Last week, we learned on Retro TV Ad Tuesday how the people who make a living producing 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?
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!!!
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!!!
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!
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!!!
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!
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!!!
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?
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…