The '80s were a pretty sweet time to be a kid. I mean, yes, there was a lot of serious stuff happening then, but when I was five, phrases like “the Cold War” and “Reaganomics” simply weren’t on my radar. The things that were on my radar were awesome: Popples. She-Ra. Jem and the Holograms. Dirty Dancing. (Yes, I was allowed to watch Dirty Dancing from a young age. I didn’t understand it, and I LOVED it.) Life was good. But a look back proves that life was also terrifying: ‘80s movies and TV shows are scary as hell. (Seriously, remember ALF?)
Even television commercials in the ‘80s were sometimes weird to the point of being frightening, and what’s even weirder is that some of the scariest ads are those that were particularly aimed at children. Apparently, marketing firms back in the day thought the best way to get kids to buy stuff was to present them with a surreal hellscape and then say, “Give me your money!” Whatever works, right?
For your viewing pleasure, I’ve assembled six creepy commercials from the 80s here. The essential lessons to be learned from all of these ads are that
- People in furry suits pretending to be talking animals are scary.
- Animatronics (robots pretending to be talking animals) are also scary.
- A human/egg hybrid puppet thing (I don’t even know what to call it) will scar you for life.
Prepare to feel an intoxicating mix of horror and nostalgia:
This commercial tells us that "Happiness is ... MarineLand," but I think real happiness is never having to face a creepy walrus king face to face. Also, this happens:
Why would you let your kid do that? WHY?
2. Ugly Ball
Ugly Ball (from Bonkers!) is, apparently, an ugly ball you get when you send in ten wrappers from Bonkers candy. (Yes, send in, as in actual mail. Remember that?). This face will haunt your dreams forever:
3. Teddy Ruxbin
Any commercial for Teddy Ruxbin is bound to be scary, because talking animatronic toys are, by definition, creepy as hell. I find it crazy that this commercial is intentionally aligning Teddy Ruxbin with Frankenstein's monster. How did that marketing meeting go? "Sir, I think it would be a good idea to draw connections between our talking robot bear and a monster made of mutilated corpses." "By Jove, that's brilliant! The kids will love it!"
4. Chuck E. Cheese
I was terrified of the costumed characters at Chuck E. Cheese as a kid, so maybe that's why this commercial feels so creepy to me. I mean, just look at this giant rat, who can mysteriously walk upright and who likes to frolic with children:
5. Kinder Surprise
This commercial defies words. There is nothing I can say about it that will make it make sense. It is simply the embodiment of fear.
6. Sugar-Free Dr. Pepper
This commercial isn't scary, so much as really, really weird. I have so many questions. Why is Red Riding Hood wearing roller skates? Why is that werewolf so obsessed with diet soda?
And, finally, BONUS VIDEO. This commercial is from the '60s, not the '80s, but it's so completely horrifying that it must be seen. If nothing else, it proves that our parents were just as messed up by TV as we were.
(Lesson: Clowns are harbingers of doom. But we already knew that).