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Friday, June 5, 2020

Hardee's California Raisins Promotional Figurines

In 1986 a commercial appeared on television for the California Raisin Advisory Board in which a group of singing, dancing, anthropomorphized raisins sang and danced to the 1968 Marvin Gaye song, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

These little guys later went on to launch a sensational career for themselves! Combined with more TV ads, and even a music album, The California Raisins Sing the Hit Songs, the Raisins’ images were everywhere, and a cultural phenomenon was born.

The concept was originally created for a 1986 Sun-Maid commercial on behalf of the California Raisin Advisory Board when one of the writers, Seth Werner (at the time with the advertising firm Foote, Cone & Belding SF, and now with big) came up with an idea for the new raisin commercial, saying, "We have tried everything but dancing raisins singing 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine'" (the 1968 song popularized by Marvin Gaye). To their surprise, the commercial became wildly popular, paving the way for several future commercials and opportunities through other media. The commercials were produced by Vinton Studios using their claymation technique, with character designs by Michael Brunsfeld.


People loved the singing, dancing Claymation raisins, so much that more commercials followed, and -- in a marketing scheme that was virtually unheard of at the time -- The California Raisins went on to release four albums, score a Billboard Hot 100 hit, and earn an Emmy nomination (and appear in an Emmy-winning show)!



It was the first time in history that a mere commercial had spawned such a tremendous volume of merchandise! Perhaps the most memorable piece of California Raisins merchandise, however, came in 1987 in the form of small, non-poseable California Raisins figures. The Hardee's restaurant chain offered these as part of a promotion for their Cinnamon 'N' Raisin biscuits.


Hardee's offered four different figures to customers for only $.99 each -- Tiny Goodbite (the singer), Justin X. Grape (blue shoed dancer), Ben Indasun (orange shoed dancer), and Saxophone Player (the...uh....saxophone player).

I remember these guys came out when I was in the 11th grade and my best friend and I would stop in for breakfast at Hardee's most mornings before school. We both ended up getting a set... I still have mine. Lets take a closer look at them:

What are your memories of the California Raisins? Did you collect them or any other promotional toys? Lets hear your story in the comments below.

4 comments:

  1. I remember these. So cool. I remember having one or two but don't remember getting them at Hardee's. We never went to Hardee's. I must have sourced it in some other way. The campaign was so creative and clever though. Definitely hit a chord with a lot of people.

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    1. I was over at Spydey's blog where he post a pic of one of these guys and it reminded me I had them. I've been meaning to do an adventure with them for a while and this spurred me on. I found the guys on a shelf in the bedroom all covered in dust and cobwebs! Poor guys. I had to clean them up a bit before I could take pics of them...

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  2. There were quite a few of these. I don't remember if Hardee's released more sets or if they were available elsewhere, but I'm pretty sure I had one with a surfboard and one with a skateboard. I may have had all four of the ones you have pictured, but I know I at least had the sax player and singer. I miss these types of promotions that fast food restaurants used to run! The same goes for cereal and bread promotions! I used to eat at restaurants that I didn't like and buy cereal that I wouldn't usually buy just to get the cool toys, so the promotions certainly worked!

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    1. Hardee's actually did two more promotions after this one and the surfboard guy was part of the second promotion. I used to have him at one time. He was the only one that I got from any of Hardee's other promotions for these.

      During my research for this adventure I actually found that Kentucky Fried Chicken did a promotion with California Raisin figures similar to these.

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