Welcome to a new segment here in Twinsanity (we told you things were starting to happen here) called Retroville–where we look at toys, products, theme park attractions, live shows and concerts, novelties and other assorted merch that are based on cartoon franchises or feature cartoon characters; not specifically animation, per se, but connected to cartoon culture or at least in a related field, as well as past ad campaigns, retail and restaurant chains, toys and novelty products, hence the name Retroville. On Retroville we’ll be pulling out those kitschy things that make you smile and say…
“Hey, I vaguely recall that!”
Before we start, I have to give credit where credit is due: the Toon Adjacent segment was the brain child of my brother Jason (Goldstar), so once again Jason has saved this blog from the abyss. Let’s give him a big hand.
Now, on with the show!
-Today’s Toon Adjacent looks at Funny Face.
“Fruitzilla’s here, baby!”
If you were a kid in the 60’s or 70’s, you probably know about these Technicolor Fruities. If you don’t, lend me your ears: Funny Face was a kids’ drink product introduced by Pillsbury in 1964, coming in an assortment of 6 flavors, each sporting a different kooky anthropomorphic fruit character with a catchy gimmick and correpsonding name. They were originally created by Hal Silverman at Campbell Mithun Advertising for his daughter; Silverman’s nickname for his daughter was Freckle Face, then the rest of the Funny Face characters just fell into place after that. Four of them, Goofy Grape, Rootin’ Tootin’ Raspberry, Loud Mouth Lime and Freckle Face Strawberry, were innocuously innocent enough, but the other 2, well…..
Yes, the other 2 Funny Face flavor characters were named Injun Orange and Chinese Cherry. They were funny, because they were ethnic. Hee-larious, right?
“Dat’s racist, yo!”
To be fair, Silverman meant no harm; remember this was 1964, and such ethnic caricatures were the norm at the time, but not surprisingly, the Native American and Asian communities weren’t too thrilled with their very cultures being characterized as shtick, so Pillsbury smartly complied and changed those characters to Jolly Olly Orange and Choo-Choo Cherry.
There was also the matter of Funny Face’s artificial sweeteners: The company originally chose a substance called cyclamate, which was deemed dangerous by the FDA (it was discovered to have caused cancer in laboratory rats). Scientists were quoted as saying:
So after a few years, Funny Face was pulled from store shelves. After a bit of reformulation, the product returned with harmless saccharin in its place, and also offered an unsweetened version so consumers could add their sweetener of choice. Eventually, larger packages of Funny Face were made available that contained sugar.
For a while, the Funny Face crew were riding strong, even rivaling Kool-Aid in popularity for kids’ drinks. They even spawned merchandise, such as toys…
Drink it in!
…And even storybooks.
Eventually, the Funny Face roster expanded to include such colorful personalities as Lefty Lemon…
…Captain Black Cherry…
…With-It (or Way-Out) Watermelon…
…And Rah-Rah Root Beer.
Peep out these Funny spots from the ancient 1970’s.
“Color me unimpressed.”
Well, those ads were…boring. For a product called Funny Face, you would think their ads would be, you know, funny. The image of a giant anthropomorphic pitcher of juice with a face, arms and legs smashing through a brick wall is something you’ll never forget if you’ve seen it, but these spots were just bland, plus it was weird seeing characters like Goofy Grape and Lefty Lemon speaking with normal voices and acting like regular folks. Where were the antics? Where was the shtick? Where was the FUNNY? I expected a commercial for a product called Funny Face to be more like this:
Evidently, 70’s kids felt the same way: ultimately, Funny Face just couldn’t compete with Kool-Aid, and by the time the 70’s were over, so was Funny Face. Only Kool-Aid remained.
“THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE! OH YEEEAAAH!”
For a brief period in the 80’s Pillsbury tried launching a product called Moo Juice, but it just wasn’t the same. Recently, I came across something interesting: a series of animated shorts starring the Funny Face gang, produced by Renegade Studios.
Now, that’s more like what I would expect from a product called Funny Face. Why couldn’t the 70’s commercials have been more like that? They might still be around now. Plus, Rootin’ Tootin’ Raspberry had a John Wayne sound-alike voice. Nice touch.
(Sidebar: I’m guessing the writers of these weren’t too fond of With-it Watermelon; they just had him get splattered by a truck and he never turned up again. A tad harsh, I think. With-It Watermelon wasn’t that bad a character; he was definitely a better idea than Rah Rah Root Beer. He’s not even a fruit!)
I don’t know what these animated shorts were for, but who knows? Maybe Funny Face can resurface one day. There’s nothing wrong with free enterprise, and if the characters would actually be portrayed as humorous, not bland and boring like in those 70’s commercials, I’d be down.
“Stay funny, my friends.”