If you weren’t quite old enough to roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour, the Enchanted Flying Boat was also hoping to take you away. In the early 1970s the D’Arcy-MacManus agency created a series of wild, psychedelic television commercials for Post Alpha-Bits where a rag-tag gang of kids decked out in kaleidoscopic hippie gear climb aboard a Pufnstuf-style sailboat in the sky. The quick, trippy editing style and bizarre off-beat humor subtlety (or not so subtlety) hint that there might by more than just alphabet-shaped oats in your breakfast.
The hippie kids (who include a very young Todd Bridges) meet some strange adults on their voyage including a cowboy with a talking horse, a construction worker (played by veteran actor Aldo Ray), a caveman, and an “old timer” panning for gold with his donkey. They subject every authority figure to ridicule by stumping them with a deliberately confusing question followed by their exciting message: eating Post Alpha-Bits makes you smarter. The “I love you Alpha-Bits wherever I go” jingle plays as the kids sail back off into the horizon.
One of the TV spots from 1972 starred The Jackson 5 (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and yes, even Michael) at the height of their popularity; soaring high in the sky singing their own recorded funky version of the Alpha-Bits jingle. A lucky few collected the limited edition run of the cereal which featured a one-sided, five track flex-disc released in conjunction with Motown Records that had to be cut out from the back of the box.
By the late 1970s combining psychedelic drug culture with children’s programming had become a bit of a phenomenon. Sid and Marty Krofft had almost a dozen shows under their belt, the “McDonaldland” characters were popular in restaurants all across the country, and 1977’s The New Mickey Mouse Club revival (which also featured a trippy flying boat!) was a far-out, technicolor drenched version of its predecessor. Any family who still had a black & white television was definitely missing out.
More after the jump…