Wilkins and Wontkins (partially lost series of Jim Henson commercials; 1957-1969)

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Wilkins and Wontkins.jpeg

Wilkins (right), and Wontkins (left).

Status: Partially Lost

In 1957, puppeteer Jim Henson was asked by Wilkins Coffee to star his then-novel Muppets in commercials for their product. The company only had 10 seconds of screen time, so the ads had to be lightning-fast yet memorable - a problem Henson solved as only he and his creations could. From 1957 to 1969, Henson created 179 such ads for Wilkins Coffee plus many more for other brands, all of which revolve around the early Muppet duo of Wilkins & Wontkins. As of this writing, the online archive of these commercials is missing a significant number of the total produced.

Overview[edit | edit source]

The basic template for the ads features the relentlessly bright, cheerful Wilkins somehow bringing up his namesake coffee to the grumpy, gravel-voiced Wontkins, who refuses all offers - whereupon Wilkins promptly (and cheerfully) punishes him in various outlandishly sadistic ways.

The formula was like nothing that had ever been seen in advertising before, and it was a smash hit... quite literally. Over the course of their long partnership Wontkins stubbornly refused to appreciate the sponsor's product despite repeatedly being shot, stabbed, beaten, blown up, branded, crushed, set on fire, drowned, dropped from heights and - on at least one occasion - run head-first through a table saw (this one was thankfully kept off-screen). Even when Wilkins doesn't handle him personally, it's made clear their universe itself is displeased with Wontkins' stance.

Although Wilkins himself, contrary to Internet legend, is not an early prototype of Kermit the Frog (who had already been introduced by name a few years earlier) the popularity of these witty, highly distinctive ads resulted in he and Wontkins becoming iconic in their own right. The duo would go on to bring their signature ultraviolence to a number of campaigns for other coffee and grocery brands, initially produced in black and white before shifting to colour in 1966. The last known Wilkins & Wontkins commercials made were for Community Coffee, around 1969.

Companies[edit | edit source]

Companies that Wilkins and Wontkins promoted.

# Company Runtime # of ads made Status
1 Wilkins Coffee 1957-1961 179 Partially Lost
2 Faygo 1958-1959 10 Partially Found
3 Nash's Coffee 1958-1961 20 Partially Found
4 La Touraine Coffee 1958-1962 15 Partially Found
5 Community Coffee 1959-1969 37 Partially Found
6 Martinson Coffee 1959 15 Partially Found
7 Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio) 1960 Unknown Partially Found
8 Calso Water 1961 8 Partially Found
9 Frank's Beverages 1961-1963 7 Found
10 Donovan Coffee Company (Red Diamond brand) 1961-1966 13 Partially Lost
11 Kraml Dairy 1962 18 Partially Found
12 Merita Bread 1963 6 Partially Lost
13 Dugan's Bread 1962-1963 3 Found
15 Taystee Bread 1967 9 Found
16 National City Bank 1960s? Unknown Lost

Availability[edit | edit source]

Out of the 179 Wilkins Coffee commercials, only 135 have been released on the internet; other campaigns are also missing ads. It is unknown how many the Jim Henson Company has stored in their archives. Selected Wilkins & Wontkins spots are currently playing in certain exhibitions, including The Center for Puppetry Arts and the Jim Henson exhibition, Imagination Unlimited.

On June 26th, 2020, YouTuber KermiClown uploaded a large collection of Wilkins commercials, including all the ads for Taystee Bread and Dugan's Bread.

Videos[edit | edit source]

Probably the best-known compilation of the available Wilkins Coffee ads.
Compilation of Wilkins ads from the official Henson Company channel.
Another compilation of Wilkins ads, with title cards suggesting this was an official showreel. (1/2).
Second half of the Wilkins Coffee ad showreel (2/2).
Wilkins "Pie" commercial.
Compliation of ads for Taystee Bread.
Compilation of ads for Nash's Coffee.
Compilation of ads for Merita Bread.
Compilation of ads for Frank's Beverages.
Compilation of random ads, including a rare ad for Frank's Beverages (3:44).
Compilation of ads for La Touraine Coffee.
All ads for Dugan's Bread.
Compilation of ads for Faygo.
Compilation of ads for Red Diamond Coffee from the Henson Company channel.
Compilation of various non-Wilkins Coffee ads featuring the duo, from the Henson Company channel.
A couple of ads for Calso Water.
Compilation of ads for Community Coffee.
Compliation of ads for Kraml Milk.
Behind-the-scenes with the Henson team, featuring at least two unknown Wilkins Coffee ads.
Another Kraml Milk ad.


Gallery[edit | edit source]

Wilkins and Wontkins commercials that can only be found in images.

Completely Lost Commericals[edit | edit source]

Commercials that are completely lost.

Nash's Coffee - Communist Store The Wilkins version can easily be found, but the Nash's one is lost.

See Also[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]