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Official Article

5 Totally 80s TV Commercials

Recently I dug through the basement crawlspace of my wife's childhood home to find retro treasures which I shared in this article. Also during this trip I scanned through dozens of VHS tapes hiding around my in-law's home that were recorded off of network TV in 1986. Today I present to you, 5 Totally 80's TV Commercials discovered during that search. All of which, I had never seen before.


G.I. Joe Toy World


No boys toy line has endured more successfully over the last 50 years than G.I. Joe and every young man of the 80s had at least half a dozen Real American Hero figures in their toy chest. Commercials produced by Hasbro ran regularly on Saturday mornings, but what makes this TV spot special is that it was obviously filmed locally by the Toy World and features some truly charming production values.


I love that they went so far as to create a storyline for this ad with Dr. Mindbender telling Cobra Vipers and Zandar that they need more "Tri-idium", then declaring, "I will dominate the world!". Meanwhile Hawk leads Joes like Lifeline and Dial-Tone into battle. The real magic of this spot is the heartstopping use of pyro, which was obviously some leftover fireworks from the 4th of July, but you don't hear me complaining. There was zero chance of ever seeing a live explosion in an official G.I. Joe commercial, so this bootleg adventure is a real treat.


Better Cheddars


Though I only have a vague recollection of Better Cheddars snack crackers by Nabisco, I LOVE this commercial. First of all, how often do you think floor routines featuring backflips broke out at the local health club in 1986? According to this ad, it was every 10 seconds. More entertaining is the aftermath as the sporty gal giddily scarfs down a salty snack treat along with her yuppie friends, dancing like she's at a Duran Duran concert.


When the action moves to outdoor fun on the lake, you'd think this quartet of pretty 80's people were sipping cocktails, not nibbling on cheese flavored snacks. It's just funny to imagine the meeting where this was dreamed up. "Yeah, Better Cheddar is the cracker for healthy, fit young go-getters. Right after aerobics class, they'll pop a few Better Cheddars along with their Perrier. We're golden, baby!"

Pepsi "Time Travel"


You wanna talk high concept? Dealing with the "Butterfly Effect" type consequences of time travel is pretty heady for a soda commercial. It's surprising that they didn't get Michael J Fox to bring some of his Back To The Future cred to the affair, since he was appearing in other Pepsi TV ads at the time. Either way, Pepsi must have felt they had to pull out all the stops to take down "Big Coke" and man, did they go for the jugular. 


2 nerdy scientists warn a man dressed as Sherlock Holmes that they are sending him back to a time "before soft drinks" and that anything he does could have an effect on future. As soon as they send him through the Time Tube, a Coke vending machine fades away, leaving only a Pepsi machine. Then an entire Coca-Cola building disappears. I love the brazenness of declaring that Pepsi was not only going to beat them in sales, but actually wipe Coke from existence. Ballsy, Pepsi.


Song of the South


This one is going to be controversial, but it is such a unique relic of a bygone era, I couldn't believe I found it. The fact that Walt Disney's Song of The South was being re-released into movie theaters in 1986, shows that we were still in the pre-political correctness era of American history, though those more enlightened days were just around the corner. Still, this is an ad I can guarantee we will never see again.


The amazing thing is that amidst the controversy over the racially insensitive depiction of Uncle Remus, Disneyland went ahead and created an entire ride based on this permanently vaulted film. Splash Mountain still stands today as a beloved ride featuring Br'er Fox, Br'er Bear and Br'er Rabbit as the stars of the attraction. I even played Br'er Bear in costume in Critter Country during my early days working at the Magic Kingdom and though a version of "Zip-Ah-Dee-Doo-Dah" could be heard, Uncle Remus was nowhere to be found.


Wendys Crispy Chicken Nuggets


Let's end this thing on an upbeat note and Celebrate! Until the Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's era of commercials in the mid-90's, Wendy's was pretty much non-existent to me. I mean, my family never ate there. But had this commercial come bopping across the screen before an episode of The Hogan Family, I may have been more interested.


You've got so many archetypes of 80s pop culture in this thing. We've got a blonde Michelle Pfeiffer look-a-like in sunglasses, break dancing 6 year old, BMX bikers and a reject from Revenge of the Nerds balancing chicken nugget boxes. What more do you need? Oh, I don't know, maybe a cover of Celebrate by Kool & The Gang that swaps out the word "Celllllebraation" for "Chiiicken Nuuuuuggets". It's fun all around.

Well there you have it, 5 Totally 80's Commercials to tickle your nostalgia bone. I hope you enjoyed seeing them and check out my YouTube page to see many more retro commercials that didn't make the cut.

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