Remember the California Raisins?

Remember the California Raisins?

Do you remember the California Raisins? I sure do…for starters, I remember actual raisins from California. I’ve always had a love hate relationship…great in old people cereal but they make a pretty lousy snack. For the most part, I’ll buy a package of tiny boxes of the dried grapes, eat them the first couple of days, then get real bored, real fast. But enough about California raisins…let’s talk about California Raisins.

In the 1980’s, The Claymation Giants at Will Vinton Studios produced commercials that would change the raisin game forever. Suddenly bluesy anthropomorphic raisins were everywhere! TV, radio, novelty items…even one of those cool stuffed toys that hung on your car window (usually reserved for Garfield) I have a vivid memory of Raisin Mania…what I don’t remember however, was the actual California Raisins Show.

This ends today.
California Raisins: “Meet The Raisins”

California Raisins Part 1

So far this cartoon is pretty freaking great (by my standards anyway) to start with I have always been a huge fan of Claymation and Stop-Motion, if you couldn’t figure that out, and Will Vinton was one of the legends. The character design is fantastic, the doowap and Motown rock hits are outstanding and the fruit related puns are non stop. Together that is a formula for success! The entire show is done in a faux documentary “behind the music style that really works with the program narrated by a nerdy british carrot, showing video clips on a vin-tone television (get it?)

Up until now we have seen them ditch an early member of the group (a “bitter” grapefruit) and then go on to success after hiring his replacement ala The Beatles dumping Pete Best for Ringo Star.

They became a hit on a singing reality competition gameshow that I would actually watch wherein if the contestants did not have enough talent they would be squashed, heated up or otherwise brutalized on national tv. Now that’s entertainment!

Side Note: they also have these great commercial breaks with fruit and vegetable related products and television shows including “hair styling products” and a Vegetable Soap Opera “the young and the seedless”

California Raisins Part 2

They’ve begun to pop the Grapefruit guy into the background as an ongoing joke (he’s constantly trying to get into the act.)

The Raisins career has hit a sour note since their discovery on national tv. They had to start over, performing on the street, then live elevator music and then singing telegrams; in a brilliant scene in which they terrorize and nearly kill a mountain climber. They gain national attention for saving his life and are once again discovered, this time by a Raspberry, Italian film maker. And are put into a Spaghetti Western where they apparently use live ammunition.

**they star in some other movie parodies including a 2001 a space oddysey movie and my personal favorite a star trek parody! “My alien side does not reason…but my raisin side say mmbo bowow boppa mmbow ba bow…” Pure Brilliance!

California Raisins Part 3

The raisins go on a goodwill tour through the arctic circle and play for snowmen, penguins and a walrus.

Not surprisingly the tour loses money and the crew begin their flight home, broke and frozen together somewhere over the US the plane gets struck by lightning and crashes right in the middle of a concert by Lick Broccoli and the herbacides (the current band of the grapefruit ex member)

The Raisins steal the show…literally. They thaw out and start playing for an audience that apparently hates the herbacides even though they are sitting in their concert. (maybe they were assuming a better band would crash an airplance into the concert hall and start performing?) at any rate the crowd and the tv audience at home eats up the Raisins and they go on to greatness and fame (in the 80s).

The End.

California Raisins Recap

There really isn’t too much more I can add to this. I wish I would have seen it sooner. I watched this, so mesmerized by the claymation that at times I wondered if I enjoyed the show as much as I thought, or just fell in love with the visual masterpiece that it was. In reality the writing was my cup of tea, the puns were great and the ongoing gags never got old. Although only produced in 2D animation (my second favorite animation style) this production makes me want to check out the television series. I hope it wont leave a sour taste in my mouth. Nobody likes sour grapes.


Dedicated fan of puppets, horror and classic animation. Fueled by nostalgia and driven to spread my own brand of "truth" to the fandom. Remember playing as a kid and trying to tell a coherent story with totally mismatched, unrelated toys? It's like that....of the mind!

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. I vaguely remember watching this & the sequel “sold out!” back in the day, and I rewatched them online a couple years ago. I always loved the commercials & the characters in general. I think I rejected the cartoon though because it wasn’t “right”. I wasn’t very tolerant of divergant stuff (such as something that’s supposed to be claymation suddenly being thrown up as regular animation (even though I generally loved traditional animation). The same applied to the fraggle rock cartoon, and many other things that I don’t remember now).

    Have you ever seen the claymation xmas special, with the 2 dinosaurs & the raisins?

  2. Excellent article once again my sinister comrade! Seeing these images brought to mind something I’d forgotten. Will Vinton studios did a TMNT commercial for Pizza Crunchabungas, and it was awesome! Claymation turtles and low-grade pizza flavored snacks…truly wonderful!

  3. @Drahken I’ve heard a lot of people share your opinion of things not being “right” and I agree for the most part. the only thing i find redeeming in things like the Raisins cartoon or the fraggle rock cartoon is that they tend to end up being incredibly weird and I get my enjoyment out of them that way, but after all…will vinton claymation and especially henson animation are iconic. seeing them as low budget 2D animation (I love 2D as well) can be a bit jarring. I’ve seen clips of the Christmas special but never the whole thing. I wanna check it out though i think i would really enjoy it. By the way thought you might appreciate this…I went to a comic con last weekend and bought Count Duckula the complete series on “unoficial release” dvd and the quality is actually really good. I’ve been digging getting back into it.

  4. @D13 Thank you my friend! The only thing i can think of that would Ninja Turtles better is for them to be claymation! I’ve seen images of this but I’ve never seen video. I need to track that down

  5. The turtles vid is on youtube, I searched it after seeing d13’s post. The song seems familiar but neither the video nor the product do.

    I have the claymation xmas special on VHS, with the garfield special (I had recorded them when they aired in the late 80s), I rewatch it frequently (although these days I usually watch it online for convenience).

  6. The Garfiel Special IMHO is a nostalgia filled must watch Christmas viewing every year!

  7. Great post as always, CW! I recorded this special when it first aired…watched it until I was able to purchase a VHS copy in the stores. THIS is what caused me to dabble in stop-motion and claymation shorts. Great show and great memories.

  8. @CW Glad to know I’m not the only one picking up “unofficial” releases. I didn’t pick up any this year, but I was tempted.

  9. @Vic…thank you sir! I would love to see those shorts…for real (let me know)

  10. @Saturday World sometimes you have to. YouTube is great but it doesn’t satisfy my weird need to “own” things…. if that makes any sense

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