Tag Archives: kids
The Horrors of the McDonald’s Playground: A Walk Down Memory Lane
By Andrew Blumetti
As if writing about Skippy from Family Ties and TGIF hasn’t dated me much so far, I’m certain the following will surely peg me as an ancient McNugget lovin’ dinosaur, cobwebs intact.
(insert semi-horrible Andy Rooney impression here… but without the messy desk)
With the seemingly never-ending onslaught of new-fangled gizmos and gadgets readily available today, every grade-school scamp is virtually a walking Best Buy store with a backpack. If an Apple a day keeps the doctor away, these tweens will live to be nearly a day short of one-hundred.
You have your fancy I-this and your spiffy I-that. Geez cheese Louise, they’re so tethered to their modern electronics, the only thing that you don’t see follow the “I” is “played outside after school with my friends“.
(end impression here.)
Now, I may only be a child of the 80’s— a simpler time of a feathery-haired Tony Danza, infinite cans of Aqua Net, and the gravity-defying locks of A Flock of Seagulls, but rest assured, it’s a cold, cold realization that smacks you square in the jaw when even my generation is starting to sound curmudgeonly.
Even in said decade, growing up in the New Jersey suburbs, there was a wealth of fun activities to occupy a young boy’s time on a sunny summer afternoon– endless games of stickball in the park, weaving in and out of local traffic on your bike, impressing the schoolgirls with the newest skateboarding tricks (or more specifically, “falling off a skateboard”), or perhaps a refreshing dip in a friend’s heavily-chlorined pool was the ideal way to spend your time.
Amongst all that classic-American fun in the sun, certain days really stood out from the others. Most specifically, being told that an afternoon trip to McDonald’s was being planned, simple as it sounds, now that was a reason to celebrate.
Sure, the sizzling golden fries were soaked in pure saturated happiness, and the Happy Meal box was filled with LEGO sets that were practically as good as gone by the time we got to the table, but going to Mickey-D’s included one other added attraction, one that wasn’t deep fried or dunked in honey mustard…
Sadly, most current McDonald’s locations don’t feature these outlandish relics anymore– A 4,000 square foot outdoor play-area, not much different than any standard cookie-cutter park playground, but decked-out in classic McDonald’s decor, all topped off with all the behavioral calmness of Lord of the Flies (or Fries?) on speed.
It was a barbarous marriage of the trippy universe of Willy Wonka and the happy-go-lucky freak show that was the advertising campaign of the Golden Arches… Metal slides, swings, and spinning rides that would get hotter than John Travolta’s spoon in Pulp Fiction on a summer day. A fantasy playland, covered in french fry smudge marks and more-than-occasional bratty kids in Bum Equipment t-shirts hogging every ride in sight. This madness was such a blast, it’d require multiple requests from exhausted parents to finally drag their surly kids to finally leave for home.
Fast forward to 2013, and finding a classic McDonald’s outdoor playground is quite the challenging task. Try as I might, I just can’t place my finger on the reason though…
Perhaps they became too costly to maintain? The cancellation of the McDonaldland promotion? Maybe McDonald’s brass considered any kind of exercise offensive?
….or perhaps the real reason McDonaldland Playgrounds ultimately went the way of the dodo is because sunshine-y nostalgic hindsight is clouding our vision of how Rob Zombie-ish that freaky place really was.
CHAPTER I: THE PURPLE PEOPLE EATER
A giant characterless purple blob that pre-dated Barney the Dinosaur. Yes, he literally pre-dated a freakin’ dinosaur.
The aptly-named Grimace was initially introduced as a nemesis to main clown mascot, Ronald McDonald. Fast food head-hanchos realized that’s just the most incredibly stupid thing, and went with the slightly less stupid story that he has no story. Luckily his character was so crappy, no one seemed to care… but much like Freddy Krueger, he would eventually have his revenge… ON YOUR CHILDREN.
In this ominous Buffalo Bill-esque prison, Grimace forced many innocent kiddies to put the lotion in the basket. How this thing is better than a real jail is beyond me.
“Thanks for eating our cheeseburgers, kids. Now get inside this weird purple thing’s torso.”
CHAPTER II: JAILHOUSE CROCK
Apparently, the McDonald’s brain-trust figured nothing struck a chord with kids like jails, cause here was another one– “Officer Big Mac”, a big giant novelty cheeseburger decked out in a nifty constable uniform who would one day be destined to become a torture pit for youths.
His main job was to pursue the Hamburglar, a ground beef-thief who decided it was wise to wear his prison stripes outside of prison and pilfer your cholesterol away from you.
After looking at this ominous death trap, one wouldn’t have to scratch their head too long to wonder why Officer Big Mac isn’t flashing his once-famous buns around anymore. Speaking as someone who isn’t crazy about heights or tight, enclosed spaces (the dirty, slippery, kid-crowded ladder inside this godforsaken thing was nothing short of a living nightmare straight out of Jacob’s Ladder), I avoided this hepatitis-covered abyss the way Neil Patrick Harris avoids women.
CHAPTER III: DAYLIGHT ROBBERY
Rumor has it there’s a deleted scene in the special edition of Saw IV that features this pupil-less Hamburglar’s rusted swings of death, but the MPAA deemed it was too disturbing to achieve an R-rating.
He’s got a Jack Skellington-ish suit, a Jack Skellington-ish body, and contains just the right amount of uneasy to make Tim Burton smile, but don’t be fooled, this boney burger boob simply ain’t any fun. Just make sure to pour out your Dr. Pepper on the sidewalk as a tribute to all the fallen suburban homies who tragically faceplanted while getting off of this wretched thing.
CHAPTER IV: SOMETHING’S FISHY…
This underwater treasure was the thing you were forced to play on when everything more fun was being occupied. Yes, when standing inside the Grimace jail was too exciting, this became the last resort of the desperate fast food playgrounder.
Being a fish is a wild ride. It’s freedom personified… something we as humans will never be able to fully appreciate or relate to. You spend your entire life in the magnificent deep blue sea, travel in schools, and gracefully glide your vibrant scaly body amongst the endless coral, the flowing greenery, and the vivid rainbows that compose your fellow sea-brethren– it’s stunning peace and Studio-54-ish chaos all in one felt aquatic swoop.
Then one random day, you spy a tasty worm just ripe for the picking… the next thing you know, there’s a hook in your stupid cheek, and you end up a processed square patty with a slice of room-temperature kinda-cheese on you, stuck on a bun at McDonald’s to be sold in a pair for three bucks.
True, it’s not necessarily the most dignified fate, but man, imagine being the ride based on that sandwich?
Meet the “Filet-o-Fish” ride, a humdrum bouncy piece of junk that didn’t even bounce properly.
Look familiar? You may remember this weirdo as the chestbuster that burst out of Ripley’s stomach while your were nodding off at the end of Alien 3.
CHAPTER V: HOW BIZARRRRRRRRRRRE
No list of forgotten McDonald’s mascots would be complete without nefarious swashbuckler, Captain Crook, the one Mc-imbecile who actually wanted to ride the bouncy fish seat.
A two-bit pirate with a soft spot for both thievery and seafood, this seafaring counterpart to the Hamburglar was yet another immoral advertising idea who wanted to snag your salty food while your back was turned. That’s so absurd, even the Oakland Raiders mascot is pointing and laughing,
Of course, since the McDonaldland Playground was missing a slide, they kindly threw Crook a bone. If avoiding the child Mcvomit at the bottom wasn’t taxing enough, battling the derelicts walking up the slide the wrong way was nothing short of the final battle in 300.
Look at his face. That tells you everything you need to know about this thing. Raise your hand if you’d have rather walked the plank into a sea of blood-thirsty sharks instead.
CHAPTER VI: “I BELIEVE I CAN FRY”
There’s a point when it’s painfully clear you’re just flat out of original ideas.
When Steve Urkel began endlessly cloning himself, we knew Family Matters was ready to mercifully be put down, or when Home Alone 3 hit theaters with an entire new cast, the planet shifted off axis as a nation simultaneously rolled their eyes at the offensive shark-jumping.
…and on that dubious note, I present to you, The Fry Guys.
Originally named “The Goblins” (cause they’re “gobblin’ up” your fries- hey, good one!), these are basically cheerleader pom-poms with volleyball-sized eyes that stare straight into your soul. So, basically all of the aspects of cheerleading and volleyball that don’t involve the attractive women.
Yes, this is starting to sound like a quite obvious pattern. Between the Hamburglar, Crook, and these walking Koosh balls, McDonald’s figured the most effective marketing method was to make you believe your recently-purchased food for would be stolen away from you by moronic mascots. Diagnosis: Mc-agita.
To McDonald’s credit, they created a playground ride that aptly matched the excitement of The Fry Guys.
Blumes note: No hands, yet they purchased shoes with laces instead of Velcro. Poor shopping choice, Fry Guys.
CHAPTER VII: SEE, I’M NOT A MONSTER, I’M JUST AHEAD OF THE CURVE
RONALD McDONALD’S CONFESSION LETTER:
To Whom It May Concern,
I, Ronald McDonald, or “Ron” as I wish to be called, hereby admit to the number of charges of being a colossal creep, even by clown standards.
First off, I am not even Scottish, it just rhymes with “Ronald”. Secondly, this is not my natural hair color, I have been hoping to score the part of Little Orphan Annie in an off-Broadway theatrical run of Annie.
Most importantly, I apologize for my maniacal thousand-yard stare, constant serial killer smile, and the fact you’ll see me in your sleep the way you heard creaks and squeaks for weeks following a viewing of Paranormal Activity. When the borderline psychotic Burger King king was still the second-most terrifying fast-food corporate spokesman, I know I did something wrong.
Oh yeah, I also killed Waldo and stole his shirt. He’s buried and decaying under the Hamburglar swing.
See you in your nightmares,
P.S.– I also peed in the all the McFlurry machines in Michigan.
Hey kid- If this is true, your dreams stink.
The preceding is a work of parody, and I do not own any of the photos used. Except for the Fry Guy ones… I’m making a t-shirt out of that bad boy.
Filed under Advertising, Animation, Comedy, Food, Humor, Pop Culture, Retro, Television
The Definitive Interview with Moira Quirk (Mo From GUTS)
By Andrew Blumetti
“Do You Have It?!?”
If you grew up a fan of 90’s golden-era Nickelodeon, that tagline should be no stranger to you.
… but bad news, if it is, man, you’re getting old.
1. Take one part American Gladiators…
2. Eliminate the ‘roids, awkwardly patriotic spandex, and truckloads of greasy body oil…
3. Insert helmet-wearin’, cherub-face kiddies…
Voila! You now have Nickelodeon GUTS, the action sports competition that ran for four sweaty seasons on the kiddies’ cable network. Hosted by jolly comedic actor Mike O’ Malley, GUTS pitted three tween contestants against one another in several sporting events to win colored ranking medals.
The grand prize was a “glowing” trophy– a piece of the “Aggro Crag”, the giant fabricated mountain that served as the game’s final obstacle race. This prize apparently was so mesmerizing, it made the contestants forget Nickelodeon wasn’t giving them any actual money.
The kids were mildly adorable and goofball O’ Malley monopolized a majority of the screen time, but the real hidden GUTS-y gem was officiator/referee Moira “Mo” Quirk, owner of the most fun-to-impersonate accent to ever grace the channel.
For all of us Yanks who grew up only knowing Moira as “Mo the Ref”, you’d best know that black and white-striped ref jersey is just the tip of the iceberg for this talented British comedian/actress.
Moira has kept herself busy since the show’s ending in 1996. An established stand-up comedian who has also done extensive acting and voice-over work for shows such as Nickelodeon’s animated My Life as a Teenage Robot, the podcast series The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd, Johnny Bravo, Happy Feet Two, and several video games.
You can currently catch Mo as the live-action host of the animated series Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps and a number of upcoming projects.
I was lucky enough to have Moira as my first-ever interview, and I couldn’t have asked for a better choice. Friendly, insightful, and always funny, we discussed that catchy-as-a-cold GUTS theme, conquering the rocky Crag, terrible British impressions, and what it’s like to be a Halloween costume.
Please check out Mo’s official site, and follow her on Twitter at @moiraquirkable. Your funny-bone will send you a Hickory Farms sausage and cheese gift basket as a thank you.
I once bumped into Billy Connelly and all I could do was say “Oh!” as I looked up at him, but I felt a rush of remembering my best friend and myself sneaking his albums from her father’s collection and listening to his quite naughty comedy and just laughing and giggling away secretly in her room. Of course, GUTS was not naughty or blue, but if I can elicit that same kind of “Oh!”, I’d say that’s quite nice.
Like an adventure hero who has inured himself to poison, it has no effect on me.
We do keep in touch. He’s busy with work and family. I’m busy with work and family, but we keep up with each other and I’m always happy to hear what he’s up to. I did watch the first season of Glee and thought he was amazing. A really touching performance- and Emmy nominated, I might add!
Yes, it is just that cool. Also, as a practical person, I like how easy it is to assemble: a ref shirt, some ’90s spandex bike shorts and if you have a short, British woman to put in there, all the better.
I did once get to say “if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!” as the villain on a Scooby Doo episode, and I walked on air for a week or two after that!
Lately I have been performing in and recording a fair number of plays for radio and that is wonderful. When I was a teen listening to plays on BBC Radio 4, I thought life would be pretty magnificent if I could do that. Now, I do. I get to do all sorts of plays from Restoration to Angry Young Man for LA Theatreworks/NPR and for the BBC. It’s lovely. But, whether it’s a game or a cartoon or a sitcom or web series, I really love my job!
I don’t even know if they are still in production, but Phineas and Ferb. I love that show! It is built on a foundation of kindness and silliness and it really makes me laugh. My pal Dee Baker (also a Nickelodeon alum) voices Perry.
I have been lucky enough to see Zach Galifianakis when he was doing open mics years and years ago. I’ve seen Eddie Izzard. I would have loved to see Mitch Hedberg. I love Maria Bamford and Jackie Kashian. I think Catherine Tate is wonderful.
There are all sorts of comedians I love. Eddie Pepitone and Frank Conniff always make me laugh. Wow, this is turning into a long- and obviously disjointed- list. When I was growing up we would always put in a Jasper Carrott tape in if we were going on a drive. He’s British and did story based comedy. Or some Monty Python.
Coming to America and going through my husband and uncle’s record collections introduced me to Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby among others. Currently, I’m watching Louie (Louie C.K.) on Netflix. I think he’s pretty amazing.
Nope. Not fair! But, off the top of my head, here’s a list of movies I like to see about once a year:
For ‘go to’ moves it’s not a bad one. I believe my husband wins the prize for best worst English accent. It makes me cry… laughing.
Now, a couple questions about the “Aggro Crag” on GUTS, did you ever get a chance to climb that thing? Due to my petrifying fear of heights, I’d make it about 10 feet up and freeze. I would’ve been shown in GUTS blooper reels. Did they ever give you one of the glowing green prize trophy pieces to keep?
I did conquer the Crag. I do own a “piece of it.” It’s in the garage.
Since you are a professional comic, I’ll ask your opinion- I love to tell terrible jokes… Please rate this joke on a scale of 1-10 (1 being awful, 10 being a “better” awful):
Why did Dracula take cough medicine?
If we started a campaign to get you on Dancing With the Stars in a future season, how do you think you’d fare?
What’s going on in Mo-Land these days? What are your current projects where we can see/hear/laugh along?
There’s a few actually. I’m in a new web series called “Dirty Work” . Check out this LA Times article.
A big thank you to Moira Quirk for her time and for being a fantastic first interview on A Blumes With A View!
Filed under Comedy, Entertainment, Games, Humor, Interview, Pop Culture, Retro, Television
PERFECTION: The Most Terrifying 60 Seconds of Your Life
By Andrew Blumetti
And now, a play-by-play of every time I’d play the classic Milton Bradley board game, Perfection.
You know the drill of this heart-attack in the making- twist, timer, tick, tock, trouble, and KA-BLOOM! A yellow mess on the rug that the dog isn’t responsible for this time.
Please enjoy, relate, and relive the hair-raising madness of the most nerve-racking minute you’ll ever come to experience in your lifetime. It’s cheaper than a shrink afterall…
Tick tick tick tick…
– Strap in for one minute of pure geometrical mayhem! In your face math!
I’ve just turned the cheap plastic round timer on my Perfection game, and that stupid thing is spinning faster than Amanda Bynes’ vision when she slunks behind the wheel on a Friday night. Gotta make sure not to over-tighten it though, that “Made in China” Smurf-blue knob looks like it’ll break if the wind blows too hard.
– Reaching over to that pile of golden plastic pieces, and fumbling around, there goes about five of them off the coffee table, and I’ve realized this godforsaken game would’ve been better played on the rug instead.
– Quick! Grab that triangle or square one or anything that looks like a simple Sesame Street-level shape, and try to fit it in game board holes while the gettin’s good. Basically, just avoid getting held up on those tricky looking ones from the island of misfit shapes, they’ll just gum everything up. Squeeze those in like a champ in the final precious seconds instead.
– The gravity of the situation hits like a splash of cold water: this game is for “ages 5+”, so at my current anemic pace, basically I’m handling this as badly as a kindergartener. After more nervous laughter than a first date, time to look at the timer on the game for some piece of mind.
– Phew! All that self-doubt was a mere overreaction… still have 35 seconds left. This thing’s money in the bank…
– Oops, spoke too soon- the faded numbers are impossible to read, it’s actually only 25 seconds left…
– And to top it all off, that nonstop ticking, which is the soundtrack to my obvious board game failure, is starting to make the hairs on my arm stand up straight. It’s like watching that scene in Paranormal Activity, when possessed Katie awakens, gets up and just stares at… wait, this isn’t the time for that!
…and is it me, or does the ticking seem to be somehow speeding up as time goes on? Is that physically possible? Is Milton Bradley practicing some sort of voodoo? Cause I don’t think they should be.
– Geez, why did I waste time thinking about the ticking? That was another precious ten seconds down the crapper…
– OK, down to just a few left, time’s running short, but it’s time to dominate this ticking time bomb like Tom Brady marching the troops down the gridiron with two minutes left. These back-against-the-wall heroics are what separates the men from the boys.
…but big time folly: those annoying shapes from before are still staring me in the face, laughing.
– Maybe I should just stop the timer for a couple seconds, you know, just to fit a few extra pieces in… nah, that’s cheating. I guess, right? …and I am an adult. …Stupid adults.
– …and to top it all off, I can’t believe they made me apply the stickers onto this thing myself. Cheapskates…
– Let’s see… nailed the diamond, star shape and the pentagon… can’t wait to push that switch that stops the game! No messy cleanup, no heart-stopping plastic explosion that I know is coming, yet still makes me jump. (I mean, who wants to go through that? Look at how those Caucasian kids are being thrown around on the box, I’m too delicate for that fate.) I’ll tell ya, if they gave out medals for Perfection playing, I’d pull in gold, silver and bronze. That’s right… all three platform levels.
Five seconds left! Better hurry!
– Crap on a stick! That stupid S-shaped piece that looks like Pac Man if Picasso got a hold of him then threw him in a blender. This awful thing always haunts me. I always fumble it the way an arena football player fumbles pretty much every play.
– This feels like watching one of those poor sap victims in a Saw movie watching the timer tick down till their arms and legs get yanked out.
3… (gettin’ hairy…)
2… (man up Andrew- it’s time for a last minute board game miracle…)
– Ahhh, stupid piece of plastic crap. It wasn’t me, the timer must be busted. Maybe they should call it Imperfection.
(That line was gold! I wish someone was here to hear that…)
– Ehhh, this Commie game’s for kids. I’ll clean it up later. I’m gonna go have some Fruit Roll-Ups.
Filed under Comedy, Entertainment, Games, Humor, Retro
The Top Mop-Top Flops on The Boob Tube
By Andrew Blumetti
Remember Dutch Boy Paint? Travel down any hardware store aisle, and that lovable lil’ scamp with the rosy cheeks and sunshine-colored locks will be smiling right back at you, dripping yellow paintbrush in hand, begging for a home on your living room walls.
For a company actually based out of Ohio, that’s a pretty adorable idea, and boy howdy, it sold buckets of the stuff. One couldn’t be blamed to think it would make sense that the same look would translate well in other areas of marketing, right? Throw some shaggy blonde hair on a chihuahua and maybe that bilingual Taco Bell dog would still be around. Maybe the GEICO cavemen would’ve been easier to stomach if they popped a little peroxide on that noggin.
Surprisingly enough, Tinsletown never felt the same way. Case in point: the 20th Century epidemic of irrelevant WASP-y sitcom children who forgettably graced our television sets.
Follow the yellow-haired road:
1. Jonathan Bower (Who’s The Boss?) played by Danny Pintauro
According to IMDB, he was on all 196 episodes of the series, and I can’t remember anything significant he did in any of them. That Danza was really an attention hog, wasn’t he?
Honestly it’s more shocking that show ran that long. To think we watched Mona decompose for eight seasons is borderline terrifying.
2. Andrew “Andy” Keaton (Family Ties) played by Brian Bonsall
Now, there’s clearly some bias here, seeing as how the character and I share the same first name. Despite that, this impish pre-turd loses major points for trying to steal the irrelevant thunder from Nick and Skippy, two already established characters who proudly claimed that throne for years before this punk came around. Respect your elders Andy.
For more recent news on Bonsall, check your local police blotter, as the now throat-tattooed former child actor was arrested for attacking a friend with a wooden stool. You can bet Skippy is faring much better.
3. Mark Taylor (Home Improvement) played by Taran Noah Smith
Remember when Mark Taylor broke Tim’s wrench? Or when he was tricked to think he was adopted? Or the time he went to the mall, went on a Hot Topic shopping spree, bought some guyliner and turned all goth on us?
Nope? Me neither. Because there were already two other floppy spaghetti-haired runts on the show already. The quota was already reached, and Mark ended up being the biggest tool on the show.
4. Seven (Married… with Children) played by Shane Sweet
A classic case of subtraction by addition. A hated character who the writers at least had the brains to quickly write off the show… and leave us with more air time for shim neighbor Marcy, who would’ve turned full-on into a man, had the show ran a couple more seasons. The actual film, Seven, didn’t have that ugly of an ending.
5. Ben Seaver (Growing Pains) played by Jeremy Miller
6. Nicky and Alex Katsopolis (Full House) played by Dylan and Blake Tuomy-Wilhoit
When you’re on a show with Dave Coulier and you’re still the most annoying blonde, you’re doing something wrong. Cut. It. Out!
It seems odd that two parents, neither of whom were blonde, gave birth to these two hay-haired Hitler-youths. Come to think of it, there was only one cute blonde on this show, and it was Comet, the golden retriever. Between you and me, I bet Blake was the primadonna of the two.
7. Cousin Oliver (The Brady Bunch) played by Robbie Rist
One of the quintessential examples of shark jumping… literally. Cousin Oliver (The Brady Bunch’s unwanted answer to The Partridge Family’s already unwanted Ricky) was another child in a show filled with already too many children. His look- a dwarfy John Denver with serial killer potential who probably smelled like corn chips, never resonated with American viewing audiences.
Clearly, you gotta earn your way into those nine squares.
8. Elroy Jetson (The Jetsons)
Confession time. I actually can’t say I’ve ever watched an episode of the futuristic family spacecom, The Jetsons, so it may not be fair for me to pick on this animated little extra-terrestrial ragamuffin who dresses like he’s sporting a Oktoberfest costume from the Party City bargain bin.
On the other hand, this kid has those evil squirrel eyes …and he looks like he’s from Switzerland …and why he wears a wrist watch in space is beyond me.
Filed under Comedy, Entertainment, Humor, Pop Culture, Retro, Television