December 14, 2013 posted by

AAA: Alcohol, Animals, and Advertising

Somewhere in rural Michigan, an apple fell from a tree. It sat on the ground for a long time until it began to ferment. Eventually a young bear came strolling by. The smell of vinegar caught his attention, and soon he had eaten the apple.

Nearby, a little boy was hiding behind an oak tree. He was amused at the sight of the inebriated bruin staggering around the forest. Well, that little boy grew up and moved to New York City and took a job at one of the big adverting agencies where he now hides behind an oak desk.

A man from a well known brewery came to his office one day and asked him if he had any ideas for a new product mascot. Suddenly, the childhood memories came flooding back and…. well, you know the rest…


…Okay, so I made that story up. But do you have a better explanation as to why animals were so often employed to sell alcohol? Many of these animals had never even reached the legal drinking age of 21! Here’s a few examples of what I’m talking about…

Hamm’s Beer – Football

Possibly the most famous and longest running animal pitchman for alcohol is the hapless Hamm’s beer bear. Animated by Art Babbitt.

Schmidt’s Ale – Tiger

These next three spots were directed by Paul Fennell. This one seems to have drawn some inspiration from the Fleischer “Out of the Inkwell” cartoons.

Schmidt’s Ale – Duck Hunt

Listen to the mellow tones of Thurl Ravenscroft as the hunter. Animated by Virgil Ross.

Gunther’s Beer – Bear

Another bear. This time it’s a polar bear cub.

Narragansett Beer – 3 Bears

Still more bears. From Pelican Films.

Old Pro – Swimming

We couldn’t let a post about beer go by without an appearance by The Old Pro and his faithful dog Searchlight (“Bright as a beacon!”) From Playhouse Pictures. Directed by Bill Melendez and animated by Bill Littlejohn. Starring Eddie Mayehoff.

PM Picnic

And finally, this sales film may be the ultimate example of the genre as it features a forestful of whiskey cravin’ critters! Produced by Al Stahl and directed by Chad Grothkopf.


  • I remember buying a book all about the Hamm’s Bear and Hamm’s animated TV advertising at a Furry convention in the 1990s – hey, it’s still available on “The Paws of Refreshment: The Story of Hamm’s Beer Advertising” by Moira F. Harris; an 81 page paperback with many illustrations. It seemed very complete.

    In “PM Picnic”, is that the same Chad Grothkopf who created the first animated TV commercial in 1938, and created Fawcett Comics’ Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny comic-book stories in 1942?

    • Bees do like whisky, or at least beer. A friend once complained that she couldn’t get near the recycler in her local market’s parking lot because of all the honeybees and wasps buzzing around the spilled beer from the crushed beer cans.

    • I remember buying a book all about the Hamm’s Bear and Hamm’s animated TV advertising at a Furry convention in the 1990s – hey, it’s still available on “The Paws of Refreshment: The Story of Hamm’s Beer Advertising” by Moira F. Harris; an 81 page paperback with many illustrations. It seemed very complete.

      I have that book, and it was worth picking up on Amazon if you can get it! Use to see standees of the bear back in the 80’s at supermarkets.

    • Loved the Hamm’s Bear, hated Hamm’s beer.

    • “Loved the Hamm’s Bear, hated Hamm’s beer.”

      Isn’t that always the case? The visual cue is more appealing than the product it’s meant to sell (although given the way the Bear was used throughout time, his little ditties weren’t too connected with the product in question unless they didn’t try sticking a bottle in his had or have him serve drinks as some bar coasters have shown).

    • Yes indeed, that is the same Chad Grothkopf.

  • Next article should be more of those “Jack th’ Flipper” ads for the Forestry Service.

  • The Narragansett ads featured the voices of Nichols and May (one had an ant and anteater, another a talking horse). National Bohemian (Natty Boh) beer out of Baltimore had various animals like a bird named Chester Peake, and this one has Mel Blanc as the voice of one bird (4:22 in)

    Another Hamm’s ad (HAMM IT UP) has a tiny Hamm’s bear and tiny raccoons, with a song that sounded like a cross between Herb Alpert and “These Boots Were Made for Walking”

  • I guess the question would be where do you show a six minute and 52 second color cartoon in 1950 that ends with a pitch for hard liquor? And obviously it wasn’t that effective. I’ve never heard of PM Whiskey.

    • Looks like the sort of thing (as with the “Flinstones Busch Beer” film that’s also out there in InternetLand) that were meant to be shown internally to those that sold the produce in their markets. Sort of like something of a fancy slide presentation except with motion picture. There’s tons of these out there.

  • What year is the “Schmidt’s Ale – Duck Hunt” ad from?

    • I don’t actually know for sure, but I’d make a guess that it was from around 1954.

  • Apparently Hamm’s Beer wasn’t marketed in the Columbus, Ohio viewing area where I grew up, so I never saw the commercials on local TV. I remember visiting my grandparents in Indiana, and discovering things on Chicago TV I never knew existed like Rocky the Flying Squirrel and… Hamm’s Beer ads. I was fascinated by animated cartoon characters I had never seen before and would likely never see again once I went home… a dim memory of the theme music haunts me even yet.
    In that connection — bears and beer — I recall hearing a supposedly true story about a bear that had broken into the storeroom of somebody’s mountain cabin (in Alaska?) and found the owner’s ample stash of cases of two different kinds of canned beer. The bear evidently tried a couple of cans of Brand A, didn’t like them much, and left the rest intact. It had, however, punctured and drunk every single can of Brand B. Just amazing that the bear had a preference and quickly learned to identify which kind was which from the different can labeling and graphics.

    • While I suppose Hamm’s is mostly best remembered in Minnesota, Illinois and in other close areas, it did have breweries in other parts of the country like San Francisco. Possibly some places may have received Hamm’s much later in the past century or have been dropped over time. I just recall Toledo having it in the 80’s.

  • I grew up with the Hamm’s commercials on local TV; they sponsored the Minnesota Twins games on both radio and TV, and if I recall correctly, also the local nightly sportscast over KDAL-TV (now KDLH.) Here’s a couple links to some more great Hamm’s commercials…

  • I love that in the Hamm’s beer commercial the guy just dumps his kayak in the water and in the next frame it’s gone. Lose your kayak again, bud? Don’t worry about it, have a Hamm’s…

  • It’s a shame Falstaff wasn’t a wine brand since their namesake has a monologue in Henry IV on the virtues of “sack”.

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