Monday, July 24, 2006

Este Quelpo Es Delicioso

Life in Santa Barbara has become about as arduous as it can get. Our normally temperate weather has devolved into something hot, sticky and altogether foul. It’s as if we’ve taken up residence inside one of the Hilton girls. Beyond that, I’m broke and the city is repaving all the streets, so we have no choice but to take pleasure in the small things.

For example, Otter Pops.

At someone’s suggestion — Mike’s? Aly’s? — I dropped by the store and picked up a box of 200 of these little puppies. Ah yes, now I remember. I had been listening to the Talking Heads’ “Popsicle,” which I don’t think is actually about frozen treats so much as something more sexual. Regardless, I have them and they’re currently transforming from plastic slips of colored sugar water into the icy sticks of punch-flavored happiness that we remember from our childhood. I remember them, anyway. Even though the good people at Jel-Sert make no claims about the healthiness of their product, I always preferred these popsicles to all others — even the Minute Maid or Welch’s varieties, which actually taste like the fruit they’re supposed to represent.

Admittedly, I still like the taste, even if I recognize now that Otter Pops are little more than sugar, water and artificial coloring. But I think what actually drew me to them would have to be the packaging. Still the same as I remember it, the Otter Pops box is decorated with an iconic red and blue strip design. And standing before the background are the Otters themselves. Yes, for the unfamiliar, the six flavors of Otter Pops each have their own character — a cartoon otter complete with punny name and a personality.

So you know:

Orange is Little Orphan Orange, an “Annie” parody that now goes by “Lil,” I’m guessing because the target audience wouldn’t know “Annie” from one of the Katzenjammer kids. Like her namesake, Lil keeps a pet dog, which strikes me as especially odd since in my mind otters are basically dogs with fins. Funny swim dog!

The purple otter is Alexander the Grape. One of the better puns, if an obvious one. No one seems to care that he wears a toga and looks particularly anachronistic.

You can only differentiate Strawberry Short Kook, the red otter, from Little Orphan Orange because she’s red. And she doesn’t have a dog. And she’s less cute. And there’s nothing especially kooky about her. So, basically, Strawberry Short Kook is the worst character.

Louie-Bloo Raspberry, according to the official description, is a jazz-loving beatnik from New Orleans. He wears a beret and has French facial hair — or what I’ve come to recognize as French facial hair.

Then there’s Sir Isaac Lime. See, now the puns go into the shitter. This green otter is the nerdy old man inventor type. You know this because he has glasses and a white moustache. I seriously think the people who created this character could have found a better pun for “lime” than “Sir Isaac Newton.” I mean, they might as well have called him Alexander Graham Lime or Franken-Lime or something. Piss poor. Good flavor, though.

And finally we have Poncho Punch. I don’t really mind his name, though there’s really nothing Mexican about the corresponding flavor, which tastes like mashed up cherry Sweet Tarts mixed with water. Which I like. Also, he’s basically the same color as Strawberry Short Kook, which I find awkward.

Notably, Wikipedia tells me that Poncho Punch was subbed in for a different character, Rip Van Lemon, in the mid-70s, shortly after the brand’s debut. I think “Rip Van Lemon” is probably a worse pun than “Sir Isaac Lime,” but I’d bet that I’d like the flavor better than I like Poncho Mutherfucking Punch. (In retrospect, I note that Poncho Punch seems out of place in the Otter Pop line-up because he is the only otter without a three-word name, which Rip Van Lemon did have.) Here’s the only image of R.V.L. I could find. Looks like a barrel of fun, eh?

In spite of their lameness, I love these characters. I even don’t mind their design, though they look kind of like finger puppets now. Here’s what the Otter Pops used to look like, back when they were designed by artist S. Britt:

Groovy stuff. Exactly the kind of mod children’s illustrations I grew up on and continue to dig. And also apparently why I am still drawn to these sugary desert sticks. In researching the Otter Pops, I eventually stumbled onto the group's oficial website, Otter*Popstars. And I say group in the way that Spinal Tap or Josie and the Pussycats were groups. The six color-coded otters have apparently started their own band, which plays hits like “Save the Day,” which features the following chorus:
The sun is shining away
And just as I’m about to melt
You come and save the day
Get it? “Melt”? Because she’s not actually an otter — just condensed sugar water molecules in some kid’s freezer. They’ve really gone to some effort to make the Otter Pops seem like quite a deal.

See what I mean? It’s actually more cute than obnoxious, so I’ll allow it. Somehow, I don’t think these items could ever fall on my bad side. In fact, why am I blogging when I could have one right now?

Finally, the website really hits a home run with the fun little side projects that each of the characters present. For example, Lil offers tips on raising your dog, while Louie has a poem. Ever the brainiac, Sir Isaac Lime explains the difference between fruits and vegetables… for some reason. I actually can’t imagine why. Here’s an excerpt, with the especially worthwhile part in bold:
Fruits are usually sweet because they contain a simple sugar called fructose, while most vegetables are less sweet because they have much less fructose. It's quite simple and makes perfect sense. In fact, the sweetness of a fruit can be very enticing to many animals, causing animals to eat it and thereby spread the seeds when they poop. It's called distribution.
The fuck?! Did the green otter professor just say “poop”? (And did I just ask that question?) I realize it is a essential part of the explanation about why fruit has seeds, but I don’t want the cartoon image representing the thing I put in my mouth to say “poop.” Ever. That’s just how I feel. Seriously, if there really was no way around that, they could have had good ol’ Isaac explain something else.

I’m going to close this meandering essay on all things Otter Pops with some quotes from Poncho Punch’s section of the site, “Useful Spanish Phrases for Otters.”
Soy una nutria de la agua salada,” or “I am a salt water otter.”

Esas rocas son deslizadizas,” or “Those rocks are slippery.”

Su almizcle huele encantador,” or “Your musk smells lovely.”

Este quelpo es delicioso,” or “This kelp is delicious.”
Sorry, it just had to be documented.

  • I also found the official site of S. Britt, who’s quite talented indeed. Not only that, but he links to Naho and Monsterism, two other sites whose similarly-styled art I really enjoy.
  • Apparently there's a SoCal ska band called King Otterpop and the Slushtones. There’s also a Sacramento-based punk band called the OtterPops.
  • And the name of Little Orphan Orange’s dog? Melon Collie. Suck on that, Billy Corgan.

  • Pop culture catalogue: Paris Hilton’s vagina, the Talking Heads, Annie, the Katzenjammer Kids, Alexander the Great, Sir Isaac Newton, Alexander Graham Bell, Frankenstein, Rip Van Winkle, S. Britt, Spinal Tap, Josie and the Pussycats, Billy Corgan. Maybe I’m having a good day after all.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely spectacular.
    For some reason, I don't remember Poncho Punch. All the others are so imbedded in my mind, but Poncho seems totally new to me.
    Maybe my parents are secretly racist and they plucked all the Poncho Punch Otter-Pops out of the case before letting us kids at them... shocking!