Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Anybody Remember the Old Wilkins Coffee Commercials? It Was Jim Henson Before the Muppets

Just saw a Wilkins puppet come up for sale on Pawn Stars and had to learn more about them. 

 These commercials are really cool! 

Jim Henson, the man behind the Muppets, created them back in the 1950s to promote Wilkins Coffee. I think, what I like most, is even though they're only eight seconds long, they're funny as hell! It's sort of like an early version of Vine Videos - only they were made for TV, rather than the internet.

Now the way the commercials worked, Wilkins was the stand in for Wilkins Coffee. His sidekick, Wontkins, was somewhat of a grump, and usually refused to drink coffee, no matter what stunt Wilkins pulled. 

The best way to describe the commercials is The Looney Tunes on steroids, or maybe Wile E Coyote vs the Road Runner.

Picture this.

Wilkins is just hanging out with his cannon like most coffee drinking puppets do. He asks his buddy Wontkins, who just happens to be standing in front of the cannon, what he thinks of Wilkins Coffee. Wontkins says he never tasted it. Next thing you know the cannon goes off in Wontkins face, blowing him away in a whisp of smoke. After a brief pause, Wilkins turns his cannon around to face the audience and asks, "Now what do you think of Wilkins Coffee?"

In another commercial, Wilkins and Wontkins are standing bedside a microphone. Wontkins says he doesn't like coffee, and a gun pops in from out of nowhere, and lets him have it. Wilkins grabs the microphone, and says "This has been a public service announcement from Wilkins Coffee." 

Or, maybe you prefer the one where Wlkins is holding a baseball bat and Wontkins asks him "What's the club for?" "To get your attention!" Wilkins screams, as he lets him have it.

Remember. This is the 1950s. Before the Looney Tunes. Before The Flintstones. And, Wilkins and Wontkins are playing to a prime time audience.

The commercials are about as far from Leave It To Beaver or Father Knows Best as you can get, but they achieved rock star status in their day, and moved truckloads of Wilkins Coffee to boot.

In fact, they were so popular that in  1958, Wilkins Coffee decided to cash in on the popularity of Wilkins and Wontkins, and offered vinyl puppet renditions of them for $1.00 and a coffee can label. Today they sell on eBay for several hundred dollars, depending upon the condition.

Take that, Tickle Me, Elmo!

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