About This File
first set of Wilkins Coffee Commercials
Wilkins and Wontkins were Muppet-like characters made by Jim Henson with their own 10-second, sadistic, violent commercials for many products, starting with Wilkins Coffee (hence the characters' namesakes).
In 1957, Jim Henson was approached by a Washington D.C. coffee company to produce commercials for Wilkins Coffee. The local stations only had ten seconds for station identification, so the Muppet commercials had to be lightning-fast— essentially almost said, eight seconds for the commercial pitch and a two-second shot of the product. From 1957 to the mid 1960s, Henson made 179 commercials (at least or most) for Wilkins Coffee and other products and coffee, some of these including Community Coffee, Nash's Coffee, La Touraine Coffee, and even Wilkins Tea. The ads were initially filmed at Rodel Studios in Washington D.C.
The ads starred the cheerful Wilkins, who likes Wilkins Coffee (or another brand specified), and the grumpy Wontkins, who hates it. Wilkins would often do serious harm/injury to Wontkins in the ads— blowing him up, stabbing him with a knife, and smashing him with a club, among many other violent acts, even humiliating Wontkins to the extent from blowing up his home to throwing Wontkins off of a plane for not bringing/wanting any certain brand of food, drink, etc (though other times, Wilkins instead doesn't kill Wontkins, and sometimes Wontkins likes it). During or after, Wilkins would say a punchline based on the commercial, such as: "Sorry, but that other stuff is for the birds!"
Why It's Cursed
Wilkins would mock and punish Wontkins in almost all of the commercials and just over a specific brand of coffee, bread, tea, soda, and even an oil company (not counting some of the Frank's beverages commercials). Also, Wilkins is somewhat similar to Kermit, though Jim Henson didn't mind at the time since the commercials were somewhat when Kermit gained traction during the early years.
- Jim Henson put so much violence in the ads, because he believed that the best way to advertise something to someone was to make them laugh, which is why the commercials are so violent. Violence was considered comedy at the time these ads were produced, though they would be hated by certain people nowadays due to this.
- The Wilkins Coffee commercials became so popular, Jim Henson started doing commercials, using Wilkins and Wontkins, for other companies, too.
- Most of these companies that Jim Henson advertised/sold products for are either defunct or just rarely available at times, such as Community Coffee and Merita Bread.
- When Jim Henson actually made these commercials for Wilkins Coffee in the beginning, Jim himself didn't even like coffee. As quote from NJGuy1973 on YouTube: "Supposedly, Henson was having trouble coming up with a way to sell a product he didn't like, and when asked if he would ever drink coffee, he said 'Maybe with a gun to my head.' The rest is history."
- Most, if not all, of these commercials were made on film, which means it is harder to archive Wilkins and Wontkins commercials, as there were hundreds of them. So far, only 30 to 45 minutes worth of Wilkins and Wontkins commercials are archived as of now until then.
- The original company the Wilkins and Wontkins commercials were aired for, Wilkins Coffee, was originated in 1899 by John H. Wilkins Sr. It is now owned by around 20 shareholders.
- Only a few commercials were in color, specifically ones with other brandings. With this now in mind, it is revealed that Wilkins was brown, and Wontkins was red (though Wontkins' red color is similar to Elmo's)