Retroist Podcast – Episode 195 – A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

On today’s show I talk all about the holiday classic, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. I have tried to release this episode during past Thanksgiving seasons, but it never came together. I hope you enjoy it. I start off talking about how special this holiday is when it is spent with the people who make it special, then I move onto the special. I talk about the creator of the Peanuts, the producers, directors, animators, plot, voice talent, music and much more.

Music on the show was provided by Peachy (the Vince Guaraldi of Wales), if you have musical needs, why not contact Peachy at And “like” him on his Facebook Page.

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Thanks for listening to the show and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.


John Cleese makes a Wonderfully Silly Robot in this 1980’s Sony Commercial

This commercial is wonderful. Not only is it filled with the promise of technology that is now retro, but it combines the talents of Monty Python’s John Cleese and Star Wars legend and R2-D2 builder Tony Dyson. Set in a mid-eighties modern home, the film begin with a stereo or box or some sort of tech, rolling out on the floor and transforming into a robot that not only sounds like John Cleese, but implies through reenacting Cleese’s famous “silly walk” that it actually IS John Cleese.

I am not sure why they made Cleese into a Robot, but I am glad Sony had the foresight to help preserve this comedy legend in robot form.

After reminding us who he is, without saying who he is, Robot Cleese then begins to extol the virtues of using a laser to play music on the new Sony CD player. While doing so, some jokes are made and the whole production is wonderful, which is pretty amazing considering that they had to build a robot to appear in the commercial and according to Dyson:

For this project we were given only seven weeks to design and construct a robot look ? a ? like of the famous English actor comedian John Cleese…

The ad campaign was so popular in the UK that the robot would appear in four commercials. Sadly I do not remember seeing these ads jump across the Atlantic. As a Python fan I could only imagine how a daily dose of silly walking Cleesebot would have sent me prancing around the house attempting my best impersonation.

Here are all four of these classic commercials for your viewing pleasure.

Original Silly walking…

Vacuum Cleaner Wife…

Chasing a bee…

The Profeel TV


Kids fail in College, but not with a Commodore Home Computer

You save and save to send little Jimmy off to college. He was an honors student and captain of the varsity bowling team. Everything seemed perfect on paper. So why did little Jimmy fail during the first semester? Probably because you were doing all that figuring on paper and now Jimbo has no computer skills and in 1983, it means he just can’t compete.

I am not sure how accurate that is exactly. The majority of school work in 1983 was still done by hand, or at best, on an electric typewriter. But as we see here, Commodore is in the vanguard of the lucrative fear-based school of tech advertising. Now it might seem funny to lump your kid’s college education in with security or backup fears, but it makes a ton of sense when you consider just how much people are willing to spend on an education. And if a Commodore Computer, which is only a couple of hundred bucks at most (less for a Vic), can give your kid and advantage, why not give it a shot.

[via] reinap

That is why the scene at the end of the ad is not at college, but at a much younger child’s birthday party. This was the time a good parent should have been considering getting their kid a computer and guess what, the parents in this particular advertisement got their little one a C64. We can only assume that in a couple of years, when this one gets sent away to some pricey university that they won’t be returning. No, these parents will see straight A+s on all of her report cards and weekly letters written on their wise investment. A double plus for them for good parenting.


Commodore does it all…


They should have made a Real Ghostbusters Statue of Liberty Playset

I love all things Ghostbusters. Even the sequel, which people enjoy mocking, always leaves me with a smile. I was also an avid watcher of the cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters. What I always wondered was why they didn’t tie the sequel deeper into the Real Ghostbusters animated series? Was it because the sequel under-performed?


I can only think of one reference to the sequel in the entire series (although I am no expert). In the 1989 episode, “Partners in Slime”, they used the last of the Psychomagnotheric Slime they had from their battle with Vigo, to help defeat a ghost gangster named Poso. Although they did take some extreme artistic liberties with the stuff, it was nice to have any reference to film canon in the animated series.

Sadly the English version of the episode is no longer online, but you can catch the visuals in this Spanish language version if you do not speak Spanish. If you do…enjoy.

Watching this again, I can’t help but wish that when they were putting out the very cool and way too short-lived Ghostbusters toy line, that they would have worked some G2 material into the mix. If you want an idea of what that might have looked like, you could try to merge your original toys with the Mattel release of Vigo that was pretty recent.


Unfortunately the styles of these toys is completely different and, you if you are like me, will leave you feeling hollow. Why? Because…

Scale and style differences ruin suspension of disbelief

The other way to get a glimpse of a toy that never was, is by peeping this late eighties’ commercial that features a decently sized Statue of Liberty that a group of kids inexplicably have access to for their Ghostbuster playing needs.


Burger King’s Whaler Sandwich

I feel like fish today.

Whenever my Mother said those words while piling into the car, I would get excited because sometimes, but not all the time, it meant that we would be going to a fast food restaurant where she would indulge in a fish sandwich of some kind while I ate french fries and drank a Coke. The fish sandwich was a guilty pleasure of my Mom and here sandwich of choice came from Burger King and had an amazing name, “The Whaler”.

I am not sure why as a kid I found the name so evocative. Maybe I found it funny that it had the word “whale” in it? While it probably contained very little to no whale at all.


I have had a few conversations over the years as to why they called it, “The Whaler”. Perhaps it is to imply largeness as in this is a “whale of a sandwich” or maybe it just sounds “fishy” enough and matches the style of their flagship product “The Whopper”. Whatever the reason, it was an amazing name and I delighted in saying it while my mother chomped away at in the driver seat of our Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.

The Whaler has been around a while. It started in the sixties as a franchisee addition to their menus. Eventually news spread that this fish sandwich was a good idea and by the mid-seventies it was available and being advertised nationally. This original sandwich was breaded and served on a sesame seed bun with lettuce and tartar sauce. It would pretty much stay the same through my of the eighties, although they did release a Cajun Whaler variant in 1987.

But all good things much change and in 1990, while Burger King was reworking its chicken sandwich, they decided to make some changes to the Whaler. Switching the breading style and bun it was served on. They even changed the name to the “Ocean Catch Fish fillet”. No one seemed to mind the change. That is everyone but my Mother.

I couple of years into the nineties, we stopped by a Burger King and she decided to get a fish sandwich for old times sake and she was disappointed enough that she didn’t even finish it. While I didn’t try the new sandwich, I concurred with her just on the basis of the new name. “Ocean Catch Fish fillet” is nowhere near as fun to say as “Whaler”.

The sandwich would go through many other name changes, including the “Big Fish”, which ain’t bad. The Longfish Sandwich, which is amazingly bad and its current name, the generic “Premium Alaskan Fish Sandwich”.

I know Burger King is always trying out some clever marketing, so maybe now is a good time to go retro with their fish sandwich and bring back the Whaler. Heck, if they did I might even try one this time. Just for old times sake. I leave you with a piece of advertising “that should have been”. A tie-in between The Whaler Sandwich and the 1983 film classic, “Return of the Jedi”. Enjoy.


VideoBeam and NovaBeam Televisions and Henry Kloss

In the seventies, Henry Kloss invented the Advent Video Beam Television. It was a CRT TV projector that allowed you to watch TV on a projected screen. This wasn’t the standard projector size we are all used to nowadays. They had to put an entire TV in this unit along with the projection system. So this machine was large, but on the plus side, the early models had an amazing seventies era Sci-Fi look.


Kloss would continue to improve upon the technology and by the dawn of the eighties was selling the NovaBeam Projector. The Kloss Video Corporation would continue to iterate on this technology until the later part of the decade with the release of the Videobeam 3000. The model they would probably be selling in this ad is probably the Novabeam Model Three or maybe the Model 100. I am guessing the Three is more likely, it was available widely in 1983 and this ad is touting its advantage while watching the 1984 Olympic games on it.

Sadly the form factor for the NovaBeam was streamlined and made more “early eighties”. Meaning it was squatter, boxier and had a wood finish. Normally, I like that style, but compare to the VideoBeam…well…it ain’t gonna win a beauty contest between the two.


Henry Kloss, who passed away in 2002, was an amazingly talented engineer and business person who was instrumental in the creation of the acoustic suspension loudspeaker and the high fidelity cassette deck. For his work creating the VideoBeam, Kloss would earn a technical Emmy Award. If you don’t think that Kloss’ achievements were impressive enough at this point, he also helped found two other companies that you probably heard of, Cambridge SoundWorks and Tivoli Audio.

I have never seen a VideoBean or NovaBeam in action, although I have seen a couple of them for sale at Flea Markets. The Video Beam is hard to miss because of its size and design style. Unfortunately everyone who I have found selling them has wanted more money than I am willing to spend on old tech. Still I keep my eyes open, because you never know when a good deal is going to pop up. And even if I might not pull the trigger on a purchase, I can still appreciate the find and the learning that accompanies it.


Enjoy this Radio Ad that Celebrates the Transition of Esso to Exxon

The gas station in my town growing up, at least the one everyone went to, was an Exxon station. It was a hub in the town and for a very long time inspired a brand loyalty in the Exxon brand that still somehow lingers after all these years. Of course, Exxon as a brand is not that old in the grand scheme of things. Like many companies, especially gasoline companies, it has gone through multiple name changes over the years. One that I became acquainted with early one was Esso. Not because ours was an Esso station at some point in history, but because on a frequent route we traveled on day trips to “Upstate” New York, we would pass a decaying Esso station that set my imagination ablaze.

After finding out as much as I could about the brand from my Mother and Grandmother, I even asked the owner of the Exxon station in our town, who happened to be our neighbor. The info was thin, but the largeness of the change and the connection to Standard Oil, a company that appeared frequently in my history books, intrigued me. It was like being able to step into the history book and understand how something we used daily stretched back in time.

What really thrilled me though, was the station itself. It wasn’t overgrown with trees or surrounded by junk. In fact, it was in really good shape. It was just abandoned. Which made me wonder why? Did people stop driving by here? It didn’t seem so, since my family went by at least twice a year. Did the owner pass away? Did illegal things happen there?

I would never find out and at some time in the late nineties, I drove past where the gas station should have been and it was just…gone. All that was left was a concrete pad and the now encroaching tree line. I wonder if nature has now taken it back completely and what drove someone to tear a building down and not replace it with something new. Mysteries on top of mysteries.

I was browsing the internet last night and stumbled upon a site that posts radio commercials and jingles and found this wonderful bit of advertising from 1972 that discusses the change from Esso to Exxon. It is a fun bit of early seventies marketing and their giveaways really take me back to all the gas station ephemera I used to find around my house growing up. Sadly the mysterious Esso station never saw this transition and the insulated white on white Exxon coffee cups promised in this commercial never graced its premises.