p: energizer bunny

PEZ Keeps Going (and Going and Going...)

Ahh, spring time. I typically view you as a torturous three month-long Nasonex commercial, but not today. The clouds are gone, there are a few leaves beginning to sprout from the sickly branches of trees, and I just caught my first nostalgic whiff of air conditioning. Today, spring, you are a gift. 

What’s this? Tucked away in the dandelion patch that I refuse to clean up due to deep-rooted childhood beliefs that these yellow weeds are actually gorgeous fauna that deserved to be cherished all summer long? 

For a split second, it’s as if one of those dandelions reached out and gripped my heart through my chest. I’m paranoid that what I had stumbled upon was not a gift, but a curse, a cryptic warning from my annual arch-nemesis, the Easter Bunny. 

It’s not, of course. I exorcized that demon weeks ago. No, this is a spring time miracle, a treasure the likes of which I never thought a humble nostalgia blogger such as myself would have ever been blessed with. Dear readers, that’s an official Energizer Bunny PEZ dispenser. 

Man, I feel like I need to explain how cool this is to some of you, so let’s break this news up. PEZ dispensers are spring-loaded plastic containers that allow you to store tiny little brick-shaped candies. You know this part, surely. They really started pushing for the “collectors” market in the mid-2000s, and now you can find box sets of these guys on the end-caps of every Meijer checkout line. Really, though, their popularity didn’t start exploding until the late-’80s when the company started adorning them with the heads of pop culture icons. 

As a kid, individual PEZ dispensers were everywhere, and every trip to the grocery store resulted in me begging for one with the white hot intensity of a thousand bratty, 9-year-old suns. When it came to choosing whose neck they wanted to shove candy into, PEZ mostly stuck to safe and popular characters, such as Spider-Man or Darth Vader. It wasn’t until recently that PEZ began expanding the horizons of their dispensers with more niche licenses. 

Which brings us to the star of the evening:

It’s bizarre to me that I may have to provide some of you with a refresher course on something as iconic as the Energizer Bunny. It’s like having to explain how monumental the Taco Bell Chihuahua was in the late-’90s, because most of Tumblr was born in the late-’90s. Someone please tell me why this is my platform of choice for long-form articles about nostalgia again?

Anyway, the Energizer Bunny was the animatronic puppet mascot of Energizer batteries, and he was super damn cool. He took a bit of a hiatus after the mid-2000s, but has since made a small return to the small screen (albeit with a fancy new coat of CGI paint). Back in his glory days, he moved around more like a pink and fluffy RC car. This appealed to me on an enormous level because you can buy RC cars. For a solid three months leading up to Christmas when I was younger, every trip to every store was spent at least glancing at the TYCO cars with the hopes of seeing floppy ears and a bass drum down the same aisle. 

He’s a hell of a mascot, and unless I’m laughably misinformed due to lack of thorough research, he’s also the first legitimate company mascot to ever grace an American PEZ dispenser without some sort of enormous cross-promotion. 

I have no clue how this happened. Is it Energizer’s anniversary? Are these supposed to be teasing a feature-length Energizer Bunny theatrical epic? Is PEZ buying Energizer? Is it just because Easter was a few weeks ago and both companies thought, “Eh, why the hell not”? I’m perplexed, but I refuse to harp too much on the why’s and how’s because look at that thing.

What makes the story of this carrot-crunching candy container even more perplexing is that I have yet to see it again anywhere. Not at any Target or Walmart, nor random gas stations or mom-and-pop candy shops. Even upon going back to its Kroger of origin, I found no hint whatsoever that this PEZ dispenser had ever been there, making this entire tale the lowest-stakes Twilight Zone episode of all time.

We’re like the Energizer Bunny… The mightiest nation in the world tried to exterminate us, Anglicize us, Christianize us, Americanize us, but we just keep going and going. I think the Energizer Bunny must be Indian because he has that little water drum he plays. I always say the next time you have a Pow Wow, let the Energizer Bunny lead the Grand Entry and after a few rounds, then we can get together and eat him because we never waste anything; we share everything.
—  Charlie Hill, Reel Injun

When the Chihuahua was abruptly yanked off Taco Bell ads in 2000, people became suspicious. Many believed that the dog had died and was now being served in gordita form to its adoring fanbase. In reality, the ads were cut because their presence led directly to a 6 percent drop in Taco Bell sales. These results were so bad that the president of Taco Bell, Peter Waller, was swiftly replaced by a former executive for Wendy’s.

As for why exactly the ad didn’t make people want to buy actual Taco Bell food, we’re going to guess that there’s a big difference between saying that, for instance, a cartoon rabbit loves Trix cereal and saying that a real dog likes Taco Bell. Real dogs eat garbage and cat shit. For a chain whose biggest problem is convincing customers that their beef is graded for human consumption, it’s bizarre that it thought the best selling point was, “Don’t worry, this tiny dog loves it!”

Things went from bad to worse in 2003 when a long-fought legal battle ended between Taco Bell and two men who claimed the company had stolen their idea of a Spanish-speaking Chihuahua, an idea so uniquely brilliant that no one else in the history of the world could have ever thought of it. The two men claimed the Taco Bell executives had signed a contract with them only to back out of the deal and steal the idea for themselves. A jury agreed with them, and awarded them $42 million in damages. Essentially Taco Bell stole a terrible idea and got screwed by it twice.

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