Tag Archives: halloween 2011

Halloween smells awesome!

I spend a lot of time writing about branding and marketing, and I suppose in a way I’m sort of an amateur semiotician trying to understand pop culture.  A large chunk of my interests, the toys, television shows & cartoons, books, and various related merchandise and pop culture that I grew up with has sort of hard to deconstruct in the past few years because of the resurgence in popularity of a lot of that stuff.  The re-launches of franchises, big budget movie reimagingings, new cartoons like the ThunderCats, G.I. Joe, and Transformers, the unlimited stream of new merchandise (T-Shirts, retro packaging, masterpiece and “classics” toylines), all of this stuff makes the landscape murky and hard to keep in focus.  I mean, when I have to qualify my thoughts on the Smurfs to friends when talking about the cool new book I read, illustrating how interesting I thought two-thirds of the covered history was while trying to ignore the long chapter on the recent film, I start to feel a little weird.  On the whole I really don’t care much for the regurgitation of 80s era franchises we keep seeing these days, yet I also feel a little uncomfortable with the curmudgeonly, old-fart role that sort of casts me in.  “This junk doesn’t hold a candle to the stuff from back in my day…”  I’m not that guy, or at least I don’t want to be.

This is really just my long-winded attempt to rationalize why I find it so refreshing and comforting when the calendar gets closer and closer to Halloween.  Because I really wanted a strong concept when creating this site I’ve found that I’ve painted myself into a corner a bit when it comes to content.  Halloween is the one main exception, the time of year when I tend to stray away a little from nostalgia and I open the door to more contemporary pop culture commentary.  This past year has been a bit rough, and right now all I really want to do is jump feet first into a pool of Halloween-y goodness.  Thankfully I’ve been running into more and more, early, seasonal fun.  For a lot of you it might be too early for the orange and black, but I think I’m going to indulge a bit and share what I’ve found so far…

Traditionally the early adopter market consists mainly of the hardcore target audience for products and services.  If this holds true for holidays as well, then the target audience for Halloween is apparently women ages 15 to 60, who spend a lot of time trying to make stuff smell nice.  Well, that’s my guess after watching two mall chain stores, Bath & Body works and Yankee Candle, wheeling out their Halloween displays at the beginning of August, three full months before All Hallows Eve.  I’m finding it both hilarious and comforting in a very weird way.

I’ve never really been a “candle guy”, though I did spend an inordinate amount of time buying and burning incense in my later teen years (a time I’d like to thankfully forget.)  So needless to say I don’t find myself browsing though the insane collection of scents at my local Yankee Candle very often.  At the end of July though, while walking through the mall with the wife, we saw a sign for what appeared to be a big Halloween-themed release party for their new wave of Boney Bunch candle holders.  We joked that we’d be the first couple in line that next weekend and I promptly forgot about it.  The next week we just happened to be in the mall again when I remembered and we figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out.

To our surprise there were quite a few people lurking around the store that afternoon, and we’d even missed out on the official Boney Bunch party hours, so I’m guessing that these holders are pretty popular.  I have to admit that there’s a certain Tim Burton-esque charm to the character designs though I found intriguing, and before I knew what was really happening I was in line with a box of tea lights and a corresponding holder.  Though we really get into the holiday, we haven’t really build up a sizeable collection of holiday knickknacks, so I guess we’re starting.

The collection basically consists of a series of skeleton people in a few different themes.  There’s a harvest farm set (featuring a pitchfork wielding undead farmer), a romance set (with a some husband and wife skeletons, as well as some dating skeletons rowing boats and the like), and Santa Skeleton set.  The figural candle holders are cute, but there’s a macabre humor running through the series that involves a lot of beheading and chainsaws that I find fun.  I couldn’t imagine picking up too many of the pieces though as collecting these feels a little too close to starting a collection of Hummel or ceramic clowns.

Our other adventure featured a trip to our local Bath & Body Works since the wife was getting low on hand lotion and shower gel.  If there’s one time when I act like a typical man it’s when we set foot in this place, and I basically turn into a voodoo style zombie man servant that just hold her purchases and pays for them at the end.  I was already to zone out when I spotted a table full of Halloween soap and suddenly I was more excited to be in this place than my wife.  It was kind of sickening actually…

We got a small taste of the B&BW Halloween offerings this past year while stocking up on small bottles of hand sanitizer we planned to give out at the Up! Fair.  They still had a bunch of discount bottles left over from the season at the time so we bought a ton of Vampire Blood (plum) and Candy Corn scented hand sanitizers.  Since we caught the display early this year I was curious to see what other sorts of spooky soaps they carried…

Unfortunately, B&BW isn’t known for their cheap prices, so I’d suggest waiting for a sale to pick up some of this stuff, but there was a lot of cool stuff worth waiting for.  In particular we liked the scents and label designs on their foaming soap dispensers, but there was a ton of different stuff that was pretty cool.  The little bottles of hand sanitizer were pretty cool too, featuring varieties like Zombie Tonic, Scary Cats, Bones, Skulls, and a trio of scents with neat glow-in-the-dark labels.  Unfortunately the scenes on these little guys are pretty hit and miss.  Not sure if it’s just me, but I prefer hand sanitizer to be unscented, or in some form of citrus that just smells clean.  I tried the Zombie tonic, which is marshmallow scented, and my hands smelled like I molested a bag of cookies for the rest of the day.

So far these instances have been enough to tide me over, but I can feel the itch for Halloween browsing growing and I hope Target doesn’t decide to roll out another year of “discount” Halloween.  I’m really in the mood to be blown away this season…

A bit more Halloween-y fun!

We’re just down the street from Halloween town with August almost upon us, and it’s getting close the time to start thinking about this year’s ghoulish costume designs.  Well, the Strange Kids Club, is starting up an Annual Halloween Costume Contest to run in conjunction with a special Samhain edition of the SKC Comix Anthology!

But the SKC needs YOUR help to make it happen.  SKC is putting the call out to dress up like your favorite monster, ghoul, creep, or superhero for a chance to win some awesome prizes!

One Grand Prize Winner will even walk away with $125 in Halloween-related merchandise including a Nail Mouth Halloween Mask sculpted by Justin Mabry (based on original artwork by David Hartman), Limited Edition Strange Kid T-Shirt illustrated by Glen Brogan, FREE copy of their Halloween Comix Anthology and more!

I’ve had a chance to flip through the first SKC Anthology and it was awesome, so I really excited to see what’s in store for the next issue.

Anyway, head on over to the Strange Kids Club and learn more about your chance to win some awesome Halloween-y swag!

A Little Halloween in July!

Longtime readers of the site will know that Halloween is a big deal at Branded.  It’s the one main time during the year where I do my best to update every day, making October a month full of scary goodness.  It’s also around that time that I help to organize and encourage a community of like-minded spooksters via the Countdown to Halloween website, a portal for hundreds of bloggers taking a shot at a month long blog-a-thon.  Typically around this time of year, specifically towards the end of July, my mind starts to wander a bit and I have a hard time not thinking about jack-o-lanterns, candy, and packing in as many scary movies as possible.  Traditionally, July is the time of year to start yearning for Christmas, but here at Branded, Halloween trumps Xmas, Thanksgiving and pretty much all of the other holidays.

Well, with the many rooms of my mind already decked out in orange and black, it came as a very welcome surprise to start stumbling across a bunch of Halloween-themed goodies in the stores and I thought it would be fun to share some of them here.  First up, 2011 marks the return of Mountain Dew Pitch Black.  Probably one of the first sodas specifically designed for the season, Pitch Black made its concord grape-flavored debut back in 2004 and it didn’t stick around for very long.  Released to coincide with the holiday season, the soda left store shelves only to return the next year as Pitch Black II (a sour-tasting variation of the soda), which again was pulled from store shelves after the end of the season, though this time it seemed for good.  Over the last five years there have been many new contenders for the official soda of Samhain, including four years worth of Jones Soda mini cans in a variety of Halloween-y flavors, a series of monster-head A&W/7-Up mini cans, and a purposefully generic Halloween soda offered at Aldi’s.  Though any Halloween soda is better than none, I’ve still been silently waiting for the return of Pitch Black, and finally the wait is over.

Unfortunately, like in years past, this is a limited edition return to store shelves, and as cool as it is to have it back, I have a feeling it won’t last until coming Halloween season.  Guess I’m just going to have to stockpile some and hope for the best next year…

If the return of Mountain Dew Pitch Black wasn’t enough to get me in the mood, Toys ‘R Us and Diamond Select Toys have partnered to release a series of Real Ghostbusters Minimates figures!  I knew the first series was scheduled to hit the shelves sometime in July, and in this first batch there are 4 monster figures exclusive to the toy chain (The Boogeyman, a Terror Dog, The Pharaoh Ghost, and Sam Hain.)  I was on the hunt for the figures while vacationing in Florida, but even after tracking down my original childhood Toys ‘R Us location, all I could find was one set featuring Janine in her pink Ghostbusting gear and a Slimer.


Upon returning to Atlanta I took one more shot and scoped out my local TRU.  Low and behold they had one set left of each of the monster packs, which I quickly grabbed up.  So what can you expect out of these toys?  Well, besides the fact that this is the first time we’re getting some of these cartoon accurate characters in toy form, they leave a little to be desired.  As far as the good aspects go, these figures look great, in particular the Boogeyman and the Energy Terror Dog…


…the thing that I find frustrating about these figures is that for some reason the toy designers felt an unholy urge to stick so strictly to the basic minimates design that all decent articulation and functionality has been thrown out the window.  Basically all four figures have a variation of the standard minimate buried underneath various wrap-around coverings (e.g. Sam Hain’s cloak, etc.) and attachments.  To think that there is a normal minimate at the center of the Terror Dog is just weird adherence to toyline’s design, not to mention the fact that it hampers the figure’s poseability to just one stance.  Some of these coverings and attachments, though beautifully sculpted with great paint applications, are also unfortunate as they make some of the figures insanely top-heavy (in the case of the Booglyman) or impossible to keep the figure together (in the case of Sam Hain whose head won’t connect to his neck joint because of the cloak.)  It really makes these figures frustrating in the form over function department.

Oddly enough, I believe that the designers intended to have the figures taken apart as there are some cool hidden details.  For instance, if you take Sam Hain’s head and cloak off you’ll reveal a clear orange minimate with some fun exposed ribcage paint applications on the chest.  Similarly, if you pull off the Pharaoh Ghosts’s head and chest covering you’ll expose the original un-haunted Thief’s body underneath.  Though I’m kind of disappointed in these figures, I’m really glad that I finally have some of these characters displayed on my shelves and they make a nice accent to some of the animation cels I have in my collection (like the Pharaoh Ghost, The Boogeyman, and the Terror Dog)…


I’ve just discovered that there will be a second series released this coming September just in time for the Halloween season that’ll include Evil Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Sandman, and oddly enough, the living embodiment of the Ghostbusters logo that always reminded kids to stay tuned during the commercial break interstitials!

In other Minimates news, while searching for the Real Ghostbusters figures I also stumbled upon a bunch of Universal Monsters figures on the Toys ‘R Us clearance pegs.  I couldn’t pass these up at $2.50 a set, so I picked up a couple of Creature From the Black Lagoon figures (one normal and one that glows in the dark) as well as a Wolfman figure.  These have prompted me to dig out my collection of Creature figures including a Little Big Head, my Creature Tech Deck Dude, and the very Creature-esque Lizard Man from the Secret Saturdays line.

Since I was already displaying these I decided to also bring out my collection of Frankenstein’s Monster figures including the Scooby Doo, Little Big Head, Tech Deck, Lego, Dollar Store, Smurf, Rubber Ducky, Glow-in-the-Dark and wind-up Frankys…

Finally, this past week saw the release of Rankin/Bass’ 1972 animated special Mad Mad Mad Monsters, the sort-of sequel (prequel?) to R/B’s 1967 swanky stop motion creepfest Mad Monster Party.  Though it’s not quite as fast-paced and fun as MMP, Mad Mad Mad Monsters is still a fun flick and a reminder of a better time when studios were still producing holiday cartoon specials.  There aren’t very many Halloween specials floating around, let alone being released on DVD (check out this episode from the Saturday Supercast podcast where I join in on the conversation on some classic Halloween cartoon specials), so it was really cool to see this offered by ClassicMedia.  The disk also features a Halloween-y entry in Rankin/Bass’ 1972 series Festival of Family Classics called Jack o’ Lantern.  The best part?  This single disc release is only $7, and that’s the MSRP!  Here’s hoping ClassicMedia releases some more cult Halloween specials in the near future.



All in all this has made for a wonderful Halloween in July!