Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Sunday Evening Videos: Funny Face Drink Mix Returns (Without The Drink Mix)

Most folks over the age of 40 remember Funny Face Drink Mix.  It was a competitor to Kool Aid that came pre-sweetened with “Sweet 10” an artificial sugar-free sweetener, which was pulled from the market after it was found to cause cancer, and/or giant sentient tumors.  Kids didn’t care about the sugar or the semi-intelligent tumors. They loved the animated characters from the commercials: Goofy Grape, Root’n Toot’n Raspberry, Jolly Olly Orange, Freckle-Face Strawberry, Loud-Mouth Lime and Choo Choo Cherry.   Since the cancer scare (never a good thing for a children’s food product) several attempts to revive the drink mix failed to catch on. First Pillsbury, who owned the brand, switched to saccharine, which was also eventually found to be less than healthy.  The line limped along until 1983, when Pillsbury sold the intellectual property rights to Brady Enterprises, who never quite managed to get the drink mix back off the ground, despite years of trying.

However, after that long explanation, we get to our main video this evening.  Renegade Animation, the folks who do “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi” and “Mr. Men” for Cartoon Network, have acquired the rights to produce a cartoon starring the characters, who were far more memorable than the drink. Here’s the three-minute pilot for the show.

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After the jump, we have some of the classic commercials, and explain some of the controversy surrounding the original character names.

Originally, two of the characters were “Injun Orange” and “Chinese Cherry,” as seen in this commercial. 

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This was bad, even for the 1960s, so they were quickly changed to “Jolly Olly Orange” and “Choo Choo Cherry.” From the tone of the kid in this commercial, you might also think that “Sweet 10” contained Quaaludes.  No wonder mom let him drink all he wanted. Kept the little creep quiet so she could drink Gin and watch her stories.

Later Pillsbury introduced the new characters and got a kid who didn’t sound quite so sedated to be in the commercials.

 [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/w7x_EejA2Zo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]In the 1970s, Pillsbury gave up on the whole "sugar free" thing and just started cramming sugar into the drink mix packets by the fist-full.  They sold Funny Face in a two-quart size and made it their main selling point, even though the two-quart packets cost twice as much as a pre-sweetened one-quart pack of Kool-Aid did. At least they got a decent jingle out of it.

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During the course of the line, Pillsbury  also introduced a slew of new character/flavors:Captain Black Cherry, Loud-Mouth Punch, Tart N’ Tangy Lemon (later renamed “lil Imitation Lemonade–I kid you not), Rah Rah Rootbeer, Chilly Cherry Cola, Lefty Lemon, Pisol Pete Pink Lemonade, With-it Watermelon, and Rudy Tutti-Frutti (which I loathed, for obvious reasons). Brady Enterprises introduced one new flavor, Chug-a-lug Chocolate, after they acquired the line in 1983.  Few people have ever seen the chocolate drink mix.

In the capable hands of Renegade, and without the commercial pressures of trying to peddle a drink mix to kids in today’s heavily-regulated kid’s TV environment, we might see a whole new generation of children growing up as fans of Root’n Toot’n Rasperry and Goofy Grape, without the cancer risk, this time! 

We leave you with a link to this post from the very cool blog, Way Out Junk.  It has some samples from an album that we all should probably have in our collection….

3 Comments

  1. Don Guralnik

    New music by Andy Prieboy now available on Andyprieboy.com
    Check it out.

  2. Stephen Beckner

    I remember premiums from them–mugs, wind-ups, etc. That raspberry looks like a tumor…

  3. Elvis Capone

    You didn’t mention the controvery caused by Poofy Pomegranate. Does no video survive?

    My favorite premium was the cross-marketing between Funny Face and The Outer Limits anthology science fiction program. I’d love to replace my old Sixth Finger Rootin’ Tootin’ Raspberry Cap Shootin’ Iron, which had pictures of David McCallum etched into each of the faux pearl handles. One one side, McCallum was normal, but on the other side, he was depicted in his six-fingered, bulbous mutant head state. That toy gun weighed as much as a brick. It was all metal and sharp edges. I accidentally dropped it off a building and I think it killed a guy.

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