October 18, 2014 posted by

American Cartoon Stars in Japanese Commercials

Editor’s Note: Mike Kazaleh is taking a well-earned break this week, traveling back to his home town in Detroit. In his place today our colleague Charles Brubaker steps in with a fun look back at the ways our animated super-stars fared in international (mainly Japanese) animated advertisements. – Jerry Beck

Even when Japanese studios started producing countless anime, there were always room in the country’s airwaves for dubbed American cartoons. Some of them, of course, would become popular in its own right, resulting in the characters’ image being licensed for use by Japanese companies. Here, let’s examine Japanese-produced animated spots featuring some of our American stars.

The Flintstones

The Flintstones is apparently a popular choice to star in commercials all over the world. For decades, we’ve had Pebbles cereal commercials air in the ‘States. In the UK, for example, they promoted another cereal brand (animated by Oscar Grillo).

In Japan however, for several years in the 1980s they were used to advertise HonoBono Reiku, a Japanese lending firm. The animation in these spots are delightfully weird and crude.

Here, Dino has an offspring.

Another commercial features Betty and Wilma enjoy hot springs bath.

Sometimes, teenage Pebbles and BamBam appears, like in this spot:

Whoever made these commercials, we salute you.

Wacky Races
Wacky Races is, remarkably, one of the most popular cartoons of all time in Japan. In fact, when TV Asahi did a list of Top 100 Anime in 2006, it was one of the only two American cartoons in it.

So naturally, it made sense that the characters were used in this Mobil commercial in the mid 1990s.

Tom and Jerry
The other American cartoon to appear in the Top 100 list mentioned above is this cat and mouse duo. Tom and Jerry first appeared on Japan’s Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) network starting May 13, 1964, and has since then become a phenomenon in the country, being rerun countless times and appearing in more DVD and other merchandising that you can think of.

And commercials, of course. Here we have a 1984 commercial, where Tom and Jerry (wearing clothes!) plug a Hitachi Top Lady refrigerator. And they’re even singing!

In this 1993 commercial, we see them promoting Canon Word Processor. Back then this was considered hi-tech.

Then in 1994, they plugged a mini-van for Mitsubishi.

They’re still appearing in commercials today. Right now they’re part of the ad campaign for the Saga Bank. See their new commercial on their site.

Woody Woodpecker
In Japan, Woody Woodpecker aired on Nippon Television (NTV) from September 21, 1961 to July 9, 1964. At the time he was simply known as “Woodpecker”. It aired again on NTV from March 29 to September 30, 1965, this time as “Woodpecker’s Big Travels”.

The 1999 Fox Kids remake aired on TV Tokyo from April 5 to October 7, 2001. During that time there was a brief revival of interest in the property in Japan, leading to some interesting licensing tie-ins, like Woody’s own brand of sausage. Yes, seriously.

In fact, here’s a commercial plugging Woody Woodpecker Sausage. Make of it what you will.

One final note:



  • Now that is TRULY a riot: teenaged Pebbles with animee` eyes!!

    • It sorta works on her.

  • Woody Woodpecker Sausages…there’s more double entendres than words in that sentence; that might even have given Benny Hill cause to pause. Interesting in the Japanese Flintstones commercials that while the character designs come from the familiar US versions, all the facial expressions are anime. The music in the Tom & Jerry Canon commercial was great!

    • In the past, there was a story of how Panasonic used Woody Woodpecker to sell a line of touch-screen PC’s called “Woody”, but a slogan suggested was going to be “Touch Woody!”

  • There was another UK ad for Nabisco Team featuring Fred and Wilma but it looks like they couldn’t get Henry Corden in so we have to settle with someone else doing Fred (and whoever does Wilma here)…

    Around the same time Woody was pimping sausages in Japan, he was also pimping a restaurant chain up in Canada too. There use to be a really good commercial up on YouTube of Woody running around the restaurant but it seems to be gone now (saw that back when it aired on the CBC).

  • And I suppose as a plug back to Mr. Kazaleh, here’s something he did with Woody for a Universal Studios theme park in Japan.

  • Fred should never just hand a bowl of cereal over to Barney. It just isn’t natural.

    Do The Simpsons C.C. Lemon commercials fall outside of the scope of this article? That soft drink is the main reason anyone knows about them over there outside of the small niche fanbase.

    • “That soft drink is the main reason anyone knows about them over there outside of the small niche fanbase”.

      Hell Beavis & Butt-head had one for some breath mint too, that was a classic in my early net days…

      Of course if I had my pick of the best foreign Simpsons commercial, it WILL be this!

    • The Simpsons Movie promos for Burger King in German and for Mister Donut in Japanese were funny as heck as well as the Butterfingers Simpsons commercials in LATAM Spanish.

  • The Saga Bank Tom & Jerry spots have quite good animation.

  • Out of curiosity, did Wacky Races popularity in Japan piggyback off of the success of Speed Racer?

    • Who knows, Japan probably had a fascination with racing at the time.

    • “Speed Racer” was never a huge hit in Japan at the time. Nowadays it has cult following, but it was never the biggest thing Tatsunoko ever did.

  • There was a ad for Hitachi hair driers that starred Tiny Toon’s Buster and Babs Bunny. What’s odd is the animation company TMS (Who with the late great Startoons of Chicago were the favorites animation studios of fans of Tiny Toon Adventures during ita three year run) did the animation for the commercial and the VO actors who did Buster and Babs for the Japanese version reprise thier roles.

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