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July 22, 2024, 06:26:06 AM

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Jim Henson's early work in advertising

Started by Lipglossed, June 23, 2024, 05:19:36 PM

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Lipglossed

Muppets maestro Jim Henson cut his teeth in advertising. In 1957, a company called Wilkins Coffee (who sold, um, coffee) hired him to produce commercials.

What follows are just brilliant - anarchic comic violence from two puppets called Wilkins and Wontkins, who went on to be used for other coffee firms too. Treat yourself, here's a few of my favourites:



Some of them are in colour too!




 

idunnosomename

That first video is brilliantly relentless. I enjoy how it ends up to have very little to do with the coffee

Oh, Nobody

Love this bumbling goofus:


and the sexual tension in this one!


Oosp

This is undoubtedly the masterpiece of his advertising era.


jamiefairlie

Quote from: Oosp on June 27, 2024, 12:11:14 AMThis is undoubtedly the masterpiece of his advertising era.


Did he murder his family?

Lipglossed

Quote from: Oosp on June 27, 2024, 12:11:14 AMThis is undoubtedly the masterpiece of his advertising era.

Wow, so Lynchian. Interestingly I think it might be dubbed — that sounds like Henson himself, but doesn't look like him.

copa

Quote from: Lipglossed on July 03, 2024, 11:55:39 AMWow, so Lynchian. Interestingly I think it might be dubbed — that sounds like Henson himself, but doesn't look like him.

And cool early electronica sounds by Raymond Scott.

frajer

Excellent stuff, really enjoyed all that. Had no idea Henson did adverts.

The La Choy dragon bellowing about chow mein while decimating the entire aisle feels like a Tim Robinson sketch, which is a very good thing indeed.

The Bumlord

His puppets are always so recognisable and expressive. And funny.

Glebe

Those ads are fantastic! Proto-Kermit and proto-Telly Monster!

steveh

Watched the Jim Henson documentary on Disney+ this week which was really interesting and much better than a review I'd seen had made it out to be. Didn't know before how much his early work was a partnership with his wife Jane, but then once they had kids she became rather sidelined. There's also an interview with Jim in which he says it was only with hindsight that he realised quite how violent the early stuff they made was.

jobotic

These are excellent. Thank you

I bet Wilkins Coffee is revolting though....Aaaaghhhhh!! He shot me!


idunnosomename

Quote from: jobotic on July 06, 2024, 11:10:30 AMThese are excellent. Thank you

I bet Wilkins Coffee is revolting though....Aaaaghhhhh!! He shot me!
I don't think it exists anymore. Seems the company struggled in the 80s and was aquired by General Foods at some point and just used as a budget brand name. With its new internet popularity if it existed in any form you'd think some muppet enthusiast would've found it and written a blog about it

It wasnt primarily instant though, press ad from late 1958



Bit rubbish as Wontkins was the wrong colour.


This pair sold for $2.3k in 2006. Probably the high end of their value today tbh, but they can go for a lot because the vinyl isnt decades-long durable.

https://www.hakes.com/Auction/ItemDetail/21490/JIM-HENSON-WILKINS-AND-WONTKINS-WILKINS-COFFEE-ADVERTISING-FIGURAL-PUPPET-PAIR

Theres a Wontkins up for $50 on eBay now



Sadness in his eyes.

idunnosomename

Also they were patented in 1958 by Wilkins with the Hensons seemingly transferring the rights to them


https://patents.google.com/patent/USD186120

Although they were used for a bunch of other companies in the 1960s, in 1990 when the flailing Wilkins tried to reboot the ads and sell t-shirts, Henson's production company ended up taking them to court



One thing I'll never understand is how American TV networks work, but as far as I understand the initial series of ads would have only been broadcast around the D.C. area.

non capisco

Fantastic thread. The increasing casual sadism in the Wilkins Coffee ads and the La Choy dragon lumbering about and accidentally smashing up a supermarket aisle while still shouting generic enthusiastic copy both really made me laugh. I'm guessing he wasn't exactly thrilled to be having to take the ad agency dollar, these seem very form-subverting for such early examples.

RetroRobot

Love the Wilkins ad but have to be pedantic and say he isn't a prototype Kermit. Kermit already existed by this point, having first appeared in 1955. Ta all!

Yes, I'm autistic.

Harlequin

very good doco covering Jim Henson, and this era of his life, by defunctland on youtube:


RetroRobot

Quote from: Harlequin on July 11, 2024, 02:37:26 AMvery good doco covering Jim Henson, and this era of his life, by defunctland on youtube:


Miles better than Idea Man too.

Pink Gregory

"Who are you?!" is a brilliant reaction to a human sized dragon

Harlequin

Quote from: RetroRobot on July 11, 2024, 06:54:06 AMMiles better than Idea Man too.

yeah I haven't seen Idea Man but the Defunctland series is just given room and length to breathe. it's suitably in-depth and well-researched and edited and deserves the utmost praise imo

From around the same era, an early experimental short starring the man himself. Some astonishingly good editing here.


Ascent

Love Defunctland. All their videos are very interesting and entertaining. Off topic, but the one on Disney's Fastpass is amazing.


Jasha

I love that coffee break throwing him off the scaffolding "now all our workers drink Watkins".

Spent all day introducing myself as 'I'm the La Choooooy dragon'

idunnosomename

#24
the one that gets me is

Wilkins: You gonna run against the Wilkins Coffee Party?
Wontkins: Start the race!
Wilkins: On your mark, get set, go! (shoots Wontkins in the face with a revolver) Nobody beats Wilkins!

presumably aired in the Washington metropolitan area in late 1960. and you talk about violence in politics today

I suppose you could say it's a starting pistol and he didn't really murder Wontkins... but they're so dangerous at close range the actual prop won't be a real blank-firing pistol

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