Thursday, 5 April 2012

1960s Kool Aid Commercials

I've been feeling a little uninspired with what to write as an extra post so I decided to find through my Facebook chat archives on what Greg Duffell has sent me previously and personally I find them interesting and even giving me animator identifications on some of them.

In the early 1960s' Warner Bros. cartoons began to create commercials featuring Looney Tunes characters as well as the addition to their television projects (like the Bugs Bunny Show). It was also the first time (at least according to Toonheads) to feature classic cartoon characters in commercials. A lot of the veterans worked on these commercials including veterans such as Tex Avery, Rod Scribner, etc. They created many brands for commercials but most notably Kool-Aid or Tang.

In case you don't know; Kool-Aid was a pretty popular drink back then where they had their own Kool-Aid mascot.Who was known as the Kool-Aid Man.

The Kool-Aid mascot had the catchphrase for shouting "Oh yeah" that was featured a lot in later commercials after the 1960s (I think it started in the 1980s the catchphrase although I don't know the origin of the Kool-Aid mascot) - which has been spoofed in 'Family Guy' quite a number of times. So it is pretty well-known over at the U.S. while in the UK it's very unfamilar since it's not sold over here.

Anyway; enough of the Kool-Aid talk; here is some of the commercials that I'll show here and will make some comments on:

The first one I'm going to show is a 1960's commercial with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd directed by Tex Avery with Ben Washam animation. Tex Avery went downhill in his career in the 1950s' as he was laid-off from MGM in 1953 and briefly went to work for Walter Lantz. He spent most of his career in the 1960s as he directed most of the Kool-Aid "Looney Tunes" commercials. His comic timing which we all know is very sharp and exaggerated is much more toned down when working here. The timing of Elmer rolling around the floor with the Kool-Aid still on the table is rather sloppy since it doesn't fall off but this was animation television quality back then. The Ben Washam animation is not bad at all and the shot of Bugs slurping the drink at the 0:39 mark is pretty neat timing. It's pretty easy to tell this is Ben Washam as it has his fancy ears and the pointy front teeth - a definite trait of Washam when drawing Bugs.

 Elmer's voice here is rather grating and the voice actor is actually Hal Smith - who was well known for the voice of Owl in the 'Winnie the Pooh' animated films made int he 1960s and 1970s - and also was in The Andy Griffith Show. Of course; Arthur Q. Bryan died in 1959; and Smith was his replacement - but his voice is just wrong for Elmer. I mean Elmer's voice isn't gruff at all. All of these commercials of course would've been very low-budget. Of course; animation in the 1960s was dark times in Hollywood but the animators were kept very busy.

This commercial was made in 1966 and this one has animation by Manuel Perez - who was a longtime animator at Warner Bros. from the 1940's to the mid-1950s. He is probably best known by historians and animation buffs as "Friz's whipping boy" since Friz apparently used to rant at him - at least according to Greg Dufell, too since he went on to hate Friz. Bugs here shows bugs round eyes that are drawn by Manny Perez who seem to have a trait of drawing dark pupils. This commercial is shot in live-action with animation combined it as it focuses on a little boy with freckles (not very appealing child; don't you think?) named Jimmy who complains of having "no-one to play with" as Bugs sings a pointless song about making friends with Kool-Aid and suddenly Jimmy becomes the most popular kid in the neighbourhood.

I don't like this commercial very much at all since the song is pretty cheap and poor; the animation quality isn't very good - and is it me or are those kids in the advert are very unappealing in terms of the personality here; and it doesn't seem very convincing that Kool-Aid raises friends; it's just making him popular because the children want to have a drink - that's why it's attracting a lot of people. I do not know who the director of that commercial was but it certainly didn't appeal to me. Did Friz Freleng direct Kool-Aid commercials along with Tex Avery who directed most of them. I don't even know if Avery directed this one but it probably seems a little unlikely since it's a different style to his directing.


Here is another commercial that features some funny animation by Rod Scribner and Tex Avery's timng isn't bad here. Although I imagine animating on commercials for the old timers was the downer part; but Scribner's quality here is still pretty good. Scribner was probably already a nervous wreck by that point since he suffered from depression from his first wife and was sent to clinics. This is Hal Smith doing Fudd again; and Mel Blanc doing Bugs (well; I didn't need to say that) but Blanc did a lot of work on commercials around that time.

The timing on that cartoon is pretty good as it's shown here even though this is  definitely not top-notch Avery but animation was already declining in the 1960s in terms of quality. The facial expressions of Bugs shouting "Why I'll be a rabbit's uncle" is Scribner all over with the funny looks on Bugs. From the examples I've seen already (even from the first two commercials) Scribner's animation is more loose than the animation; notice he moves Bugs' ears up and down when he wins 1st prize. The TV quality is APPALLING but at least I like the animation and commercial more than the first two.

This is another commercial directed by Tex Avery and also animation by Rod Scribner. That wasn't a commercial Duffell sent me but I could tell this was Scribner and Avery since it looks like Scribner's Bugs with the angular ears he draws on Bugs and also Avery's timing can sum that up. It also has Scribner's funny drawings here. I'm not going to go into much detail since I already mentioned Avery and Scribner at the top but I like how loose the animation is since Scribner makes his characters move lively even on low-budget commercials which he worked on for most of the remainder of his life.Look at 0:32 on the YouTube when Elmer shouts "Oh no"; Elmer has the wrinkles that Scribner loved to use when working for Bob Clampett in the 1940s.

That is all I'll post about the Kool-Aid commercials that I will talk about. I don't know about you but I find these commercials rather fascinating in terms of animation historic views.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice post. I've never seen these commercials. Good job.