chatbot

Five Things – 12.5.16 – I Can’t Sell It To You

Deck the Halls With Wacky Walls

Wacky Wall Walkers were a very popular toy for a brief period in the early 1980s.  They were these rubber octopi that were sticky; you threw them against the wall and they would slowly “walk” down until the adhesive gave out and they just fell to the floor.  Super popular for a while, then relegated to cereal prizes, then gone forever.

wacky-wall-walkers

(via Retroland)

In their brief heyday, though, they were huge.  In typical ’80s fashion, that meant that they just had to have a presence on television. That presence took the form of Deck the Halls with Wacky Walls, which aired on NBC in the Christmas season of 1983.

ww-title

Deck the Halls with Wacky Walls had the liberty and license to apply any backstory they wanted to these rubber octopi. Naturally, the writers decided that they came from a complex space civilization.

wall-walker-planet

A team of 7 Wall Walkers – Kling-Kling, Big Blue, Springette, Bouncing Baby Boo, Crazylegs, Stickum, and Wacko – are sent to Earth to investigate something their scientists have heard about called “Christmas”.  My eyes are rolling, too.

wall-walker-gang-2

(They’re on the ceiling because they can walk on things like walls and ceilings. Get it?)

The special quickly falls into the normal Christmas special routine – outsiders looking for clues on what Christmas is find that some like the decorations…

decorations

…others like the music…

wacky-wall-dancing

…and others like the presents and the shopping.

santa

There’s a storyline woven through about an ungrateful kid who gets introduced to the Wall Walkers when one is accidentally wrapped into a gift.

unwrapped

Together, they learn that the true meaning of Christmas is giving, and the typical cursory nod to Jesus is given right before they wrap up.

The only truly special thing about this special is that someone decided to create a lore and background for a bunch of fad toys.  The work that went into this special probably outshines any effort that went into the toys themselves…and the special still comes up so, so short.  Here it is. It’s a fascinating sort of awful. Bah. Humbug.

 

TOMY Bots

I’ve mentioned before that as a child I believed that robot servants were always just around the corner.  They never materialized in any useful form, but that didn’t stop the toy companies from  scratching our itch with several iterations of few-function rudimentary remote-control devices in the shape of robots. TOMY was the best at this game, with their Chatbot, Verbot, and Omnibot models. Here’s a roundup of the commercials for the various models.

The Omnibot ads are legit fantastic. We’re clearly the chimps in that last one.  It’s always great when a company can get sales by insulting the customers.

 

Sammy Davis, Jr Alka Seltzer Ad

Sammy was an odd choice for Alka Seltzer’s spokesman in the late 1970s and early 1980s. but not really the wrong choice.  Alka Seltzer’s primary job is to provide relief from last night’s party, and you probably can’t find a much better expert on partying.

The Santa get-up is weird, though. BUT THAT FONT.

to-all-a-good-night

 

1987 Sports Illustrated Christmas Commercial

Watch this salesman blow all of his 1987 holiday commission by letting these wives and mothers know about the existence of Sports Illustrated!

Bless Your Hearth!

I don’t claim to understand the appeal of Necco Wafers, but I don’t need to; somebody out there loves them and that’s enough for Necco.  They DID, however, have an awesome Holiday print ad in 1952, and that’s enough for me.

bless-your-hearth

 

-ds

magic

Five Things – 11.28.16 – I Doubt My Feet Can Disco

The Burger King Kingdom

McDonaldland gets some flak for its suspicious similarities to the world of H.R. Pufinstuf, and alot of that flak is deserved, but at least there’s some charm and originality to McDonaldland that redeems the effort.  Burger King’s 1976 attempt to rip off McDonaldland, on the other hand… there’s no redemption here.

burger-king

We’ve talked about the original Burger King mascot here before, that man who performs basic magic tricks for children in the lobbies of the fast food restaurants that bore his name.  He’s the leader of the “Burger King Kingdom”, a realm that involves an underwhelming roster of supporting characters and also takes place in our world and also is barely magical.

shake-a-lot

Sir Shake-a-Lot is a knight wearing milkshake armor. He’s a human who shakes a lot, that’s his whole thing.  It’s supposedly because he’s cold because he likes milkshakes so much, but it comes off like he’s mocking an actual condition.  His catch phrase is “Great Shakes!”

duke-of-doubt

The Duke of Doubt is the main villain of the Burger King Kingdom. His power is…doubt.  He doesn’t seem to cause any real trouble, doesn’t steal hamburgers or thwart plans or anything. He just doubts that things that are true are actually true, and is typically proven wrong by the end of the commercial. His catch phrase is “I doubt it!” Clever!

burger-thing

The Burger Thing bears the worst name of the gang and has the appearance to back it up. He’s a giant Hamburger puppet with a disturbing human face and the voice of Frank Welker. Total nightmare.

the-wizard-of-fries-mcdonaldland-apocalypse

Lastly, the Wizard of Fries is….actually pretty cool. He’s a robot who can take one french fry and duplicate it endlessly.

I will admit a certain bias toward McDonaldland; I was a McDonalds kid growing up, and I have a head full of fond memories of the McDonaldland gang in all of their various toy/cookie/playground-ride forms.  I like to think that I can rise above this bias, however, look at the two realms objectively, and still say that the Burger King Kingdom is garbage. If you need specific evidence, look no further than the leaders of each realm. Ronald McDonald is a magical man, a clown being who can manipulate the world around him and travel seamlessly between his dimension and ours whenever the children of our world need him.  The Burger King is merely a man who knows magic, a man who lives in our world, apparently in our very country, yet declares himself king and attempts to impress us all with parlor tricks.  One is a pale, pale version of the other.

Here’s a string of Burger King Kingdom commercials. That robot’s pretty cool.

 

Oompas

This 1970s predecessor to Peanut Butter M&M’s was one of Wonka’s few chocolate efforts, few compared to what you might expect given the man’s, you know, chocolate factory. Oompas were half peanut butter, half chocolate, wrapped in a thin candy shell.  The packaging was fantastic.

oompas-1 oompas-2

They’d later experiment with fruit flavors instead of the chocolate and peanut butter, but the whole idea ended up being a bust.

 

Ski or Die

A spiritual sequel to the arcade and console megahit Skate or Die, this game tries to apply the grit and style of 1980s skateboarding to the less-popular-but-still-popular-but-not-really-gritty world of skiing.

ski-or-die

You basically did what you did in Skate or Die, just replace anywhere you would “skate” with the word “ski”. There was limited open-world interaction, mainly getting to and from events which were the real meat of the game.

I dunno, it’s not awful. There are definitely worse games. Here’s a playthrough:

 

1980 Radio Shack Christmas Commercial

Radio Shack’s your place if you’re looking to pick up the latest Kingman, Zackman, or Alien Chase video games!

 

Seven-Up Punch

This recipe/ad for a Seven-Up punch is breathtaking.

Seven-Up Punch

 

-ds

cavett-kermit

Five Things – 11.21.16 – He Collected Old Things From Ships

Sapphire & Steel

If there was ever a premise that deserved a better go than it got, it’s the 1979 ITV Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series Sapphire & Steel.

ss-intro

Sapphire & Steel focuses on the adventures of the two titular characters, transdimensional Operatives charged with keeping our timeline intact. Not really clear on what’s meant by ‘our’ timeline – Earth’s? This whole dimensions?- but that’s not really relevant. What is is the concept posed in the series that Time is both a progressing, stable entity as well as a malicious sort of chaos when it’s allowed to be.

ss

A central element of the show is that a focus on the past, an obsession with relics or memories, can weaken the forward progression of Time and allow chaos to break into our reality in the form of ghosts and other malicious beings. Some of these beings hail from the beginnings and ends of Time itself, searching for weak points in the timeline to break in and do damage.  Sapphire and Steel are two of 127 Operatives tasked with preventing this, and each Operative possess unique abilities. Sapphire can manipulate Time on a small scale, creating loops or seeing things that happened in the recent past. Steel can directly combat these manifestations of the past, and possesses a supernatural strength and telekinesis.

time-loop

When I say that the premise deserved a better go than it got, I’m not really bagging on the show itself. The production’s as good as it could have been given the budget it had, and the audience numbers reflect the quality of the idea.  At the end of the day, though, it’s a 1970s British Sci-Fi serial and reflects the qualities of similar programs from that region from that time. It’s slow, dry, light on effects, heavy on words.  It’s a testament to the novelty of the premise that it’s such an interesting show despite these things.  Lack of effects aside, the title sequence is beautifully done.

ss-intro

 

Sapphire & Steel ran for five seasons (actually five “Adventures” – isn’t that adorable?) before being cancelled for various reasons.  Its relative popularity gave it a good merchandise run as well as some recent audio plays.  Here’s the first episode of the first Adventure. There’s a lot to like here.

 

1971 Dick Cavett Show Thanksgiving

In 1971 The Muppets joined Dick Cavett for the Thanksgiving episode of The Dick Cavett Show.  It’s pretty great stuff.

 

Punch Crunch

I can understand, from a sales and marketing angle, why Quaker would want to improve upon the already-flawless flavor of Cap’n Crunch cereal with varieties on the original recipe.  Peanut Butter Crunch and Crunch Berries, after all, have stood the test of time. I just don’t think it’s necessary – the original recipe is all you need.  For every Crunch Berry success, though, there seems to be a miss.  Punch Crunch was a miss.

punch-crunch

Introduced in the 1970s, Punch Crunch also welcomed Harry Hippo as a potential new mascot.  Neither Punch Crunch nor Harry lasted long.

 

K-Mart 1980s Thanksgiving Sale

From back when 8am was an acceptable start time for a doorbuster.

 

Trust Swanson

The first TV dinner, produced by Swanson, was a Thanksgiving meal. Depressing, right? Let the illustration and design of this ad make up for that.

trust-swanson

Ignore the plastic peas.

-ds

capn-crunch

Five Things – 11.14.16 – Ticky Tacky

Homes Of The Future

Walter Cronkite takes us on a 1967 journey through the home of 2001.

at-home-2001 living-room

Like most “blank-of-the-future” media from the ’50s and ’60s, lots of predictions hit the mark and others are way off.  A house with a recirculated water supply, drawing power from its own fuel cells, and a central point of command for all environmental aspects can be found today, or will be soon. Inflatable living room furniture for guests, a 30-hour work week, and  an electrostatic glass chamber in the entryway to remove dirt and other outside particles, however, seem to have been fallen by the wayside.  That’s a good thing for inflatable furniture, but I would love to have that electrostatic glass chamber.

glass-chamber

There’s also the standard oversight that we would still need big machines in the future to accomplish complicated tasks, like this room-width home control console or this multi-device office.

console office

Videophones would be two different devices – one for video and the other for phone.

video-phone

The kitchen of the future contains a large oven-slash-microwave-slash-conveyer-belt, which cooks the food and moves it into a serving area on its own. The kitchen dispenses the exact number of plastic plates needed, plates which are melted down and re-molded into new plates after using.  That seems more efficient than, you know, washing them.

oven

As for food service, things are just as automated in the outside world as they are in the house. This vision of future food is pretty bleak, indeed.

food-service-of-tomorrow

 

Of course we have robot slaves in the future, or as Cronkite puts them, “Robuts”. All housekeeping will be done by basic, clunky, ugly “robuts”, given special instructions like “don’t run over the baby”. Real example given.

robuts

There’s a lot to be inspired by here, for sure, but draped over it all is this “machines were made to serve man” vibe that, while true, still comes off in a way that makes every homeowner a little dictator of his or her own country. Also missing is the idea of a central “brain” – wouldn’t the home of the future control the housekeeping robots for you, without your instructions? Wouldn’t the home of the future cook order and cook your food for you, without your involvement? Maybe inserting my 2016 brain into this 1967 idea of 2001 life is a waste of time.

 

Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Kit

General Mills ran a promotion in 1971 in which you could obtain your own Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory kit by sending away box tops.  This looks pretty serious for a cereal toy, but of course in the ’70s and ’80s cereal toys were serious business.

 

Lincoln Assassination Eyewitness

This 1956 episode of “I’ve Got A Secret” features an eyewitness to the Lincoln assassination. This is a bridge between two eras that I never would have considered existed!

You probably want to smoke Winston cigarettes after watching that. Don’t do it!

 

Keebler’s Magic Middles

Love Keebler or hate them, you have to admit that they had a really stacked lineup in the 1980s.  We were big on E.L. Fudge in my household growing up, but these Magic Middles were a hit too. Those elves were some busy, busy guys.

 

1940s Frigidaire Ad

I’ve got more envy for how well this fridge is stocked than for the fridge itself.

fridgidaire-ad

 

-ds

beyond-westworld

Five Things – 11.7.16 – Pappy Drew It

Beyond Westworld (1980)

What if the catastrophic events of Westworld (1973) and its sequel Futureworld (1976) were not the result of one company’s hubris, mismanagement, or ill intention but rather the beginnings of the schemes of one man with a larger plan in mind? That’s the premise behind Beyond Westworld, the short-lived 1980 television series based on the hugely successful film. And, I guess, also based on the hugely unsuccessful sequel.

Beyond Westworld Ad

Beyond Westworld follows John Moore, the head of Delos security, as he thwarts rogue ex-Delos scientist Simon Quaid’s attempts to unleash his special brand of psychotic robots upon the world.  He’s assigned a beautiful partner – of course – named Pamela Williams, and together they work to keep safe a world on the brink of an android holocaust.

quaid

Its a pretty great premise, right? Unfortunately, it comes out pretty flat. Only five episodes were produced, two of which weren’t even aired before cancellation. The plot lines are pretty mundane, especially given the license the show had to literally do anything they wanted in a world filled with murderous androids who could look like just anybody on the street.

foam-robot

Still, the premise and the tie-in to Westworld warrant a look at the series. The look of the show, of the sets and costumes, is fantastic – it was even nominated for an Emmy in Art Direction – but, like the Logan’s Run series, fails to deliver on a fantastic what-if.  For whatever reason it’s difficult to find episodes online; perhaps the powers that be envision a world in which there is only one Westworld television series in existence, and if that is the case I’m glad that the one we have is the one we have.  Here’s some of the promo material for the 1980 series, though – there’s definitely some charm here.

 

 

Pappyland

In the “this show could never exist in this form today” department, here’s Pappyland.

pappyland

Pappyland is what you’d get if an inferior version of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse married an inferior version of The Secret City and had a child.  The show, which premiered in 1993 on New York Public Television Station WCNY-TV, focuses on Pappy Drew-It (that’s right) and his magical friends.  They hang out in a magical cabin, draw pictures, and go on bluescreen adventures.

pappyland-gang drawing

None of this is inherently bad – except that it is.  The drawing itself is pretty good and it’s clear that the whole show is a labor of love but everything just kind of comes off as half-baked and thrown together. Which would sort of be fine, but it’s clear that it wasn’t half baked or thrown together! Also, am I the only one creeped out?

pappyland-in-space

Here’s an episode. Feel differently? Do you have fond memories of this show? Let me know!

 

Doctor Dreadful’s Food Lab

The gross-out version of the Easy-Bake Oven.

 

Pumpkin Dream Pie

This 1959 recipe from Jell-O’s got my interest – from a design and a flavor perspective.

Pumpkin Dream Pie

 

Stephane Grapelli – How High The Moon

Because it’s beautiful. Here’s Stephane Grapelli playing “How High The Moon” in 1991.

 

-ds

 

clarabell

Five Things – 10.31.16 – All Manner of Ghoul and Monster

Once Upon a Midnight Scary

The title of this 1979 Horror Anthology gives me a “Jonathan Livingston MURDER” vibe. That’s a compliment.

ouams-title

Once Upon a Midnight Scary is made up of three children’s (scary) stories and was broadcast on CBS in October of 1979. Vincent Price – he of the infinite availability – hosts the set, and his pieces are of markedly higher quality than the short films they wrap.

vincent-2

The first, “The Ghost Who Belonged To Me”, focuses  on a boy named Alexander who encounters a ghost in his barn.  The ghost leads him to a road where he unintentinoally stops a bus that was headed for disaster.

ghost-girl

The second, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, is about…you know what it’s about. What was the fascination that 1970s and 1980s television had with this story? The acting in this one is so over the top that I have a hard time determining when Ichabod Crane is being afraid of the Headless Horseman and when he’s mocking the Headless Horseman.

headless-horseman

The final story, “The House With a Clock In its Walls”, is the longest and most interesting. Lewis moves into this Uncle Jonathan’s house and catches his strange uncle knocking on walls in the middle of the night.  Turns out Jonathan’s some sort of Wizard and he’s looking for a Doomsday clock that spells the end of the world if it is activated. I mean, there’s really no better premise. Then, THEN, Lewis raises a corpse from the grave using Jonathan’s spells…and it just so happens that that corpse is the wife of the guy who invented the Doomsday clock!

lewis

The stories are entertaining enough, but none of them are complete. The interesting thing to me about this anthology is that they really encourage the viewers to read the stories that are the source material for the vignettes.  It’s an odd touch but a nice one. Here’s the full video – hard to recommend this one but it does have some charming moments.

 

Howdy Doody Snowball Commercial

This Halloween-themed commercial for Hostess Snowballs has Clarabell getting the ultimate haul from his Trick-or-Treat run…dressed as himself.

 

The Magic Manor

The Magic Manor was apparently your place to go in Rockford, Illinois, in the 1970s to get your costume fix!

 

Don Martin Monster Mash Commercial

This spot for the Monster Mash board game is great enough on its own, made even better by the fact that Don Martin of MAD Magazine fame did the animated bits!

 

Rheingold Beer Commercial

Never heard of this beer, but this ad makes me want to…watch someone else try it.

Rheingold Ad

 

-ds

 

recap

Five Things – 10.24.16 – That Robot is Jeremy

Trilogy of Terror

First aired as the ABC Movie of the Week in 1975, Trilogy of Terror is an anthology of short horror stories starring Karen Black of B-Movie horror fame.  All three stories push the envelope of what was considered ‘proper’ 1970s television.

trilogy-of-terror

The first, “Julie” features a student whose infatuation with his teacher goes to questionable extremes. Turns out (p.s. I’m going to spoil these for you, so skip to the video if you want to watch unspoiled) she was controlling him all along….and then murders him.

teacher-student

The second, “Millicent and Therese” features two sisters at polar opposites to each other; Millicent the straight-laced brunette and Therese a blonde-haired wild child.  After some mild antagonism, Millicent decides that Therese needs to be killed.  She succeeds. SPOILER; they are the same woman. Spooky!

millicent

The third story, “Amelia”, is probably the most memorable of the lot. It’s your basic creepy-doll-is-actually-alive story, but it goes a little bit further in the gore department than you’d probably expect for a show in the ’70s.  Just a little bit, though.

creepy-doll

posessed

Here’s the whole batch together – it’s definitely worth a watch. Again it’s pretty tame by modern day standards, but there are probably a few moments that will make you more uncomfortable than you were expecting.

 

1985 Halloween Safety PSA

halloween-safety

This overlong PSA from 1985 helps kids make good choices on Halloween, from pumpkin carving to costume selection to safe behavior in the dark.  Also it’s hosted by a gentle, animated Jack-O-Lantern.  The costumes, color, and “action” sequences are fantastic.

masks

And, of couse, it wouldn’t be an ’80s Halloween PSA without some good old scares about candy that’s been tampered with by injecting medicines and razor blades.  Here’s the PSA.

 

Monster Party

This 1989 Bandai game for the NES features a “batter” named Mark who’s been enlisted by a Gargoyle named Bert to travel to his land and defeat every well-known monster in the universe.  Bert fuses himself to Mark to give him supernatural abilities on top of his amazing “batting” skills.

monster_party_box

Ridiculousness aside, that’s a pretty awesome premise. Bonus points for the cat boss that throws kittens as weapons. Enjoy this playthrough.

 

1988 McDonalds Halloween Certificates

McDonalds had an idea in the 1980s where you’d buy a book of certificates for free ice cream and other treats and give THOSE out instead of candy.  It was a medium decent idea.  Then they added a confusing layer about a voucher for a Roger Rabbit doll when you bought the VHS of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and it got too complicated. That guy in the Roger Rabbit costume looks pretty depressed.

 

Crazy Crabs

Nothing to do with Halloween, but those crabs are crazy!

crazy-crabs

 

-ds

priazzo

Five Things – 10.17.16 – Never Known To Fail

 

Robot Odyssey

I’ve never been as simultaneously captivated and out of my league as I was when I played Robot Odyssey as a child in the 1980s.

robot-odyssey-title

Robot Odyssey, created in 1984 by educational game company The Learning Company, had a unique sort of difficulty to it.  Other games by The Learning Company of the same era, like Gertrude’s Puzzles or Rocky’s Boots, were filled with logic puzzles that were difficult but generously so; Robot Odyssey basically asked you to learn engineering in order to succeed.

robot-odyssey-intro

The premise of the game is that you’re in a dream and you’ve been transported to Robotropolis.   In the sewers of the city you find three robots, and those robots must be programmed to solve puzzles so that you can escape Robotropolis.  You start out with pretty basic programming, but the levels get more and more difficult and require more and more advanced programs to solve. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was pretty quickly outclassed by this game, but that didn’t stop me from playing. I was a kid, I loved robots and video games, it was the ’80s, and they let me use the computer at school.

robot-odyssey-level

Everything about this game, from the Adventure-like design to the maddening complexity to the really beautiful artwork/character model/item design, tells me that this was a labor of love. The intense difficulty would usually be a fault of the game design, but in this case it’s our fault for not being as smart as we should be. This game expected better of us, and we failed to deliver.

Here’s a playthrough:

 

Priazzo

Pizza Hut got fancy in 1985 with their take on the Italian pie, the Priazzo.  Didn’t work out so well for them, but here’s their campaign in which they tried to position themselves as an Italian restaurant.

 

Hunt’s Remedy

This 19th century kidney/liver tonic ad is amazing.  I pity that skeleton!

hunts-remedy

 

Inchworm

This mellow 1970s commercial for the Romper Room Inchworm toy goes to show you just how sedated  people were back then.

 

Have It Your Way

Slightly more upbeat here, with the novel idea that you could get a hamburger exactly the way you want it at Burger King.  The “Have It Your Way” campaign came to define Burger King in the 1970s and 1980s, and was actually a pretty effective way for them to identify as a cut above the other burger franchises of the time.  Still, though, they’re a little too excited about giving you a burger your way.

 

 

-ds

 

bears

Five Things – 10.10.16 – Wallow In A Sea of Emotionalism

Follow Us To Disney World

Last time we took a look at a 1984 video brochure for EPCOT Center. This one, called “Follow Us”, came out at the same time but has an expanded scope to the entire Disney World area.  At the time this included the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Discovery Island, and the resorts. The video starts off with a pretty sassy dance number.

disney-dance

Interestingly, the video is completely hosted by cast members – Disney’s term for in-costume park employees.  Different cast members take the viewer through the various areas of each park, speaking to what is presumably their area of expertise. Snow White even pops in to talk up Fantasyland.

cast-member

The EPCOT focus is mostly a shortened version of what we saw last week.  The mime and that Mexican pavilion pair of diners who are in all EPCOT promo media show up here, too.

disney-mime mexican-diners

The last third or so of the video is about the resorts – a pretty large amount of time to dedicate to that sort of thing. It’s easy to forget that at this time the hospitality aspect of Disney World was still pretty new territory for them – everything else was (mostly) old hat.

contemporary sign-language

The video wraps up in a cheesy inspirational singalong, complete with sign language. I feel the same way about this that I did with the EPCOT video – it captures a moment in time of WDW’s history that doesn’t exist anymore, and it’s worth watching just for that.  Throw in an ’80s sensibility about how to sell this sort of idealistic experience and it’s a pretty satisfying watch.

 

The Magical Burger King

The creepily-smiling masked Burger King of the 2000s is iconic enough in his own right, but he’s actually a reboot of an earlier fully-human magician mascot called The Magical Burger King.  Here he is in all of his glory, performing basic magic tricks to a crowd of tolerant children.

 

Jim Henson – Robot

In the early 1960s, Jim Henson was hired to make a short film for Bell Labs exploring the relationship between man and machine. I’d say he nailed it.

 

Coors Light Ad

Does it get more eighties?

 

New Jell-O Flavors

I’m in! This vintage Jell-O Ad gives Jell-O the class it deserves.

jell-o

 

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