Thanks to some inspiration recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the California Raisins. To be clear, by “recently” I mean, In the last two hours and by “inspiration” I mean, Classick* kicked in my office door, knocked all of my action figures off of the desk I was supposed to be working at and bellowed “Have a California Raisins article on my desk by morning or…” (using Mr. Slate voice) “…You’re FIRED!!”
To be fair, though, I really have had a strangely active personal history with the Raisins from the very moment they sprang on to the world stage in 1986! I was six years old, which as any basic marketing research will tell you is the prime age to target with an anthropomorphic , dried fruit-based advertising campaign and I had California Raisin FEVER! But honestly, who didn’t? They were stop-motion, cartoon characters with a Motown R&B motif advertising one of the most unpopular snacks to ever grace a lunchbox. I honestly can’t remember if Motown was enjoying some kind of resurgence in the 1980’s, but I can tell you this. I sure as heck was.
I’ve always been into “retro”… I know for most people especially in the blog community, that means that I’m into stuff from the 80’s. In some cases that can be stretched out to include stuff from the late 70’s or early 90’s. For me, it includes everything from 1950’s rockabilly to 1970’s muscle cars, Universal Studios Monster Movies, Old Time Radio, Black and White movies and on and on and on… I’m what you might call an “old soul,” if you were the kind of weirdo who walked around saying stuff like “old soul.” But it probably is a pretty fair characterization Pair that with the fact that I have always been weird whether in public or private, I have always been a weirdo. Don’t let the fact that I have always been weird in public make you think that I’m somehow this unashamed person with such a strong personal character that I don’t care how others judge me.
The truth is that I am SO weird that I have no concept of that fact that I’m being weird. And this kind of attitude produced things like this: Picture a six-year-old me swinging on a swing on recess, wearing a California Raisins t-shirt and singing Dancing On The Ceiling by Lionel Richie, as loudly as I could across the playground for the benefit of my entire kindergarten class.
A class that, I might add, I tried to start a band in on the first day of school, in which I had decided we could play our school supplies and cover popular music. Probably also Lionel Richie…
So you can imagine that such a popular kid, full of potential would be the ideal Raisins fan, and I was. Besides that fact that I was a big fan of Motown (everyone from Marvin Gaye to Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops and ESPECIALLY The Temptations! I have always been a big fan of cartoons (I know what you’re thinking…a kid, liking cartoons? Get outta here! You’re obviously high on illegal drugs!) and Claymation has, obviously, always had a special place in my heart. The animation (Produced by Will Vinton studios, of which I am a BIG fan) was amazing! A huge leap forward from Rankin-Bass or Gumby, both of which also hold huge nostalgic places in my heart. This, however, was stop-motion to the next level. I occasionally still watch the old California Raisins specials (and actually rented the 2D animated series from the library just last week if you can believe that) and they still absolutely hold up. The smooth animation and the incredible amount of character that flows through the shows are pretty impressive.
When I think of my childhood, I think of me buried in a pile of He-Man action figures and California Raisins merchandise.
I had the big plush pillow!
I had the mini figures and I had at least two tee shirts!
My favorite California Raisins artifacts however where no contest and you could see them, fighting with Garfield, using all their suction cup might to claim a prominent space on the windows of my parents cars.
Now that I think about it, what ever happened to all those stuffed toys that hung on car windows? Is that still a thing? I loved those, they need brought back. I’m gonna bring those back!
I can remember The California Raisins video game!
… Lunch boxes!
… the Saturday morning cartoon!
…and or course this Halloween costume!
My best friend Brandon Hursey (RIP) wore this costume at least three years in a row and I always thought it was great! He was super tall, even in kindergarten (when he was in my band). His height made the costume work perfectly and it became a repeat, because as you all know, you don’t mess with success!
And so there you have it. The commercials were great the specials were great, I pretty much loved the entire California Raisins thing and they had a far greater impact on my life than any raisins had any right to.
I swear that to this day, I ALWAYS follow the line “I heard it through the grapevine” with the line “Raised in the California sunshine” You know. whenever I’m singing it. Really loud. In a park…while I swing.
This post has been brought to you by The California Raisins advisory board and is sponsored in part by
Both of whom I shamelessly stole images from for the purposes of this post. Thanks guys!!
Claymation Werewolf has an evil plan to bring about a Nostalgia Revolution for a time when cartoons were actually good. You can find more of his posts about toys, cartoons, puppets and horror on his blog at http://claymationwerewolf.blogspot.com.
*No Claymation Werewolves were harmed nor threatened during the making of this post! – Editor Classick