Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tony's Ride

Cincinnati supermarket Jungle Jim's International Market is just about the best place around.  I could write dozens of blog entries about it and maybe someday I will.   But, as they say, "the journey of a dozen entries starts with one blog," so let's just talk about a quasi-animatronic Tony the Tiger today.

One of the many unique displays at the store is this Tony the Tiger statue atop a grand carousel type stallion.  The "Two Scoops" Raisin Bran Sun shines down brightly in approval of the rider and his steed as cardboard Keebler Elves look on in awe.  Something is clearly about to go down.  So how do you make the magic happen?

That may be one of the most pushable buttons I've seen in a good long while.  I mean, look at that thing!  Who could possibly walk past this beauty without pushing it?  Nobody I want to know.  So what happens after the pushing takes place?  Let's roll the gif!

Okay, it may seem a little underwhelming to people that hate fun but, to me, it's a masterpiece.  Tony actually talks while he moves but to hear it you'll have to visit the store yourself.  So just soak up the gif while you can.

It's worth mentioning that there's another element to the display.  To the right of Tony are these two characters:

Correct me if I'm wrong but this appears to be a version of Pinocchio applying a hair piece to Geppetto.  Why are they there?  What do they have to do with Kellogg's?  I don't have those answers but for some reason I appreciate the fact that they're there.  Enjoy your shopping!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

About a Boy


We all know that portly young lad who hoists a hamburger to the heavens as he beckons travelers to stop and enjoy some comfort food.   Don't ask me why, but Big Boy restaurants (which have various names in various parts of the country) always seem like the place where people eat when they're on vacation or away from home. And that makes a road trip the perfect story for a Big Boy comic:

As you can probably imagine, this 16 page comic packed with coloring pages, puzzles and a kid's menu doesn't have a strong plot.  The story involves Big Boy and his friends Katie and Tripp heading out to camp at an unnamed National Park.  They head there in what I'm calling the "Big Boymobile," which I think is a huge missed merchandising opportunity.  Here's a couple of looks at BB's sweet ride:

Why weren't we all playing with toy Big Boymobiles as kids?  If they ever made any of these things, I never saw them.  So when the gang gets to the park, Big Boy essentially lectures the other two about how great National Parks are and then (I assume the next day) they put out their campfire.  And of course, for Big Boy's more fervent fans, we get this beefcake tease:

That's it.  That's the story.  It may not seem like much to you but I think it's the perfect "keep the kids busy" length for a family restaurant.  And if you were a kid at Big Boy's in 1981 who was perusing this comic issue, what would you be eating?  Well, these were your options:

Looks pretty good to me.  But before we pay the check and pile back into the car, there's one more thing that's worth noting.  In this issue, Big Boy pays a somewhat arbitrary yet seemingly long overdue homage to...sticks:

Yep, sticks are awesome.  You can't deny that.  They can do anything from scratching an itch to holding a venous snake at bay.  Let's hear it for sticks!

So with that, it's back on the road to the next roadside attraction, National Park or restaurant that's just not in your hometown.  Keep an eye open for Big Boy, he'll be holding up that hamburger for ya.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ashes to Ashes

The Marlboro Man is one of the most iconic and successful marketing campaigns ever but there's always been one huge flaw.  Rugged, grizzled types pose for magazine ads and drip testosterone as they take a pull from a Marlboro cigarette and they cause sales to skyrocket but they are frequently replaced.  Not necessarily to freshen up the campaign but because smoking tends to kill people.

So when it comes to tracking down gravestones of famous people, it shouldn't be too surprising to find several belonging to former Marlboro Men.  But in the "Bull Rider's Reprieve" section of the Mt. Olive Cemetery in Hugo, Oklahoma you can find a grave of a Marlboro Man who is still alive:

Oklahoma cowboy Max "Turk" Robinson got the job as the Marlboro Man just by having the right look.  He was a longtime staple of the rodeo circuit when a photo of him on a horse was published and got the tobacco company's attention.  He had the exact look of an authentic cowboy because he was one.  But he has one unique characteristic that other Marlboro Men don't...which may be why his grave is empty...

He doesn't smoke.  I guess that would be kind of like if Colonel Sanders was a vegetarian but you can't argue with results.  I guess clean living and the cowboy lifestyle has a lot going for it.

Turk is still somewhat active in the rodeo community and still does appearances at Oklahoma casinos and in parades so maybe you can get to meet him someday and take a picture with him not smoking.  So here's to your health!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Helping Hand

 The anthropomorphized hand that assists harried and hurried housewives has a name.  It's Lefty.  He also has a birthday.  It's today.  It's on the other side of the country so I can't go but I'll be there in spirit!  Here's a little tribute that General Mills tweeted out today:

So if you find yourself in Brooklyn today near the party maybe stop by and give him a high five.  And if you're not maybe pick up a box of Hamburger Helper and whip up a batch tonight.  Thanks for the help, Lefty.  You deserve a big hand for your efforts!

UPDATE:  Hamburger Helper tweeted this today

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flash Fried

Previously: Fish Story

Freebie promotional comics have been common for years.  We all breathed a little easier when Captain America fought the Asthma Monster and it was an exciting roller coaster ride when the X-Men visited the State Fair of Texas.  Sure these books are a little cheesy and they are clearly part of the marketing monster we all live with but, intentionally or not, they can be fun.

Fast food restaurants have been taking part in the fun for years with Captain D's setting sail on the four colored seas a few decades ago, among others.  Not to be outdone by a Captain, Colonel Sanders recently decided it was time to jump from the chicken bucket to the comic pages, and thus, we get "The Colonel of Two Worlds" from DC:

I love that instead of the often overused Big Guns of the DCU (Superman & Batman) they used the Flash as the main hero.  It probably helps that he has a hit show on the air currently but, hey, it's his time to shine.

The story begins with the Mirror Master bringing Captain Cold up to date on his latest plan.  Tying in with the New 52 story Forever Evil, MM plans to bring over another ne'er-do-well from the evil Earth-3 to help them with their nefarious plans to rob banks and whatnot.  But instead of a member of the Crime Syndicate, or anyone that might make sense, he chooses the Colonel Sanders of Earth-3: Colonel Sunder!

It soon becomes clear to the two Rogues that this might not have been the best All Star Team-Up since Sunder's plan seems to involve doing practically nothing while the two of them are forced to take thankless jobs in his crappy restaurant:

Sunder steps up his game after awhile when he starts glory hounding for attention by bragging about how bad his chicken is and how little effort he puts into it.  It can be assumed that this is a common advertising method on Earth-3.  Possibly the Bizarro World as well.

Well that's about all a certain Southern Earth-1 gentleman can stand and so Colonel Sanders decides to enter the fray:

Hey, remember how the Flash was supposed to be in this?  Well, he finally makes his appearance at this point, complete with an all-new, unnecessarily redesigned costume that includes unnecessary extra elements.  The Flash costume has historically been revered for being sleek and streamlined but those days are over:

Green Lantern is also involved but he really doesn't do anything of any consequence.  He just seems to be hanging out, which I guess super heroes do from time to time.  In fact, the Flash really doesn't do much either.  The real hero of the story is Colonel Sanders and he proves he is a man of action as the two Justice Leaguers try to catch up.  It doesn't take long for Sanders to run afoul of Sunder and we get the Colonel vs. Colonel showdown we've been craving:

Not only does Colonel Sanders' military training immediately kick in but he seems to have an overflowing bucket of special skills and possible super powers: from hurling a table into Sunders' "Nugget Gun" defense system, to being able to withstand the dreaded "Pink Slime Ray."  He's able to shrug it off with what appears to be another white suit that he has on underneath his signature threads:

 As you can guess, good eventually triumphs over evil while the Flash is protecting bystanders from the deep fried fracas.  Captain Cold and the Mirror Master don't do a whole lot either.  At this point these seem to realize the error inherent in teaming up with an Earth-3 tyrant who only seems to be interested in bragging about how bad his food is.  So once things cool down they all head to their local KFC franchise to break biscuits:

And if that isn't a happy enough ending for you the Colonel shows why is he known far and wide as a compassionate warrior and offers the two Rogues the best fate ex-cons can have: full time employment at Kentucky Fried Chicken!

 I know we are all hoping that this story remains in continuity.  The potential is nearly endless.  I see a story line where Colonel Sanders is offered Justice League membership but he turns it down because he thinks they're all a bunch of jive turkeys.  Or maybe a spin-off title featuring Captain Cold and Mirror Master working their way up the chain to finally owning their own KFC franchise?  Once that happens...imagine the shenanigans!  Imagine them!!!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Shell Stop

Billboards come and go by legends never die.  That seems to be the motto of the Planter's facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  They wave the flag loud and proud in the form of a 30 foot Mr. Peanut on their lawn who points in the direction of where the nuts are.

Mr. Peanut has been one of the top advertising icons for a long time and the folks at the Fort Smith plant are happy to see him around.  So much so, that the visage of the legendary legume decorates the premises' perimeter with these smaller statues along the fence:

There are two realities in the world:  you can never have enough Mr. Peanut and you can never have enough photo ops.  Planters seems to understand this quite well and have provided a nice opportunity for a sit down with the Big Guy:

So on your next road trip to Arkansas, you've got a great opportunity for a pit stop to sit and tell your story, "Forrest Gump-style," to one of the top Promotional Mascots in the business.  Just be careful if you have a peanut allergy, because even Mr. P's bench is shaped like a peanut.

Horsing Around

The Budweiser Clydesdales have been making appearances for Budweiser since the repeal of prohibition and still tour and make appearances today.   A few years back I got to meet the legendary equine team and shoot some video of them and their trainer.  Check it out:

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Trying My Luck

It's safe to say that the best part of a cereal with marshmallows is the marshmallows.  Occasionally, as a youngster, I would eat around the marshmallows of my Frankenberry or Lucky Charms and save them for last.  I would then be left with a customized, marshmallow only, cereal creation.  And then I would dine like a king.

But the true "Marshmallow Only Cereal" was just a fantasy...until now.  Lucky Charms is giving away a king's ransom of the previously imaginary delight and I recently tried my luck.

On the side of the box our pal Lucky beckons us to take a journey to the Lucky Charms website to enter the contest by entering the code (from specially marked packages).  And if you thought you'd game the system by just getting the code off the box, you're out of luck.  It's buried deep inside:

So you enter the code and find out if you won or not, right?  No, Lucky's not quite done with you yet.  First you must pass the leprechaun's memory test...which is remarkably similar to the old game "Memory."

I played.  I won (they let you keep playing until you win.  It's not like I'm super good at Memory.)  I was riding high but it wasn't meant to last.  I may have won the battle but I ultimately lost the war since the next screen was the standard "You lose, loser!" screen:

So I live to fight another day.  And, yes, I'll definitely try again.  After all...I'm always after their Lucky Charms.

Fish Story

If I ever became the owner of a dockside tavern that catered to sailors I would name it either "The Pickled Herring" or the "Recurring Case of Scurvy." I assume I'd be really good at it and would eventually own a chain of successful "fisheterias" that would rival fast food restaurant chain "Captain D's."

And much like Captain D's, I would give out educational, nautical themed comic books. Not sure what the hell I'm talking about? Well then check out the "Captain D's Exciting Adventures" freebie comic from 1980:

The comic makes an effort to both maintain the restaurant's nautical (yet anti-pirate) theme and be educational. It tells the story of Captain Samuel Reid, the "Hidden Hero of New Orleans" and goes great with a side of hush puppies and coleslaw.

As Captain D says above, Captain Reid became a national hero by a losing a battle with several British ships and then went on to play a part in designing the America flag. Like many fish eating Americans I've been completely oblivious to the details of this guy's career (and his existence). This was something that Captain D just couldn't abide so Reid's life story has been immortalized in comic book form starting with his birth...

...and leading up to the day he took command of his ship, the General Armstrong:

This thirty year process takes up one page of the comic. That's probably for the best.

The story kicks into high gear though when the good Captain runs afoul of several British warships (which, at the time, was not a good thing).

You're probably assuming that after a lengthy and bloody skirmish Captain Reid figured out some Captain Kirk-esque maneuver to beat the odds and win the battle. Nope. You've seen too many movies. He lost his ship and hid in a monastery:

"Goodbye ship!" Don't feel too bad though. Apparently his pummeling delayed the British long enough for the U.S. to win the Battle of New Orleans thus ending the War of 1812. Look at that! You just learned something from a comic book!

And as Captain D promised, Reid went on to design the American flag...

...which would almost immediately be forgotten due to the cunning machinations of that glory hound Betsy Ross.

Now no promotional,freebie comic from the 70's/80's would be complete without a section of insanely easy puzzles and games. This one is no exception and provides some brain teasers that I can only assume were meant for children with vision impairments:

And with that we say, "Bon Voyage!"

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Sinclair Dinosaurs of Oklahoma

Years ago, in Route 66's prime, the roads were packed with vacationers, salesmen and entrepreneurs who drove up and down the back roads and highways chasing the American experience.  Gas stations and motels were in fierce competition to get the attention and patronage of these weary travelers so many of them got creative.

Sinclair Oil had a dinosaur theme in their advertising and so it was only natural to have some dinosaurs at their stations welcoming the empty tanks of road weary wanderers.  The bright green statues are few and far between these days but lucky travelers can still find a few at select Sinclair stations.  And, of all places. the great state of Oklahoma has several you can spot on your next road trip like this one in Tahlequah:

This is a pretty standard example but seek and ye shall find some more colorful examples.  One of the best places to stop on an Oklahoma road trip is Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies in Davis along I-35.  You can pick up lunch, dessert and a selfie with a red version of the dinosaur that stands watch on their roof:

Further north up the interstate you can find an even more colorful guy in a very colorful place.  The Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley has pretty much every super hero, cartoon character and scifi monster you can think of.  And among the heroes and villains you can find this guy:

Even farther north is an example of another dino with a dramatic story.  You wouldn't know it to look at him now but a few years back, this dinosaur in Norman lost his head:

As you can see, he's made a full recovery but for a while he was completely headless.  How did this happen?  How did it get resolved?  News 9 reports:

Now, of course, you can find these guys outside of the Sooner State.  You just have to keep your eyes open on the road (which you should be doing anyway).  But if you're lucky, you can see the balloon version from the comfort of your own home.  After a long absence, the Sinclair Dinosaur Balloon returned to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade last year:

So if you want to find a couple of these guys then consider your next road trip to be a dinosaur hunting expedition.  You never know what you'll see on the back roads.