Here’s another mascot I was bound to do eventually. As well as another mascot that made a big impact towards the American Culture for a lifetime. And that mascot is none other than Taco Bell’s Chihuahua. Before Taco Bell became controversial due to health issues, reports of food poisoning, and the lack of info on what’s inside their meat. The mid 90s was a more simpler time for the company, and the Taco Bell Dog represented that era. So without further a-do let’s talk about the Taco Bell Dog.
Back in September 1997, Taco Bell & TBWA Worldwide company created a commercial about a chihuahua who craves for Taco Bell. The effect of a dog talking was done in the same fashion as other live action talking animal medias by the use of computers to make it seem like the dog was talking. Voiced by Carlos Alazraqui(Rocko himself), while a total of two different dogs were used to portray the mascot. The first dog was name Dinky while the one you see for the remainder of commercials was Gidget Chipperton. The first commercial of the dog was an instant hit, once people heard him say “Yo Quiro Taco Bell”(I want some Taco Bell) the dog became a celebrity. Thus a series of commercials were made for the next four years featuring the dog as a Che Guevara impersonator, hanging out with Zilla, & teaming with Colonel Sanders & a random Pizza Hut Delivery Woman(an article for next week). The one-liners and the suave attitude the dog has towards anything that’s offered on the menu at Taco Bell was what made him so memorible. During the 90s there wasn’t a living person who wouldn’t know who this dog was. The most memorable commercial would have to be the one with Ricardo Montalban making a cameo appearance. To those of you who are between the ages of 57-34 would know him best as Mr. Roarke of Fantasy Island or Ramado from Escape from the Planet of the Apes/Conquest of the Planet of the Apes while those of you between the ages of 33-20 would know him best as Armondo Guitierrez from Freakazoid. The dog eventually received merchandising deals that includes bobble heads and talking plushies(which I still own one that’s somewhere in my closet). Beisdes the “Yo Quiro Taco Bell” quote, the dog has used other memorible quotes like “Drop the chalupa!” which became immortalized on the Sportcenter channel. “Viva Gorditas!” which was used for the dog’s revolutionary commercials and finally “Uh-oh. I think I’m going to need a bigger box” for the Zilla commercials.
The Taco Bell Dog’s popularity came to an end in 2001, for what reason? There were numberous reasons what Taco Bell no longer uses the dog for their ads. First off, the taco Bell corperation ended its relationship with TWBA along with a replacement president after store sales fell 6% in the second quarter of the year 2000. Secondly there were rumors that the dog past away when it was alive and well. Other reasons involved Latin Americans accusing the dog to be a cultural stereotype. With support of this claim Carlos Alazraqui’s voice actor friend Tom Kenny(Hefer from Rocko & Spongebob himself) said that Hispanic advocacy groups lobbying for the end of the campaign led to the cancellation of the dog’s commercials. Which I find that fact to be a bunch of bull. If Latin Americans had issues towards the Taco Bell Dog, then why was Speedy Gonzales pardoned when they told Warner Bros. they weren’t offended by the mouse. Not to mention Speedy Gonzales, Slowpoke Rodridges, and every single Looney Tune that takes place in Mexico are more stereotype material compared to the Taco Bell Dog commercials.
The Taco Bell dog would make one final appearance in a 2002 Geico commercial where he attends a Geico Spokesperson Audition, which we see a waiting room filled with “Possible Geico Stars”. The Geico Gecko himself was next and right when he approaches the door he comes across the previous audition who was the Taco Bell Dog. The Gecko says hello to him, but the dog wasn’t too happy about seeing another talking animal trying to compete with him which he reply “Ah, great a talking gecko.” The Geico Gecko has remained a mascot for Geico much longer than Taco Bell had their own dog for a mascot. Since he’s still widely used for Geico, he’s no where close to being a forgotten character as of yet. Though, I’ll se about doing a Geico article in the future, since they had so many gimmicks and mascots over the years besides the gecko.
In 2003, Taco Bell lost a lawsuit by two Michigan men, who pitched the idea of the dog to Taco Bell 6 years earlier. The company turn them down, but took the idea with TWBA as their own creation. After the two guys sued the company, they received $30.1 million plus $12 million in additional interest three months later. Taco Bell in turn sued their former partner TWBA with a statement that they should have been aware of the conflicts. On July 21, 2009; Gidget the Taco Bell dog passed away at age 15 due to a stroke. The dog was cremated, and the ashes were retained by its owner Sue Chimeny.
Despite Taco Bell no longer using a dog for their ads, Taco Bell Dog will always be remembered for being part of Taco Bell’s more peaceful era. All of the merchandise on the dog can be found at various auctions and collector stores. While the one liners he mutters are often quoted in certain TV shows, movies, or sporting events. So after telling the history about this dog, I like to wrap this article up with every single Taco Bell Dog commercial I could find. For next week will be the long waited KFC, Taco Bell, & Pizza Hut crossover commercials.
Upon a popular request, I decided that this week’s article will be about a long forgotten series of a licensed toy line. In this case a 1970’s toy line based off of several anime mechas, two tokusatsu mechas and two of Toho’s iconic monsters, Gojira(Japanese for Godzilla) & Rodan. Back in the late 70s to early 80s, Mattel made a series of toys called the Shogun Warriors. Rights obtain from Popy Toy company in 1979 starting with a total of four toys to start off with. Which were Godzilla, Raideen, Mazinger Z, & Dragun. It wasn’t long until they became a hit at toy stores mainly due to kids discovering the toys can fire missiles which was the main reason they became a success at various department stores of the late 70s. Mattel expanded the line up by adding more mechas like Gaiking, Daimos, & Grendizer. Like many toys in the 70s, the Shogun Warriors were a liability towards kid safety requirements. In this case a lot of adults were concern with the spring-loaded missiles that could hurt kids by poking their eyes out or choke on them upon trying to swallow them or any other small parts. After reports of these such injuries, Mattel as well as other toy companies had to comply with the new requirements for their toys to be acceptable for selling. This meant all of the missiles had to be attached to the Shogun Warriors, but not be able to fire them, which made them less fun. Due to this and declining sales the toy line disappeared after no more than two years in production. There was also a comic book series made by Marvel at the time this toy line was made. It was a 20 issue series written by Doug Moench(creator of Black Mask, Deathlok, & Moon Knight) & artwork by Herb Trimpe(First artist to draw Wolverine for publication). The series had Fantastic 4 & Iron Man involved with the Shogun Warriors in the story, however after Mattel lost the rights to the toys so did Marvel. In the final issue, the Shogun Warriors were destroyed and that was the last time Marvel was associated with the mechas themselves. If you remember owning the comic or toys of the Shogun Warriors when you were under the age of 12, then you’re between the ages of 44-37. After lecturing the history on this franchise let’s talk about the toys.
If you already noticed the toy looking weird, don’t worry you’re not illusinating; that’s exactly what the toy looked like when it was being displayed at various toy stores in America of the 1979. Why does Godzilla not look like what he did in the Showa Era Godzilla films? That’s a good question, cause even I’m puzzled why he looks like he had plastic surgery after getting punch by someone like Megalon or Gigan. I’m guessing Mattel didn’t had the rights to use Godzilla’s likeness so they changed his appearance to avoid getting sued by Toho. It’s a similar case to how Hanna-Barabara Godzilla didn’t had the trademark roar due to licensing issues so they hired Ted Cassidy to do the roar of Godzilla. Not to mention that cartoon being one of the reasons people assume Godzilla was originally green when he wasn’t officially green until Godzilla 2000. Anyways besides the toy not being an image perfect replica of the radiated dinosaur, what made the toy so memorable? Well I’m glad you asked, the main reason this toy was so memorable was cause Mattel tried to make Godzilla very marketable by adding some features the real Godzilla didn’t had. The first feature is a long tongue that sticks out of his mouth like a snake by the press of the button(as seen above). The other feature is his right fist having the ability to shoot right out of his wrist like a missile. And no I’m not fabricating this idea of a toy as I have seen it in action in the commercial I found on youtube. Why would Mattel go this far in changing Godzilla’s abilities? Other than making it more marketable, Mattel thought a monster that only breathes radiated fire is less cool than what the other toys in the line up had, so they made him do things he’d never do in the movie. Excluding some physics bending moments that have occurred in a handful of Godzilla films, but it’s sci-fi so it’s ok to ignore the Monday Night Rules when doing a sci-fi.
To prevent this article from being too long I like to describe the other toys in one simple paragraph. Other than them being giant anime mechas, these robots have very little in common with one another. Despite how I’m a big anime fan, I admit I didn’t find the time to watch any of the anime these guys originated from. Mazinger Z was the only one who I am familiar upon once seeing an OAV of the series, but not the original TV series. Never the less, all of these mechas had quite some popularity in their home land of Japan. Except over there they’re not refer to as Shogun Warriors which I bet a Japanese person would be clueless to why these mechas are called Shogun Warriors. My guess is that Mattel wanted the toys to feel very Japanese by using one word from Japanese culture and another any culture would be familiar with. The word Shogun is a term word for a commanding military general who is appointed by the emporer. So I guess these toys are called Shogun Warriors cause they are warriors with more power than any emporer could possess. Rodan along with Godzilla were the only non mecha toys of the toy line, However Rodan’s the only one to not fire any object of any kind. Why was he also included into the toy line? It’s simple he was portrayed as the villain of the Shogun Warrior series and he’s as popular as Godzilla was. It would have been very cool if they obtain rights to other Toho Kaiju Monsters, but it probably would have been too expensive for Mattel since obtaining rights to Godzilla and Rodan might have been pricey to start with.
I could only find four vintage commercials on these toys. The first two featuring the Godzilla toy being played with two kids, while other contains Mazinger Z & Gaiking as well as Godzilla himself. The narrator for these commercials was Ernie Adnerson(b. 1923-1997) a legendary narrator for various shows including the pilot episodes of Power Puff Girls(before it became an actual TV show) and original Annoucer of America’s Funniest Home Videos(and no I lost interest in that show years ago). Since these action figures were based off of Japanese properties, Mr. Anderson used a stereotype samurai voice that’s often used in early English dubs of Japanese live action films. The other two were Japanese made toy commercials for Leopardon, a mecha from the Japanese Spider-Man series & the Daitetsujin 17 series that were both imported over to America as part of the toy line. This was decades before most American comic fans even knew that there was a Tokusatsu genre series on Spider Man back in 1978 that differs from the short-lived American Live Action TV series. The way marketing went for Japanese imported merchandise in America is way different from how it’s done today. Back then a lot of Japan’s entertainment had little exposure outside of its own country. The only things that did got licensed are the ones that are viewed marketable for America and anything that’s too unusual for American customs remains unlicensed. There was hardly any anime in America back then. The only anime kids were able to watch in the 70s was Battle of the Planets(Gatchaman) and the earlier licensed anime like Speed Racer, Gigantor, Kimba the White Lion, & Astro Boy. Unlike today where Japanese media has more exposure to the public as well as more people appreciating it more than how it was treated 32 years ago.
Let’s talk about the commercials for a second. The way action figure commercials were done back then is different from how they’re done today. There was no such thing as expensive special effects or obnoxious narration. Instead these type of commercials play out like it’s advertising a tv show or in this case tv shows of the 70s. I like how back then these ads tell you, you have to use your imagination when playing with these toys, like how Ernie Adnerson tells you to imagine Godzilla breathing radiated fire rather than expecting Godzilla to do so. Also I wonder who that man is in the background who just standing right behind the kids. If it suppose to be one of the kids dad, or a stagehand who got into the shot by accident and the director didn’t bother to re shoot the shot. What ever the case maybe, this type of work for a toy commercial is considered low-budget in today’s business of toy advertising.
My last thoughts on this toy line is just the comment “wow”. The thought that these mechas were licensed in America 32 years ago is an amazing discovery I found. I would bet you that kids back then had no clue that most of those mechas were based off of already popular ones in Japan. The toy line did prove to the American population that Gigantor and Giant Robo weren’t the only popular mechas from Japan. It also was a further step to more anime exposure as the 80s was known as the decade when anime started to flow in more in America with such series like Star Blazers & Robotech. Today Shogun Warriors are now a common ebay item and from time to time, you’ll likely to find some of them at antique stores and conventions. To end this article I present to you the only commercials of the toy line I could find.
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=1993 – Getter Robo G
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daitetsujin_17 – Daitetsujin 17
Sorry for no article last week, I was busy playing Original Silent Hill for the first time ever. And please no spoilers on the sequals, remake or prequel while posting please or it will be deleted. I don’t want to brag to all of you how I heard spoilers on Final Fantasy 7 before actually playing it. Anyways now for the article. If you remenber going to this as a kid under the age of 12 then you are between the Ages of 18-34. If you were born after the late 90s, then it wouldn’t of been possible for you to know about the exsistence of this amazing place. For those who know what I’m talking about, be prepared for an article about commercials and ads on a place that was worth visiting multiple times as a kid in the 90s. For those who haven’t a clue what the heck DZ is, don’t worry you’ll be getting a history lesson on something that hasn’t been seen since 12 years ago. For I was one of the million passionate fans of this place when it was still running and active.
The history of DZ is a rare subject after some research I came across a few resources to confirm the place’s official estiblishment. The origin of the DZ industry began in 1989 when four individuals named Ronald Matsch, Jim Jorgensen, Mike Geselbracht and Dr. David Schoenstadt came up with the idea of a chain of entertainment facilties for kids to enjoy. The first official DZ opened in Lenexa, Kansas around January 1990. The town was known for being one of the 26 best small towns in America, back when DZ first opened the population of Lenexa was only 34,034. To start off business, DZ was first sponsored and supported by famous female tennis player Billie Jean King. Within fiver years, the population of DZ buildings already increased to 500 locations throughout the U.S.
By 1994, DZ merged it’s operations with Blockbuster Video to promote various offers involving renting videos. Among the other collabarations I recalled from DZ, I recalled a few from memory and from what I found on Youtube. The earliest one was in 1993 when they pass out a Nick theme activity with five of their Nicktoons(back when they only had a handfull of their own cartoons). It not only had Doug, Rugrats, & Ren & Stimpy in the activity books, but two cartoons that were both new cartoons at the time. Which were Rocko’s Modern Life & Real Monsters. I recognized Doug, Rugrats, & Ren & Stimpy, but those two shows were the only ones I didn’t recognized in the actitivity book. But it wasn’t long until I saw both of the shows on Nick and both became new favorites. I can still remenber when I obtain this book, I would make up the names of the three main characters of Real Monsters. Since this was before I saw the cartoon, I didn’t know their names unless their names were labeled in the book. If so it was before I knew how to read. Before I knew it was Ickis, Krum, & Oblina I called them Toads, Boss, & Nakey. Yeah, I know but back then it was before I learn to never make up a name for a character unless it already had one.
The average DZ facilties would all have the similar or the same arcitexture. The play areas would usually have ball pits, roller slides, foam climbing mountain, foam block climbing, and moon bounce. After the many previous times I went there as a kid, I always loved the roller slide and the foam climbing blocks the most. I remenber playing around on those two courses the most until I was sweating bullets. Also for a reminder to those who don’t know this is back when ball pits weren’t considered a liability to family facilties and play areas. Ever since a new discovery was made in the early 2000’s that keeping the ball pits sanitized and preventing kids from stealing the balls was too costly so every family facilty elminated their ball pits. Even Toontown in Disneyland took their’s out which I remenber going to that ball pit once. I wish I was able to interview someone who use to work there to get further info on what the interiors of the place was like, but unfortunately I don’t know anyone who use to work there so all I could provide is memory and archive photos for references.
Other than Nick, I once remenber DZ giving away Flintstone Stickers along with a Flintstone theme commercial on TV(which I’m having trouble finding online). Though I remenber I got those stickers and use them to make a story out of them by merging my drawings with the stickers(A common thing I did before I got more professional in cartooning). During DZ’s final years I remenber they had a laser tag room with MIB the Animated Series and the Godzilla Animated Series(Not to be confused with Hanna Barbara’s 70s cartoon). I don’t remenber if they were both laser tag themed or both seperate advertisings for DZ. I’ll need some comfirmation on that. I recalled the lounge area has mini TV hanging off of the ceilings showing FOX Kids(for those who didn’t know FOX used to have daytime as well as Saturday Morning lineups). I only recalled seeing parts of Carmen San Diego once at DZ though which was a cool cartoon from the now bankrupted company DiC Entertainment.
The only mascot this place had was a robot that was used for parties. I don’t think my only DZ birthday party had that robot, unless it cost more. Funny thing is I rarely saw the robot at my local DZ besides all of the commercials I saw him in. I only recalled seeing him once at one of the DZ I went to. I’m not sure if he had a name so let’s just call hi mthe DZ robot. Who is the only known mascot for DZ(that I know of). How this guy operates is a mystery to me unless I could interview someone who knew. Either it was remote control or had a small person inside it. But I doubt it was easy to find that many people that short enough to portray every robot in all 500 locations of DZ. So the likely answer is it was remote controlled. Not to mention this was before A.I. robot toys became more affordable.
This was such a great place and you might ask why did this place gone bankrupt. Well there were a couple of reasons, for starters the franchise was going thin with all of the expansions in locations and tried new managements. However these managements didn’t save the company as their debt was 366 million dollars by March 26, 1996. By 1999, all 500 locations were shut down and all remodeled as Chuck E. Cheese facilities. After that the place cease to exsist, my favorite place to be was forever gone. After 12 years I still hold a place in my heart for DZ, cause it meant a lot to me. Ask anyone who’s my age and they’ll likely to say that it was their favorite place for them to play or have parties at. As of today I feel sorry for kids who are growing up without a DZ. In this day and age you’d think a place like DZ would exsist cause with all the hype about parents and teachers complaining about kids’ lack of health and exercise. Cause with all the running around and stamina it takes to enjoy DZ, kids were getting their exercise without realizing it. That’s one of the positive things to say about and what to compare what it had that Chuck E. Cheese didn’t. Though within time there might be a revival of the place or a family facility that’s similar to it. When that day comes I’m sure it’ll be more success, course the only thing they could exclude is the ball pit. DZ will still be fun even without a ball pit.