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Stop Motion? Robots? CGI? WHAT ARE THEY!?!?
May 13, 2014 9:01 AM   Subscribe

The Energizer Bunny debuted in 1989 and quickly became one of the most successful advertising campaigns in media. Five years later, Duracell decided to do an eye-catching campaign of their own. The result was one of the most bizarre series of commercials of the 1990's.

The Puttermans appeared as a family of life size plastic figures powered by Duracell batteries. Created by makeup master Steve Johnson, viewers stared in fascination and wondered what the heck they were seeing. Some thought it ventured too close to the uncanny valley and that the commercials, while definitely memorable, were too off-putting (and definitely miles away from a fuzzy pink bunny rabbit with a drum).

Commercials available on YouTube:
Minigolf
Barbeque
Parrot
Grandma
Vacation
Porch Date
Drive Thru
Art Museum
Biker Date

If there was one enduring legacy from this, it's that it inspired a classic music video (which seems to be the more proper place for such a disturbingly fascinating display). Here is a shorter and longer making-of segment about the creation of the video, including the makeup.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (46 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
the commercials, while definitely memorable

If I ever saw 'em, I've completely forgotten them.
posted by yoink at 9:05 AM on May 13


This is how everybody in L.A is going to look in 30 years.
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 AM on May 13 [7 favorites]


"Daddy, how did you make it through the 90s?"
"Primus, son. Primus."
posted by benito.strauss at 9:07 AM on May 13 [26 favorites]


Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee . . .
posted by Herodios at 9:08 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I don't recall finding them all that fascinating or off-putting. It was actors in rubber masks and make-up. Not a big deal.
posted by amro at 9:11 AM on May 13 [8 favorites]


Yep; I don't remember them either, and the article in the "too off-putting" link does a good job explaining why.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:11 AM on May 13


Man, I loved me some Primus back in the day. That video was the shit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:15 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]


This is how everybody in L.A is going to look in 30 years.

cf. Robert Williams, Vanity of the New
posted by Sys Rq at 9:16 AM on May 13 [6 favorites]


Is "Putterman" a pun I'm not picking up on? I feel like it is, or should be, a reference to Duracell's various "last longer" slogans, but I can't make the connection.
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 9:25 AM on May 13


That triggered some dusty synapses in my hippocampus.
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 9:26 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


I remember those ads! I found them non-annoying, which is about as much praise as most TV commercials can hope to achieve.

I'm not too disturbed by the plastic uncanny valley effect, but I am awfully creeped out by the idea of being powered by a single battery, located in a spot that everyone except you can easily reach. Anyone at any moment could sneak up behind you and yank out your battery, and if a friend, family member, or good Samaritan with a spare doesn't find you, you're effectively dead.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:29 AM on May 13 [6 favorites]




Holy shit. "Larry Doty, for the birdie," was part of my weird childhood lexicon, and I could never figure out why until now.
posted by The Potate at 9:37 AM on May 13 [9 favorites]





. . . he ha hee hee heeeeeeeee!!!




I remember these ads well, and "got it" immediately when I saw the Primus "Winona" video. Ol' Buck Naked and his Bare Bottom Boys really put the (plastic) eyebrows on the concept, especially Herb.

That video was pretty hard to find in watchable quality until the Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People disc. That's whence came the "making of" videos , too.

I think the off-putting and uncanny valley stuff is being oversold here a bit. 'Goofy' is more the mark.

the article in the "too off-putting" link
"assault with batteries."
If only that article had been edited.

By.

Brooke.

 
posted by Herodios at 9:37 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I am awfully creeped out by the idea of being powered by a single battery, located in a spot that everyone except you can easily reach.


DANGER! DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGERRrrrrrrrr
 
posted by Herodios at 9:42 AM on May 13


Watching these ads again now what strikes me is that many of them, scriptwise, are equally suited to radio spots.
posted by GrapeApiary at 9:45 AM on May 13


Jeez, these commercials. I feel like I remember being vaguely disconcerted by them, but mostly I'd forgotten all about them. Brains are weird.

Grandma

If ever there was an origin story for Cookie Clicker, that ad spot is it.
posted by cortex at 9:46 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised so many people don't remember this. Yeah, these things were definitely weird and off-putting. In other words, I kind of liked them.
posted by brundlefly at 9:58 AM on May 13


Still not as weird as being screamed at by an Australian for some reason.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:58 AM on May 13 [11 favorites]


I thought Energizer was just another brand name for Duracell, becuase where I come from (Sweden), there is no Energizer bunny but a Duracell bunny with the same iconic status. It turns out Duracell used the bunny long before Energizer but forgot to renew the US trademark registration, so Energizer just took it and made it their own. Interesting!
posted by Herr Zebrurka at 10:08 AM on May 13 [30 favorites]


Look, lets just pretend like that never happened, shall we?
posted by Reverend John at 10:10 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]


worrying about someone yanking your battery is just robot castration fear.
posted by bruce at 10:16 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I thought Energizer was just another brand name for Duracell, becuase where I come from (Sweden), there is no Energizer bunny but a Duracell bunny with the same iconic status.

Same here! The Duracell bunny spots on TV still run...and run...and run...
posted by Omnomnom at 10:30 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


I'm in the US, and I never knew there was a Duracell bunny! I remember once reading something that mentioned the "Duracell bunny," and I scoffed because, duh, you mean the Energizer bunny. It must've been written by a non-US author.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:41 AM on May 13


Too off-putting
posted by Dirjy at 10:45 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Jacko Jackson was the Terry Crews of his time.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:01 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I really wish it was easier finding long clips of commercial breaks from various stations in the 90s. There's a few clips of that, and a few full episodes of nick shows or whatever that include the breaks... but i feel like a lot of this stuff that's filed away in my brain somewhere was lost to time. And god damn was the 90s a weird time for advertising.

The instant i saw the batteries in the backs, and the creepy faces i remembered these ads. That shit was nearly as upsetting as short circuit 2 as a young kid.
posted by emptythought at 11:03 AM on May 13


Who knew Handsome Jack had a career doing advertisements before he became despot of Pandora?
posted by Nelson at 11:04 AM on May 13


Still not as weird as being screamed at by an Australian for some reason.

Sam Jones: "We're assault. . . ."

Jacko: "And battery!"

in: The Highwayman!

 
posted by Herodios at 11:15 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


There's definitely a problem with the concept in that: (a) they are essentially anthropomorphizing the product or at least toys being powered by the product; and then (b) they are strongly suggesting mortality/death when the battery runs out. The viewer doesn't have to make much a leap to start thinking about their own "battery" and when it might "run out." I think generally you don't want people thinking about death when watching your commercials.

There's something similar when anthropomorphized food products get eaten or broken in commercials - which, for some reason, I think those M&M characters have done.
posted by Mid at 11:29 AM on May 13


If there was one enduring legacy from this, it's that it inspired a classic music video

So that's what that came from, I'd seen the video on MTV in the early nineties (a regular staple of the weird late nigh lineups) but in the Netherlands we didn't have the commercials so it was just another thing.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:44 AM on May 13


I really wish it was easier finding long clips of commercial breaks from various stations in the 90s.

At least you can watch hundreds of Dutch commercials.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:49 AM on May 13


It's as if nobody remembers Heartbeeps.
posted by ardgedee at 11:50 AM on May 13 [8 favorites]


It's as if nobody remembers Heartbeeps.

Want a bag of beer?
posted by doctor_negative at 12:03 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


dr durabunny
posted by pyramid termite at 12:06 PM on May 13


I heard a rumor that the Puttermans moved in with the King.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:21 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


It's as if nobody remembers Heartbeeps.

AH! That's it! While researching this post, I knew there was a third place I had seen this makeup done besides the Duracell commercials and the Primus video, but I could'nt think of where. Much thanks, ardgedee!
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 12:25 PM on May 13


... I am awfully creeped out by the idea of being powered by a single battery, located in a spot that everyone except you can easily reach. Anyone at any moment could sneak up behind you and yank out your battery, and if a friend, family member, or good Samaritan with a spare doesn't find you, you're effectively dead.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:29 PM on May 13


This Adventure Time gif should set your mind to rest, Metroid Baby.
posted by magstheaxe at 1:02 PM on May 13 [14 favorites]


worrying about someone yanking your battery is just robot castration fear.
posted by bruce


Yeah, but that's not nearly enough to overcome the advantage the bunny has in being the detached yet indefatigably potent male genitals themselves.
posted by jamjam at 1:03 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I thought Energizer was just another brand name for Duracell, becuase where I come from (Sweden), there is no Energizer bunny but a Duracell bunny with the same iconic status.

If I had the power to declare such things, I'd name this Metafilter comment of the month. I never knew, and considering how huge the Energizer Bunny was for a while, am amazed this didn't become more common knowledge.

It's as if nobody remembers Heartbeeps.

Shields and Yarnell: the Movie!
posted by JHarris at 1:23 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


At least you can watch hundreds of Dutch commercials.

Thanks for the link. I really miss Loekie de Leeuw. Asjemenou!
posted by Pendragon at 1:39 PM on May 13


Weird, I always thought these had something to do with The Fuccons/Oh Mikey!, but apparently there’s no relation.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:55 PM on May 13


I remember these commercials.

They’re definitely way 90s. It seems like the dad was modeled after Jay Leno, and the son Bart Simpson.
posted by context adventure at 2:17 PM on May 13


Duracell used the bunny long before Energizer but forgot to renew the US trademark registration, so Energizer just took it and made it their own.

This doesn't jibe with how I understand trademark law, and in any case I see some references to a fair use lawsuit. The Energizer Bunny ads, when introduced, had elements of parody. It is also clear that Duracell did not make the bunny iconic among the toys that it powered in its ads, like this one where a variety of toys (including a bunny) are defeated by a Duracell-powered elephant toy. By the late 80s, when the Energizer Bunny appeared, Duracell had long since moved on to other toy/battery tropes.

(My memory is that there was a drumming monkey, dressed in a bellboy-like circus costume, that interacted/competed with the bunny in some of these, but I can't find any of them.)
posted by dhartung at 4:13 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


> Anyone at any moment could sneak up behind you and yank out your battery, and if a friend, family member, or good Samaritan with a spare doesn't find you, you're effectively dead.

How BMO changes her batteries
posted by anthill at 4:50 PM on May 13


I remember bunnies for both ( see # 4 http://www.cracked.com/article_19297_5-famous-ad-campaigns-that-actually-hurt-sales.html) but confess that Energizer bunny stuck with me (that was the deserved nickname I gave one of my special friends couple years ago)
posted by b33j at 5:18 PM on May 13


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