Most folks remember Tom Carvel (1906-1990) as the frozen dessert magnate behind Carvel Ice Cream empire, but what a lot of people forget is that Tom Carvel created some of the most phantasmagorically confusing commercials ever to air on television.

There was a disconcerting, almost Lynchian quality to Carvel's ice cream commericals. Behind the innocent veneer of frozen custard laid a strange universe filled with Irish aliens, creepy singing children, and flashing computer graphics. Here, AD Jameson of Big Other catalogs Carvel's ads, many of which the master himself narrated.


Tom Carvel's life is a novel waiting to happen. He invented soft-serve ice cream. He invented the ice-cream cake. (I have my doubts about both of those claims, but let's roll with it.) He died under mysterious circumstances, possibly poisoned by employees who'd been embezzling from him.

And, most importantly, he was one of the great outsider video artists of the 1980s. (I thought everyone knew about these commercials, but after some comments I got on my last post, I guess I was wrong.)

Well, here are all the Carvel spots that I could find.

"Fresh… Less air…" (date unknown, above). There are many (and I do mean many) more…

A more intimate take, with dry ice (1986?)

2 Carvel holiday spots (Cookie Puss and Santa Claus / Tom the Turkey) (date unknown) — "Your participating Carvel Ice Cream store has Tom the Turkey for Thanksgiving. And he's ready and beautiful."

1982: Cookie Chick

1982: A Santa Claus cake and a Chanukah cake ("They've got some beautiful items, and you'll love ‘em.")

1983: Cupie, the Chocolate Nut ("Yeah, he's back!")

1984: Tom Carvel narration over close-ups — "There it is, you're looking at it. Chocolate fudge! That means handmade in the Carvel store. Yes, they put the fruits and fillers in by hand. … Get a look at that strawberry! That's how it's handmade in the Carvel store!"

1985: Cookie Puss and Hug Me the Bear ("the friendliest bear")

Father's Day ad (date unknown) — "Fudgie the Whale for Father's Day-yeah, that's a great gift!"

Another Father's Day/Fudgie the Whale spot (1989)

Cookie Puss (C.P.) introduces his friend Cookie O'Puss ("the fresh Carvel ice cream cake") (date unknown)

More Cookie Puss and Cookie O'Puss (date unknown)

Valentine's Day's a special day…but not special enough to write a new commercial jingle (date unknown)

Dumpy the Pumpkin (yes) and Witchy the Witch (date unknown)

1988: Tom the Turkey — "Nowhere else can you buy that kind of ice cream, folks!" 'Tis sadly true, and pity 'tis.


This post originally appeared on Big Other.