Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Being Re-Gifted My childhood, Part 1

I’ll be honest, for a guy who runs a site dedicated to his love of the 80s even I will admit that it’s weird how much of a void there is of personal vintage junk in my collection.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve acquired a bunch of stuff over the years that I cherish, but when I look over everything that I have, very little of it is stuff that survived with me through the decades.  Whether it was from my own collection purging, trading, damage, or stuff “lost” in moves (my parent’s favorite excuse for chucking my toys over the years), I only have a handful of things that have been with me forever.  There are a few kid’s paperbacks (Samantha Slade: Monster Sitter, the Lost boys novelization, and a copy of Which Way Batman), some of my sisters records, my Wicket plush, and this 5″ by 5″ square of what’s left of my original woobie…

I have a lot more of my stuff from my high school years, but I do regret not keeping a tighter grip on the stuff I had when I was a little kid.  Well, this past week I was given a couple of rare gifts by a friend (we’ll call him D) who I’ve known since I we were in the 8th grade together.  Over the years we’ve seen less and less of each other even though we only live about 15 miles apart.  You know, life gets in the way and junk.  D is about to have his second child, little D numero 2, and if I had to guess he is looking to clear out as much space as he can find to make room for the new arrival.  Well, he sent me a facebook message asking me if I wanted to take something off his hands.  That something just happened to be an Atari 2600 video game console and a bucket full of games and peripherals that have been gathering dust in his garage.  The thing is, and he knew this obviously, this particular Atari system (and 8 of those games) used to be mine before I gave them to him back in middle school.

I was never an avid gamer by any stretch of the imagination, but there were two game systems that I played a whole hell of a lot, the NES for the most part, but I, like so many other folks growing up in the 70s and 80s, was weaned on the Atari 2600.  I first bought the exact system, controller and the 8 games you see pictured with it below at a garage sale when I was six.  It was 1983, and we’d just moved to Orlando from Tampa.  I didn’t really have any friends yet, and it was kind of boring and lonely in the new house.  Heck, our cat Smokey who had just made the trip with us immediately ran away, so I was sort of in a funk.  One Saturday I ventured out into the neighborhood though, and there was a guy down the street trying to sell the last bits of stuff at a garage sale.  There was a table with the Atari inside a faux-wood paneled Game Center box.  I’d had plenty of experience with the system playing one that was hooked up to a TV in the rec room of a public pool back in Tampa, and for some reason I never imagined having my own at home.  I asked the guy how much it was and he thoughtfully scratched his chin and squinted at me (at least that’s how I “remember” his expression in my mind) before saying “Ten Bucks Kid.”  I asked him to hold it and I sprinted back home to beg for the money from my dad, who quickly relented.  I ran back, slapped the ten buck on the table (again, probably artistic license with my foggy memory) and stole home with the system held high above my head.

As I mentioned, the console had eight games included, Combat, Surround, Berserk, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Chopper Command, and the much maligned E.T. and Atari port of Pac-Man.  For some reason I never acquired any more games, and I was pretty content with these for the next three years until I scored my first Nintendo system.  Back in 1990-91 when I gave the Atari to D, I didn’t think much of it.  Heck, at that point I said had a fair number of my original childhood toys and never thought I’d miss the clunky wood-paneled beauty.  Fast forward 23 years and I can certainly attest to missing the ever-living hell out of it.  I mean, it’s not like I was lying awake at night wondering where it was, but from time to time when I’d see people blog or podcast about their vintage systems I would feel a little pain in my heart.  So when D asked if I wanted the system back after all these years I was pretty damn floored.  When I drove over to pick it up I did everything in my power not to point at it and say something stupid like, “There, there it is, that thing, those beautiful things that I used to have in my house back in Florida, look at it, it’s right there, that thing that I had when I was six!”  Those where statements that I made in the car on the way home though, just saying.

As soon as I got home, I immediately cleaned off a table, took out the system and very gingerly cleaned her up.  There was a massive amount of dirt and grime on it, but with a little warm water and a crap ton of paper towels I was able to get it looking almost like new.  To be honest, I have no idea if the system will even run anymore, and even if it will, if I’ll be able to hook it up to my TV (the vintage R/F switch is looking pretty rough.)  But really, this system isn’t so much about playing it as it is about just having it again, a little reminder of what it was like to be six with my very own copy of Pac-Man, even if it was a super shitty version of the game.  I remember playing Chopper Command, and having to flip a switch on the back of the actual console to change the rate at which my helicopter fired (short bursts or those long laser blasts.)  There was so much joyous frustration trying not to touch the walls in Berserk.  And to this day I still have no idea how the hell you get all the pieces to make the damn phone rig in E.T.

If I ever do get it running there was an included extra surprise of about 50 extra games that D had amassed over the years.  Here’s a few snapshots of what I would call the cream of the crop…

  

 

I can’t thank D enough, and to my amazement, there was another amazing piece of my childhood that came along with the Atari that I’ll be writing about in part two of this article later this week, or next.  Stay tuned.  And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a place of honor for the Atari in Branded HQ…

TMNT memories, or tapping into my absurd inner Michelangelo…

Digging through a box of keepsakes this morning I stumbled upon a couple fun Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles items.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that cartoon and comic recently what with the new Nickelodeon series, Playmates toy line, and my near obsession with locating and snapping pictures of all the new Turtles merchandise in stores.  It certainly is a great time to love being a Turtle again.  Below is one of my favorite drawings as it was one of the first times I actually sat down and tried my damnedest to draw something that was truly fridge-worthy as a kid.  This is from 1988.  I was laying in bed sick and I had a stack of comic books and the first VHS release of the TMNT cartoon to keep me company.  I’m 99.9% sure I copied this Michelangelo drawing from the cover art on the VHS tape…

I was so happy with the outcome that I seriously considered sending it in to the local news station who would post art on the 5:30 news from local kids.  In the end I greedily hung onto it fearing that it wouldn’t be accepted and I wouldn’t have the magnificence of the drawing to bask in.  I was so proud of drawing all the links in the chain on his nunchucks.  Note, because the cover artwork from the VHS didn’t have the full body of the Turtles on it, I had to improvise and I totally put Mikey in the swamp.  Also, quarter sun in the top corner for the childhood drawing win!

The other treasure I uncovered was this home-made button I constructed out of a bored French Class doodle from 1993.  Our language teacher was a huge fan of drawings and art and would give tons of extra credit points for doing little art projects like making button and junk.  A friend and I managed to get a pretty decent grade in the first semester by wallpapering the room with out goofy drawings featuring our inane French witticisms.  This button roughly translates to “The Eggs are helping.”  How absurdly funny I thought I was being at the time…

Also, as a postscript to this, you know the new cartoon is a hit when you start seeing displays like this one popping up in stores…

Today is all about Power Packs…

The fine folks over at 8 Bit Zombie recently started selling sets of stickers, patches, and button in what they’re calling Power Packs.  I’ve been a fan of their clothing and retro themed items for awhile (Proud Member of their Kid’s Club!), so I jumped at the chance to snag one of these.  They come in two varieties, the Action Pack (pop culture theme) and the NES Pack (Video Gaming theme), but since I’m a regular old cartoon and movie nut at heart I went with the Action Pack…

So what wonders are contained in these rad sets?  Well, for starters, not only do you get the Power Pack, but 8bz is usually kind enough to throw in a bunch of other stickers and goodies including buttons, vintage trading cards (I snagged a sealed pack of Harry and the Hendersons cards!), and sometimes even M.U.S.C.L.E. minifigs.  As for the pack itself, this one was loaded with stickers and a couple awesome patches.  I love the 8BZ branding, so those were neat, but that Join Cobra patch is the bee’s freaking knees.  Honestly though, the main reason I picked up this pack was for the 5 Garbage Pail Kids inspired stickers featuring great illustrations of Robocop, The Goonies, and various other cartoon heroes and villains.  I’m a sucker for anything GPK related.

I was also lucky to snag one of their newly minted brass arcade tokens.  How awesome is that?  From now on when deciding between two places to eat out, screw heads and tails, it’ll be all Powergloves and 1-Up Coins!

Check them out at 8 Bit Zombie, and tell ‘em I sent ya!

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…

Cereal Killers sticker cards series 2!

This is a great week for those in the mood to buy some cool stuff! Not only did the second series OMFG! minifigure Kickstarter begin, but on Tuesday Wax Eye officially started selling the second series of their awesome Cereal Killers sticker cards!  I absolutely adore the first series and I was super curious to see what Joe Simko and crew had in store for their second helping of sugary, gory insanity…

These are available in two formats, either in a hobby box of 24 packs (as pictured above), or in the super cool mini cereal box edition (pictured below.)  Either way you’re guaranteed to secure a base set of the sticker cards this time out, though I do have to admit that I had a lot of fun trading my extras last time…

Here are a few examples of what’s in store this time out…

     

To sweeten the bowl, so to speak, this time Simko is also offering even more special chase cards too!  There are three new blacklight/glow in the dark stickers…

…as well as silver spoon foil cards, sketch cards, and the ones I’m super keen on getting my hands on, Sugar Gitter cards!

You can find Wax Eye on Facebook!  Tell ‘em Branded in the 80s sent ya!

Cartoon Commentary, taking a closer look at King Gorneesh from the Ewoks…

I’ve been on a kick lately going through my collection of ephemera and animation cels looking for my favorite stuff to pull out and frame.  I recently converted our office into the true Branded HQ and archive, and for the first time in 6 years there’s actually stuff on the walls besides action figures.  While sifting through my collection of cartoon cels, I came across this one of Gorneesh, King of the Duloks from the Ewoks cartoon, circa 1985…

I’m a pretty big fan of the design of these bumbling villains in the series.  There’s something about how they visually spar with the shorter, stubbier design of the Ewoks that really works for me. They’re taller, lanky, and much more slimy in appearance, yet they feel like they inhabit the same world I guess, specifically in the cartoon series (I have a hard time imagining them in the live action Star Wars world without them coming off like the Gungans from the prequels.)  Actually, now that I think about it, the Duloks were a sign of things to come in the overall Star Wars universe, design-wise, but I guess I can forgive a lot of their cartooniness when they’re in an actual cartoon.  Hell, there’s an episode of the series where the Duloks big scheme is to steal the fabled Ewok soap so they can take a bath and get rid of their ever present fly infestation!  Maybe it’s hypocritical of me, and I can accept that, though I think there’s a possibility of them being pulled off less like Jar Jar, and more like the characters in say Jabba’s Palace from Jedi if handled by the right creative team.  Hell, the Ewoks don’t come off nearly as cartoon-y in ROTJ as the Gungans so in TPM.

In particular, with King Gorneesh, I love the animal bone armor he was given, and think that the vertebrae headpiece doubling as a Mohawk was a brilliant flourish.  I also love that one of his ears has been scarred, along with his eye; makes the character design seem really imposing, even though he was sort of goofy in the cartoon.

 

I also loved the dark, dank, swamp the Duloks called home.  Again, it’s in drastic contrast to the Ewok’s village in the trees, and reminds me of the Legion of Doom’s hideout in the Super Friends cartoon

 

All in all, whenever I think about the Ewoks series, the first thing that comes to mind is King Gorneesh, as the Duloks were the most striking addition to the mythology that the cartoon introduced.  I remember seeing these Kenner figures on the pegs before I got a chance to see the cartoon and was in awe of a Star Wars villain I’d never been introduced to before.  It’s made the acquisition of the animation cel above one of my favorites too.

Now, if only the animated series would get a proper release on DVD instead of the horrible edit that already exists, I’d be a truly happy Ewoks fan…

Wax Paper Pop Art #34, A Very Special Episode in which Klinger Doesn’t Cross-dress…

I had a fun conversation with a fellow on twitter this week about the line of M*A*S*H action figures that was released back I the early 80s.  I find it fascinating that series like M*A*S*H and Dallas were merchandised as much as they were considering they’re more or less aimed at an adult audience.  In particular, the idea of dedicating a line of trading cards to a dramedy like M*A*S*H just seems insane.  “Got it, got it, got it, ooohh, a Hot Lips Houlihan!  I’ll trade you two Klinger’s for your Father Francis…”

1982 Donruss M*A*S*H trading cards

I guess when Doc and Lifeline weren’t enough medics to collectively care for your battle-damaged G.I. Joes, you could always call in the M*A*S*H unit.  And it lightens my heart to know that kids had a Father Francis figure to see those poor souls, the ones with the broken O-rings, got the last rites they deserved…

The most powerful cake pans in the universe!

While cleaning up and organizing Branded HQ I found a handful of loose catalog pages that my good buddy HooveR sent me awhile back.  They were from the 1987 Wilton Yearbook of Cake Decorating, and featured their line of pop culture cartoon figural cake pans.  Since I’ve sort of been on a food-centric nostalgic kick of late I thought this would be the perfect thing to share.

Though I have plenty of memories seeing this style of cake pans in grocery stores back in the day, I was never treated to a cake baked in one during my childhood.  It’s not for lack of asking mind you, just that my mom wasn’t keen on that level of preparation and patience when it came to birthday cakes.  She always bought something at the store and put some special candles or action figures on my cakes.  There’s still a part of me that kind of wants to track one of these down and do it myself one of these days…

I’m not sure if it’s the date when the catalog was printed, or if Wilton didn’t have a huge licensing department, but I was kind of sad not to see any Transformers or Star Wars cake pans in the pages.  That being said, there are still some pretty cool franchises represented in sugar and flour, not the least of which are He-Man, General Hawk from G.I. Joe, Superman and Batman.  I love how these came with plastic faceplates so that some sort of recognizable figure would emerge from even the sloppiest cake decorator’s piping tip.  I also love that apparently Superman and Batman were more or less interchangeable when it comes to their cake-y bodies…

  

By far, the majority of the pans in this catalog were geared towards girls with Rainbow Brite, The Poppels, Cabbage Patch Kids, Care Bears, Barbie, and the Wuzzles represented.  Makes me feel like there should at least be a Thundercats cake pan in the mix, but again I’m not sure if it was licensing or when this was released.  Can you imagine the fun that would come from piping out Lion-O’s red frosting hair!

   

For all those curious about getting some pointers on just how to go about frosting one of these beauties, here’s a spotlight on the Snoopy and He-Man cakes…

The weirdest thing about these cakes for me is the extremely sharp and spiky nature inherent in this style of frosting a cake.  Granted, it makes it much easier to keep the colors from mixing, but it always seemed weirdly antagonistic to me.  Is it just me?

Wax Paper Pop Art #33, The Arcade and Video Game edition…

It’s been a long time since I was super excited to catch an upcoming Disney animated film that wasn’t a Pixar creation.  That’s why I was so happy after catching the Wreck-It Ralph trailer that was released this week.  Though I’m not usually all that happy with non-voice actor casting, John C. Riley sounds great as the titular character, and the film has the potential to do for video game characters what Roger Rabbit and Toy Story did for cartoons and toys respectively.  In honor of the trailer, here’s my collection of arcade-centric Wax Wrappers from the 80s…

1st up is the 1980 Fleer Pac-Man wrapper…

Next, from1982, the Topps Donkey Kong stickers

Moving right along, we find ourselves in 1983 with the Topps Video City set

Finally, here are four wrappers from the 1989 Topps Nintendo Game Packs featuring Mario, Link, The Princess, and the spin-off set of Temporary Tattoos released later that year.  By the by, I talked about these Nintendo stickers in the Peel Here column before

 

 

Is that Kraft Mac and Cheese under that pepperoni, or do you just want to die for dinner?

It’s been awhile since I dipped into my collection of old advertisements I clipped from my collection of 80s era Woman’s Day magazines, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at one of the crazier ads from 1983.  Alright, raise your hand if you’ve been to a Ci-Ci’s or Stevie-B’s pizza buffet.  C’mon, I know we’ve all tried it at least once, I mean quality aside, it’s the best damn pizza value in town.  Seriously though, for anyone who has eaten at one of these pizza buffets in the last 20 years you’ve probably noticed that they have all sorts of weird pizzas to please kids and parents alike.  Whether it’s the taco pizza (replacing the sauce with salsa and adding lettuce and sour cream as toppings) or the baked potato (sour cream sauce, topped with cheddar cheese and slices of baked potato), there’s usually some funky stuff to keep it interesting and as unhealthy as possible.  The craziest buffet pizza in my opinion is the Mac ‘n Cheese pizza which has a cheese-based sauce, pasta, and loads of extra cheese to boot.  Not only is it a little slice of heart-attack, but there’s enough carbohydrates in one slice to make the pickiest vegan into a diabetic.

Well, while flipping through a 1983 issue of Woman’s Day I found an ad that puts the Stevie-B’s pasta pizza to shame. How about a pizza where the crust is entirely made out of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese!?!

That’s right, who needs working arteries when you can taste the awe-inspiring scrumptiousness that must be a slice of pizza made entirely out of Mac ‘n Cheese!  I’m so tempted to make this monstrosity, but I’m not sure my mouth can withstand the insanity.  What were the ad reps at Kraft thinking when they came up with this idea?  I can only assume these are the same geniuses that convinced KFC that fried chicken would made an awesome substitute for bread in a sandwich.

So has anyone out there ever experienced this gastronomical indulgence?