1. Hardees Mascots – It made sense that Hardees would want to get into some cartoon mascots to dial up their kids’ business; after all, McDonalds was practically printing money with their Mcdonaldland characters and their Happy Meals. These characters came out in the early 1970s, and it feels like they maybe could have spent a little more time in the kitchen before they did. Get it? Kitchen. It’s a restaurant. Forget it.
Speedy McGreedy was the bad guy of the bunch, dressed in nefarious purple. His schemes were usually thwarted by Gilbert Giddyup, an old-timey sheriff, and the thwarting usually involved a hamburger.
Neither character is particularly iconic, definitely nothing approaching the Ronald McDoald level. There were several other characters, most of whom were variations on the idea of a large grotesque walking mouth.
My first thought was that the Mouths were like the Gremlins in Gremlins 2, but really they’re more like the Whammys from Press Your Luck – they don’t, as a species, gravitate toward good or bad; there are good ones and bad ones.
Then there’s the Fun Machine. This thing is the real deal.
The Fun Machine actually existed in Hardees lobbies. When you got a burger and fries you received a token for one prize out of the Fun Machine. This thing looks amazing:
So maybe the characters aren’t icons and maybe some of them are a little bit creepy and maybe (Fun Machine excluded) the whole thing is a little half baked all around. It’s still fun. They’re not around anymore, and that’s a little sad. The Fun Machine isn’t either, and that just stinks.
Here’s some of the commercials featuring the ‘gang’.
I wonder who shot Gilbert in his hat?
2. Bubble Magic – Seems like if you’re going to make blowing bubbles your bread and butter, you should maybe not smoke so that you can preserve your lung capacity. But what if your act hinges upon the presence cigarette smoke? I’m just glad I’m not Tom Noddy, who had to have been faced with this conflict on a daily basis. Nonetheless, this stuff is beautiful:
Those bubbles must smell so bad when they pop!
3. NKOTB Cartoon – They had clothes, books, dolls, trading cards, and a 900 number so it’s not a surprise that a cartoon series featuring our favorite Boston Boy Band hit the airwaves in 1990.
The New Kids On the Block cartoon followed the band’s antics off-stage, treating these superstars like the real people they are. It also spends a pretty hefty portion of its time telling you (or agreeing with you) about how awesome the New Kids on the Block are.
The overloaded graphic treatment of NKOTB and the 1990s in general are in full effect here, as well. Scenes transition into 90s-style mortises, in the middle of the action, seemingly at random.
There was only one season of this show. It seems like not even the New Kids, they who could sell any product under the sun to an 11-year-old girl, could fuel more than 13 episodes of half hour programming. And calling this programming is being pretty generous. It’s really clear that nobody involved in this project was worried about whether they were telling a good story or making a fun show. It’s a great example of what happens when you set out with the sole intent of making a product. It’s disjointed and surprisingly shill-y, even for a licensed show!
Here, watch it!
4. Tufty the Squirrel – These early 1970s Public Information Films are charming and amazingly produced. Remember to always take mummy with you when going to the ice cream van, everybody.
5. Nintendo Fun Club Cover – Here’s a 1987 cover of the Nintendo Fun Club newsletter, the magazine that the company put out before Nintendo Power. Beautiful, right?