Tuesday, July 14, 2015

WATCH! The Candy Land commercial that haunted me for years!

This is what Milton Bradley's Candy Land looked like in 1978.

The game board as it looked in '78.
It's funny how an utterly ephemeral piece of music will become firmly lodged in one's brain for decades. Take, for instance, the instrumental music in an early '80s ad for the Milton Bradley board game Candy Land. There was a particular 30-second spot for this product that I must have seen dozens of times during my tender years between Popeye and Andy Panda cartoons. Obviously, Milton Bradley bought up a lot of advertising time on children's TV shows, and I was smack dab in the middle of the target demographic.

The commercial itself is nothing special: In a sunshine-yellow suburban kitchen somewhere, a young brother and sister play the game with their mom, while a gentle-voiced male announcer explains how it all works. Easy peasy.

But underneath the narration is a jaunty, repetitive little melody with a whistle-like sound. To this day, I remember that insidious little ditty by heart. I will likely never forget it. As for the narrator's spiel, I didn't commit every word of it to memory, but there are certain passages that stick out: "You'll discover the Gingerbread Plum Tree, a Rainbow Pass, and Gumdrop Mountain! But be careful of the Cherry Pit Falls, and don't get stuck in Molasses Swamp!" The way he weirdly emphasizes "Rainbow Pass," as if it's a major selling point, is rather memorable.

Incidentally, one thing I learned in the course of researching this article is that there is no "definitive" version of the classic game. The Internet can't even decide whether it's called "Candy Land" or "Candyland." Under either spelling, the game goes back to 1949, and both the board itself and the box it comes in have been designed, redesigned, and re-redesigned many times since then. What was once merely "Molasses Swamp," for instance, is now a sentient creature unappealingly named "Gloppy." Other characters, like "main antagonist" Lord Licorice, have been added to Candy Land since the days of my youth. (In my day, bad luck was the only antagonist in Candy Land.)

 Through trial and error, I learned that the version of the game seen in the famous ad dates back to 1978. Most sources say the commercial first appeared in the early 1980s, possibly 1983.

The indelible Candy Land jingle played a minor yet arguably-significant role in my life. I can remember humming it over and over to annoy my older sister during a long car trip. She must have identified the song, too, because she said, "Mom, tell Joey to stop singing the Candy Land song!"

A few years later, when I joined the school band, a few of my fellow musicians-in-training and I would try to learn as many pop songs, TV and movie themes, and advertising jingles as possible on our respective instruments. Then as now, I played the euphonium -- a little-understood and much-neglected instrument to which I was dutifully assigned after failing to make the grade on the cornet. Being relegated to the low brass section was moderately more fun if I could play a reasonable facsimile of '"Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin or "The Ballad of Jed Clampett." I remember it was a major victory (in my own mind) when I learned the familiar seven-note "Miss Gulch" theme from The Wizard of Oz. But there was this one kid, Marc, who played the saxophone and had a dizzying range of tunes at his command. And one of them was -- you guessed it -- the Candy Land jingle. That may not impress you, but it impressed the hell out of me.

Anyway, here's the commercial. If the song takes up permanent residence in your subconscious, remember that I tried to warn you.