Monday, April 11, 2016

Wilkins Coffee Commercials Produced by Jim Henson

I'm currently reading Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones, and it's a fascinating look at Henson's life and his impact on pop culture as well as his family and coworkers. Henson has always been one of my creative heroes, so I love reading about his creation of the Muppets and other fantastic work before his untimely death in 1990.

One of the areas he worked in that helped him become a creative force in entertainment was the TV commercials he produced, most notably for local Washington DC coffee company Wilkins. In Henson's commercials for the product, he featured two opposite characters: the energetic--and sadistic--Wilkins, advocate for Wilkins coffee, and Wontkins, a stick-in-the-mud grump who refused to try Wilkins. His refusals inspired Wilkins to punish Wontkins for his folly by shooting, exploding, bludgeoning, and otherwise abusing poor Wontkins.

As crazy as they sounded, they were meant in good fun, and the commercials became wildly popular in the DC area, so much so that advertisers in other parts of the country recruited the characters to shill their products as well. Henson, with the partnership of his wife Jane, became a force to be reckoned with in advertising, assuming enough capital to finance his other projects and eventually create the dream factory that was Henson Associates.

Here are over 15 minutes of Wilkins and Wontkins commercials so you can witness early Jim Henson in action. Enjoy!

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