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I heard it through the grapevine!

In the summer of 1987 my Dad took a job in another town and only came home on the weekends. On one trip home Dad brought me a little figure of a singing raisin that he’d bought at Hardee’s. Thus began my love affair with the California Raisins.

Hardee’s issued 4 characters in their first release in 1987: Tiny Goodbite (the singer), Justin X. Grape (blue and white sneakers, dancing), Ben Indasun (orange and white sneakers and orange rimmed sun glasses), and Sax Player. These toys and subsequent Raisin merchandise were manufactured by Applause Inc. Ben was by far the most popular raisin as more versions of him were released than any other raisin.

The first claymation commercial, by Vinton Studios, made its debut in 1986. Commenting on the ad campaign brainstorming sessions, a California Raisin Advisory Board hired writer, Seth Werner said “We have tried everything but dancing raisins singing “I heard it through the grapevine”".

What started as an Ad campaign to sell raisins turned into one of the great entertainment icons of the late 1980′s. They won an Emmy for their Christmas special. A mockumentary entitled “Meet the Raisins” soon followed. There was a claymation commercial with Ray Charles, and another with a Michael Jackson inspired raisin. The California Raisins released four albums and their version of “I heard it through the grapevine” made it to 87 on the Billboard Hot 100.

After the Raisin craze took off, Hardee’s released a second set of raisins in 1988: Rollin’ Rollo (Roller skates), S.B. Stuntz (Skateboarder),  Captain Toonz (boom box), Trumpy Trunote (trumpeter), Waves Weaver (surfer), and F.F. Strings (guitarist).

I became a full blown raisin nut, collecting California raisin toys in any form that I could talk my parents into buying for me. I had a Ben Indasun pillow, and piggy bank with Sun Maid Raisins on it. 12” plush versions of Ben (sans glasses, which have been lost to time), and an unnamed female raisin with yellow heals were soon added. I had a huge plush Raisin. My grandma gave me the female valentine raisin for Valentines Day. Heck, I even have a “Tiny Goodbite” watch.

We have the Band set with the Bassist, Pink Shoes female (more red in our version), the Drummer, and the Yellow shoes female with tambourine.

We’re missing the two ladies, Anita Break and Alotta Style, from the 1991 fourth issue set. Hey at least the ladies finally got names. Buster was probably made to resemble Bart Simpson, and of course Benny (Ben Indasun) is still around and ready to prove he’s the king pin. That set is currently not shown here.

Other notables missing are from “Meet the Raisins”. Set 1: Lick Broccoli (Hendrix like guitarist broccoli), Banana White (banana version of Vanna White), Rudy Bagaman, and Red (piano playing raisin similar to Ray Charles). Set 2: A.C. (red shoe raisin with a pompadour), Lulu Aborman (mom raisin), Cecil Thyme (carrot in a suit), Leonard Limabean (pimped out lima bean with a handle bar mustache). I have to admit despite my raisin obsession I didn’t get into these characters or the show. Some of you Raisinettes could lend us a little history below.

My pal AB brought out a 5th set of Raisins release by Carl’s Jr. in 2001 that I didn’t know existed. Travolta, Guitar, Microphone, and Conga represent the latest incarnation of the California Raisins.

There was even a Sandwich stage that played…you guessed it…”I Heard it through the Grapevine”. Sponsored by Del Monte this “stagewich” was meant to display Tiny, Justin and Ben. Rumor has it that Tiny Goodbite, Justin X. Grape and Ben Indasun were named in a 1988 CALRAB national Name the California Raisins contest.

Well purveyors of Grape toys, I’m all dried up on California Raisin information. If there’s a juicy nugget from the vineyard that was left out, don’t let it leave a sour taste in your mouth. Wine if you must but press that juicy info into the comment section below.

Vapor trails to you!


1 to “I heard it through the grapevine!”

  1. James says:

    Hi, I am really struggling to find an image of the sun-maid soft toy that was brought out. The toy or teddy actually had a plastic face the rest was soft like a teddy bear. Can anyone please help. Thanks

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