Dec. 1 – 35 Years of The Christmas Tape

Oh have I got something special to kick things off this year!

Welcome back to another year of The Christmas Spot! This year we’re kicking things off with a post I’ve been sitting on for a few years now. When I utter the title “The Christmas Tape,” I’m curious what comes to the minds of readers. It sounds both generic and specific and I suspect a few people will read the title of this entry and try to recall a special with that title. Well, there is no special that I’m aware of, but if you’re old enough to have grown up with a VHS in your household then you may have a frame of reference for such a thing.

It was back in 1987 that my mother made the decision to record as many Christmas specials that aired on television that year as possible so that my sister and I would have them to watch whenever we wanted. Or rather, we could watch them as much as we wanted starting on the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s. That recording would come to be known in my house as The Christmas Tape. It was watched so much over the years that the audio has started to fail, the tracking at the start of the tape is well-worn, and the tape itself is being held together by a different kind of tape – Scotch tape. 1987 might have been the first Christmas my family actually had a VCR which explains why it was that year this tape was created. And since my mother was probably new to using a VCR, she made it easy on herself and left the commercials in. And that’s the gold mine today. YouTube has somewhat lessened the charm, but watching a bunch of advertisements from 35 years ago is far more interesting than the actual programs. Unfortunately, my mom did get a bit savvy and towards the end of the tape she started stopping the tape for commercials, though the final special has them.

To get the festivities started around here this year, I decided to walk my readers through this relic of Christmas past. I’ve done a proper entry on almost everything on this tape, and the few I have only addressed in short order should probably be rectified this year. For the reason that a lot of this is old news, I’m going to focus mostly on the commercials and esoteric qualities of this tape. All of the images in this entry are taken directly from my aging tape. Well, to be more specific, they’re captured from a DVD of the tape I made nearly 15 years ago. Yes, this tape is so old that the DVD copy I made to preserve it is almost old enough to drive. The actual tape is still alive too and enjoying its retirement as it’s rarely called upon to offer up the holiday goodness. All right, it’s time to get nostalgic!

It has begun!

This tape begins with the very end of a Christmas themed 7 Up commercial. It’s a commercial that will return numerous times so we don’t need to talk about it now. The audio early on is very low and when I watch this tape today I need to crank it up. It gets progressively better as the tape rolls along, but it’s obvious that my sister and I would most often watch the start of the tape as opposed to the end. That’s because it’s long – around 6 hours, so we rarely made it all the way through in a sitting. Most of our viewings as children started from the beginning and we’d watch pretty intensely for a little while, then gradually drift away to toys and such while the tape kept rolling in the background. The closer to Christmas we got, the less engaged we would be with the tape since it was a case of diminishing returns. Since we were raised with a VCR though, we were well-trained to rewind the tape whenever we were done with it so even if we turned it off before it reached the end (or more likely, my mom did) it would get rewound to the beginning.

Come on, kids! Let’s go eat some garbage!

The first commercial captured in its entirety is one for McDonald’s. It’s not holiday themed and it’s actually for “The Fry Step.” Remember the Fry Kids? If you don’t, they were like pom-poms with legs and googly eyes. They dance with some kids and Ronald McDonald with a song to accompany it. It ends with the slogan at the time for McDonald’s – “It’s a good time for the great taste of McDonald’s!” It was one of their catchier jingles. We then get our first special: Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Only it’s not quite as it seems. This special aired on NBC in 1987 and was broadcast over the course of an hour. If you’re familiar with the special, then you know it’s not suited to fill an entire hour so Disney packaged it with three holiday themed shorts. Or rather, two winter shorts and one Christmas short. They also tied everything together with still images, created in the style of the sepia-toned images in the opening and closing title of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and some narration from Mickey. The framing device is Mickey wants his pals to share their favorite Christmas memories, and their voice pops in to introduce a short. The characters will actually recall several memories set to clips before settling on the one memory they want to share most.

This version of Mickey’s Christmas Carol is really the best it can be due to the inclusion of the added shorts and these cute, little, bumpers.

Up first, is Donald Duck. Mickey suspects Donald might not even like Christmas, but the duck informs him how wrong he is. As his voice pops in, we’re treated to an image of Donald looking pretty pissed that he just opened a box of Mickey Mouse ears for Christmas. We then see clips from Toy Tinkers as Donald recalls his fondness for decorating and playing Santa as well as a clip from the short The Clock Watcher of Donald getting pelted by toys. After that, Donald settles on the notion of enjoying spending time with his nephews, Huey, Duey, and Louie, around the holidays. This brings in the short Donald’s Snow Fight. It cuts off the very beginning and picks up with Donald walking up a hill with his sleigh. It also cuts off the end when the nephews do an insensitive Native American demonstration. It’s not a Christmas toon, but it is a lot of fun as it’s just an escalating snowball fight. There’s some imitable violence and the previously mentioned Native American bit likely keeps it off of Disney+, but it’s worth seeking out if you’ve never seen it or just wish to see it again!

When the short is over, we go back to a still image of Mickey and Pluto cutting down a tree to introduce the next short. It’s rather surprising NBC didn’t shove a commercial in here, but I suppose it’s good for us. Or was in 1987. The short we jump into is Pluto’s Christmas Tree, which we’ve covered here a lot. Like Donald’s Snow Fight, the very beginning is cut as Mickey’s introduction is all the setup we need. There are no cuts after that, which isn’t a surprise as there’s nothing particularly violent or problematic in this one so you can watch it on Disney+ and on many physical media releases.

That guy should look familiar if you’ve been coming here for awhile.

Following Pluto’s Christmas Tree we get our first commercial break of the tape. It’s for 7 Up, which dates this tape because when was the last time you saw a 7 Up commercial? It shows an elf, and these guys had multiple commercials that we’ll see. He’s dragging a pallet of cans and uses some Christmas magic to fill a fridge with 7 Up and Cherry 7 Up. It’s narrated, and the narrator alerts parents that if you buy 7 Up right now you’ll get a paper advent calendar for your kids. It’s Santa’s face and the numbers 1 – 25 are on Santa’s beard and kids are supposed to glue cotton balls over each number to countdown to Christmas. It’s also the header image on this blog during the holidays as well as the lone image on The Christmas Spot page, and you’re damn right I bought one of these on eBay years later. I also had one as a kid and really did the countdown one year as 7 Up had these for multiple holidays. We then go into a Puffalumps commercial which has a sleepy lullabye. Puffalumps were these very light, polyester, plushies. My sister had one, Bunny Grabbit, and they had at least two series before being discontinued. Following that we get the classic Halls of Medicine commercial that aired for many years, then a Wendy’s commercial advertising Furskins, country bumpkin teddy bears. A network bumper follows reminding kids to come back on Saturday morning for Smurfs and the animated Alf, and then we’re back to Mickey. It’s a bit of a bummer we only got one holiday themed commercial in that first break.

I love this picture.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol returns with a depiction of the Norm Rockwell “Freedom from Want” painting, only with Mickey and the gang in its place. I’ve always wanted to get that as a poster, but never found it. Up next though is Goofy, and we get some quick clips of his antics from On Ice and Polar Trappers before deciding that he wants to share with us the Christmas where he learned to ski which brings in The Art of Skiing. Once again, it’s a winter themed short and has nothing to do with Christmas, but it is entertaining and you’re damn right that I have the ornament of Goofy doing some downhill skiing on my tree! When this short ends we go to commercial, and we get just our second Christmas commercial.

Guys, you can’t just go gifting stars to clowns.

And it’s a good one as we go into “Star Wish” from McDonald’s. I talked about this commercial awhile ago in a post about Christmas commercials, but it’s really interesting because it’s like a greeting card turned into a commercial. There are no McDonald’s products pitched, it’s just a story of Birdee and Grimace giving Ronald McDonald a Christmas present. And that present is a falling star that they apparently catch. It’s depicted with 2D animation, while the other characters are live-action. The star doesn’t like being a possession though, so they “Wish him home where he’ll twinkle and glow!” And the star returns to the sky, and Ronald comments that he already has the best gift of all, “Friends like you.” Happy holidays, from McDonald’s. A supremely nostalgic commercial for folks my age and up since all of these McDonald Land characters have basically been put out to pasture because it’s apparently not great to advertise junk food to kids. And it just occurred to me that many readers might not even know who these characters are at all. Ronald McDonald is the old McDonald’s mascot usually played by a guy in makeup (played by actor Squire Fridell during this era of the character). Birdee and Grimace are played by live actors as well, but in huge suits similar to characters in Disney World with big, plastic, heads. They have nothing to do with the food at McDonald’s and these characters just existed to entertain children and sell them junk food.

This one is for my fellow New Englanders. Recognize any of these people?

After that we get a bumper reminding us what we’re watching, then a network spot for Our House and My Two Dads. I remember My Two Dads, but not Our House. Then we jump back to commercials and it’s for Burger King and it’s holiday themed! Burger King was running a promo at the time for Hallmark’s Rodney Reindeer line of original characters. They’re a stylized reindeer that still shows up from time to time at Hallmark stores around the holidays. At the time you could buy a book of gift certificates for 5 bucks for the privilege of being able to pay $1.99 for a reindeer. Seven bucks in 1987 is not insignificant so I’m curious how well the promo went. It’s cute though as the plushes are shown getting tossed around the kitchen, making food, and waving to each other at the end. And yes, I have a complete set of four to this day. As for Burger King’s slogan in 1987, “The Best Food for Fast Times,” was just a so-so one. The delivery of it at the end of the commercial is trying to be way too earnest when it should be up-beat and fun. It’s like they want you to come to Burger King to make lasting memories when it should be about eating garbage and buying reindeer. Following that is a local affiliate ad for an upcoming charity. New England natives might get a kick out of seeing some of these old anchors who have long since retired. It’s also interesting because this is WBZ-TV Channel 4, which in 1987 was an NBC affiliate but is now a CBS one. It was a confusing day in New England households when CBS and NBC switched places on the dial.

Following that we return to Mickey’s Christmas Carol for the main event. In keeping with the framing device, it’s now Mickey’s turn to share his favorite Christmas. He first reminisces about the Christmas where he and Pluto had nothing except each other accompanied by a black and white clip from Mickey’s Good Deed followed by the Christmas he taught Minnie how to skate and we get another clip from On Ice. He then settles on the Christmas they all got together to tell the story of A Christmas Carol and it’s introduced with our third clip from On Ice which just shows various characters skating around before the short comes in complete with its original, theatrical, intro.

Use the Force, elf. Quench thy thirst with the feeling of Christmas!

We’ve covered Mickey’s Christmas Carol rather extensively on this blog, so I don’t think I need to say anymore on it. It’s great. Go watch it. Our first commercial break occurs when Scrooge retires for the evening muttering about spirits to himself. It’s another 7 Up commercial, and it’s the one the tape started with. The elves are working hard, until one uses some Christmas magic to “Force Pull” a can from the fridge. When he opens it the sky begins to snow. It’s dark and the elves all go into party mode and frolic in the snow. Santa pops his head out of the work shop to chuckle at his minions and we’re reminded, once again, that 7 Up has the feeling of Christmas! They really should come back and try to brand 7 Up as the perfect holiday un-cola.

These kids really don’t know what to leave for Santa…

We then go to a Crayola activity set commercial – gotta get those toy commercials in! I can recite this thing word for word by memory as some kid brags about his car picture and a little girl shows us where the cow lives. Jessica has also gained newfound respect for her name. We then get another Christmas commercial and this time it’s for Cinnamon Toast Crunch with all three of the chefs. Budget cuts in the 90s caused them to reduce the chef count to one. Two kids wonder what they can leave for Santa, and the magic chefs pop in to suggest Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s hard to tell because a standard definition broadcast preserved on a 35 year old VHS has poor fidelity, but the girl in this commercial looks a lot like Ariana Richards from Jurassic Park. The commercial ends with the kids saying “Happy Holidays,” and I thus remind the War on Christmas people that Happy Holidays has been an acceptable holiday greeting for many decades. Anyway, after they say that the chefs add the little Cinnamon Toast Crunch jingle and we jump into an animated segment for Santa Bear Express! That’s because the cereal company was running a promotion where you can enter a contest to win a stuffed Santa Bear, Miss Bear, and their plane (which was cardboard). Some kids are shown with the loot at the end and emphatically yell “We won!” to make it seem realistic for any of the kids watching at home that they too could win. Unless you lived in Vermont, for some reason they were excluded per the text of the commercial. I bought a set of these bears for my sister as a Christmas gift many years ago because of this commercial. The animated portion of the commercial is also from a Christmas special that aired in 1987 which we may or may not have a look at this year.

We then get to hear from pediatrician, author, and peace activist Dr. Benjamin Spark as he stumps for TV. It’s a very bland commercial and was produced by NBC just to say “Look! Smart people think TV is great!” NBC. Tuned into America. In case you’re wondering, Dr. Spock has been dead for over 20 years.

Look at all that Sunny D getting wasted on that bear. I hope mom has a funnel.

We now return to Mickey’s Christmas Carol and our next break is after the short concludes. Despite that though, we are assured by the bumper that Mickey’s Christmas Carol will return after these messages. We’re onto commercials, and up first is one for Sunny Delight (I could only find a truncated version of the commercial, unfortunately). Surprisingly, there is no mention of purple stuff in this one as it begins with an animated segment about the Masked Avenger, a kid with a cape, mask, and ray gun, stalking the evil Professor Spot – a panda. They wrestle, until the kid cries out “Mom! Can I have some Sunny Delight?” and the animation is replaced with live actors. The kid is just some kid with a stuffed panda, and he requests some Sunny Delight for his bear as well. His mom enthusiastically says yes, and after we hear about how good Sunny Delight is from the announcer, we return to the mom toasting the efforts of the Masked Avenger and his faithful friend, gesturing to the bear. The woman is clearly not in touch with her son’s make-pretend time or else she would know the bear is the Masked Avenger’s foe, not friend. There’s also a giant glass of Sunny Delight by this bear – a total waste that bothers me to this day!

“Need a ride?” So many lines from these commercials are burned into my brain.

Another McDonald’s commercial follows, this one specifically advertising the Happy Meal. It’s set in a movie theater where the Happy Meal is the feature presentation that Ronald is eager to be seated for. On the screen, the Happy Meal components are shown as talking puppets. It’s a hamburger, soft drink, and fries – all regular size, the enthusiastic puppets proclaim! We then get to see what every kids cares about: the toy. At this time of year it was Disney, but not Christmas themed. They were activity books for the films Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, The Sword in the Stone, and Dumbo – an interesting mix. Definitely not a great toy, but I did have a couple of those books. I thought 1987 was the year McDonald’s sold Christmas themed Muppet Babies stuffed animals of Kermit, Fozzy, and Miss Piggy, but the Muppet wiki says that was 1988. Interesting that McDonald’s had no counter to Burger King’s reindeer. We then get a repeat Halls commercial before going into network promos for Alf and the TV movie Eye on the Sparrow about a blind couple seeking to adopt a kid. The actress in it shouts “What kind of people are you?!” through tears and it’s stuck with me, though I’ve never watched this thing. The Alf promo is surprisingly foretelling as he becomes president and remarks how he’s perfect for the job due to his disdain for pants. Slick Willy took that one to heart!

“Let’s party!”

We then return to our feature just to see the ending credits and get in one last Merry Christmas from Disney. Over the ending credits, kids are specifically called out to come back for Saturday morning to watch Smurfs and those loveable, huggable, Gummy Bears (I don’t think whoever wrote that one has ever watched The Adventures of the Gummy Bears). When it’s done we get an actual bumper for Alvin and the Chipmunks and the animated version of Fraggle Rock. We then get a quick clip of a Golden Girls commercial that gets cut off and replaced with forgotten cop show The Oldest Rookie. We’ve jumped networks, and this bumper is telling regular viewers of the show to check back next week because we’re getting a CBS special presentation! You know the one, the word “Special” comes spinning in a rainbow font before turning purple. What follows is Frosty the Snowman, which should be well known to anyone reading this and not just because we covered it extensively last year. There is nothing remarkable about this broadcast of the venerable special, so lets jump to our first commercial break following the opening credits. It’s “Star Wish” again as this viewing is brought to you by McDonald’s! It’s the lone commercial of the break.

Right now this man is wondering if it’s ethical to eat a fruit that can dance.

Our next break occurs when the train pulls away and it’s 7 Up once again, the one where the elves frolic in the snow to Santa’s approval. We then get a commercial from the California Raisin Advisory Board and people my age know what this is – The California Raisins! It’s in Claymation, and sadly, A Claymation Christmas is not on this tape. That and A Garfield Christmas are the two specials I miss most, but maybe we weren’t home the night they were on or they conflicted with another special that is included or my parents just wanted to watch something else the night they were on. Anyway, some bald dude (who appeared in an earlier California Raisins commercial) goes searching for a midnight snack and settles on a box of raisins which come alive to “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” As he dances and grooves with the raisins, we hear his wife call from another room to admonish him for playing with his food. He makes a sad face, and the commercial ends presumably because things got pretty gruesome as he ate his newfound buddies. A network promo follows for our next special following Frosty, ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, and then Scott Hamilton pops up to tell us alcohol is bad. This was part of the Be Smart, Don’t Start campaign. It’s not really aimed specifically at kids, it’s just a series of public service announcements telling people to never drink – a bit extreme and unrealistic. I don’t think it was a success.

Man, there sure was a lot of sentient food in the 80s. And we were expected to eat it?!

Frosty returns and does his thing up until he dies and gets remade by Santa, but before the hat is returned to him we jump to commercial. The commercial is 7 Up once again, the Santa’s beard-building one, then more from McDonald’s. It’s a hoedown starring the McNuggets, or rather, the Sons of McNuggets ragtime band, and was part of the “We Love Chicken McNuggets” advertising campaign. Ronald is watching as their overlord while the McNuggets are quite enthusiastic about jumping into barbecue sauce for consumption. At least they seem happy in their work. The McNuggets, and even the packets of sauce, are all puppets and there’s a charm to it all. I wish we still got commercials like this from McDonald’s, but I don’t know if they’re even allowed to push chicken nuggets on kids anymore. The commercial ends with a silly pun and Ronald making the golden arches magically appear with his hands. I forgot he used to do that!

You will never again see a commercial where Teddy Ruxpin hangs out with Mickey Mouse.

Back to Frosty. There’s only about two minutes left, just Frosty coming back to life, Karen getting ditched on a roof, and the reprisal of the song. After it’s over, we get a quick advertisement for Friday’s double-feature of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Frosty aired on Wednesday) and then jump into a commercial for the long dead Child World. Child World was a toy store like Toys R Us that didn’t survive far into the 90s. The commercial is a Whack-A-Mole parody with some guy in a bad suit popping up holding a “Sale” sign in place of a mole, that’s because Child World is committed to delivering the lowest prices around without the need for a sale! This setup was apparently a template they could drop product ads into, so I couldn’t find this specific commercial on YouTube, but here’s one with the framing device and here’s a separate commercial for the product to follow. It then advertises Boppers from Worlds of Wonder, the maker of Teddy Ruxpin, which is why the Boppers are a bunch of Disney characters plus Teddy. They’re just animatronic stuffed animals that dance, or bop, to music and sound. Stuff like this is still sold, just without the reacting to sound gimmick in favor of a button that makes the doll dance. I never had one of these and I don’t recall every seeing one in the wild leading me to conclude they weren’t very popular. They were also $17.99, pretty pricey for a lame gimmick. Worlds of Wonder, like Child World, is also long gone.

I had to sneak this guy in at some point.

The next commercial is the same Burger King commercial from before pushing those reindeer. There’s a quick bumper for local news, then the Special intro returns and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas begins. Like Frosty before it, the first break takes place after the opening credits and it’s the 7 Up elf frolic commercial again. I’m not tired of it. Then we get a new commercial for Nestle Toll House morsels, or chocolate chips, and the resulting cookies look delicious. It’s just a sequence of little kids enjoying chocolate chip cookies with a little jingle in the background. Following that is an unremarkable commercial for Taster’s Choice, absolutely awful instant coffee from the era. I can’t hear Taster’s Choice and not think of the Dana Carvey line where he critiques the film Water World (as George H.W. Bush, if I’m not mistaken) by saying “You can’t pee into a Mr. Coffee and get Taster’s Choice!”

This little girl loves her So Big Crayola Crayons. I hope she still has them.

We now return to our feature presentation and a mild controversy in my house. Someone pushed “Stop” on the VCR during the recording of this special when the clock tower goes kerplooey. I think my mom blames it on my sister, but she might have been trying to cut down on commercials or something. It probably was my sister. It’s not a great loss as this special is merely so-so, and we just lose a little snippet before the break. When the VCR was reset to record, it picks up during a commercial for Sunkist Dinosaurs fruit snacks. Yes, the maker of orange soda also had a line of fruit snacks in the 80s. These commercials had a puppet tree mascot, if he had a name I don’t remember it. He just gets to laugh in this one as a giant dinosaur comes into view. The snacks look delicious. Following that is another Halls of Medicine commercial, the same one we’ve seen a couple of times now, followed by a Crayola commercial. This one is set to “The 12 Days of Christmas” as kids recount the type of crayons they want for Christmas like the So Big variety and a box of 64. This is another commercial I can recite from memory. We’re then reminded to stick around for The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Show following the Christmas specials. Ray Charles, BB King, and Hank Williams were being honored, among others. We then get a promo for Newhart, a non-holiday themed one, which promotes the entire Monday Night lineup for 1987.

Wait! You can bribe Santa?!

When we return to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, everyone is mopey because the clock fix failed so the VCR mishap didn’t cause us to miss much of anything. The next break is after Santa leaves and it’s the 7 Up commercial again pushing the Santa’s beard advent calendar. Following that we get a new commercial – Holidays! Back in the 80s, M&M/Mars would release Holidays, which were just red and green M&Ms with little Christmas trees and other holiday themed images printed on them. The commercial features a girl with an excessive one pound bag of them sitting on a department store Santa’s lap. She’s basically bribing the guy so she can get what she wants for Christmas and she unfurls her massive list at the end of the commercial. There’s nothing like Holidays for your holidays, the commercial tells us before Santa welcomes another handful. It’s cute.

Sorry folks, but Beauty and the Beast will not be seen tonight so that we may bring you a special presentation.

We return to the program just for the credits, as this was apparently pretty standard at the time and end on the old Rankin Bass animation tag. We get a quick advertisement for A Charlie Brown Christmas before we jump to Friday as we’re told Beauty and the Beast (starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman as the beast, a show my family would watch each week) will not be seen tonight so that CBS can bring us a very special presentation. It’s old Chuck, and this broadcast is a bit interesting because we have some edits. Specifically, the sequence where the kids try to knock cans off of a fence with snowballs. That’s the scene that was famously edited following the special’s original broadcast because it contained a Coca-Cola advertisement animated into it, which was covered up with a regular can. That comes later though, as our first break occurs after the title card where Charlie Brown gets tossed into a tree by Snoopy. This broadcast is brought to us by Mounds, Almond Joy, and York Peppermint Patty as well as Nabisco so we’re in line for some new commercials. This segment and the next several paragraphs can all be found here thanks to YouTube user Walker Brown!

That’s right, Alex, he ate the cookies.

And our first commercial is a classic, the Oreo Cookie commercial where the Oreo jingle is repurposed into a song about waiting up for Santa. Little Alex descends the stairs to wait for Santa, but he falls asleep before the big guy arrives. And when he does he’s delighted to find a plate of Oreos waiting for him. He gobbles that stuff up, “Like he did when he was little,” and disappears up the chimney as the kid wakes up to find an empty plate and a thank you note from Santa.

They had to stop running ads for York Peppermint Patties because too many people ruined their coffee table.

We return to A Charlie Brown Christmas to find old Chuck staring out the window wishing for Christmas cards. Our next break won’t occur until after Charlie Brown selects his mediocre tree. It goes into a commercial for York Peppermint Patties, a classic one where some guy named Arthur fantasizes about competing in the ski jump event whenever he bites into a peppermint patty. This commercial would air for years and because of this tape I associate it with Christmas, even though it’s not a Christmas commercial. We then get a commercial for A.1. Poultry Sauce. Yes, A.1. tried to expand to poultry at one point in time and I don’t think it went well since this stuff no longer exists.

Stupid duck ate a giant potato chip.

When we return to the special, Snoopy does his thing on the piano and the next break isn’t until Charlie Brown takes his tree and goes home, which is actually a shorter break than we’ve grown accustomed to. The next commercial comes courtesy of Nabisco for their Goldfish-adjacent snack Quackers. It’s a pretty terrific commercial as a British sounding announcer asks the viewer if they’d like all of the sour cream and onion flavor of a sour cream and onion chip – in a little duck! You get a little duck cartoon as he eats a chip and expands and he does the same thing with a cheese doodle puff snack too. Another snack that is no longer with us. One that still is comes next: Wheat Thins. It’s a catchy commercial jingle, but it’s not a Christmas one. Honest to good little snackers, Wheat Thins are something like a cracker, but more like a snack!

Merry Christmas, pal.

A Christmas commercial does come next, and it’s another Nabisco one – three in a row! You get that kind of treatment when you sponsor a broadcast. This one is for Milk-Bone and it’s like the Oreo commercial, only with a dog instead of a kid. He comes down the stairs to scope out the presents under the tree. As he shakes the present for him, you can see the puppet arms end where a handle likely exists for the human operator, only there’s a real dog behind it to sell the illusion, and it’s pretty funny. The dog’s name is Duke, and he must be long dead by now. Sorry to bring you down. At least he got some Milk-Bones for Christmas.

Ladies, how do you feel about this being marketed as “casual wear” in 1987?

We return to Charlie Brown as he comes upon Snoopy’s award-winning dog house, so there’s a bit more than just the credits left. When it does end, we go to a black screen and white text is displayed saying “A few words about Almond Joy.” We don’t know what those words are as the commercial is cut-off in favor of one for department store Bradlees. I don’t think this is an error with my tape, but the network. I’m also not sure if Bradlees was regional to New England so it could have been a local affiliate commercial. It is holiday themed though as some little, old, man dressed like an elf is spreading fairy dust as we’re shown products the store was pushing for Christmas. I can’t find this exact one on YouTube, but a similar commercial exists with the same elf. The most hilarious aspect is active wear that converts into casual wear. Some women in spandex basically just put on stretch pants to pair with their leotards and add a fashion scarf and purse to create a look no one would leave the house in. Some 10 dollar handbags follow as the store’s slogan is apparently “Smile, smile, smile.” I vaguely remember this store, mostly because my cousin heard that the Bradlees in Woburn, Massachusetts had Super Shredder action figures and we begged our mothers to take us, but they refused. We both got Super Shredder for Christmas so don’t feel bad for us.

“It’s a good time, for the great taste, of McDonald’s!”

Following the Bradlees commercial is one for Yankee 24 automatic-teller machines. Apparently ATMs were new enough at the time that you could see a commercial for them. Yankee 24 was the largest ATM brand in New England at the time and would eventually merge with NYCE forming Infinet in 1993 so, they too, are long gone. We’re then onto the best special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! It is another McDonald’s sponsored presentation, so expect some repeat commercials. Our first break occurs when Grinch is looking down from the mountain at Max as they begin their descent to Who-ville. And our first commercial is a repeat one: The California Raisins. I’m fine with that one again! Following that is 7 Up, again, and I’m still not over how frequent 7 Up commercials were on air.

There’s a face you could pee on.

We pivot from products to network bumpers. If you’re following along with that Walker Brown video, we’re now at the 5:30 mark. Kate & Allie are robbed at Christmas time, and either Kate or Allie (I never watched this show) proudly displays a Christmas themed toilet seat by placing her head inside it – nice! Then there’s an ad for Frank’s Place, another show I never watched, as they try to prepare for a Christmas party in a warm weather climate. A black actor is shown declaring that he’s Santa Claus, and I think it’s being played for comedic effect because a black guy wants to play Santa – how ridiculous! Then we get a promo for a show I did watch – Pee-Wee’s Playhouse! Surprisingly, it’s a generic commercial and not for the Christmas special as that wouldn’t be a thing until 1988. After that is another Be Smart Don’t Start PSA, this time starring Michael Dorn in an ugly sweater.

I miss bumpers, they just made this stuff feel extra special.

We now return to the Grinch as he infiltrates Who-ville. This special, like the previous one, is edited for time and the edit occurs when “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is reprised for the first time. It’s a curious place for an edit, but other broadcasts would sometimes cut out part of the sleigh ride which is a fantastic segment so I’m torn. Obviously, the best place to cut the special is not at all! At any rate, this recording was how I saw this special every year so I was really confused when Kevin is shown watching it in Home Alone and it’s a part that I never saw thanks to CBS.

I’m so sad this commercial got cut off. I’m way more sad about that than missing a part of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Our next break doesn’t take place until the special concludes, and it’s a sad event. Following “The End” and a bumper about announcing some upcoming “messages,” we go into a classic commercial for Fruity Pebbles. It’s the one that begins with carolers singing “Season’s greetings in our souls,” ushering in Fred to sing, “Yummy Fruity Pebbles in our bowls!” What’s to follow next is Barney descending the chimney as Santa, but my mom stopped the recording. That commercial won’t come back and I mourn for it’s loss every time I see that snippet. It’s also not on the YouTube video we’ve been watching, but don’t close out of that yet as it will be useful coming up. This is also the end of commercials on my tape for awhile. The next special is from a Viacom affiliated channel, I’m not sure which as this must predate their merger with CBS, but the special is Santa Claus is Coming to Town. My mom got clever, too clever, as she started pressing stop for commercials. She must have realized all of these specials had bumpers that welcomed you back from commercial breaks which made it really easy to pause a recording without missing any of the actual show. She may have been worried about filling the tape prematurely, but this and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which follows, are both commercial free. Bless her heart, but it was the wrong move. That same Walker Brown YouTube video though includes commercials that aired during Rudolph so I can actually watch what was lost. Isn’t modern technology great?

Here come the Muppets to save the day! Even the end of this tape looks pretty shitty, no?

It’s not a total loss though, as we have one, final, special on the tape and it’s an eventful one. A Muppet Family Christmas was broadcast in 1987 for the first and only time on a major network. And it was the only time it was shown complete. And my mother decided not to attempt to cut out commercials, it also didn’t have bumpers like the other specials, so we get one last hurrah. Plus it’s an hour-long special and on a different network (ABC) so there should be some new commercials. I might be missing the very beginning of the special as it begins abruptly with the Muppet gang singing in Fozzy’s pickup. The first break is pretty deep into the special and happens after the “Jingle Bell Rock” performance.

Damn! Missed the entry deadline!

The first commercial is for OshKosh. It’s just a bunch of kids running around in their overalls in a very non-Christmas setting as it’s bright, green, and looks pretty warm. There’s a tortoise for some reason, and it’s forgettable. Next is a trailer for a new movie, Filmation presents Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night. I’ve never seen it, but it looks terrible. The trailer even contains the line from Pinocchio, “I’m a real, live, boy again!” so he apparently gets turned into a puppet and back to a real boy during the movie. Very creative! Following that is another well-remembered commercial of the era for Doublemint gum. The classic twins spot and we get a pair of women dressed like Doug Funnie in matching green sweater vests as two men try to charm them. Good thing they have their gum! Double pleasure is waiting for you. After the two girls share their gum we get the Cinnamon Toast Crunch commercial from earlier in this tape. A promo for the ABC Sunday Night movie follows, Not Quite Human starring Jay Underwood and Alan Thicke. I’ve never seen it, but it doesn’t look very good. It would get a sequel in 1992 so someone must have seen value in it.

I’ve had lots of Sony products, but I don’t think I ever had a My First Sony.

We return to A Muppet Family Christmas for Fozzy and the Snowman’s rendition of “Sleigh Ride.” The next break takes place after Miss Piggy makes her grand entrance. We then get another gum commercial, this one for Extra sugar free gum, another product of Wrigley. It’s far less memorable than Doublemint and features lots of kayaking for some reason. Then we get another trailer, this one for the infamous bomb Leonard Part 6 starring a guy who should be forgotten. I’m not linking that one. We then get a toy commercial. It’s not Christmas themed, but it is good as it’s for My First Sony which contained a memorable jingle that has kids singing about their chosen first Sony product. It was a kid’s line of tape players and other electronics and the jingle would go something like “I like pizza pie, I like macaroni, but what I love is My First Sony!” It ends with a kid chiming in, “It won’t be your last!” and I suppose that kid was right. During the last segment there does appear to be a Christmas tree in the background, so I guess it is a holiday commercial.

So many dead cereals.

How about another cereal commercial? Remember Post’s Crispy Critters? It was like Kix, but shaped like animal crackers, and the commercial contains a bunch of puppets of the cereal shapes exclaiming “Indubitably” about the cereal. There’s a song performed by a Fraggle-wannabe who sounds like Jimmy Durante, so it’s kind of a nice bookend given the real Jimmy Durante appeared near the beginning of the tape. Man, now I want some Crispy Critters. A promo for the insane Sledge Hammer! follows that, a short-lived series that seems impossible if you read a synopsis of it. Another wacky sitcom, The Charmings, is promoted next which starred a bunch of witches or something. The was ABC’s Thursday Night lineup in 1987 so you can see why the other, major, networks were crushing them at the time.

I had to include a shot from this M&Ms commercial just because it’s so festive, and so many commercials at the end of this tape are not.

The next break occurs during the big sing-along at the end of the show and it’s a Christmas themed M&M’s commercial, not Holidays. This is when M&Ms were just green, brown, red, orange, and yellow – not very colorful. The tagline is “Grab onto that M&M’s feeling,” and it’s pretty corny. Not one of the best. They do slip in the melts in your mouth, not in your hands, line into the little jingle. There’s a lot of Christmas imagery in it though so it’s okay, but who is buying M&M’s at Christmas time when Holidays exist? The next commercial is for OshKosh again and it’s just a sequence of little kids trying to say OskKosh B’gosh. It’s supposed to be cute because the kids struggle to say it. I mostly remember it because of a puppet named Freddie one of the kids has and I only remember it because my neighbor had the same puppet. I don’t know if he was an OshKosh character or if it was just a random toy. We then get a promo for the next special, Julie Andrews’ The Sound of Christmas. My mother mercifully did not record that one. I have since watched it on YouTube and it’s pretty terrible, but it has John Denver!

Sorry, we will not be covering The Sound of Christmas this year or any year.

We return to A Muppet Family Christmas for the conclusion. There are no more breaks as when this special ends it quickly cuts to an aerobics workout ever so briefly because my mom must have taped over her aerobics when she created The Christmas Tape. That’s the end though and if you stayed with me this long I would like to thank you for taking this trip through a 35 year old tape via nearly 7,000 words and numerous links to old commercials. I’m a bit sad this kind of thing no longer exists because no one uses a VCR to record television anymore and everything is on-demand. These tapes that my mom and millions of other moms and dads around the country created are like little, holiday-themed, time capsules and they’re such a delight to revisit. I don’t know if this sort of thing was fun for those who don’t have a copy of this tape or one like it, but for me, The Christmas Tape is an important part of my holiday viewing each and every year. And it has been ever since its creation and I hope to keep that going for many years to come. And if you hated this entry, well don’t worry as tomorrow we’re back with a more traditional entry about a holiday special. And we’ll have 23 more after that, so bookmark this page now or face the wrath of Christmas!

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 1 – Frosty the Snowman

Welcome back, lovers of Christmas, to the 7th edition of The Christmas Spot! If you missed the introduction a few days ago, we’re doing things a little differently this year. Yes, you’re still getting a dedicated write-up each day through Christmas about a beloved or not-so-beloved holiday special, but this year we’re also going retro…

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Dec. 1 – DuckTales – “Last Christmas!”

It’s that time of year once again! Every day goods are a little pricier, egg nog is invading the dairy case at every grocery store, and red and green versions of every candy in existence flourish in the seasonal section of department stores. Yes, it is Christmas time and it would be obnoxious if it…

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5 responses to “Dec. 1 – 35 Years of The Christmas Tape

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