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Flapsole Sneakers

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Flapsole Sneakers

Flapsole Sneakers is a short film created by Jim Henson in the late 1960s. [1] The short satirizes Henson's own extensive work in commercials, in much the way that fellow entertainer-slash-ad man Stan Freberg routinely savaged the advertising industry, even after he'd become a participant.

In particular, the short spoofs the then prevalent use of jingles, announcers, and images of housewives or children to sell products which often bore frankly absurd names. The short also experiments with montage, stop-motion animation, and rapid-fire editing, all of which could also be seen in Time Piece. The increasingly insane advertising approaches and the use of pop-art elements is particularly reminiscent of the second Wilson's Meats meeting film. The humor relies heavily on visual puns.

As was common to Henson's short films (Time Piece, the various meeting films, Ripples, etc.), the on-camera cast is made up of Henson's family and friends, including his wife and three of his children (Lisa, Cheryl and Brian), as well as performer Frank Oz and Muppet writer Jerry Juhl. Both Juhl and Henson are heard as voice-over announcers.

Summary

The film runs a gamut of products, presented in quick succession, but begins as an advertisement for Flapsole Sneakers (a pun on flat sole shoes). It commences with shots of moms, dads (Jerry Juhl and Frank Oz), and kids (the Henson offspring) shouting their respective labels beneath animated screen text. The Flapsole jingle, based on the vintage Pepsi-Cola tune, insists that the footwear hits the spot (literalized by a cutaway to a red circle on the floor labeled "Spot," which is then hit with a variety of shoes). All of the subsequent ad copy, until the final line, rhymes with "spot." Goofball Cereals (narrated by a nasal Juhl and with Jane Henson as one of the happy eaters) follows, and then an elegant font for Dandy Diapers.

Stop-motion animation is used to manipulate the various colorful Cavity Candies, eventually forming a man's smile (and then cutting to a smiling Juhl with black teeth). Then Jim Henson and a lady friend clink glasses to drink Vita-Juice, announcing "Let's have a shot!" An animated construction paper pistol obliges them, shattering the glasses. For Tippy Toys, Brian Henson rides a bouncing rocking horse variant before painfully tumbling off. In an appropriate transition, the next spot is for Boo-Boo Bandaids, as Lisa Henson wears a bandage over a large, bloody wound (but impishly sticks out her tongue anyway).

For the final gag, promoting Sandpile Mutual Funds, Cheryl is seen surrounded by all of the preceding products (save the bandaids, which conspicuously adorn face and arm). She gleefully tosses a pile of money into the air. This perhaps indicates the very real purchasing power children had, indirectly, through pressuring their parents to buy cereal or toys. However, it also ranks with the similar playful jabs at money or capitalism as seen in Time Piece or as stated point blank in the meeting films.

Sources

  1. "Flapsole Sneakers", posted on YouTube by the Henson Company. September 5, 2009.

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