1/10-12/1966 – ‘Filmed 8 commercials for Kern’s Bread’

In 1965, Jim was hired by Knoxville ad man Carl Huster to create brief commercials for two bakeries. For the Southern Bakery, he created the Southern Colonel based on an existing corporate icon. Shortly before, Jim had begun work for the Kern’s Bakery for their TV markets in Tennessee, Kentucky and parts of Virginia. Initially, they ordered eight 10-second “ID” spots (like Jim’s Wilkins Coffee ads). Instead of featuring Wilkins and Wontkins or Skip and Scoop, they starred two characters that had been created for the 1962 television pilot Tales of The Tinkerdee. These were Tommy (played by Taminella Grinderfall as a man in a loud suit) and Fred (played by the Prime Minister with different eyes and an added nose). Filmed in October, they followed the standard format in which Tommy touts the product, Fred is less than enthusiastic and then something bad happens to Fred.

The following month, Huster wrote that he had approved an additional six scripts (out of fourteen proposed by writer Jerry Juhl) to be shot in January and asked, “Could we please see some additional scripts in the ‘non-violent’ vein for the additional two commercials.” Jim and Jerry came up with a few options, but couldn’t help but parody Huster’s concern. One script they offered suggested substituting slapstick for violence, and another, which they revised heavily before sending (changing the machine gun to an aggressive monster) went like this:

Tommy:           Why won’t you buy Kern’s bread?
Fred:            Because I do not approve of the violence in their television commercials.
(A blast of machine gun fire from off camera mows down Fred. Tommy stands innocently looking into camera.)
Tommy:           Violence? What violence?

In the end, they found other humorous options like the charming “Psychiatrist” spot:

Tommy:           [Hugging a loaf of bread] I dearly love Kern’s Bread!
Fred:            You ought to see a psychiatrist!
Tommy:           I did. He was the one who told me about Kern’s Bread. I used to love my raincoat.

The team making this second batch represented the top talent Jim had gathered during the previous five years: Jerry Juhl, Don Sahlin, Frank Oz, and Jerry Nelson. Clearly, it was a successful collaboration and, despite the client’s switching ad agencies, they were hired to make an additional eight commercials for Kern’s during the summer of 1966.

A “non-violent” script written by Jim and Jerry Juhl for Kern’s Bread.

Jim’s storyboard for the Kern’s Bread “Psychiatrist” spot, 1965.

Jim’s storyboard for the Kern’s Bread “Psychiatrist” spot, 1965.

Tommy and Fred in action for Kern’s Bread, 1966.

Read more from Jim Henson’s Red Book in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal available from Chronicle Books.

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