The selection for this article is inspired by my one of the prizes from my entry in the TRN Summer Camp program earlier this summer: a metal lunch box filled with penny candy. The winners even had the opportunity to pick our lunch boxes from the selections available at Old Time Candy.com.
I love the classic “Hilltop” commercial for Coca-Cola featuring the product centric version of the New Seekers song, “I’d Like to Build the World a Home”. It just hits all my sentimental/idealistic/vintage advertising buttons. In fact, after seeing the picture of the lunchbox, I had to go to You Tube to watch the commercial.
While I was growing up in Georgia, Coca Cola merchandise and signage was everywhere. Coca Cola was on our clothes, displayed inside our favorite restaurants (or sometimes outside on the sign for the actual establishment) and the logo even appeared on stuffed toys! So without further ado, it’s time to put the spotlight on this little cutie named Cody.
Why did I choose this toy?
Partly, I chose Cody because of the Perfect Harmony Coca-Cola lunchbox. The lunchbox was the first thing I thought of when I pulled him out of my closet and it looked like he would be small enough to fit inside it. When I tried to put him inside, he went right for the Bit O’Honeys. He might be wearing Coca-Cola branded bathing shorts, but he is still a bear.
Another thing that makes “Cody” somewhat timely is that earlier this summer, there was a news story about a lifeguard shortage. I don’t even know where I came up with the idea that Cody was a lifeguard. He was just dressed for summer with his swimsuit and a visor to keep the sun out of his eyes. Something about that said lifeguard to me.
When was this toy first produced?
Cody’s tag shows a copyright date of 1988 for “Coca Cola Brand Plush Critters”. Like Disney chipmunk Dale and his pal Chip, Cody the Coca Cola Bear was made in Korea.
Is this toy still being produced (in some form)?
I just did a search on Amazon and I found Coca Cola polar bears and Funko pops of cans and bottle caps, but no bears in visors and Speedos. Then I did a Google search and found hits for Etsy and Ebay. That search was also how I found out this little guy was named Cody.
Was there a cartoon?
Not that I remember. Come to think of it, I don’t remember a lot of soft drink commercials airing during Saturday morning television. I guess there wasn’t much time left between the cereals, candy, snacks, PSA’s, and toys. Maybe it was by design because the Milk Board was working their propaganda throughout the morning. Most soda commercials seemed to air during the evening hours.
Was there an established villain in the canon?
No, these were just cute little animals wearing red (the signature color of Coca-Cola of course) outfits with the Coca Cola “script” logo. Cody has a visor and Speedo style brief bottoms rather than trunks.
Where did I acquire this toy?
This is actually kind of unusual for me. “Cody” was from the grocery chain Winn-Dixie. He and his friends were right in front of the check out line. The main reason I remember buying him is that he was the very first thing I remember buying with my “own” money from my allowance. He’s also one of the last plush toys I remember buying for a very long time. A year later, my interests would shift to teen magazines, movies, and CD’s.
Do I still have this toy?
Yes, and thanks to the memories Cody sparked, I will be keeping him! He had been put to the side to research for a potential online sale or to take the one-way Goodwill trip, but writing this article has changed my mind. Cody will look really cute next to my lunchbox.
Ironically, if I had decided to send Cody to Goodwill, he would have been going back to his original “home” because our closest Goodwill had originally been our closest Winn-Dixie. The very same Winn-Dixie where I purchased “Cody”.
Considering his age, Cody is in excellent shape. I’d love to get a miniature whistle for him. A lifeguard should have a whistle, right? Maybe they were afraid it would be a choking hazard for little kids, but I was already at an age where I knew what was and wasn’t edible.
Did I have any other toys from this line?
No, Cody was my one and only from this line. Bears were pretty popular in my family though. My brother and I both really liked plush bears. One of my favorite product spokes animals was the Snuggle Bear from the fabric softener commercials.
We also had some Coca Cola themed apparel. One Christmas there were Coca-Cola sweatshirts and one of my neighbors gave me her yellow Coca Cola striped rugby shirt as a hand me down.
The other Coca Cola themed toy I remember playing with was a truck my brother got for Christmas one year. You could open the side of the truck and pull out little red trays of green bottles.
I also had a Coca Cola picnic Barbie, but one of my friends needed a gift for her niece. I gave her a choice of that doll and another doll and that’s the one she picked.
Did anything surprise me about this toy?
For starters, there’s the aforementioned discovery of his “official” name being Cody. Another interesting thing is that usually toy bears will have brown beads for eyes and this one has green eye beads. I guess blue would have been been too Pepsi-like and red would have been more terrifying than cute. He also has the Coca-Cola logo printed on both his visor and his shorts.
I hope you enjoyed this article and now that things seem to be settling down again, I plan on getting back to covering more vintage toys and expanding to include some physical media from time to time.
What were your favorite memories of Cola-Cola merchandise while you were growing up? What were your favorite Coca-Cola ad campaigns and slogans through the decades?
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