In 1984 the California Dancing Raisin was introduced by the California Raisin Industry marketing staff to increase awareness and demand for California raisins.
The cost to develop the first animated and tested 30-second commercial was $300,000. It used singer and musician Buddy Miles as the vocalist for the soundtrack “Heard it Through the Grapevine” which was originally recorded by Marvin Gaye.
The groovy, sunglass-wearing Raisins were clay-animation created by Will Vinton Studios.
The Raisins starred in an Emmy-nominated 1989 TV special, Meet the Raisins, and had their own Saturday-morning cartoon series on CBS from 1989 – 1990.
Celebrity Raisins were later introduced with stars such as Ray Charles and Michael Jackson. Jackson’s spot was debuted in 5,700 movie theaters and featured him transforming into a California Dancing Raisin.
The Raisins became celebrities overnight when their first commercial, “Late Show”, debuted in 1986 sending them to the top of Adweek’s top ten list.
In 1986, “Lunch Box” won the Clio Award for best animation. “Late Show” received the Lion D’Argent Award at the Cannes International Film Festival. “Raisin Ray” garnered the Gold Award, Best Animated TV Commercial at the Houston International Film Festival and “Michael Raisin” won a Gold Medal at the International Film & TV Festival of New York.
Three California Dancing Raisins were officially named. The winning entries were Ben Indasun, Justin X. Grape and Tiny Goodbite. The contest generated over 310,000 entries.