The California Raisins
Who They Are: The Marvin Gaye-crooning, raising-selling, 1980s-defining claymation rock band that became the ultimate in fad-driven ad icons. They first appeared in 1987 and became an immediate hit. They quickly landed a CBS Christmas special, their own Saturday morning cartoon, and even TV ads for takeout pizza. (After all, nothing tops a pizza quite like clay raisins.)
Who They Shill For: The California Raisin Advisory Board, which, not surprisingly, reported a spike in raisin sales in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
You May Not Know: Raisin creator and claymation pioneer Will Vinton won an Academy Award in 1975 for "Closed Mondays," a short about a drunk walking around an art museum. Amazingly, this isn't the only Oscar won by a fruitspokesperson pioneer.
Fruits of the Loom
Who They Are: First appearing in 1975, the fruits of this loom included humans dressed as oversize produce - two grape clusters, a fig leaf, and an apple. (The gooseberries in the actual logo are left out.)
Who They Shill For: Fruit of the Loom underwear - a company owned by no less a genius than Warren "the Oracle of Omaha" Buffett, the billionaire famed for rarely making a poor investment.
You May Not Know: F. Murray Abraham, the widely lauded actor who won an Oscar for his role as Salieri in "Amadeus," played the original Fig Leaf. But you probably do know what the creators of the ad clearly don't: A fig leaf is not a fruit.
Who He Is: With his dapper top hat, cane, and monocle, Mr. Peanut screams sophistication.
Who He Shills For: The Planters Company, which was founded in 1906 by Italian immigrant Amedeo Obici and brother-in-law Marion Peruzzi. Today, it is still owned by a hard-working, mom-and-pop company known as Kraft Foods North America.
You May Not Know: In 1916, Planter's held a contest in search of an advertising mascot. THe winner, 13-year-old Antonio Gentile, submitted a prototype Mr. Peanut, for which he was paid five whole dollars.
Miss Chiquita Banana
Who She Is: The fruit equivalent of a mermaid or satyr, Miss Banana was originally a cartoon drawing with the legs of a woman and the body of, well, a banana. Her initial job was to teach Americans about "exotic" fruit through song ("Bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator / So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator").
Who She Shills For: Chiquita, once known as United Fruit. More than a little political, the company used its ships to help overthrow the Guatemalan government in 1954 and provided support for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.
You May Not Know: The original Miss Chiquita was drawn by Dik Browne, who created the comic strip "Hägar the Horrible." The syndicated stirp, starring an irascible, rotund Viking, manages to appear in 1,900 papers every day, even though it's the only comic less funy than "Hi and Lois." Of course, Browne created that one, too.
(Image: TV Acres)
The article above was published in the July - August 2006 issue of mental_floss magazine, reprinted here on Neatorama with permission.
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