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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Special Olympics PSA
When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial hit theaters, it was a big deal. E.T. was everywhere after that. He did commercials for lots of products, including a very memorable Atari commercial. One that I always remembered was this ET Special Olympics PSA.
In it, E.T. is simply watching a child work hard on mastering the high jump. Even though the kid fails time and again, E.T. patiently watches. E.T. even pays the kid a visit to let the kid know that he believes in him. Eventually, through hard work and perseverance, the kid manages to make the jump. When he does it, his parents are there to praise him, but this kid knows who really cares about him, E.T.
When I first saw this ad back in the 1980s, I was naturally attracted to it because of E.T. At some point, something occurred to me that made it extra fun in my book. E.T. can make things fly. He did it with the bikes. Why didn’t he do it with this kid? Yes, I know why. He wants the kid to win by his own means.
Still, this PSA would have been much more memorable if this kid suddenly started glowing and leaped twenty feet into the air. Sure, not as lesson oriented, but a hundred times more memorable.
Save for a shot of the hand at the start, no special footage was created for this commercial. Instead, they just crosscut pre-existing E.T. footage with shots of the featured athlete. This is obvious to me now, but would not have occurred to me as a kid still in the grip of E.T. Mania (even years later).
E.T. always has a nice history with the Special Olympics. Years after its theatrical release, when it was getting a wide videocassette release, they would donate a portion of the sales of the film to the Special Olympics.