Wednesday, August 06, 2014

D Is for Delbert

As far as Jim Henson's advertising characters go, I'd say my favorite has to be Delbert, the La Choy Dragon. It's three things that do it for me. First, Jim's voice, loudly extolling the virtues of La Choy. Second, it's the general chaos that erupts around Delbert's every move. In this classic commercial, watch as he knocks over groceries and sets a sign on fire and doesn't react to any of it.

That's from 1966 or 1967. I remember seeing it as a kid on a special about the Muppets, and it just captured my imagination for the third reason I wanted to mention: he's a full-bodied walkaround character.

My first exposure to movie creatures as a kid was Star Wars and old Godzilla movies, and the idea of costuming combined with puppetry to make something that was both alive and human-sized (even if, as in Big G's case, made to look gigantic) was captivating to me. And some of those big walkaround Muppets, like the Mutations or Thog or Sweetums, were so much bigger than people; it was like looking at Where the Wild Things Are and feeling like there were these wonderful things out there somewhere.

I'm just now realizing this might be a big part of why elephants are my favorite animal.

The La Choy Dragon was actually built as a hand puppet, but soon redesigned to be a full body (one that Frank Oz famously hated working inside). The campaign went from 1965 to 1967, and yielded several commercials, including these two titled "Sad Bride" and "Wifeless Husband."

Delbert was one of the earliest full-bodied Muppets, but certainly not the last. As always, Jim Henson wasn't a "one and done" kind of guy; he modified and re-used designs and techniques, using them to create all kinds of memorable characters that had lives of their own.

In fact, Jim's original concept of Delbert was as a tall bird creature. He elected not to use it, but he was thinking about Sesame Street, which began in 1969... so the original Delbert became Big Bird!

Everything can be used. You just never know exactly when you're going to use it.

ABC Wednesday


Roger Owen Green said...

Why don't I remember these commercials? I watched a LOT of TV in that period. Though the one with the Cub Scout is VAGUELY familiar (I was a Cub Scout for all of one year).

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for this funpost! For the Muppets are fun. My husband and I watched them always and enjoyed the show immensely!
Thanks for your visit. Yes dingoes can be scary, but I never saw one. Personally I am far more scared of the crocs which might be on the beaches.
Have a great week!
Wil, ABCW Team

fredamans said...

What a blast from the past. :-)

Gerald (SK14) said...

I was never into the muppets but that was fascinating

Powell River Books said...

Somehow I missed that one. - Margy

Gattina said...

Unfortunately I don't know Delbert.