California Raisins

Heard it from the Grapevine.

I was bound to do this for an article eventually and I’m sure you all predicted I would cause when forgotten advertisements comes to our minds we’re likely to think of California Raisins as one of them. If you remember seeing these guys on TV when they were new, then you’re between the ages of 28-75. For me I remembered a little bit of these guys, except I wasn’t born yet when these characters were created, so I only know the advertisements that aired in the early 90s. Since I was born in the late 80s, I only have memories of what the 90s was like. Anyways on to the topic which is all about the raisins themselves and how it made a big impact in our society.

It cost $50,000 dollars to advertise raisins in Back to the Future.

The California Raisins made their debut back in 1986, when the California Raisin Advisory Board came up with an idea of a commercial thanks to a suggestion from Seth Werner who comments that they’ve done everything except dancing raisins singing “I heard it through the Grapevine”. Since they failed to make the sales of raisins improve with the attempt to have raisins as a product placement in Back to the Future Part 1, they decided to go with this approach. Sadly Pepsi & Burger King had more exposure than raisins in that movie, where the only product placement raisins had was the part that shows Red the Bum sleeping on a bus bench advertising raisins. They spent $50 grand on reassurance that raisins will play a plot element in the film like how Reese’s Pieces did in E.T. Unfortunately, Bob Gale & Robert Zemeckis didn’t see the raisins being that important so they excluded the scene which Marty Mcfly is seen eating raisins from a bowl and only kept the bus bench scene. The Raisin company was out raged that the filmmakers didn’t focus on the raisins and threaten them to sue. But the raisin company only received half of what they spent on the advertising and  they just decided to not take action on the issue. So after that incident they pitched the dancing raisin idea to Will Vinton’s company(that’s right the same company that created The Noid) to create the commercial using their talented staff of stop motion animators to create a group of singing dancing raisins and thus a legend was born. To the Raisin Advisory Board, the commercial was a surprise hit and made it possible for more commercials to be made from the Will Vinton company. The California Raisins have given raisins a whole new image and influence more people to eat them. The characters had personality, talent, and style that ended up being one of the reasons people loved them so much. They were admired by millions of people, they were treated like an actual rock band.

It pains me to see a kid steal at such a young age.

This is It?

Various celebrates have been associated with the Raisins themselves. To name a few, the Will Vinton company managed to get other famous singers to appear in the commercials to boost up the popularity of the raisins. Like Ray Charles who appears as a stop motion puppet complete with shades and a piano for him to play “I heard through the grapevine”, the same was done for Michael Jackson except the first part had him as a raisin then as a stop motion puppet. This was back when he looked normal, and before he started to look more “different” in his later years. Ironically he also appeared as a Will Vinton stop motion puppet in his film Moon Walker(I haven’t finished watching it, so no comment on the film at this time). Like Alvin & the Chipmunks, the Raisins landed on record deals where they ended up being on four soundtrack albums between the years 1987-1988. “I Heard it through the Grapevine” landed on the Billboard Hot 100. Besides the Raisins becoming Grammy worthy candidates, it was the animated specials and TV shows people would remember them the most.

Often portrays a smooth talking character.

The first of the made for TV animations of the Raisins appeared in was a 1987 X-Mas TV special called “Claymation Christmas Celebration” made by the Will Vinton Company which won an Emmy. In November 1988, another TV special was made called “Meet the Raisins!”, which was also made by the Will Vinton Company and was nominated for an Emmy. After two TV special, the raisins starred in their own Saturday Morning cartoon series called “The California Raisins Show”. Rather than the stop motion animation used for these characters, they were instead animated by the Murakami-Wolf-Swenson company (makers of the original Ninja Turtles & 11 episodes of 80s Alvin) with tradition cel animation(way before 2-D animation was done digitally). The cartoon lasted for 13 episodes and featured the voice talents of Brian Cummings(Sokolov from Snake Eater), Jim Cummings(Bonkers), & Cam Clarke(Liquid Snake himself!).

Commonly does the voice of an obnoxious villian.

The California Raisins were no more sometime in the mid 90s. They made one final comeback in 2001 for Hardee’s Cinnamon n’ Raisin biscuits, and after that the iconic characters were gone once more. The California Raisins have made a big difference in America’s culture as they prove you can make a boring product sell well if you have a really good mascot to support the product. Even though the Raisins are no longer advertised for the raisin companies, the character still appear on the California Raisin Company’s official website. While the characters have a place at the Smithsonian an accomplishment that’s very worthy even for a group of commercial characters. The merchandise on the Raisins are a popular item in various collector’s stores and auctions. I’ve gathered several commercials and the 2002 episode of Unwrapped with former Double Dare Game Show Host and common guest from the Weinerville Show Marc Summers! Tune in next week for a special article on the TV promos of the Rudy & Gogo World Famous Cartoon Show.

References: – The TV show


Posted on December 21, 2011, in Advertise of the Week and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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