by Adam Riske
When I was a young Jewish boy, I was always terrified to let on how much I liked Christmas. A commercial like this one was one of many tests of my faith. It was all good if I wanted Oliver & Company Happy Meal toys from McDonald’s, but when I saw that they ALSO had Oliver and Dodger Christmas ornaments I had to have them. Trouble is, I was too scared to tell my mom and dad because I thought they would feel like I was denouncing Judaism. McDonald’s wasn’t making it any fucking easier because in order to get the ornaments I needed to spend five weeks' allowance for a $5 book of McDonald’s gift certificates. So I never got the ornaments.
I Got a Power Glove in My Swag Bag
I love when movies used to give you some kind of giveaway as a sweetener for seeing them. For example, Gladiator (1992) had a soundtrack for everyone who went to see it. The first tchotchke bribe I remember was for The Wizard. I would have seen that movie just because it starred Fred “hot off Little Monsters” Savage and featured a preview of the then brand-new Super Mario Bros. 3 video game. So I went to the mall with my dad (because where else would The Wizard be playing?) and we went to see The Wizard. The guy selling tickets was like “Would you like a free Nintendo Pocket Power Magazine?” so my dad checks in with me and I turned into the old guy with the telescope in Armageddon and was all “GET THE BOOK! GET THE BOOK! GET THE BOOK!” Not for real, but in my head I mean.
The Original Grindhouse
I was out-of-my-mind excited in 1990 when I heard that Disney was doing a DOUBLE FEATURE (with an intermission to boot) of their short The Prince and the Pauper followed by The Rescuers Down Under. It was a concept unlike anything I had ever seen. It felt special and going to see this double bill with my mom made my day. Disney movies sort of do this today, as each one is preceded by an animated short but the way The Prince and the Pauper/The Rescuers Down Under was marketed made it feel that much more special.
Lots to unpack. Let’s get started.
0:50 – I bet Mr. Harris is thrilled that his wife is telling any neighborhood teenager that he’s such a dullard.
1:26 – “Yo, Marie! Let’s wake up!”??? Like is she supposed to intuit that a disembodied upper-half is going to train her via a single in-store monitor? I don’t like where this is going.
2:25 – Don’t shame Marie, Buster Sales! Bon Jovi tickets are not an implicit promise of canoodling.
3:30 – It’s not Marie’s fault that a hot title like The Hunt for Red October is checked out, Mrs. Harris. Take it from a former Blockbuster Video employee (ME!), new releases are often checked out in the first two weeks of release. If anyone, blame your community.
3:48 – Who rents music videos? Take her through this slow, Marie. She’s not quick on the uptake.
4:35 – Sean Connery + Interest = More rentals and a happy customer. Got it! Also, More rentals and a happy customer – Interest = Sean Connery.
5:12 – Blockbuster mostly went out of business because the employees didn’t consult the pocket guide and commit the 50 biggest titles to memory. Sad!
5:40 – Things are pretty Boh-gus for Kristin. If Marie had it together, she should recommend Bogus with Whoopi Goldberg. It’ll be out in six years from when this video took place. It’ll be preceded by a marketing blitz so don’t worry, you won’t miss it.
6:27 – So Kristin’s rented that video five times. How bout not judgin’ your friend, Marie? Look how many videos she’s renting this visit. It’s turning into a Blockchanal! I thought she was babysitting? Shouldn’t she be watching the kids?
6:40 – Spike looooooves Star Trek. It’s like “he’s gotta have it.” #SpockLee
7:10 – “I’m coming to get you, Kristin” – Brad as he leaves the counter to show Kristin the Star Trek videos.
I know what you’re thinking. Am I good enough to work at Blockbuster Video? You are! Let’s begin part two:
0:05 – Oh no! We’ve got a five-alarm side-ler.
0:28 – Eww! He referred to himself as a movie buff. I hope he never finds Casino Royale.
0:55 – Can you imagine this guy at home watching Casino Royale and enjoying it? I can. He’s probably listening to “Goodbye Horses” on a loop and muting the movie.
1:15 – (Jump Scare!)
1:36 – Is that a Video Log or the Torah?
2:00 – Now it’s just flirting.
2:28 – Oh, that’s pleasant. Damn you Buster Sales!
3:00 – There’s nothing more fetching than a brunette mid-PVT tape realization.
4:25 – Customers aren’t people. They’re clues. Pitch ‘em. Then ditch’em.
4:35 – Marge Simpson? “Doug’s a nerd?” Assholes. Not the Buster Way.
4:55 – “Remember, Marie. Nerd-shame the customer!” – Buster Sales
5:15 – My husband’s $10 limit? This is why we march! I feel bad for Doug.
6:22 – Clean the VCR head every 20 hours or so? That seems excessive. Wake up. Eat. Go to work. Eat. Clean VCR. Sleep. Repeat. #IDidItMyWay
7:00 – Doug doesn’t seem so bad especially since Marie was fawning over Pink Panther guy earlier. I don’t like the way she barked “Saturday BEFORE MIDNIGHT!” at them.
7:55 – Joan’s got a shit attitude. She’d be better suited at Hollywood Video. And finally, good on Marie – she’s saw Brian and seized the opportunity!
There’s Somethin’ Happenin’ Here…
Aladdin was a pivotal movie during my childhood. It was the movie that, for some reason, broke the string of my parents taking me to see every Disney movie in theaters. Also, when Burger King was selling Aladdin cups, it was no longer a given that I would be getting one. It’s like… I was growing up or I was too old for them all of a sudden. I was 10 and this was the end of the innocence. This commercial was crazy sad for me because right off the top, Dan Cortese (aka the best of us) and the Burger King Kids Club are all raising their hands that they saw Aladdin AND went to BK to get the new Aladdin magic cup. BUT I DIDN’T DO EITHER. I had to wear a scarlet BK. Plus, it wasn’t a regular cup, you guys. It was a magic cup that changed color when you filled it up! Because I was suddenly a grown up, I guess, I was allowed to have a shrimp dinner basket at BK (with table service…remember when they had that for a short time?).
You Can Keep Your Precious Sundance!
I think it’s funny that McDonald’s sold videotapes (as part of their “Holiday Film Festival”) for many reasons. Just seeing a copy of Ghost next to a Big Mac is funny. Imagine going up to the counter and being like “Yeah, a number one, medium, Diet Coke, two Sweet and Sour Sauces and Charlotte’s Web.” Also, I remember this commercial WORKED for me. I already owned Ghost and Wayne’s World so I remember going through this whole charade with my parents pretending I liked The Addams Family just so they could take me to McDonald’s to buy a movie that I didn’t like (I can’t believe I forgot to talk about that on The Addams Family podcast!). The McDonald’s ads were just so exciting to me that it didn’t matter what they were selling. I just needed to be part of the McDonald’s Holiday Film Festival. If they re-introduce it I promise to report from there with F This Movie! press credentials.
They Spared No Expense
I sit with my mouth agape at the marketing blitz that went out for the VHS release of Jurassic Park. It’s so epic the promo even needed its own end credits. Who is going to manage all of this? What was the aftermath? Were any babies conceived at the MTV Beach Parties promoting the JP VHS release? And did you see that 168 unit floor merchandiser with opening gates and lights??? I need to review MCA/Universal Home Video’s financial reports for 1994 and 1995 and learn how much retail revenue occurred! As a person with a degree in Marketing, this kind of thing makes me hard.
I Am One with the Special Editions. The Special Editions are One with Me.
Say what you want about the Star Wars special edition trilogy, but this trailer made them look amazing (I especially dig this trailer’s first 30 seconds). I remember seeing this play before Jingle All The Way at the Randhurst 16 back in November 1996 when the theater just opened and was the first I ever went to with stadium seating. The whole experience was magical. At that point, I had never seen the three original Star Wars films in their entirety and I was beside myself excited to see them on the big screen. I ended up watching them all for the first time (the entire way through) on USA about a week later (like you’re supposed to?). I’ll always remember the special excitement there was the night I went with my friends to see Star Wars: The Special Edition on Friday, January 31, 1997 at 9:45pm (because the 7pm show sold out..which added to the whole experience). We ended up chilling at the nearby Randhurst Mall for 2 hours as we waited for the late show; eating chicken teriyaki at Sarku Japan, going to the comic book store and Suncoast Video and talking Wars. Good times!
Got any cool clips to share? Leave them in the comments below.