Everyone, when they’re a kid, has that one movie they watch over and over again on VHS. Back in the day, there were some commercials that aired before the previews on a VHS. This was before the days of 18 previews on a DVD and 7 commercials that you can sometimes skip and sometimes not, depending on the DVD player you’re using.
One of my absolute favorite movies to watch on VHS was the original 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is not a post about the magic of that trilogy of magical films… although those posts are inevitable at some point in the future. This post is instead about a 60 second commercial that aired before the film. It’s a commercial that embedded itself in my memory. Over the past 22 years of life, the song from it would occasionally pop into my head, the lyrics would occasionally cross my mind, and the images are forever ingrained into my subconscious. The lessons, the fear, the joy, the magic. Some commercials capture your childhood. This is the one that captures mine. It’s my favorite commercial of all time. It captures so many great things from my childhood: dog days of summer, little league baseball (that wasn’t uber-competitive), celebrations like the pros do even if it’s not really warranted, Pizza Hut lunch buffet, and everyone having that special moment. I’ll present to you the commercial and then a second-by-second analysis of this piece of magical marketing.
0:03: Cue the dog days of summer music.
0:04: This kid is just like the ones we all played baseball with. Scratching his leg. Blowing bubbles in his Big League Chew. Picking flowers in the outfield. We all know it. But this one at least looks like he could keep up with you, knowing the box scores of the previous day’s games, competing with you on Home Run Derby mode on your Ken Griffey Jr. Super Nintendo video game. He’s an alright guy. You don’t make fun of him. But there are times you’re frustrated he’s on your team. He’s your friend, though.
0:07: Is that Kevin Arnold’s uncle? Makes me think of his dad. Ahhh… The Wonder Years. Any commercial that evokes that show must be the most American commercial ever. We’re not even to the ten second mark.
0:08: These kids are thinking… “Is that kid really in the game and I’m not? Damn you, mandatory playing time rules!”
0:09: This isn’t your best little league ballpark. These kids are middle class Americans playing middle class ball. Heart of America… doesn’t get any better than this… dog is running around. Fence is falling down. Birds chillin’ on old tires. This is the early 1990s people. The Cold War is all but over and the economic boom hasn’t quite hit yet. Baseball matters to these people.
Off in the distance, the game’s dragging on…
0:13: This kid… this kid… this kid… Sandlot? Heavyweights? The Big Green? At least 80% of the movies I loved in the early to mid-1990s? It’s gotta be him. He’s the catcher. It’s perfect.
There’s strikes on the batter, the runners are on.
0:18: This pitcher just looks like THAT GUY from little league. You hated playing against him. He thought he was better than the league. He probably was. But he wasn’t as good as he thought he was. But he’s on the team of the hero here, so we love him. Or do we?
And suddenly everyone’s looking at me…
0:20: A HIT?!? You’re the best pitcher, supposedly. Can you at least not allow any long fly balls to our good buddy daydreaming in the outfield with the tires, dog, and birds? Gosh.
0:21: The team is either a) in awe of this hit or b) really sad that it’s going towards our downtrodden hero who no one believes in.
My mind has been wondering…
0:24: He’s oblivious. Of course he is.
0:25: Old guy in a hoodie is yelling. Is he the grandfather? Is he an old man who just watches little league for the love of the game? Is he trying to get our protagonist’s attention or does he want the ball to keep flying out of the park, past the tires, dog, birds, and falling fence? The world may never know.
… what could it be?
0:28: Just oblivious. Sigh.
They point to the sky and I look up above
0:30: It’s Shaun Weiss! [hyperlink: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0919169/] Goldberg from Mighty Ducks! Josh from Heavyweights!
0:32: Oh boy.
And a baseball falls into my glooooove!
0:34: Best. Camera. Work. EVER!
0:35: Goldberg can’t watch.
0:37: This magic moment!!!!
I plaaay rightfield…
0:40: Greatest moment of our young protagonist’s life.
… it’s important to know.
0:41: All of your peers are cheering for you!
0:43: Your coach can’t believe it!
Ya gotta know how to catch. Ya gotta know how to throw.
0:47: IT’S JUST LIKE THE BIG LEAGUES! IT’S LIKE YOU WON THE PENNANT! IT’S LIKE YOU’RE THE MVP! EVERYONE WILL BE TALKING ABOUT THIS FOR AT LEAST 3 DAYS… PROBABLY FOREVER!
That’s why I play in right field…
Way out where… the dandelions grooooow…
0:52: IT’S A COMMERCIAL NOT FOR ALL THAT IS GREAT ABOUT THE TRUE UNDERDOG STORY IN AMERICA! BUT FOR PIZZA HUT! WHICH MAY MAKE IT AN EVEN MORE AMERICAN COMMERCIAL!
0:56: Pizza Hut is a proud sponsor of little league baseball. Because they love America.
0:57: Lunch buffet? Gosh, I hope so. Gosh, I miss the Pizza Hut lunch buffet and clear pitchers of coke.
0:58: He’s the hero. Trust is restored. There’s balance in the force. Anyone can be a hero. Pizza Hut loves all the kids that make it great. What’s “it”? Baseball. America. Pizza Hut. Freedom. Duh. What are you, a terrorist?
1:00: Cue the logo. Cue the early 1990s peppy recitation of the slogan. Cue joy for all.
And there’s that. I think it’s the best commercial from my childhood. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, along with any and all great commercials you remember from your childhood that capture your memories from growing up.