Monday, June 15, 2009

Shockingly violent coffee commercials starring Muppets



Surprisingly violent series of commercials for Wilkins Coffee, featuring primitive Muppets. One of the ads involves a guillotine.



Hard to believe, but it apparently was a genuine ad campaign:

In 1957, Jim Henson was approached by a Washington, D.C. coffee company to produce ads for Wilkins Coffee. The local stations only had ten seconds for station identification, so the commercials had to be lightning-fast -- essentially, eight seconds for the commercial pitch and a two-second shot of the product.

From 1957 to 1961, Henson made 179 commercials for Wilkins Coffee and other Wilkins products, including Community Coffee and Wilkins Tea. The ads were so successful and well-liked that they sparked a series of remakes for companies in other local markets throughout the 1960s.

The ads starred the cheerful Wilkins, who liked Wilkins Coffee, and the grumpy Wontkins, who hated it. Wilkins would often do serious harm to Wontkins in the ads -- blowing him up, stabbing him with a knife, and smashing him with a club, among many other violent acts.

Wilkins and Wontkins were generally the only characters in the commercials, though on rare occasions, such critters as a Muppet whale or baby birds would appear. Company owner Mr. Wilkins was also invoked more than once.

The characters proved so popular that in October 1958, the company offered vinyl puppets of Wilkins and Wontkins through the mail for $1.00 and a coffee can label. The offer on the can said, "Hey Kids! I'm Wilkins -- he's Wontkins -- you see us on TV!" Obviously, Wilkins Coffee and Henson knew that the Muppet characters had kid appeal, although this doesn't seem to have had any effect on the use of violence and terror in the ads.
You can see a list of all the commercials here. And go here to see many more Muppets videos from the 60's.

*Previously: From the producers of Yo Gabba Gabba, Team Smithereen, stunt puppets.

*Buy Muppets toys at eBay.