judge. Every episode’s case was taken from a kid’s letter sent to the show, and the plaintiff and defendant were kids acting out whatever beef was in the letter.

Kid's Court 1

Sarah Stinks

It is unknown whether these kids were given clothes to wear or whether this kid picked this outfit out on his own:

Fashion

The majority of the show is Provenza going around the room getting the jury’s (the audience’s) take on the situation, and as more details of the case are revealed the kids in the room can see how their opinions change. At the end of the episode two audience members are chosen to make their final cases for the plaintiff and the defendent, and as with actual legal cases the result is determined by who more people in the courtroom clapped for.  Enter the judge, whose only role is to measure the applause.

Judge O Meter

Kid’s Court ran from 1988 to 1994, ending two years before Judge Judy came along and set a new bar for how loud court shows needed to be. Here’s an episode.

 

Rax Ads

Here’s some ads for Rax restaurants.  This one features their spokesman in the 1980s, musician Big Al Anderson.  Big Guy likes fast food.  Trust Big Guy.

Prepare your OWN sandwiches from a salad bar? I’ll stay at home, thanks!

Then there’s Pasta Man. You know, Pasta Man. Big Al’s in there, too!

You want to turn my Rax into an Olive Garden? I’ll stay at home, thanks!

 

Shel Silverstein on the Johnny Cash Show

A magical segment from the Johnny Cash show where Shel Silverstein shows up to play “A Boy Named Sue” with Cash, followed by a solo “Daddy What If” that yanks my heart out.

 

Oodles

How do you one-up those creepy Kewpie dolls? Make them slightly smaller and harder and shinier and sell them to young girls as charms to be worn around the neck. Large charms. Oodles!

 

Wheelee Board

Finally, an ad for the only skateboard you’ll ever need.

Wheelie

 

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I'm Telling!

Five Things – 05.23.16 – Dare You Let It In Your Library?

The Stephen King Library

Stephen King’s pretty well-regarded nowadays, but in the 1980s and 1990s he had a polarizing level of fame. While he had a dedicated fanbase, he tended to be regarded in the mainstream as a shlocky horror writer who put out a new book every week and opinion of him was formed on whether you liked that sort of thing or not.  He was a bestseller, sure, a rockstar of a writer, but it seemed like there was a level of respect for his writing that he never got.

Besides the fact that his crazy creative output in that era meant you always had something new to read, the volume also provided an easy business opportunity in the space that Time Life and Columbia House had forged – subscriptions.  Enter the Stephen King Library.

For $7.95 (the first time, $14.95 each shipment thereafter) you got a new King book, hardback. It’s crazy to me that there could be a book subscription service for one author, but there you go. I love the commercials for the service; this one seems to imply that publishers are approaching people on the street to try to sell Stephen King books:

While I love the cheesy comments and the hokey “scary music”, the comments reinforce that shlocky image that King’s writing had back then. It’s not wrong, really, just… incomplete.  The narrator also clearly hands the first guy a copy of Needful Things but calls it Dolores Claiborne.

*wheeze*

Here’s some commercials for specific books – The Stand, which would be a steal even then at $7.95:

I love that the extra content is pitched as something that we “weren’t allowed to see before”. Here’s one for Gerald’s Game:

These visuals aren’t really backing up the content of the books themselves; did anything really come up out of the ground in The Stand? That’s more of a Pet Semetary thing…

The Stephen King Library is still alive and kicking, too! That’s even crazier to me than the fact of its existence. I’m just glad that time has borne out King’s reputation as a great writer and we can all now move on to arguing about whether those fat cats in Hollywood are doing his work justice. How many days until The Dark Tower releases?

 

Coming Soon: Portable Computers!

Here’s a cringeworthy trip through all of the newest tech for those geeks with tons of disposable income in 1994.  It’s neat to see how big our ideas were and how limited our ability to execute those ideas was. The delay on that videophone cannot be unseen.

That’s, what, $9,000 worth of tech in that video? $10,000? And a printer you can use in the car? Worthless.

K-Tel Records: Looney Tunes

From the people who brought you the Sesame Street soundtrack, here’s Looney Tunes. Not the Looney Tunes you’re thinking of.  It’s weird.

 

I’m Telling!

Even weirder? How about I’m Telling!, which is basically The Newlywed Game but with child siblings instead.  This one didn’t last long – it ran from September 1987 to March 1988.

 

Uncle Sam Says Garden

Beautiful poster encouraging Americans to grow their own food in order to cut down on waste.

Uncle Sam Says Garden

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Mad Maze

Five Things – 05.16.16 – Less Than You Think, Jack

Prodigy Commercials

The internet was introduced to my house in 1990 through Prodigy, an early online service that touted all of the features of online living we take for granted today in a crude, difficult-to-use format that was still the best experience of the era.

Prodigy LogIn

Prodigy came to us bundled with a 2600k modem and a pre-set user ID that was a nonsensical combination of letters and numbers that could not be changed.  You had to memorize this user ID or keep it written down next to the computer or you were hosed.  Once you logged in you could do some rudimentary shopping, play some basic games, pay more money to play some good games (looking at you, MadMaze), or read the news.  Each of these experiences involved a roughly 3-5 minute load time between each screen.  Then there were the message boards, which were the real meat of the experience for 11-year-old me.  I became the secretary of the Sierra Hint Club, an organization of nerds who provided hints for the Sierra adventure computer games for anyone who wanted them.  Yeah.  Pretty great way to be eleven.

Mad Maze

Anyway, I loved Prodigy and it obviously has a special place in my heart.  I soon learned that the modem could be used for other things like BBS’g and got into all that later, but Prodigy remained the family internet portal until AOL sucked everything up later in the ’90s.  I came across these early 1990 ads for Prodigy and really love the way they sum up the promise of the internet.  Nobody would really deliver on this promise in a game-changing way for quite some time, but they did the best they could and going from zero to this was really something.

In the mid-90s when competition was a bit stiffer, they had to up their “cool” game a bit.  Barry White helped. Still centered around the message boards and communities, though.

Did I mention you had to pay for X number of hours per month? Could you imagine having to measure out your internet like that now?

 

Sugar PSA

This ’90s Fox Kids PSA about the effects of eating too much sugar is very ’90s and very horrifying. The kid goes to Sugar Hell!

 

 

1975 Sesame Street Greatest Hits

Selling soundtracks on TV in 1975 was a pretty crude effort, apparently.  Here’s a Sesame Street ad that features some terribly off-model plushes and some really awesome animations from the show mixed all together into a really weird combination.

 

Q*Bert Board Game

There is everything to love about this commercial for the Q*Bert board game.

 

Dungeon! Ad

The font on the “Dungeon!” part kills me.  I love it.

Dungeon!

 

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