Hamm It Up

Hey, stupid bear!  I'm not a roll of Charmin, you know...

Hey, stupid bear! I’m not a roll of Charmin, you know…

tuesday tvIf you ever create a product that needs to be advertised visually to the public, you can never go wrong hiring a cartoon character.  They work cheap, generally look cute, and won’t give you any drama over how you want to use and abuse them since they’re pretty much at the whim of whoever is drawing them.  And whether you’re selling cereal, soda, or condoms, you can never go wrong with designing your own cartoon animal mascot to pitch your goods to the public… because how can anyone NOT trust an adorably drawn critter?

Will work for roadkill.

Will work for roadkill.

I am just old enough to be able to remember the black and white ursine who was known simply as the Hamm’s Beer Bear.  The latter days of his run in TV commercials was in the early 80’s in ads like this one:

The Hamm’s skunk bear was first created back in 1952 and is generally considered the first cartoon mascot to ever pitch to Americans the joys of a life of alcoholism.  He was used heavily in print ads for the Hamm’s line of beers, but by the 1960’s, he also became a star of TV ad-land… appearing in a series of commercials like the one above for three decades.  Like every good ad campaign, a rather strict, but ridiculous formula was adhered to that left an impression on those of us who didn’t need to take potty breaks in between segments of our favorite shows…

Sometimes out of fear for our lives...

Sometimes out of fear for our lives…

The Hamm’s ads would always start off with some kind of silly cartoon conflict.  In the ad above, Mama Duck and her three ducklings are gliding along the water when all of a sudden, they come to a rock that somehow causes one of the nastiest undercurrents you will ever find in a small stream.  It might have helped if Mama Duck was actually looking where she was leading her brood, but nevertheless, she manages to pull two of her kids to safety.  One duckling, however, was not as lucky…

We can tell who the black sheep of this family is...

We can tell who the black sheep of this family is…

Both Mama and the little lost duckling start freaking the fuck out, and we can’t really understand what all the hubbub is about.  Then again, the ducks can see what we can’t, and look what Mother Nature has put in the path of this poor little quacker…

A whirlpool!?!?  Seriously?  This kind of stuff only happens in cartoo.... oh, wait.

A whirlpool!?!? Seriously? This kind of stuff only happens in cartoo…. oh, wait.

Yes, apparently something ripped a hole in the space/time continuum underneath this otherwise peaceful watering hole and is about to suck this unlucky duck into its wormhole…

Yeah yeah... wah wah!  Been there, done that.  Us ducks are getting sucked into wormholes all the time.

Yeah yeah… wah wah wah! Been there, done that. Us ducks are getting sucked into wormholes all the time.

Meanwhile, just above where all of this apocalyptic stuff is happening, our hero the Hamm’s Bear is merely enjoying another warm, sunny day in cartoonland, and seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that there’s a gaping black hole in the water he’s about to jump into…

I think I'd have noticed that deadly whirlpool before deciding to put a diving board there.

I think I’d have noticed that deadly whirlpool before deciding to put a diving board there.

The Hamm’s bear had a reputation in the commercials for being a couple honeycombs short of a beehive, and even when he finally noticed the duck-eating monstrosity below, his attempt to bring the poor critter up to safety naturally didn’t end very well…

Damn termites!

Damn termites!

Will this be the end of our hero and the ugly duckling!?!?!?

Someone call FEMA!!!

Someone call FEMA!!!

It’s at this moment when the commercial would always remember it was supposed to be selling beer, and cut to a real, live scene of manly men enjoying The Great Outdoors with a cold refreshing Hamm’s.  Ahhhh, it doesn’t get any better than this!

Marty McFly called, and he wants his life preservers back.

Marty McFly called, and he wants his life preservers back.

Once the re-enactment of Brokeback Mountain is over, it’s back to the exciting animated story for the thrilling climax!  Naturally, the bear uses the same impossible cartoon physics to get him and the duckling out of the mess that was drawn upon to create this animal vs. sci-fi nature conflict in the first place.  As the two hapless creatures are spun down the drain, that somehow provides the centripetal force required to cause the piece of diving board the bear is clinging on for dear life to to become a damn helicopter blade.  Nevermind how his wrists seem to be twirling in superfast circles despite his non-spinning body…

Don't laugh... this is exactly how Igor Sikorsky invented the helicopter.

Don’t laugh… this is exactly how Igor Sikorsky invented the helicopter.

Both bear and duck safely glide back onto dry land, where we can see the whirlpool has now disappeared since there is nothing left in the water for it to feast upon.  Mama duck and the ducklings are happy, the bear is a humble hero, and they all lived happily ever after…

Seriously... the look in Mama Duck's eye.  I think she's looking to go all interspecies over her newfound hero.

Seriously… the look in Mama Duck’s eye. I think she’s looking to go all interspecies over her newfound hero.

The whole time this tense cartoon action/real men in the outdoors uncomic relief/thrilling animated climax was going on, the official Hamm’s song played in the background.  Apparently put together by a group of stereotypical Native Americans, your ears were first assaulted by the RUMP-pa-PUM-PUM of Indian tom-toms… over which the following ridiculous lyrics would be sung:

From the Land of Sky Blue Waters,
From the land of pines’ lofty balsams,
Comes the beer refreshing,
Hamm’s the beer refreshing

The genius behind the Hamm's beer commercials.

The genius behind the Hamm’s beer commercials.

And that was how the typical Hamm’s commercial went.  The bear and his hair-brained adventures survived even as the original Hamm’s Brewing Company got gulped up by bigger and bigger fish in the shark infested waters of corporate America.  They were first acquired by Olympia in 1968… only to have Olympia swallowed up by Pabst in 1983… who themselves got taken over by Miller in 1999.  And that’s where the bear met his untimely end…

Die, Stupid Bear!  Die!

Die, Stupid Bear! Die!

Because of the shitstorm raised by humorless adults who think that cartoons are only meant for kids that had already stripped us of the ultracool Joe Camel, Miller pretty much stomped out the remaining embers of the pioneering career of the Hamm’s bear to keep from being accused of pandering to the impressionable sensibilities of kiddies with a dumbass bear… nevermind their main competitor Budweiser has no qualms about doing the same with Clydesdales and dalmatians.  Minnesotans, however, still regard the Hamm’s bear as one of the most beloved celebrities to ever come out of The Land of 10,000 Degrees Below Zero.  They built a monument to him outside the Hamm’s brewery in St. Paul to ensure that America’s pioneering cartoon beer spokescub will never be forgotten… kind of like Hamm’s beer is today.

He's either rolling on a log, or a double dildo.  You decide.

He’s either rolling on a log, or a double dildo. You decide.

Selling beer with fare that could easily pass for a Saturday morning cartoon is sadly about as passe as candy cigarettes.  But for showing us critters could look cool in beer ads long before Spuds McKenzie came around, we at The Nest would like to salute the Hamm’s bear, the original party animal.  You may have just been one fuzzy striped tail short of looking like a giant skunk, but you slipped, goofed, and pratfalled your way into our barley and hops hearts by always being there to save the day in the land of sky blue waters prone to hellish vortices.  We raise our Hamm’s Olympia Pabst Blue Ribbon Miller to your everlasting legacy of dimwitted cartoon adventures and underage drinking…

The More You Know....

The More You Know….


About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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23 Responses to Hamm It Up

  1. Mental Mama says:

    I’ll drink to that, cheers!

  2. merbear74 says:

    That commercial was so confusing….

  3. JackieP says:

    I barely remember those commercials. I’m from Wisconsin, land of cheese and beer! I had an uncle who worked at one of the beer factories for years. Ah, memories. That bear was on everything! Lamps, mirrors, etc. Of course it was all in bars. It’s amazing how many Wisconsin bars I’ve been in as a kid. 😉

  4. The Cutter says:

    This makes as much sense as a gecko selling car insurance.

    • In the Geico/gecko vein, you’d think Hamm’s would have used a pig for a mascot instead. Then again, I don’t think a pig could have lifted himself out of a deadly whirlpool like that…

  5. That toilet shot is now going to haunt my dreams forever.

  6. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Holy juxtaposition Batman!

    Oh, I think I need to watch some Robot Chicken soon, thanks for the reminder!

  7. markbialczak says:

    We never had to suffer through that Hamm Bear in New Yawk, Bill, because we never had to swill any Hamm’s beer! Rheingold, Piel’s, Utica Club, Genesee Cream Ale we drank till we stank. 🙂 I could hardly bear myself when I was 18 years old.

    • I noticed in the Wiki article on Hamm’s that it wasn’t exactly nationwide, but it didn’t say where it was and wasn’t. We had it and the commercials in St. Louis… and I knew every brand of beer that was sold in cans in the area when I was only 10 since me and my Dad frequently scavenged for aluminum in my youth.

  8. Ah, the joys of old ads! Pity the ad folks aren’t really that much wiser…

    • Yes, they try too hard to make something that will make an impression that they totally fail at it. Most of the classic ad campaigns were created with little thought put into them…

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