Top Five Anthropomorphic Mascots from the 80's with Futures so Bright, They had to Wear Sunglasses

The Energizer Bunny

Today this pink percussionist is synonymous with Energizer batteries, but did you know that the original Energizer Bunny commercial was actually a parody of a Duracell batteries campaign starring pink toy bunnies? Energizer mocked Duracell’s claim that Duracell batteries lasted longer because Duracell was only comparing the lifespan of their batteries to carbon batteries and not alkaline batteries like Energizer.

When Duracell allowed their trademark to expire on the pink bunny, Energizer swooped in and filed a trademark for their cottontail. You won’t see the Duracell bunnies stateside anymore, but those original pink battery bunnies can still be seen in Europe. However, much like the Johnny Cash cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt", most mistake the latter as preceding the former.

The original Energizer Bunny ad also predates the ubiquitous slogan “it keeps going… and going… and going” and instead proclaims “a word to the wise – Energize”. The current slogan is most appropriate, considering that, of the five mascots on this list, only the Energizer Bunny is still collecting checks as a mascot.






Cool Spot

7 Up has never been a realistic contender for the soft drink crown, but every championship team needs a solid bench to back up the all-stars. 7 Up markets itself as an alternative to Coke and Pepsi—the un-cola—for those who prefer their soda to taste more like fizzy water. Personal tastes aside, 7 Up is basically seltzer with a twist of lemon and lime, so it’s not unfathomable that a rather plain drink like 7 Up would have an equally plain mascot. And while the Cool Spot might not be much to look at—a red dot with shades—he was actually the inspiration for one of the better video games of the day.

Mascot-based video games are more of a rarity today, but the 80’s had no shame when it came to cross-promotions. I fondly recall mashing buttons as Ronald McDonald, the Noid (Dominos) and 7 Up’s Cool Spot. The Cool Spot game was engineered to play like Sonic the Hedgehog—one of the most popular titles at that time. The game challenged players to rescue other Cool Spots, all the while collecting “Spots”—Cool Spot’s equivalent to Sonic’s rings or Mario’s coins.

The Cool Spot game was well received and managed to earn its developer—Virgin Interactive—multiple video game awards. There was even a sequel to the Cool Spot game, but I don’t remember playing it and according to Wikipedia, “despite excellent visuals, its isometric perspective and unusual controls made it an exceedingly difficult game.”

I hate difficult games. Keep it simple—like the Cool Spot—a dot wearing shades.







Mac Tonight


Having already secured their dominance over children’s fast food, McDonalds sought out to carve up their slice of the adult crowd. Mac Tonight—a jazz singing, crescent moon-faced monstrosity—was the focus of McDonald’s late night dining campaign.

I don’t remember Mac Tonight’s commercials too well; perhaps because McDonalds saved Mac’s ads for older programming and not the cartoons on my television. When it came time to compile this list, I couldn’t even recall Mac’s proper name. Luckily “creepy moon man, McDonalds” was all the data Google required to provide my answer. I don’t think Mac would have made any impression on me if it weren’t for a local nursery that erected its own custom-built scarecrow that bore an uncanny resemblance to Mac Tonight. Coincidence or not, the two are indelibly linked in my mind.

Also worth noting, the Mac Tonight costume was worn by Doug Jones in 27 of the 29 Mac Tonight commercials. You might know Doug from his work as the weird creature in just about every movie ever, including his portrayal of Abe Sapien in both Hellboy films.





Joe Camel

When the American Medical Association accused Camel Cigarettes of using their cartoon camel to appeal to children, R. J. Reynolds swore up and down that they were not marketing their tobacco to kids. Eventually an internal memo was leaked that detailed R. J. Reynolds’ strategy for hooking the younger, more impressionable demographic—Oops! At that point Camel agreed to retire Joe and their camel mascot reverted back to the traditional quadruped.

For some time, I—as an impressionable youngster and a member of Camel’s key demographic— actually believed that Joe Camel had made a cameo in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. During one particular bus ride, two of my more Sci-Fi oriented classmates were discussing Yak Face; one of the weirdo aliens sprinkled throughout Jabba the Hutt’s dungeon; and how they were missing his action figure from their collection.

The original Yak Face action figure had been released towards the tail end of the original Kenner toy line. It was produced in lower quantities than previous figures and it became exceptionally sought after during the Star Wars renascence. Yak Face actually resembles a camel more than his yak namesake, hence his comparison to the anthropomorphic Joe Camel. In retrospect, I don’t believe my friends actually thought that Yak Face and Joe Camel were one in the same, but at the time, my knowledge of Star Wars and its boundless worlds were limited to hearsay.


The California Raisins

From the “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” category, the California Raisins were a befuddling success. I don’t know if the campaign helped the sale of actual raisins, but it certainly did gangbusters for the sale of California Raisins stuff—the first merchandise produced based solely on a commercial property. I can’t say for certain why anthropomorphic raisins appealed to me, but my collection of California Raisins toys would certainly indicate that they did.

The original commercials inspired several spin-offs, including an animated series and multiple Christmas specials. Perhaps the Raisins were so appealing because they were brought to life utilizing stop-motion animation. Today we’re used to our mascots interacting with real people and places thanks to computer animation, but there must have been something special about watching those jazzy Raisins occupying real space as opposed to the traditionally animated commercials.



17 comments:

  1. Great blog! It was a fun trip down memory lane. I had forgotten about the history of the Energizer Bunny! One mascot that I didn't see on your list was Chester Cheetah from Cheetos. It's not easy being cheesy! More blog entries like this, please!

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  3. All of those mascots are awesome! The spot game for the nes/snes was a great, fun game with amazing visuals(at the time, still good nonetheless). I believe the sequel was Spot Goes to Hollywood. That was only released on the Genesis, Playstation and Saturn.

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