Tag Archives: 1980s

My name is Walter Kellogg, Cereal Detective…

From time to time I find myself flipping through 30 year-old issues of various Mom magazines looking for inspiration and cool ads to scan for the site.  Over the past couple years I kept running across a series of ads for Kellogg’s Honey & Nut Corn Flakes that tugged at my mind, but I wasn’t quite sure why.  There’s nothing all that special about the ads except for a cartoon crow mascot (aptly named the Honey Nut Crow), but even he seemed more like the hillbilly cousin of Sonny the Cocoa Puffs bird and nothing that would really make for an interesting article on Branded.  Then out of the blue this past week I encountered the perfect storm of coincidences that finally led me back to those ads and a weird realization about how insanely complex and difficult the marketing of branded products must really be.

  

Let me back up a bit to 2010 and a free box of the newly launched Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal that I received through Amazon Vine.  For those that don’t know, Amazon Vine is a goofy program where you can get early access to select products in exchange for reviewing them.  It’s mainly ARCs (advanced reading copies) of books, but from time to time there are DVDs, toys, and the occasional newly launched food item.  Basically the companies that publish or produce these products offer them to Amazon customers for free so that they can get product reviews (positive or negative.)  When I see food pop up I tend to grab it because I’m all for saving money on the grocery tab (and it’s hard to pass up free eats.)  I thought it was a little weird when the Crunchy Nut cereal popped up because I couldn’t imagine that cereal reviews on Amazon really make any sort of difference in the grand scheme of things.  Books and DVDs are one thing, but who stops while browsing the cereal aisle to look up reviews on the web, let alone Amazon?  Anyway, it was free, so I ordered it and ended up really loving the Crunchy Nut (it basically tastes like Cracker Jacks in cereal form.)

Though I really dug that cereal, it was way sweeter than the stuff I typically buy so I haven’t actually bought any more in the past two years.  This past week though, I was suckered into picking up another box as there was both an amazing sale on Kellogg’s ($2 a box), and if you bought two boxes of cereal you could get a free branded cereal bowl (from an in-store display), and I really wanted the entire set of four bowls.  Eight boxes of cereal and one embarrassing trip through the checkout line later I was the proud owner of four cheap character bowls and a couple boxes of Crunchy Nut flakes.  Later in the week I found myself inexplicably humming the commercial jingle to the extinct Nut & Honey Crunch cereal (I say inexplicably, but let’s be honest, this is the type of crap that is constantly floating around in my brain.)  Anyway, this all leads up to yesterday when I was flipping through some 1982 issues of McCall’s looking for something (I can’t even remember right now), and I came full circle back to one of those Kellogg’s Honey & Nut Corn Flakes ads featuring the Honey Nut Crow, and then all of a sudden it dawned on me that all three of these incidents were connected.  It was like that moment at the end of the Usual suspects, only I was flipping through a 30 year-old woman’s magazine while stuffing my face full of cereal…

I grabbed my copy of The Great American Cereal Book to confirm it, but was slightly devastated that there was no entry for Kellogg’s Honey & Nut Cornflakes.  There was an entry for Nut & Honey Crunch though, and listed as a bit of trivia was that the Honey Nut Crow was a former mascot associated with the cereal (though I don’t remember the Nut & Honey boxes ever featuring that character.)  I did a little digging on the internet this morning and sure enough, all of these cereals (Honey & Nut Corn Flakes, Nut & Honey Crunch, and Crunchy Nut cereal) are one and the same.  I’m pretty sure it was also marketed under the name Honey Crunch Corn Flakes (marketed with the Kellogg’s green rooster mascot.)  How could this one cereal keep popping up in my life under so many different circumstances?  And why did I never make the connection before?

It’s kind of hilarious when you look back over the cereal’s sordid merchandising timeline between its introduction in 1979 to today.  Whereas most cereals have stayed pretty consistent for decades, this one seems to be one hell of a hard sell to the public, even though it had a semi-successful ad campaign at one point (the “Nuttin’ Honey” commercials of the late 80s, early 90s for Nut & Honey Crunch.)  Why has the product been in need of re-branding no less than four times?  I mean, it’s nut and honey covered corn flakes?  How much simpler can you get?  I can see how the Honey Nut Crow was a misfire as he resembles Sonny the Cocoa Puffs bird a bit too much perhaps, but outside of that issue the tone of the marketing has been all over the map.  Initially the campaign focused on a “see it, hear it, taste it” motif (as seen in these two commercials from 1980.)  Then there are a series of commercials that tried to sell the cereal as “so good it needs to be stolen” (as seen in these two commercials from 1986 and 1989, as well as this British ad starring Hugh Laurie from 1985.)  In 1987 there seemed to be a pretty major fracturing of the ad campaign as it’s rebranded as both Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes (aimed at adults and placed in a black box, a food packaging no-no if there ever was one), and as the afore mentioned Nut & Honey Crunch (here are a couple more commercials from 1987.)  Then by the mid to late 90s it had been re-branded again, this time as Honey Crunch Corn Flakes (I guessing that nuts weren’t cool in the 90s after grunge rock hit.)  Now we’re back to the Crunchy Nut branding, though they’re dropped the Corn Flakes from the name.  Honestly, judging by their all-over-the-board advertising for the current branding I’m not convinced they know how to handle it even today (I mean, Inception and She-Males?!?)  Also, thank goodness for the archive of cereal commercials on youtube…

All of this leads me to the weird realization that in a way I’ve been able to taste the past.  When I first came across the old ads in the McCall’s magazine I was curious about what that cereal tasted like and was bummed that so many cereals have been retired by companies like Kellogg’s.  This was compounded by reading a tome like The Great American Cereal Book (filled with exciting extinct brands), and all the recent hoopla surrounding the bankruptcy of the Hostess company and thinking about the possibility of a product like the Twinkie disappearing from store shelves.  The idea that I wouldn’t be able to taste these things was sort of sad, but in realizing that some of these cereals still exist, just under different branding is sort of cool.  It’s like having a time machine for my mouth.  Anyway, I’m glad to have finally closed the book (the proverbial cereal book) on this flaky caper.  I’m going to call this one, The Case of the Honey Crow that Couldn’t Sell His Damn Cereal for Nuts…

Hear me talking about cult films over at the Cult Film Club…

Paxton, Jaime and I are back with the second meet-up of the Cult Film Club.  For this episode we decided to side-step a discussion of a particular film in lieu of talking about cult movies as a genre.  We attempt to break down what makes a film “cult” (is it the content, the audience, or other criteria), while also tackling some questions about what it takes for a film to maintain that elusive status.  Can a movie lose its cult?  Can a box office blockbuster be forgotten and become cult over time?  We also spend some time looking back at (ranting about) our shared experiences with Kevin Smith’s Viewaskewiverse, and we try to figure out what went wrong.  We ended up recording a much longer conversation than anticipated, so we broke this one down into two parts.  You can expect part 2 in the coming weeks.

Head on over to the Cult Film Club and give the episode a listen, or you can right-click and save this file to download -> Cult Film Club, Episode #2: General Cult Talk, Part 1.

If you like what you hear you can subscribe to the Cult Film Club on iTunes.

You can also join our not-so-exclusive but totally rad club so you can know which movie(s) we’ll be discussing next and watch along with us!

We do our best to scratch the surface of the general discussion of cult, but it’s impossible to cover it from every angle so we welcome your thoughts, comments and questions on the topic.

Cult Film Club: Episode 1, The Wraith

For the inaugural meeting of the Cult Film Club, Paxton, Jaime, and myself convene to watch and discuss the 1986 sci-fi, western, carsploitation flick, The Wraith.

Directed by Mike Marvin, The Wraith stars Charlie Sheen, Randy Quaid, Clint Howard, Sherilyn Fenn, Nick Cassevetes, Matthew Barry, and more importantly, the $1.5m Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor.

Plot in 60 Seconds: A young gang of road pirates are on a rampage terrorizing a desolate south western town until a lone hero mystically emerges from the netherworld.  Equipped with a sleek futuristic car, this techno-wraith begins stalking the gang, seeking vengeance with automotive carnage at every precarious turn.

In this episode, we discuss all aspects of the film including our favorite scenes, the Hollywood legacies associated with the actors, the various film influences and homages, the pitch-perfect hair metal soundtrack, as well as the director’s outline for the sequel that never materialized.  Listen to find out how Johnny Depp is tied to the film, how we almost got a scene with a desert witch, and whether or not Charlie Sheen had a terrible case of turtledick during filming!

(Or right-click and save this file to download -> Cult Film Club, Episode #1: The Wraith)

If you like what you hear you can subscribe to the Cult Film Club on iTunes.

You can also join our not-so-exclusive but totally rad club so you can know which movie(s) we’ll be discussing next and watch along with us.

Films aside from the Wraith mentioned in this episode include: High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Exorcist, American Graffiti, Tron, Tron: Legacy, and The Crow.

Introducing the Cult Film Club!

So I know it’s been pretty quiet around here, but that’s not all that strange as longtime readers will know that this is sort of my unofficial yearly hiatus time.  But, this year there’s a better reason for the sparse posting as I’ve been working on a super secret project that I can now start talking about!

Announcing the Cult Film Club, a monthly podcast and blog about MOVIES WE LOVE TO DEATH (despite how bad, weird or obscure they are.)  In fact, we love them because they’re bad, weird or obscure!  Collectively our hosts Paxton Holley (Cavalcade of Awesome.net & the Nerd Lunch Podcast), Jaime Hood (Shezcrafti.com), and well, me, will be discussing and analyzing cult films from the 60s and beyond.  We possess an impressive amount of useless pop culture knowledge, but we’re no cinema snobs–just a couple of guys (and a girl) who really like movies.  Jaime did an outstanding job on the website, too by the by.

So grab a Big Kahuna burger and a tasty beverage–our Feature Presentation is about to begin!

The inaugural episode of the Cult Film Club Podcast is scheduled to debut on December 5th, but in the interim we invite you to check out our new website where you can listen to a show promo and consider joining the club.

You can also find the promo and subscribe to the show on iTunes.

To go along with everything else we have a brand new Facebook page, and we’re on the Twitters too.

You can also sign up for the Official Cult Film Club Bulletin to get access to these cool benefits:

-Our Official Member Bulletin email
-An early heads-up about which movie(s) we’ll be covering next so you can watch along with us and be ready to hear the discussion
-A social media shout-out and a link back to your site or blog on our Members page*
-A stylish badge for your site
-Chances to participate in our contests and giveaways
-Securing +100 to your cult film cred and our humble gratitude!

*Cult Film Club reserves the right to deny membership and/or linking privileges to any person or website we deem unworthy due to suspicions of spamming, inappropriate content, or for any other reason based solely on our discretion.  We may love terrible movies but we do have some standards…

Let’s help Little Billy come to life!

Crikey, real life is dragging down the daily posting of the Halloween countdown this year for sure.  I’m hoping to catch up scanning animation cels and stuff again this weekend.  In the interim, I wanted to point everyone’s attention to a super awesome nostalgic cartoon project that I’ve been meaning to mention for awhile now called Little Billy

Little Billy is the brainchild of animator Chance Raspberry (the Simpsons, Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends), and is about a precocious little kid with a unique condition that requires some special needs.  Raspberry’s vision is to create a throwback cartoon that’s fun and entertaining while also bringing to light the issues a lot of kids face with special needs education.  In fact, one of the goals of the Kickstarter project to get Little Billy off the ground is to create a pilot episode that can also replace those some of those unfortunately seriously outdated special education awareness videos in schools around the country.  But don’t just take my word for it, check out what Chance has to say about the project in his presentation video on Kickstarter

The project is pretty darn close to achieving its funding and it only has a little over one more day to go.  I’d love to see this reach its goal and for Chance to be able to reach out to kids with special education needs all over the country know that they’re not alone and that people do care!

So if you have a second, check out the Kickstarter for Little Billy, watch the trailer, and then spread the word about this interesting cartoon!

Oh, I just wanted to say good-bye and remind you that the good guys always win, even in the eighties…

So, um, HOLY CRAP! While I’ve been working away on the upcoming Halloween fun for the site I totally missed the fact that the truly awesomely horrible movie, Megaforce, was finally released on DVD this past month. I missed this flick when it was originally released, which is a shame since for all intents and purposes Megaforce is the perfect 80s era live-action G.I. Joe movie, something I would have flipped my lid over if I’d managed to catch it on HBO or the Saturday afternoon movies on the UHF station…

I recently caught up with the movie via youtube, but ever since I’ve been doing double the amount of “it’s not on DVD” lamenting that a lot of 80s nerds have been doing for years. Well now the wait is over and we can finally catch what I assume is a better quality copy than the chopped up grainy version on youtube.

For those not familiar, Megaforce was originally released in 1982 and directed by the great Hal Needham (he of Rad, Smokey and the Bandit, and Cannonball Run fame.) The flick stars an impossibly confident and effeminate Barry Bostwick (with a penchant for wearing shiny skin-tight suits) as a character named Ace Hunter, the enigmatic leader of Megaforce an internal paramilitary unit consisting of the best of the best of the world’s military. Very G.I. Joe. They work in secret from a hidden fortress in the desert, developing state of the art weapons, vehicles and technology that enables them to combat ruthless terrorist organizations bent on ruling the world. Seriously, very, very G.I. Joe.

I need to do a proper review of this flick at some point, but lets just say that I had the same reaction after watching it as I did when I heard it was finally out on DVD. Both of which can be summed up by the below picture…

Did I mention that this flick has flying battle motorcycles?

If you grew up on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and you haven’t seen Megaforce, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It’s not the best movie ever, it’s just the best G.I. Joe movie made to date. And it has flying motorcyles. And Barry Bostwick does a lot of over the top heroic posturing, both figuratively and literally…

I’m a member in good standing in some pretty prestigious clubs…

I thought I wasn’t going to find time to post this week, but I didn’t want to sit on the following cool stuff for another month (considering I’m going into Halloween lockdown mode soon.)  I recently had a few extra bucks lying around (rare these days) and felt like it was a great opportunity to pick up some really cool stuff from a couple of really swell sites.

Up first is the mega-awesome 8-Bit Zombie Kid’s Club Pack!

I’ve been drooling over the neat clothes at 8-Bit Zombie for awhile, but I always tend to miss out on the shirts that I really want considering they’re released in pretty low print runs and tend to be gobbled up ultra fast.  So when I saw the tweet go out announcing the release of their new Kid’s Club pack I didn’t hesitate and ended up grabbing one post haste.  Let me tell you, I think I would have plunked down the price of admission for their retro custom lunch box alone.  Included in the pack are the super cool lunch box with artwork by Matthew Skiff (featuring such pop culture, cartoon and video game luminaries as Slimer, King Hippo, Cobra Commander, Mr. T, My Pet Monster, Skullface, and Castle Greyskull, as well as 8-Bit’s own Thrashor zombie skater), a club patch, a swell “Nickelodeon Slime” green club t-shirt, and a handful of stickers and buttons.  8BZ was also kind enough to include a vintage pack of Topps TMNT trading cards and a neat M.U.S.C.L.E. figure (#146, Playerman, the living record player!)

One of the aspects that I really dig about 8-Bit Zombie is their keen sense of design and ostentatious use of branding, which always gets me excited.  Heck, even the box they sent the club pack in was covered with awesome branded rubber stamps featuring some of their past t-shirt designs as well as their various 80s-inspired logos.  Sadly, the Kid’s Club Pack is currently sold out, but I’ve heard rumblings of future offerings in the works, so keep your eyes peeled and maybe you can also become a member in good standing…

The second awesome pack I picked up came from the multi-talented Tommy Day over at Top Hat Sasquatch

Tommy recently had a limited run of rad THS t-shirts screen-printed, and he’s currently offering them over at the site (though I’m not sure how many he has left, so if you want one you better head on over and put in an order!)  I was so excited to open the delivery, not only because the t-shirt is swell, but because he also packed a vintage TMNT goody bag to go along with the purchase.  It goes without saying that I love getting stickers, but the buttons and cool trading cards were a great bonus.  Believe it or not, that pack of ALF cards contained a card I desperately needed to complete my set!

There’s only one thing to say about the Topps Mars Attacks Book: Ack Ack Ack!

As an avid collector of trading cards, specifically those non-sports pop culture sets released by Topps over the last 50 years, I have to say that there has never been a better time to be steeped in the hobby.  Between re-releases of classic cards and stickers (ala the Garbage Pail Kids and Wacky Packages flashbacks series) and new sets there is plenty of pieces of cardboard crack to procure and spend hours organizing, trading and starring at.  By far though, my favorite aspect to the card collecting hobby of late has been the team-up between Topps and the fine folks at Abrams books to bring the community a series of well-crafted and beautiful volumes archiving some of my favorite sticker and card sets.  I’ve mentioned my love for some of the previous books including the two Wacky Packages and first Garbage Pail Kids entries, and I was equally excited to finally receive my copy of the Topps Mars Attacks 50th Anniversary Collection

  

As with all the volumes in this series the book features a clever wax paper-inspired dust cover that recreates the appearance of the original pack of Mars Attack cards, a set of 4 never before printed trading cards, and large-scale images of all 55 original cards in the set.  But for the first time the folks who designed and compiled the content for this volume went the extra mile and included all 55 card-backs, as well as photos of rare test-run packaging, pre-production sketches, running commentary throughout the book, as well as images of some of the Mars Attacks spin-off card sets and paintings from the last 50 years.

The introduction (by Len Brown) is also much more in depth than the previous Abrams Topps books, not only summing up the events that led to the production of the set, but also featuring photos of previous/similar card sets and influences.  There’s also a touching afterward by Zina Saunders, artist and daughter of Mars Attacks main artist Norm Saunders.

 

All in all, this Mars Attacks book not only lives up to the previous Abrams/Topps volumes, but it also raises the bar in terms of how exhaustive these retrospectives can be, and hopefully sets the standard for any future entries into the series.  I’d love to see volumes tackling the Civil War, Ugly Stickers, Weird Wheels, Monster Valentines, and of course a continuation of both the Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids sets.  There’s a ton of great material left in the Topps vaults that would make for some amazing books and could serve as love letters to such great artists as Wally Wood, Jack Davis, and B.K. Taylor…

You can get your own copy from Amazon right here!

Remembering my first experience with The Monster Squad…

Twenty five years ago today The Monster Squad was released in theaters.  August 14th, 1987.  I was ten years-old, and though I didn’t see it on the 14th, I was at the theater bright and early for the first showing on a Saturday the following week, the 22nd.  The main reason I remember this is because there were two flicks I was desperately looking forward to seeing that summer, Monster Squad and Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie.  I don’t remember the exact conversation I had with my parents that led to waiting the week until they were both out, but I remember them convincing me that I could see both on the same day and I’d have just enough allowance that second weekend if I waited.

monster squad 1

I was never good with money as a kid. In fact my allowance was usually spent well in advance of actually receiving it, either by asking the parents for an advance, or by borrowing it from my more conservative friends with promises to pay it back plus free baseball cards or action figures as interest.  So waiting a whole extra week with my parents holding onto my allowance was sort of a form of torture.  That Saturday, after being dropped off at the theater with my friend Bryan, the plan was to buy our tickets to see The Monster Squad and then kill some time in a nearby used book/comic store until the flick started.  We bought our tickets and proceeded on into the shop, my hands clamped around my remaining $4 (the GPK ticket money) in my pocket.  All seemed to be going well until I stumbled upon some unopened rack-packs of series 2 and 3 Garbage Pail Kids.  I had just enough money for 4 of these packs, and series 2 cards were getting pretty scarce by this time in ’87.  What a predicament!  I couldn’t help myself and I ended up buying the stickers figuring that I’d just have to sit and wait in the lobby while my friend caught the second half of our planned double feature.

As the credits started to roll on The Monster Squad, Bryan and I had a pow wow to try and figure out what I should do.  I can’t remember which one of us came up with the idea, but the new plan was for both of us to go back out into the lobby and pretend like our parents were supposed to be waiting to pick us up.  We’d walked around the lobby, looking appropriately concerned for our “missing” parents, for a bit before asking to see a manager.  We basically related our made up sob-story about how we we’d been waiting forever and that our parents were late in picking us up and that we didn’t know what to do.  The manager, obviously not wanting to deal with us, took down our names and told us to just go in and watch another movie.  Jackpot.  We’d managed to get into both flicks, and I was three rack packs of Garbage Pail Kids richer for my diabolical deception skills (the 4th pack went to Bryan for taking part in the ruse.)  I wasn’t generally a bad kid, but greed surely got the best of me that day.

The only other thing that I remember from that day was having an argument in the car ride home about the Sean and Horace werewolf confrontation scene.  Bryan insisted Sean kept saying “Kick him in the Balls!”, while I was firmly in the “Nards” camp…

monster squad 2

Visiting the Jim Henson Exhibit at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta…

It’s so easy to get lost in the sea of social media sometimes, pining after all the cool events and places other people are visiting and enjoying that are either too far away or too expensive to take advantage of.  At times like this that I have to remind myself that I take the area I live in for granted and forget that there’s a bunch of really cool stuff just under my nose.  This past weekend I decided to tune out the internet and take a stroll down to Atlanta’s Center for the Puppetry Arts to visit their semi-permanent Jim Henson Exhibit.  I’ve known about the center’s museum for awhile and I drive past it every time I find myself at the downtown Ikea, so it was way past time that I stopped and took a look…

jhp 1

I’m a pretty big fan of Jim Henson, though I’d hardly call myself an expert.  While I may not know the proper names of all the c-list muppets, I can say that I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like had I not been introduced to the Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, the Dark Crystal and Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas.  I’d heard that the exhibit featured some fun props and artifacts from Henson’s career, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how many of the Henson Company’s beloved creations I would have the opportunity to see up close and personal.

jhp 2

All told, there were thirteen different projects represented, my six childhood favorites that I listed above as well as puppets and materials from Henson’s advertising work (the La Choy Dragon), The Jim Henson Hour, Dinosaurs, Farscape, and others.  Each section of the exhibit has plenty of anecdotes, behind the scenes information and pictures, as well as videos and a couple of hands-on activities.  It’s not a huge collection, but what’s included is certainly breathtaking.  For me, the magic of this museum is getting a chance to get so darn close to the actual puppets and props from the shows, specials and movies I love so much.  Whether it’s the majesty of seeing Big Bird…

jhp 3

…or the chance to spend some time with the critter’s from Labyrinth (like Sir Didymus and the lying door guard pictured below.)

did      lg

Just getting a chance to see the detail and craftsmanship of these characters was an astounding experience!  My pictures do absolutely no justice to the actual props, but are merely presented to give you an idea of what’s included.  I know that there is a down side to seeing these puppets sitting so static behind glass.  All the energy and life is lost without the performer, and in some cases this can almost be criminal or traumatic (as in Sir Didymus’ case), but I’d still recommend anyone with the opportunity to visit the Center to try and put that at the back of you mind.

fr

By far, some my favorite pieces had to be in the Fraggle Rock section which features a couple different scales of Fraggles (Mokey and Red in the normal/large scale, as well as all five – including Gobo, Wembly, and Boober – in a smaller scale as shot during the scenes with the Gorgs) and some Doozers…

fr2

…but I also loved seeing Emmet and Ma Otter from the Jugband Christmas special.  Honestly, I almost tear-ed up when I turned and saw the two in their little green rowboat.  All the songs came flooding back in, and I just stood and stared at them, trying to soak in all the little details…

eo

For you Muppets fans, there are plenty of Henson’s characters on display including Rolf, Dr. Teeth, and the Swedish Chef, as well as a couple others in a separate part of the museum (lets just say they were Out of This World…)

mdrt

Though the Henson section of the museum is pretty darn rad, there is also a more permanent puppetry exhibit that’s also very illuminating and features all sorts of puppets from across the globe (including Madame!)  But it was at the end of the second wing that I stumbled across my favorite piece in the entire museum, a full-size Skeksis (the General), including his gnarly sword, from the Dark Crystal.  There are no words for how amazing this piece of Henson history is.  Again, my iPhone camera did the Skeksis absolutely no justice…

sk

If you get a chance to stop in Atlanta, do yourself a favor and visit the Center for Puppetry Arts and peruse the Jim Henson Exhibit.  It’s well worth your time and money for sure.  If you want to see some more of my crappy photos, they’re on my facebook page