Saturday, September 30, 2006

Burger King's Magician? (circa 1973)

It's really fun finding things, thinking they might be "something" and trying to identify them and perhaps recapture some lost memories.

This yellow plastic motorcycle toy had been around the house since childhood. It has a gyro wheel and should have a zip cord to make it go. The character seemed vaguely familiar, enough so to make me think it was not just a generic toy. I had been wondering for several years who it was.

There's a crown on the side of the bike and a bearded man at the wheel with a long nose and double pointed hat. His long beard runs down the side of his arm to his back, like it's blowing in the wind as he rides.

I have another similar cycle of Simon the kangaroo from Quangaroos Cereal, made in the early 1970s. Possibly related, I thought mine might be King Vitaman, another Quaker cereal character back then. Here's the Quangaroo.

Well the design, size and material are similar, so I assumed at least that these were made by the same company and that mine was likely from the early 1970s, too. At the time, that was the best I could do.

The proverbial fog started to lift on September 1, when I saw this amazing vintage fast food prize on Neato Coolville's blog. Todd turned up one of the coolest items I had never seen. This is the old cartoon King from Burger King, and he's riding his Royal Motorcycle! Needless to say, I need to get myself one of those!

[The cartoon King represented Burger King from about 1972-1976. More about him on a future blog post. ]

I started to see the similarities with mine -- same crown on the side, same wheel spokes and same headlight. So I was thrilled to assume that mine was also from Burger King, but a different character. A character who I did not remember. Mine was clearly not the King.

From that point, the quest continued. Sadly, very little information was available about the cartoon King, and certainly nothing about any secondary characters in that BK ad campaign.

Finally, I found this vintage Burger King commercial with the cartoon King, circa 1973, on YouTube! (Click to play the commercial within this page.)

In the commercial, we see a man with a long beard, long nose and double pointed fast food employee hat. He's working the counter at Burger King. The King himself identifies the man as "my former Magician"!

I feel pretty certain now that my motorcycle is indeed the Magician from Burger King, an obscure secondary character, who may be a little less obscure now.

Thanks to Todd at Neato Coolville and whoever found and posted that glorious commercial to YouTube, finally I think the mystery is solved!

Please post comments to let me know if you think I've got this right, and if you know any more information about this Magician or perhaps other motorcycles given away in this Burger King promotion.

Hopefully more vintage Burger King commercials and toys will surface to reveal more.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Problems posting comments?

Since switching to the Beta Blogger template -- which, by the way, I really really like -- I've discovered that there are problems posting comments.

If you have a Blogger account but have not upgraded to the Beta, you may not be able to post comments to a Beta blog like mine. The opposite also appears to be true, as I've not been able to post comments to some non-Beta blogs with my Beta account. Hopefully Google/Blogger will get this all worked out.

*** Update 09/23/06 -- The beta bug is fixed. Everyone should be able to post comments now. ***

Monday, September 04, 2006

Pizza Hut Pete

The man with the floating hat is none other than Pizza Hut Pete. As far as I can tell, he started making pies for the pizza giant around 1965 and virtually disappeared in the mid-1980s.

[While he was named Pete, I've also seen him referred to on Pizza Hut paper items simply as "Pizza Man".]

The bag puppet shown here was probably given away in the early 1970s. I love how he is simultaneously giving kids the "thumbs up" and the "OK" sign to assure us that all is well at his pizza joint.

Pete's design caught my attention at an early age; most notably his floating hat, which usually hovered just above his head, and of course the fact that he had two eyes on the same side of his nose. Yes, Pete was always a beacon for classy pizza and good times.

I fondly remember having family meals out at the Pizza Hut in the 1970s and working the activities on the back of the kids' placemats. Here is one such placemat in which Pete shows the steps to make the perfect pie.

Here is the second edition of the Pete bag puppet from the late 1970s. Pete has a more refined or cleaned-up look here.

I've tried to compile a list of Pizza Hut Pete premiums and collectibles that I've seen over the years. Here's what I've come up with so far:
  • Bag puppets (2 different)
  • Coleco toy oven
  • Pizza Hut kids playhouse
  • Pete plastic bank
  • Stickers (at least 4 different)
  • Matchbooks (at least 4 different designs)
  • Server set (toy dishes)
  • Key ring
  • Playing cards
  • Glasses & mugs
  • Pinback buttons (2 different)
  • Uniform patch
  • Pete enameled pin (newer/retro)
  • Pete plush doll
  • Paper placemats (various, with activities on back)
  • Postcards (Pete featured on store sign or roof)
  • Swizzle stick
  • Store "Closed" sign
  • Pocket menu
Here are a few of the above-mentioned items.

Pete seems to be another advertising icon that is being lost to history, though he'll make an occasional appearance in an eBay auction. Pizza Hut doesn't seem to acknowledge him anymore, and there's not really anything written about him on the web... until now!

But Pete does live on, certainly in the memories of many kids of the '70s who, like me, remember gathering the family around a pepperoni pie, doodling on placemat activities and pondering the laws of gravity and that funny little pizza man under the hat.

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