Raisin Hell

sunmaid (2)

Last week, we learned on Retro TV Ad Tuesday how the people who make a living tuesday tvproducing milk bamboozled an entire nation into thinking their product was the perfect health food just to sell a few more overpriced half gallons at the grocery store.  This week, we’re going to take a look at how a different organization representing a specific food product managed to bamboozle an entire nation into thinking that their advertising gimmick was the coolest fucking thing ever just to sell a shitload of licensed merchandise featuring the characters they created.

The year was 1986, and Marvin Gaye had to be rolling over in his grave when this commercial changed the course of the remainder of the decade….

The commercial is certainly quirky and funny.  But before we start clamoring for more of something we see for the very first time, we should really take the time to consider…. do we really want to live in a world where we are bombarded everywhere we go by THIS?

Doesn't it look like a constipated black man?  No, seriously!  Look at it!

Doesn’t it look like a constipated black man? No, seriously! Look at it!

I mean, come on.  That’s not just ugly, that’s fugly.  Yet the Raisins somehow became a big deal, and it made them as well as the “Claymation” style of animation that brought the Raisins to life, one of the hottest trends of the late 80’s.

Want proof that Raisinmania got out of hand?  Consider that within just a few years of the very first California Raisins commercial, those singing turds had….

Their own studio album!!!

This album singlehandedly killed off the record player.

This album singlehandedly killed off the record player.

Yes!  The perfect gift for the music fan in your family who also loves raisins and posters!  Listen to a bunch of washed up singers pretending to be a quartet of clay dingleberries desecrate every classic song from the 60’s!!!  One would think Motown’s Berry Gordy didn’t need the money that bad that he’d let the Raisins ruin his classic songs, but then again, he also unleashed his son Rockwell on us in the same decade, so he was quite clearly not thinking very brightly in the 80’s.  Speaking of not thinking very brightly, the Raisins also got…

Their own Christmas Special!!!

Santa will soon be dropping them in the stockings of bad boys and girls around the world.

Santa will soon be dropping them in the stockings of bad boys and girls around the world.

Yes, in 1987, we had to endure the Raisins even during the allegedly most wonderful time of the year.  Actually, this was more bamboozlement on the part of Raisins creator Will Vinton and his Claymation empire he was building.  The special itself was billed as starring the California Raisins… and they do appear.  For one song.  Near the end of the half hour special.  Way to dupe your captive audience, Raisinator!

What day is it?  Oh wait, it's Tuesday!  Hahahaha!!!

What day is it? Oh wait, it’s Tuesday! Hahahaha!!!

Actually, the Christmas special wasn’t that bad because of all of the quirky Claymation characters that appeared in it that didn’t look like shriveled nutsacks.  The camels above stole the show in the opening number “We Three Kings”, and the running gag about “The Wassail Song” is both cute and funny.  The Raisins drag the special down because we’re just plain tired of them already.  But they weren’t about to go away, because they also got…

Their own Saturday morning cartoon!!!

Stuff this scary should be reserved for Saturday nights.

Stuff this scary should be reserved for Saturday nights.

Why anyone would think kids wanted to watch a bunch of dried grape cartoon characters pretending to be a band is beyond my comprehension.  And sure enough, the kids didn’t watch it, as The California Raisins Show only lasted 13 episodes.  Of course, in the 80’s everything that was popular for even 15 minutes got its own Saturday morning cartoon series… even Teen Wolf and Q*bert were turned into toons.  So while it’s not surprising the Raisins would up on Saturday morning TV, what’s completely inexcusable is that they also….

Got their own prime time Special!

No thank you.  I'd rather meet Jack the Ripper in a deserted alley.

No thank you. I’d rather meet Jack the Ripper in a deserted alley.

This was where the four Raisins each got their individual personalities and names.  Note that the Raisins no longer look identical to one another like they did in the original commercial.  Now they all have unique body styles and accessories and… hair?  Really, who wants to imagine a raisin covered with hair?  I think that would make me want to never eat another raisin again, but apparently the California Raisin Board didn’t give a shit.  There was too much money to be made while the fire was still hot.  And that slimy corporate greed led them to give the Raisins….

Their own video game!!!

The people listed here are all now either in hiding or institutionalized.

The people listed here are all now either in hiding or institutionalized.

Capcom, the same video game company that gave us the most awesome Mega Man franchise, made a hideous mistake when they decided to team with the Raisin conglomerate to create an 8-bit version of their turdburglars for the Nintendo Entertainment System called “The Grape Escape”.  This was in 1990, and by now we’d had animated Raisins on the brain for four years now.  The game was completed, put up for review by gaming magazines which largely panned it, and then….. it was never actually released, probably because the game producers knew they were trying to milk a dead cow.  With any luck, all those Raisins cartridges that were made wound up suffering the same fate as all those infamously shitty ET Atari cartridges did in 1982…



While the Raisins never fully went away even as the 80’s turned into the 90’s and then into the new millennium, they have largely been reduced to cult status as an icon of the decade.  But during their half decade reign of terror, the California Raisins were inescapable on TV and cemented their status as the second most famous butt-ugly beings after Keith Richards.  How they were able to become the most marketable food product in history is a mystery without an answer, and a tribute to how gullible we can be as a society.  I mean, come on, would you rather buy something that looked this?


Or something that looked like this?


The Raisins plead “no contest”.

But such is the power of a fad, and for their much too long moment shriveling in the spotlight, The Nest salutes the California Raisins and the Claymation geniuses who brought them from our lunchboxes to our television screens.  They serve as proof that fame and fortune are not just for the beautiful people, and anyone can get lucky enough to hit the lottery of stardom by throwing just any old crap against the wall to see what sticks.  The Raisins stuck, gained 80’s infamy, and then were thankfully flushed away like the pieces of sunglasses wearing poop that they are…

Mommy!  There's crappy music coming out of the toilet again!!!

Mommy! There’s crappy music coming out of the toilet again!!!


About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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27 Responses to Raisin Hell

  1. NotAPunkRocker says:

    They ruined me on stop-motion/claymation until Wallace & Gromit came into my life.

  2. Twindaddy says:

    I was about 10 when all this went down. I don’t remember the Christmas Special, but I remember I liked it….

  3. The Cutter says:

    I’ll admit it: I had a California Raisins shirt, and it was one of my favorites. I didn’t like it as much as my Spuds McKenzie shirt though.

    • Spuds was the shit. The liquor store near where I grew up put up a Spuds Bud Light neon sign in their window at the time, and still had it in there up till a few years ago. I feel sorry for Alex from the Strohs commercials getting the short end of the canine beer mascot shaft, though…

  4. C.K. Hope says:

    They had their own cartoon?? I’m glad I was too busy dancing on cop cars to see that one. Gesh. 😉

  5. Mental Mama says:

    Those sick little fuckers always did give me the creeps.

  6. merbear74 says:

    Sorry I am still cracking up over the shriveled nut sac…..LMAO

  7. gentlestitches says:

    So funny!! 🙂

  8. Am I the only one bothered by the fact 3 of 4 raisins have no feet in the cartoon pic?

    • I noticed that as well, and wasn’t sure what to make of it. I figured I already had enough to mock the Raisins and just chalked it up to the animators just not giving a shit about a raisin cartoon……

  9. acuriousgal says:

    LOL….my hubby and I went through Hardee’s Drive thru on our first date just so we could get those raisin dudes….we’re wierd!!

  10. djmatticus says:

    I sort of remember the raisins being “a big deal” but I think I was just young enough that I didn’t get caught up in any of the mania around them. That, and I didn’t like raisins to begin with, so giving them a microphone and having them sing other people’s songs wasn’t helping their cause.

    • I’ve never liked raisins myself. Weird thing was, while I remember them being a big thing, they were apparently much bigger than I recall given all of the big deals those silly raisins were involved in. I mean, who buys an album that’s allegedly supposed to be a bunch of singing raisins?

  11. reocochran says:

    I know they were ugly but their motives were “good!!” Retro stuff like this is funny, because at the time, it didn’t seem so weird to me!

  12. merbear74 says:

    Putting this on an old post….one of my readers emailed me and asked if there was something going on between us, lol…

  13. I remember them. Those were the years when I wasn’t watching much TV. Baby to raise, full time job, lots of socializing, drug taking, trying to fit in sleep occasionally. Surprised I lived to get this old and cranky. But these guys, these wizened, wrinkly, raisin thingies — I remember. Do they have any hit single? THAT I have forgotten.

    Raisins cause excessive farting. It has limited their popularity. Until they develop fartless raisins.

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