I’ve mentioned repeated on this website that something I love to do is watch old television commercials. YouTube is a treasure trove of 1980s and 1990s commercials; my favorite collections available on the website are the holiday themed ones. Christmas is by far my favorite (both holiday and collection, just wait until we get to December) but the Halloween offerings are also fairly excellent. I recently watched a collection by a channel entitled Before and After These Messages. The video features Halloween commercials broken out by year, beginning in 1985 and ending in 2016. I decided to select an assortment of late 1980s and early 1990s commercials to highlight, which I have done below. If you enjoy it, you should check out the entire video, located here. Perhaps the most iconic 1980s Halloween commercial is for McDonald’s Happy Meal buckets but that one wasn’t in the compilation, so I made due with the header image instead.
McDonald’s “Scared Silly” (1985)
We may not have gotten buckets, but McDonald’s is still represented here. It’s hard not to love McNuggets dressed as Universal monsters, and they made one of the best Happy Meal toys every invented (and I talked about them in the very first article for this website). The McNuggets are so lovable that you almost forget that they represent something that McDonald’s is trying to get children to eat. It’s like parents who own a farm encouraging their kids to name the beef cattle. Apart from making the food adorable, the other strange thing about this commercial is that it’s essentially a commercial for dipping sauce, a free item. Good to know they have it, though?
McDonald’s Halloween Gift Certificates + Roger Rabbit (1988)
Yes, it’s another McDonald’s commercial, but. I said but. But I think it’s important to highlight because the current generations need to know that gift certificates used to be big business at McDonald’s. McDonald’s used to hawk the hell out of gift certificates. I completely understand why, it’s the same concept as coupons, plus you make some money from selling the certificates themselves. You get kids in to redeem their ice cream cone or small fry or whatever, and you sell a couple more meals on top of that. It’s a good scam (for legal purposes it is not a scam) that McDonald’s ran with for years. This particular commercial for them is great because 1) it’s narrated by Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster himself, and 2) it has a Roger Rabbit tie-in. If you bought the movie, you could send in proof of purchase along with a McDonald’s certificate to get a Roger Rabbit doll. I never did this, and I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing that’s kept me from leading a fulfilling life.
Pizza Hut “The Pizza Head Show” (1990)
Oh Pizza Head, you beautiful Mr. Bill ripoff. I guess since the commercials were directed by Walter Williams, the creator of Mr. Bill, it’s okay. Plus, Pizza Hut is the happiest place on Earth (screw you, Disney). The series of Pizza Head commercials were fun for the same reason Mr. Bill was fun; an innocent Claymation guy gets tortured for laughs. There aren’t any stakes so the audience can enjoy the torment. Pizza Head’s chief tormenter is Steve, or in this version of the commercial, Count Steve. Count Steve is a pizza cutter. On the surface this makes sense that they would be enemies, except that Pizza Head is a slice. Unless Pizza Head was born independent of an entire pie, he’s already been sliced. What more does he have to fear? It also bears mentioning that this is a commercial for stuffed crust pizza, and Pizza Head is trying to get some stuffed crust from Pizza Hut. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for Pizza Head when he’s trying to eat what may not be a brother of his but at the very least is a cousin?
Coors Light Elvira Commercial (1991)
Before I really understood sexual attraction I knew that there were three women who made me feel something: Vanna White, Dolly Parton, and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I may not have understood that Elvira was sexy, but I knew that I liked her. I feel like Elvira played the role of a safe, sexy woman for adults and prepubescents alike, because she was clearly a campy version of a sexy woman, somebody who didn’t take herself seriously. She was the spokesperson for Coors Light for a long time, and it was through these commercials that I even knew who Elvira was. I associated her with Halloween and a beer that I had never had, because I was 11. Later I didn’t have Coors Light because I’m not a beer drinker and if I was I wouldn’t be a Coors Light Drinker anyway. I’ll always have Elvira to thank for kind of being into Goth women, though.
How a Count Eats a Reese’s (1992)
I’ll never know how Elvira eats a Reese’s but thanks to this commercial at least I know how a count would do it, if this didn’t fly entirely in the face of established vampire lore. Vampires don’t eat peanut butter, Reese’s. Honestly I expected better from you. This was part of a long running campaign about how “there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s.” I see it as a spiritual descendant of the “what would you do for a Klondike bar” commercials, except with a far superior candy. Reese’s happens to be the one word that to this day I misspell 70% of the time the first time I attempt to type it, and frankly it’s a banner day for me because I nailed it every time in this entry. Also I pronounce it “Ree-sees.” Deal with it.
Fruity Pebbles “Ghost” (1995)
I’m including this as the final entry because of the ubiquity of these commercials, not because I have any particular affinity for Fruity Pebbles. In fact, I’d say that my recall of Fruity Pebbles commercials is directly inverse to the number of times I’ve actually eaten the cereal. We got Fruity Pebbles maybe three to four times during my entire childhood, yet I still know every single word of the Fruity Pebbles Christmas commercial song. Bad cereal, commercials total earworms. Also I like the touch of Barney wearing two costumes in this.
What are some of your favorite childhood Halloween commercials? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter
Missed picking up the Roger Rabbit VHS and getting the doll with your McDonald’s gift certificates? Via the link below you can get it on Blu-Ray instead!
Cute article. I loved the toys, Halloween pails, Christmas toys etc. they offerred when you were little. Thanks for the reminder.
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