Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Memorable Commercials from 90's Children's Television Timeslots

Don't even get me started on 90's commercials. Okay, feel free to offer some rough prompts, but be prepared for no foreseeable ending to this downright deluge of cheesy wonderfulness. In order to best serve you, the reader, and to prevent 10,000 word-posts, I've conveniently narrowed the categorical content of this particular topic.

There are countless memorable commercials from the 1990s. White and khaki-clad swing dancers urged us to shop at the Gap, beer promoters coined the frequently quoted "WHAZZUP?!", and soda drinking spokesmen asked us to Make 7 Up (Y)ours. What in particular interests me, however, are those commercials that seemed to play on endless loop during child-geared programming. Whether it was Nickelodeon or Saturday morning cartoons, these ads were shown again and again and again until we could recite the voice-overs right along with them.

This repeated airing, of course, was not without its consequences. It seems (and rather unfortunately, at that) that most of my mind has been crammed so full of 90s song lyrics and television advertisements that I can no longer accurately absorb current information. Someone gives me verbal directions of how to get somewhere and I immediately go blank, but I can sing Bone Thugs N Harmony's "Crossroads" in its entirety without blinking an eye. (By the way, if anyone would like to stop me at any point on this stroll down memory lane, you can meet me at the crossroads (crossroads, crossroads)).

90s-crammed brain aside, let's take a look at some of the absurdly hackneyed advertising that aired during our favorite programs:


It was years before I actually took French and could translate the wondrously useless phrases uttered by the Muzzyites. For the longest time, I was certain that "Je suis la jeune fille" was the dazzlingly appropriate response to any French inquiry. Only later did I learn that litserally translated, my all-purpose French meant "I am the young girl." I was right! Perfect in any situation!

"Excuse me, where is the metro?" "I am the young girl."
"Could you direct me to the cafe?" "I am the young girl."
"Which way to the Eiffel Tower?" "I am the young girl."

Foolproof, I tell you. That gorilla-type thing always scared the bejeezus out of me also. I liked the idea of dancing cartoons teaching me languages, but I certainly would have preferred the cute and dainty to the hulking and clunky.

Better Blocks

I'm not quite sure what it was about these things that were so enticing. It was incredibly unlikely that I or any child I knew would ever have the patience to sit down and labor tirelessly over a bunch of crappy second-rate plastic blocks. I never actually saw the things in person, but I imagine the effort that went into making the once-coveted butterfly was in no way compatible with my attention span as a child.

I've usually found the jumpy excitement of the voice-over to be inversely related to the actual fun of the toy: if it were really all that great, it would sell itself. I did desperately want the glow-in-the-dark version, though. When they turned off that light and spun that glowing blockful carousel, my little heart fluttered.

Topsy Tail

My sister and I actually shared one of these, and I can tell you for certain that it was never used. The ease with which tails are topsied in the commercial? It's in no way related to the actual ease of real-life topsying. I'm sure any male readers were and continue to be generally befuddled by female fascination with these types of tools, but take my word for it when I say we get this sort of bad-hairstying-aid trance. Those ponytails are butt-fugly, but dammit, if those girls could turn their ponytails inside out, well, then so would I.

The first time I saw that god-awful Bump-It! commercial on TV, I immediately thought of my now begotten Topsy Tail. It's good to know that the trend of useless overpriced hair styling aids still has a veritable market of consumers.

Hooked on Phonics

Curse you, retro-centric YouTubers, how could you ignore this gem of a 90s ad? You've uploaded everything else. Sure, I like a good Susan Boyle performance or panda sneeze as much as the next person, but where's my Hooked on Phonics commercial? In case you are curious or need a little refresher course in how and for whom Hooked on Phonics could work, look no further than the above advertisement compilation, from :30 to :60. You're welcome.

The Hooked on Phonics tagline, "Hooked on Phonics worked for me!" was repeatedly mocked throughout the 90s. Parody after parody was churned out in response to the cheesy slogan. It wasn't just in the wording, but in the execution. It was more like, "Hooked on Phonics....worked for me!" Sure, I love literacy and all, but calm yourselves, spokespeople.


Wow, that guy must have outstandingly powerful quadriceps. His squatty walk takes a lot more lower body strength than you'd think. This commercial was certainly memorable on ridiculousness alone, but probably also struck a painful chord with the kids whose parents were saving "a whole dollar!" by avoiding brand-name sugar cereals. These oft-maligned knockoffs certainly weren't buying any of us the necessary currency of playground clout and credibility. I understand that there are no fundamental differences between Lucky Charms and Marshmallow Mateys, but I would prefer if my cereal didn't come in an industrial-size feedbag.

Hopefully this has also helped all of you realize why your short term memory has been on the fritz: it's crammed to the brim with bagged cereal commercial choreography and dreams of bendable blocks.


Anonymous said...

I totally forgot about Better Blocks! Wow! Haha! I don't think I ever wanted them, though...

Katie said...

too funny!

Sally-Sal said...

Muzzy scared me, too. He was like the Bigfoot of the 90's.

ChinkyGirLMeL said...

Muzzy= scary

Sadako said...

Muzzy!!! oh he was creepy.

Couture Carrie said...

Ha! Love this post!

Whaaaaaazzzzzuppp I need a topsy-tail asap!


Cee said...

You crack me up! I loved Muzzy, and I didn't think anyone else remembered "it"...maybe because when I mention Muzzy in conversations today people look at me like I actually am a "gorilla-type" thing.

Also I have to say hooked on phonics did not work for me. My mom got it because I taught myself how to read and thus had no phonics skills, however she got so mad trying to teach me she ripped up one of the books in a rage. It was pretty funny

Anonymous said...

I totally forgot about Muzzy!
And I'd like to say that the topsy tail bit made me go "hm.." and I got up, dug through my bathroom drawers and - TA DA! I still have my Topsy Tail (which was last used by me in approximately 1996)

OhMyLaughter said...

I wanted Better Blocks so badly. My mom never bought them though :-(
I think she thought they were a piece of crap compared to Legos.

Hanako66 said...


I wanted a topsy tail so darn bad!

Amber said...

Omg. I wanted a topsy tail SOOOO bad but my mom wouldn't order me one!!

LiLu said...

We totally had all the Muzzies! My sister and I would wait until our parents left and just watch it in English and mock it mercilessly.

These are the moments...

Stacie said...

I did the SAME THING with the Je suis la jeune fille! :) I took French in college probably in a subconscious effort to recreate this gem of my youth. I went to Paris this year and I kept saying "Je suis la jeune fille," because by now I've forgotten most of the french I learned. Muzzy, however, lives on. :)

Shannon said...

TopsyTail!! I completely forgot about that!!!

bibberly said...

I still remember the exact wording of the review of Topsy Tail in Seventeen magazine:
"Note to the clueless: you can topsy your own tail at home for free."

Laina said...

LOL, this blog rocks!!! I don't know most of these 'cause I'm Canadian and alot of them didn't play here. Plus I wasn't around til '92. :P The commericial I can still sing along to word for word is for Marineland. In case anyone wonders. Oh, and this one: Which isn't technically a commerical, but along with the House Hippos (which I want one of - is burned into my mind so even now I can sing along with it. Sad, but true. :P

ColdFusion said...

For the record, I think Marshmallow Mateys are way better than Lucky Charms.
Nostalgic commercials are a heck of a thing aren't they? you never think about them and they don't ever rerun

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