Aardwolf

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Today I’m going to talk about the Fruit Stripe gum commercial.  Why?  There is no why.

Fruit Stripe Gum was around when I was little, it was around before my time, and it’s still around today.  As far as anyone knows, it has always existed.  But in the early Nineties, some say 1991, there was a commercial for it.  I say a commercial because I only remember seeing a single one over and over.  You can watch it here with good video and bad sound, and here with the opposite.  I assumed it had just gone on the market when the commercial started airing, went the way of the dodo when the commercial stopped airing, and that the one commercial was the product’s attempt to claw its way out of the pit of obscurity before sliding back in.  That was what I believed for years until an aficionado of candy and zebras set me straight in an online forum.

But it is not the purpose of pointless rambling essay to discuss the product itself, but the unforgettable commercial that made me aware of its existence.

"Yipes!  Stripes!  Fruit Stripe gum!"  All the kids knew that slogan, and I could never forget it, even if I wanted to.  It’s indelibly imprinted in the same region of my brain that recorded and endlessly plays back "Alpha-Bits for you and me," "Come on in to warehouse prices," "Capture the dinosaurs, those rompin’ stompin’ dinosaurs," and of course "I’d snap a new picture if I were you."  I remember me, my brother, and our cousins making a call-and-response routine out of the jingle whenever one of us died in Super Mario Bros.  I don’t remember any of us ever trying the gum, though.

The imagery that goes with this ohrwurm invokes the same zany atmosphere as the Kraft Cheese & Macaroni commercials of the same period, but without the lavish production values.  Fruit explodes.  The advertised product turns a nerd into a cool kid.  Scenes shift in surreal and disorienting ways.  The unifying element is stripes.  The mascot is, inevitably, a cartoon zebra.  It’s mostly a by-the-numbers kiddie commercial.  Mostly.

At about the 18 second mark the commercial undergoes a strange transformation that allows it to transcend the realm of things I only remember because I saw them a million times and enter the hallowed hall of things I remember because I enjoyed them and saw them a million times.  We see a glowing ball of light hurtling across the candy-colored landscape until it collides with the camera, splattering the screen with iridescent light.  This recedes into a ray gun an alien has just fired directly at you, the viewer.

"It’s the dinosaur hunt, Chef Boyardeeeee Dinosaurs!"  Damn it!  Why did I have to bring that up?

We’re briefly treated to a scene on an alien world featuring an alien alien.  “Alien” is both a noun and an adjective.  That was the joke I was trying to make, and it was so bad that I imagined an awkward silence after I typed the sentence.  But more importantly, aliens are the most exciting thing on T.V. if you’re a kid who’s anything like me.  And this was an exceptionally cool alien to see on T.V.  It’s still about as good as T.V. aliens get.  Seriously, I don’t think you could name five alien designs more creative than this one without using the same franchise twice.  It’s also stop-motion animation, which made it seem more cool.  Stop-motion models moving around a tabletop model was about a realistic as inhumanoid T.V. aliens ever got in 1991.  Even as a little kid, you know cartoons aren’t real, and you can usually tell if you’re looking at a puppet or a guy in a suit.  Unless it’s A.L.F.  What was A.L.F. anyway?

Back to what I was rambling about, this alien is only humanoid in the most basic way.  It’s a pear-shaped olive-colored torso with a small head, a pair of long spindly arms ending in 3-fingered hands, and a stout pair of legs supported by splayed 3-toed feet.  Its body is segmented kind of like the Michelin Man.  Six appendages hang from its head like braids and end in lipped circular openings like elephant trunks or leech heads.  I think we can assume these are sensory organs.  Its eyes are giant, yellow, and not at all friendly.  They’re not easy to see, but it has eyelids the same shade of yellow.  The eyes and head shape give the impression of a wasp, and two lobes in the front suggest an angry mouth.  Its actual mouth is in its lower torso, and it’s wearing a tough pug-like frown.  This alien looks as threatening as it is exotic.

We don’t see it do much, but one little action really drives the menace home.  Right after it shoots its ray gun at the camera, it spins it around before snapping into a theatrical pose with the weapon aimed at something off-camera.  This alien has the swagger of a true conqueror.

The ray gun is pretty neat too, even though it kind of looks like it was made by gluing together stuff that was lying around somebody’s basement.  Powder blue is an odd choice for a firearm, but it works.  The dayglo green tubing makes it clear we’re dealing with alien design sensibilities.  Radial cooling fins on the barrel, additional spikes of uncertain function, and a long submachine gun-style stock earn the gun enough badass points to make its color scheme excusable.

The setting for this scene is fairly close to pop culture’s standard planet/moon/asteroid/comet nucleus.  The landscape is dominated by lunar scarps, but the classic craters are missing.  We also see rounded rocks and a natural arch, both signs of water.  The sky is an unsavory orange haze with hints of a sickly green.  A planet with jovian cloud bands hangs overhead.

There’s barely time to take this in before a purple a similar but purpler alien walks on camera.  Its eyes have large pupils and white sclerae, so you know it’s nicer than the other alien.  It feeds its compatriot comically oversized Fruit Stripe Gum, making its giant ectopic mouth smile with incongruously human lips.  This is only the beginning of that alien’s fruity transformation.  Its head-tentacles stand straight out, the yellow of its eyes turns white, its eyelids retract into its head, and its neck extends out into a series of rainbow-colored segments.  Discarding its weapon, the formerly hostile extraterrestrial hops away like a kangaroo and leaps into the sky.

At this point, it superficially looks like a rainbow appears in the sky, but the band has actually been there for the entire scene, just with a foggy yellow filter over it.  Is that the planet’s ring?

The purple alien puts its hand to its chin and unzips its skin.  It’s really the zebra, who is fighting the aliens with flavor.  The zipper is actually visible before he uses it, unlike every other instance of the zipper disguise gag in the history of foreverness.

The commercial’s jingle follows this little sci-fi digression.  The backing track turns into an insistent spacey trill and the singer drops the subject of gum for a moment to deliver a garbled narration of the scene.  I can’t be sure of any of the words after “men from outer space.”  Even that presents a puzzle.  This scene clearly isn’t set on Earth, so why is it “men from outer space” and not “men in outer space”?  Is this planetoid a stepping stone in their plan to invade Earth?  Is the zebra battling the aliens on their home soil?  These questions will probably never be answered.  

"Capture the dinosaurs, those rompin’ stompin’ dinosaurs."  That won’t be out of my head any time soon.

The commercial returns to normalcy at the 25 second mark to remind us that they’re selling Fruit Stripe gum and inform us that they also make bubblegum.  The strange interlude I just described in neuroticulous detail only lasts 7 seconds but it completely overshadows the rest of the commercial (and the significant majority of the T.V. programming of the time).

And that’s how a generation of children were treated to a slice of the truly alien sandwiched between pieces of bland advertisement.  Join me tomorrow for an essay about the Whatchamacallit commercial with the New Wave song.  Actually, no.  That will never happen.  Ever.

Filed under fruit stripe gum alien stop motion 90s nineties nostalgia

1,737 notes

kadrey:

The Museum Of Endangered Sounds
"I launched the site in January of 2012 as a way to preserve the sounds made famous by my favorite old technologies and electronics equipment. For instance, the textured rattle and hum of a VHS tape being sucked into the womb of a 1983 JVC HR-7100 VCR. As you probably know, it’s a wonderfully complex sound, subtle yet unfiltered. But, as streaming playback becomes more common in the US, and as people in developing nations like Canada and the UK get brought up to DVD players, it’s likely that the world will have seen and heard the last of older machines like the HR-7100. And as new products come to market, we stand to lose much more than VCRs.
"Imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who will play my GameBoy when I’m gone?
"These questions and more led me to the undertaking that is The Museum Of Endangered Sounds…"
http://mrgory.info/sm/#
(link via junkyarmessiah)

Number Munchers!  My God!  Somebody else remembers!
But wait…portable C.D. players are endangered?

kadrey:

The Museum Of Endangered Sounds

"I launched the site in January of 2012 as a way to preserve the sounds made famous by my favorite old technologies and electronics equipment. For instance, the textured rattle and hum of a VHS tape being sucked into the womb of a 1983 JVC HR-7100 VCR. As you probably know, it’s a wonderfully complex sound, subtle yet unfiltered. But, as streaming playback becomes more common in the US, and as people in developing nations like Canada and the UK get brought up to DVD players, it’s likely that the world will have seen and heard the last of older machines like the HR-7100. And as new products come to market, we stand to lose much more than VCRs.

"Imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who will play my GameBoy when I’m gone?

"These questions and more led me to the undertaking that is The Museum Of Endangered Sounds…"

http://mrgory.info/sm/#

(link via junkyarmessiah)

Number Munchers!  My God!  Somebody else remembers!

But wait…portable C.D. players are endangered?

(via sunshynegrll)

Filed under number munchers nostalgia 90s nineties

10 notes

iammyfather:

aardwolfpack:

I was cleaning the house and stumbled upon these relics.  Nineties life and all that.

Now all you need is an Atarii 800 and Disc Drive.

These went to our I.B.M. P.C.  I think it was already obsolete when we got it ca. 1990.  And, in case you’re wondering, the dog in the photo is Alex.  He was adopted in 1989 by Judy Gerber of Bellmore, New York.

Filed under nostalgia ibm floppy disk floppy disc