Ronald Reagan & He-Man


The Reagan era White House directly contributed to He-Man.

Deregulation and the FTC

In the late 1970s the Federal Trade Commission put forward recommendations to limit the amount of advertising directed at children. Behind this recommendation was a study which included expert testimony on the negative physical & mental effects of advertising to children. Essentially children have a difficult time understanding they are being marketed towards – they aren’t savvy enough to differentiate between entertainment and product marketing. As a result they tend to want whatever toys or sugary foods are marketed towards them and through pester power they try and get what they want.

The FTC recommendations were to (among other things) restrict the number of minutes of television per hour children could be shown commercials as well as banning certain kinds of television ads (such as ads for highly sugary foods). In response lobbyists and special interest groups representing the food, toy, candy, and broadcasting industries among others came together spending millions of dollars to block the FTC’s recommendations from becoming law. Feeling the pressure, Congress passed the Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act in 1980 which effectively removed power from the FTC. Quoting the act, “The Act suspends the Commission’s children’s television advertising rulemaking proceeding …” . As an additional response in 1981, as one of his first acts as president, Ronald Reagan appointed James Miller as the new head of the Federal Trade Commission. Miller proved to be a friend of big business and helped to further deregulate the industry.


With the industry deregulated and left to regulate itself companies went full-speed ahead producing new products and new ways of selling those products to children. Not content with advertising just during the commercial breaks of other shows, there were entire TV shows developed that served as vehicles to help sell toys. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), Care Bears (1985), G.I. Joe (1985), Transformers (1985), ThunderCats (1985), etc. all were either aided or came about entirely because of the new deregulation. Most of the top selling toys at the time all had their own TV shows.

Ultimately an entire generation’s loyalty to certain toys & cartoons was the direct result of the pro-business Reagan administration. Entire franchises were started because of the ability to market directly to children. If it hadn’t been for this deregulation our pop culture landscape would have been very different.

From Tonight, Tonight to SpongeBob

Tonight, Tonight to SpongeBob

The Smashing Pumpkins video for Tonight, Tonight was an homage to the work of Georges Méliès and included the future voice of SpongeBob Square Pants.

Le Voyage

In 1995 the Smashing Pumpkins released their critically acclaimed third album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a double album. One of the hit singles from the album was the song Tonight, Tonight.

The video for Tonight, Tonight featured an early 20th century couple and their fantastical, whimsical, steampunk adventure of traveling to the moon & back. The highly-stylized video is an homage to the work of French filmmaker Georges Méliès, specifically his most famous film Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), made in 1902. Méliès was inspired by the writings of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and created a movie that is considered one of the first science fiction films. The special effects, quaint by today’s standards, captivated audiences of the early 1900s. Nothing else like it had ever been seen. Méliès used his background as a magician and of the theatrical stage to create elaborate sets and special effects. The film turned out to be so popular that it had the ignominious distinction of being widely pirated after its release, including by Thomas Edison.


The directors of Tonight, Tonight, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, worked in several direct references to A Trip to the Moon including an additional nod to Méliès by naming the ship at the end of the video the S.S. Méliès. The man and woman at the heart of the adventure were played by real-life husband and wife Tom Kenny and Jill Talley.  Around the same time as the video Kenny & Talley started work on the early ’90s HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show with Bob and David, some episodes of which were directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Several years after Tonight, Tonight and Mr. Show, Tom Kenny found his most famous role: the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants.

The Tonight, Tonight video was a special intersection in the careers of many talented people. James Iha, guitarist for the Smashing Pumpkins, said that it was the only video of theirs that turned out exactly as it was written. Billy Corgan has said “… you knew it was something special because the moment it was on TV everybody, and I mean everybody, on the street that you would meet wanted to talk about it. It was just one of those videos, for some reason, that connected with everybody.”