Tag Archives: Hi-C

Return of the Living Podcast!

So, one of the small projects I’ve been working on this past month is the resurrection of the Branded in the 80s Podcast.  It’s been over five years since I last recorded an episode of the show and even though I find solo-podcasting terribly frustrating, I’ve always missed it a little.  I started this site with the podcast and for the 10th anniversary I felt it would be a fun challenge to see if I could dust off the show, clean it up a bit and put a new coat of wax on it.  I’m not sure how long this new incarnation might last, but I intend to try and keep it going throughout the rest of the summer at the very least…

Branded Podcast Logo

For the first new episode of the show I decided to sit down and record some thoughts on the return of Hi-C Ecto Cooler and why it might be a good experiment to try and find the positive aspects of the pop culture we love and love to gripe about.  I’m still playing around with the format a bit, so excuse me while I make a fool of myself.

There are a few ways you can snag new episodes of the show.  I’ve submitted it to iTunes and Stitcher, so those avenues should go live soon, but until then you can subscribe to the RSS feed or right click and download the first episode here.  You can also stream it via the player below or on the Branded Facebook page.

So for all two of you who have been asking for it, yes, the Branded in the 80s podcast is back.  For now…

Hi-C Ecto Cooler is back and it’s….

…Glorious!

image1ssdBut before I get to that, let me back up a second.

One of the most bittersweet nostalgic experiences is the yearning for food and drink products that are long gone from this Earth.  I mean, so many other things can easily be revisited.  The prints and master tapes of long lost television shows and movies are typically stored in studio vaults and can be re-released at will (well, as long as it’s profitable.)  Old books and magazines are all floating around in dusty second hand and comic shops (or in the middle of a precariously stacked section of trash in a horder’s bedroom.)  Any pretty much every toy, video game or or plush doll is available on eBay, Etsy, or digitized as a rom for your downloading pleasure.  But defunct food and drink products become extinct by design.  Sure, there are actually plenty of old, full boxes of cereal, cans of pasta and cases of soda readily available for purchase, but it is all beyond safely consuming (not that some amazingly brave souls aren’t trying.)

So where does that leave a generation of kids who grew up loving certain tastes and textures?  It leaves us mostly unfulfilled.  Hey, no one ever promised us we’d have Keebler Pizzarias, Quackers, Fruit Corner branded fruit snacks, Bonkers candy, or yes, Hi-C Ecto Cooler forever.  And on the scale of things that one needs to survive in this world, re-experieincing the flavor sensations of old junk food is pretty low.  That being said, when left to our own devices we will try pretty damn hard to recreate those products.  Whether it’s finding the closest possible substitutions (did you know that El Sabroso brand Salsitas chips make a pretty damn good stand in for Keebler Pizzarias?)…

pizzaria substitution…or trying our best to recreate the recipe.  About five or six years ago an Ecto Cooler recipe started floating around the internet.  I’m not sure who originated it, but I scoped it at my bud’s site, Strange Kids Club, and tried it myself for a special Halloween treat.  It consisted of 1.5 cups of sugar, 1 packet of orange Kool-Aid mix, 1/2 packet of Lemonade Kool-Aid mix, 3/4 cup orange juice (with no pulp), 3/4 cup of tangerine juice, 14 cups of water, and 4-5 drops green food coloring.  The concoction tasted pretty close, but it was way off in consistency and because it used orange and tangerine juices as a base it was way too opaque.

homemade ecto coolerAnd backing up again for a second, why is Ecto Cooler so beloved anyway?  Where did this drink originate? Well, it might be a bit of a surprise to some but Ecto Cooler as we know and love it is actually a rebranded version of one of Hi-C’s earliest flavor varieties from 1965, Citrus Cooler Drink (which was the same green, tangerine-flavored 10% juice drink…)

Image courtesy of Dan Goodsell

Image courtesy of Dan Goodsell

That’s right, kids and families have been chugging that sweet green tangerine drink since the 60s.  In 1986-87, as part of a deal to work a Real Ghostbusters cartoon promotion into the Hi-C drink line the Citrus Cooler was rebranded to Ecto Cooler and featured everyone’s favorite ugly spud Slimer on the packaging.  Though the actual drink was not new, it was one of the coolest and longest lived of all the Ghostbusters merchandising tie-ins that not only outlasted the cartoon series it was shilling, it far exceeded the company’s expectations fandom-wise.  Even if it was just a rebranded Citrus Cooler, a who generation of kids thought it was new and amazing.  It was like drinking citrus-flavored ectoplasm, or as I used to think of it, the essence of Slimer. It’s such a simple tie in that fit so perfectly that it became a part of the fabric of so many kid’s lives for a full decade (from 1987 to 1997.)

old ecto 1 Old Ecto 2In 1997 the Slimer and Ghostbusters promotional aspect of the drink was dropped and it was again rebranded to Shoutin’ Orange Tangergreen for the next few years.  In fact, back before I started Branded in the 80s, around 2001 or 2002 I was doing some research online to try and find out if Ecto Cooler was still being manufactured when I stumbled on a site called X-Entertainment (run by Matt from Dinosaur Dracula.)  Pretty sure it was there that I learned that the drink was now called Shoutin’ Orange Tangergreen, and after reading his article I just had to have a taste of Ecto Cooler again.  Unfortunately no stores in my area at the time stocked it, so in what seemed like a very desperate and insane choice at the time I ended up contacting a store in upstate New York and had them ship me a case down to Georgia.  I think I paid something crazy like $40 in shipping for $9 worth of the drink, but for a couple months or so I had my Ecto Cooler nostalgic drink fix.

Since it was so expensive to procure, I didn’t try and order any more, so I was unaware until recently that the drink had one final rebranding back in 2006.  The Coca Cola Company brought the drink almost full circle by renaming it Crazy Citrus Cooler before finally retiring it for good a year later in 2007.  I think it was pretty safe to say that up until the announcement of the new Paul Fieg Ghostbusters movie starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, Ghostbusters and nostalgic food fans had given up any hope that we’d ever have a taste of that electric green tangerine flavored beverage.  Thus, the fan concocted recipes began bouncing around the internet and a hundred online petitions to Coke were created.  Every time there was a whisper of a potential Ghostbusters 3 movie in the works all of us fans would speculate as to whether it would be a big enough deal to raise Ecto Cooler like a spectral form from the junkfood graveyard.

Then a few months ago something amazing happened.  With all the hubbub surrounding the new Ghostbusters flick taking the internet by storm, a lone empty can of Ecto Cooler popped up on eBay that very possibly signaled the return of our beloved juice drink…

the canIt looked official, was obviously not vintage (because of the calorie count shield and the 2016 Coke copyright), and was hotly bid over.  In fact, it topped out at about $200.  Now this is noting new for empty Ecto Cooler packaging.  There are routinely empty cases, juice boxes, and even full 32 ounce cans popping up on the auction site for up to $300.  But at the time no one was quite sure if this was an elaborate ruse or the real deal.  And if it was the real deal, wouldn’t it be less impulsive to wait until the movie came out to get cans at retain for way cheaper?  But this is the life of Ecto Cooler fans, and really all nostalgia fans.  We pay crazy amounts of money for tangible evidence of our pop culture obsessions.

Well, it turns out that that can was in fact the real deal, and we can fast forward back to the present and this past Thursday when a handful of bloggers and websites received care packages from Hi-C containing a very special advance shipment of one of the most desired soft drinks of the past 30 years, Ecto Freaking Cooler!

box 1I have to hand it to the marketing department on the production of this advance giftbox.  Having it designed to look like a cross between a ghost trap and a containment until was pretty rad.  The two doors on top flip open to reveal the contents inside, a single can and juice box of the newly released Ecto Cooler…

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Rounding out this set is a small barrel of toy slime which as you can see in the first picture above made for some great photo opportunities…

image3sdsd    pour

So how about the taste?  How closely was the Coca Cola Company able to reformulate the original taste of Hi-C Ecto Cooler?  Perfectly.  To me it tastes the same as it did back in 2002 when I last had it, and as close as I can remember to those hazy days in the 80s when I was drinking a 32 ounce can every week.  In fact, I had pretty much no doubt in my mind that it would taste the same as it’s a specific product variety that they’d manufactured for over 40 years before they retired it in 2007.  I mean, it’s only been 9 years since it was last on store shelves, though it feels more like 20 since it wasn’t called Ecto Cooler since the late nineties.

glass 1    glass 2

It was hard getting accurate pictures of just how green this amazing drink is, but rest assured, it looks exactly as you remember it too.  As an added bonus, the Hi-C logo on the can changes colors when the drink inside is chilled.  Pretty nifty little design element.

The cans and juice boxes should be hitting retail chains on May 30th.  I’m going to go ahead and say that your best bet will probably be checking out your local Target or Wal-Mart, which typically carry specialty movie tie-in merchandise like this.  My hope is that much like the original launch of Ecto Cooler, this one outlasts the movie that it’s tied to and that it hangs around for the next decade.  But just in case, stock up because it’s advertised as being a limited run only…

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So, are you excited for the return of Ecto Cooler?  Any plans to do anything crazy with it, like making popsicles, mixed drinks, or baking?  Will you be checking your local stores on May 30th?

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Pop Culture Cartography Revisited

Almost two years ago I dug through my books and piles of ephemera to gather together my collection of pop culture maps from all sorts of different fantasy and movie worlds including cartography from the Thundercats, Willow, Fraggle Rock, The Princess Bride, The Smurfs, Dark Crystal and of course my favorite, The Goonies.  Well, this past month I discovered that there are two different versions of the map from the Goonies.  Not only is there an actual map in the film that leads the way to One-Eyed Willie’s pirate treasure (which I have a pretty darn cool replica of hanging in Branded HQ), but there was also a rather rare piece of mail-away, ephemera that was offered by Hi-C back in 1985.

Scan courtesy of Dan Goodsell (the rad artist behind Mr. Toast!)

Called the Goonies Story Card Adventure Map, this mail-away freebie was a giant fold-out map that had a very unique way of presenting the various locations from the film as well as illustrating the plot at the same time.  This thing was gargantuan at almost 4 feet long and almost a foot high.

But before I dig into that I want to thank the gracious Dan Goodsell of the World of Mr. Toast for allowing me to showcase his scan of the above Hi-C can label.  I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but there are a handful of seriously awesome folks like Dan who have spent considerable amounts of time and money procuring, collecting, and archiving rare ephemera.  On the face of it these digitized collections provide an unbelievable insight into packaging that is a priceless archive for graphic artists, not to mention acting as a visual connection that generations of people can connect over via our cultural shared nostalgia.  But these collections often hold clues and keys that unlock all sorts of other mysteries for fans of pop culture. When I first stumbled upon the Goonies Story Card Adventure Map I didn’t realize that there was more to the map.  But after doing some research and finding the awesome Hi-C scan of Dan’s I was able to fill in some of the gaps that I was looking for. Without these archives, or blogs and sites that freely share their collections of vintage scans it would be impossible to put the pieces of the past back together.  So again, I want to thank Dan for being a super cool dude and letting me share this piece from his collection.

So what is this Story Card Adventure Map that I’m so excited about?  Well, as part of the Goonies merchandising push back in 1985 Warner Bros. partnered with the Coca Cola Company to offer these free map and card sets either via a mail-away promotions on the cans of Hi-C, or from in-store displays.  If you snagged one of the foldout maps in the store you had to collect the story cards that were printed on the Hi-C juice can labels (see above), whereas if you mailed away for the map it was shipped complete with the 24 card set included.

Goonies_Adventure_Map_Cover

Between the cards and the flavor text on the map you can relive the plot of the film scene by scene, and location by location.  But even without the card set that map is really cool because it addresses one of the weird spatial mysteries presented in the film, which is where exactly these underground tunnels and caves are located in relation to the above ground landmarks in Astoria (or at least the Astoria presented in the film…)

Goonies_Adventure_Map

Unfortunately this map wasn’t designed to answer those spatial questions specifically, but because of the way that it’s laid out it hints at how a lot of the films locations are laid out and how they connect to each other.  Also, as a bonus bit of interesting area layout imagine all that space from the country club on the top left out to the Goondocks on the top right being covered in a newly constructed golf course. I’m guessing the 9th and 10th holes would have been located along the shore right where that neighborhood stands.  Stupid Troy and his dumb dad…

Goonies_Adventure_Map_Back

Not only did this map generally reveal the location and proximity of landmarks in the film the included story cards and character bios on the back of the map also revealed other obscure details of the film like all of the characters full names.  Did you know that Data’s real name is Ricky Roper?  That Chunk’s last name was Cohen (which was also the actor’s actual last name, Jeff Cohen.)  That Andy was short for Andrea?  There’s also some more backstory revealed such as confirmation that Stef and Mouth dated for a bit before the film.  Or that at 13, Mikey is the youngest Goonie which puts the other three at, at least 14 and places all of them in the 8th grade most likely.

Do these details actually matter?  No, but they’re still cool bits of trivia for any diehard fan for sure.  As far as pop culture cartography goes, this map may have just taken the number spot as my favorite ever…