It’s always weird when Nintendo tries to be cool. Cool just isn’t their thing. This 1995 infomercial for the Super Nintendo is a perfect example of my point; it sets out to showcase the system’s lineup in an edgy, gritty way and it comes off looking like when the chaperones try to dance with the students..
Bush video, or Korn video?
A man in a video screen sends his dark agents to gather intel on the latest Nintendo games. There’s an air of malice to the effort, but each outing quickly turns comical; there’s little edginess to be found in Yoshi’s Island, and even less in Donkey Kong Country. The agents seem committed to torture in order to get the info they need, but the ‘torture’ ends up to be mild aggression and, in one case, just plain money.
There would have been good value in watching this as a kid in the mid-90s. There weren’t many chances to get a look at footage of games that weren’t out yet, and Killer Instinct is a pretty extreme title for Nintendo. Even though Super Mario RPG wouldn’t come out until the N64, it’s pretty exciting to see it here.
And speaking of N64, the video ends with the ultimate intel: a first glimpse at the new console from a Japanese convention. There’s not a lot to it, but what’s there is cool.
So yeah, a mixed bag. The tone isn’t really congruent with the Nintendo we knew then or know now, but it was the ’90s and everyone was trying this sort of thing on. Here’s the video:
1940s Catholic Truth Society Covers
Vintage Irish Book Cover enthusiast Hitone’s got some book covers from the Catholic Truth Society that are nothing short of breathtaking. Here are a few of my favorites – hit their site for the rest.
This “Giant Moon Robut” is flat-out terrifying. Just $9.99 in 1960s money!
I’d like to live in this 1910 poster for a French Race sponsor.
Finally, this 1970 commercial for an adhesive glue that almost certainly gave anyone who touched it some sort of disease.
Walter Cronkite takes us on a 1967 journey through the home of 2001.
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.
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.
Videophones would be two different devices – one for video and the other for 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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”.
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.
This 1968 Irwin Allen production never got off the ground, and it’s kind of a shame.
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.
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.
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.
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.
World’s Finest Victory Garden
Now THIS is a wartime effort I can get behind!
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.
This 1950 film teaches kids how to use the phone correctly, politely, and efficiently. And if in the process of learning a kid picks up some nightmare fuel along the way, so what?
The film is produced by and features the Bil Baird marionette puppets as the residents of Telezonia, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re immediately introduced to the main character, for lack of a better word, named Handy.
Handy travels the phone lines of the world listening in on people’s conversations. He knows when you’re sick and on the phone with the doctor, he knows what you’re ordering for dinner, and he knows when you’ve lost your dog like Bobby has.
Handy tells Bobby he can help him find his dog and instead of putting up flyers or going outside he whisks him away to the land of Telezonia to learn about phone etiquette with his friends.
Telezonia’s what you would expect a society built around and beholden to the telephone to look like. The residents all have specific roles in telephone usage. For instance, this guy tells you to wait for a dial tone. Remember dial tones?
This girl is the party line expert.
And this guy’s job in this society is to hog the party line and make everyone hate him.
I’m not going to drag out the ending; they find the dog and it’s all thanks to the telephone skills Bobby learned in Telezonia. Here’s the film – I’m not sure what’s scarier – the puppets themselves or the antiquated way telephone operation used to be!
Ark II Animated
Space:1970’s got a great set of animatics for a never-realized animated version of the post-apocalyptic kid’s show, Ark II. Check out the link for the rest.
Victory Garden Poster
A gorgeous, gorgeous poster compelling Americans to grow victory gardens to feed themselves during World War II. I love everything about victory gardens, besides the conditions that necessitated them.
Primley’s Chewing Gum Ad
And a beautiful ad from the 19th century for Primley’s Chewing Gum!
The Abominable Dr. Phibes
Check out this amazing poster for The Abominable Dr. Phibes!
And a newspaper ad which is just as good in its own way!
CBS 1983 Saturday Morning Preview – I love these things. I know I’m stating the obvious if you’ve read more than a few of the posts here, but it’s true. There’s something special about them – these shows that were hastily created to talk about other shows, using some of the star power leverage of whatever network is involved. The setups are usually pretty flimsy and laughable, and because of that they’re pretty charming. CBS’s 1983 preview special featured arguably their biggest star at the time, Scott Baio, and has probably one of the flimsiest, most laughable setups of them all. Let’s go to Scott’s Place.
Scott’s set up a hot nightclub in Hazzard County. Not just any hot nightclub, a hot nightclub. In Hazzard County.
This 1980’s New York City nightclub in the middle of Hazzard County is filled with young hip kids who look like city kids dancing in the background the entire time. Naturally, this catches the attention of Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane.
And Boss Hogg immediately begins working on a way to profit.
While Boss Hogg gladhands Scott Baio to get a cut of his profits, Rosco interviews a young lady about just what’s going on. The young lady, using her young lady slang, explains that Asia, Air Supply, the B-52s, ELO, and U2 are what’s “going on”, causing Rosco to somehow deduce that the US is under attack. He alerts Boss Hogg to this, which prompts Hogg to place the entire club under arrest.
This misunderstanding exists for, seriously, about ten seconds before it’s cleared up. Boss Hogg and Rosco join Baio for the remainder of the special, looking at the upcoming shows. It’s revealed at the end that the entire reason for the club’s existence in Hazzard County is because there’s a Dukes of Hazzard cartoon debuting on CBS that week!
Pretty flimsy premise to introduce a bunch of cartoons, but I’ll take it. In addition to the Dukes, the shows featured in this special are the programs that made up the Supercade – Donkey Kong, Pitfall, Frogger, Donkey Kong Jr., and Q-bert. There’s also a bit for Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Benji, Zax and the Alien Prince, and The Biskitts, which is basically The Smurfs but with puppies.
For some reason there’s a Krofft puppet narrating the entire thing, and also Scott Baio performs a song.
The one note I had at the end of this whole thing was, they couldn’t get the Duke boys to appear on the show centered around their cartoon debut? I’m guessing they thought including the bad guys was enough. Here’s the special – the Levi’s ad toward the end is actually animated pretty impressively.
2. Atari Jaguar Promotion – Atari tried to regain its foothold in the video game console market in the mid-1990s with the supercharged Jaguar system. It didn’t go so well – the system was expensive and, by most accounts, underperformed the other consoles of its generation even though it was technologically superior. It’s commonly looked at as an ugly spot of video game history, and when you take a look at the console’s promotion you can kind of see it coming.
It seems like the marketing department at Atari was given the direction to fill their promotion with “attitude”, and I guess they succeeded at that. The tone is abrasive, rude, and very ‘bro-ish’, which I recall turning me off of the system back then and only repulses me further today.
They really played up the 64-bit nature of the system. Really played it up. Like, it was the main message.
Ironic that the commercial features a class for Video Game Marketing 101, a class these guys could have used. To put the icing on the cake, here’s a 30 minute infomercial that ran on cable TV that just drips with sterotypical bro-ness. It’s really hard to watch, like a sixth grader trying to act like those people he sees on TV. It’s deliciously hard to watch.
3. Railroad Pamphlet Covers – Here are a couple of railroad timetable covers from the 1930s and 1940s that I found visually inspiring. You can catch more of at Classic Trains Magazine.
4. Do the Arches – I’m not sure what’s more offensive, that Jaguar infomercial or this cheesy, cheesy song.
5. Goofus and Gallant– And a beautiful Goofus and Gallant comic from Highlights in 1988
1. Propaganda Posters – In honor of Memorial Day, I thought I’d share some of my favorite propaganda and recruitment posters from the wars of the Twentieth Century. For various reasons these posters have caught my eye over the years and stuck in my memory. Usually it’s a design thing, a unique artistic approach, but some times it’s just the message itself that catches me off guard. And sometimes it’s both!
Aside from being gorgeous, this is an interesting ‘soft’ sell – the horse’s friendship as a reason to join is a unique angle. And a tempting one, I can imagine.
The posters about what you can do to aid war efforts at home have always interested me – they’re frequently things that would be good everyday practices, like joining a car club. Then there are ones that encourage you to eat as much corn as you can, like this:
“Knit Your Bit” is a fantastic slogan:
This one’s got some remarkable detail to it. The text reads “Germany Is The War”.
Finally these ads for those on the supply lines are surprisingly powerful and prideful:
1. Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince – Really not sure how this idea came to be. In 1983, the Benji franchise was in the sweet spot of its popularity – that movie star dog could do no wrong. He’s like Lassie, but interesting! Sort of. Hanna-Barbera took on the task of pulling Benji from the big screen and putting him on television in weekly installments. The best way to do that, they must have thought, was to put him in a sci-fi storyline with robots and aliens.
So yeah, Benji, the little dog who could help normal people solve normal problems, was suddenly tasked with helping an heir to an alien regime displaced by a coup restore honor to his planet. Benji, Zax & the Alien Prince aired as part of CBS’s 1983 Saturday Morning lineup. The idea was that this deposed prince was sent to earth to hide, and he and his guardian robot Zax came across Benji.
Zax, being a robot in the ’80s, was obviously a wisecracking know-it-all. He and Benji had a friendly antagonistic relationship, and Zax was able to decipher Benji’s short barks into the long sentences that they apparently actually were. Convenient! Zax also provided a good prop for Benji to do his tricks against.
The series was mostly about bad guys from outer space coming to capture/kill the prince, and Benji’s successful thwarting of such attempts after Zax displays an inability to do so.
The series lasted only one season; it appears that that Benji love that consumed American youth in the 1970s and 80s only goes so far. I’m still scratching my head over who thought it’d be a good idea to take the Benji franchise into this territory – it’s a pretty square peg going into a round hole. It makes for some fun point-and-laugh nostalgia, but I can’t imagine anyone pitching this with any seriousness.
1. A Claymation Christmas Celebration – It’s finally the proper season to share this. This Christmas special premiered in 1987 and loudly touted the then-ubiquitous California Raisins’ involvement, although the Raisins don’t really show up until the final number.
Hosted by what appear to be a dinosaur version of Siskel and Ebert, the half-hour special takes you through a handful of holiday regulars like “We Three Kings” and “Carol of the Bells”. “Carol of the Bells” features a bunch of bells hitting themselves in the head with mallets to perform the song. That’s kind of funny, right?
Toward the end the Raisins show up to bring the house down with “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and then the entire cast from all of the songs gather ’round for “Here We Come A’Wassailing”, punctuating a joke that ran through the whole special. All in all, it’s pretty entertaining – some parts shine more than others but at the end of the day watching claymation’s usually better than not watching claymation.