Ah, the 4th of July! The day when America celebrates its independence from one empire by buying and igniting combustibles from another empire that it has become dependent upon. But you're not here for political tirades, you are here to be entertained. And what can be more entertaining than taking a look at those very combustibles and the clever packaging designed to sell them to us, the American consumer. And there is no better place to see ALL of the very best and brightest in fireworks than Reeves Boomland, the mecca of firework retail sales in the American Midwest.
For those of you not familiar, Reeves Boomland is literally a warehouse full of fireworks located in Southern Missouri. They sell all of the great, highly dangerous fireworks that are illegal in states like Kentucky. From Roman Candles to Mortar Rounds, Reeves Boomland sells everything you need to win a free ambulance ride and third degree burns to the hands and the face with summer. Pyromaniacs and drunken rednecks alike flock to Boomland each year with the hopes of wheeling out a shopping cart full of explosives. But how, oh how, do you pick which fireworks are going to be the right one for your sulfuric orgy? There are literally thousands of brands and varieties of fireworks to choose from. Sure, you want a sparking fountain, but which one? What color? Will it be as cool as you hope? How is the prospective buyer to know? As you might expect, the answer is entirely in the marketing. Long standing companies like Black Cat and younger upstarts all compete for the consumers' dollars by trying to create the most exciting and enticing packaging for pretty much exactly the same product. Pulling from popular culture and using evocative images and wording are sure way to draw the customer in and make your sale. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it goes a little askew.
Today we're going to celebrate Independence Day by taking a walk around the massive Boomland complex and check out a few of these head-scratching fireworks.
Sometimes it is hard to know if the people naming or at least creating the labels for these fireworks have a firm grasp of the English language. Engrish is very popular in lampooning these days, but sometimes its hard to tell if something is intentional or just an honest mistake. Our first entrant is a clear case of "lost in translation." The good folks at Boomland even tried to help the manufacturer out (see inset), but it didn't clarify as much as they might have hoped. Whether it is an exporative or an explorative (I'm not sure it makes a difference), this is a firework that guarantees to confuse, with fire. Is "explorative" really better?
American men love two things: beer and busty blondes. Everyone knows this the world 'round. (football too, but it doesn't apply here nor is it alliterative) So, of course, the best way to sell anything is to wrap it in pictures of buxom young ladies porting pitchers of ale. While you are at it, toss in some clever names like "Pop the Top," "Last Call," "Bottoms Up," and "Happy Hour." Never mind the fact that all four of those fireworks are exactly the same. The real shame is that you have to set them on fire and ruin the St. Pauli Girl on the package.
Fireworks aren't exactly known for their sequels, much less their entire bodies of work. So exactly how this firework can be the "Best of..." anything is really beyond me. I don't recall previous "Megatron" fireworks in the past, so I'm not entirely sure what to expect from this or what they might want me to expect from this. And let's not forget the "Megatron" part of this whole thing. As far as I know, Megatron is an evil Decepticon who turns into a giant gun that other Decepticons can grab and shoot at Autobots. Nothing on the package suggests that this is the Megatron they mean, but who else could it be? And let's not lose sight of the fact that this is the Best of Megatron 2.
Statute of Limitations?
Did the expiration date for the Space Jam trademark come and go already? It doesn't seem that long ago that Jordan and Marvin the Martian were hooping it up, but now that beloved (or grossly over blown, you pick) franchise has made its way to the explosives circuit. Never you mind that any hope of capitalizing on the Space Jam name went out the window about 15 years ago. Maybe they are going for a retro thing here, but whatever they were thinking it leaves us with a suspect firework. I particularly like the strange little rocket in the "J."
And While We are Talking About Copyrights...
Is this a blatant rip off of Pirates of the Carribean, or Finding Nemo? I don't see an orange clownfish, so I'm going to go with the former. But it's anyone's guess. The real question is, if you are going to ape PotC, why is "Finding" your prefix of choice? You have a vocabulary of more appropriate words at your disposal. "Buccaneers," "Swashbucklers," hell even "Adventure" fits this box better than "Finding." The gold foil on the top is a nice touch, though.
Let's face it, there is nothing subtle about fireworks. By their very definition and design fireworks are big, bright, and loud. Logically, I guess, the packaging is going to reflect those qualities. Of course there is always room to go over the top. This firework manages to go over the top and take a stab at the person buying it. Then again, maybe this firework's message isn't for the consumer, but instead for anyone the consumer deems worthy of the message. Maybe "that's your problem" is a word of warning to anyone who might complain about the noise or from their roof/yard being set ablaze as a result of the firework. I can see why self-important rednecks might cause this one to be a sell-out. The skeletal Uncle Sam gives me faith in my theory.
For a Change of Pace
Not everyone needs to be assaulted by their celebration. Some folks prefer a slightly more reserved observation of their holiday. And for those people, there is Denver. 983 miles west of Charleston, Missouri where Boomland is located, this firework seems just a tad out of place, geographically speaking. Not to mention the fact that unless I missed a news report, Denver has never exploded, is not the seat of American historical freedom, and has no real relation to fireworks.
Take a look at the package. I would argue for the language barrier here, but that package clearly shows mountains and the night sky. They clearly know where Denver, Colorado is; they clearly know what kind of city Denver is. So there must be something about this firework that makes it earn the name "Denver." What that might be is anyone's guess. We looked all over, but there were no other fireworks named after mountain states. Maybe next year: "Helena."
The Wrong Kind of Explosives...
Action words are an intrinsic part of advertising, whether you are selling fireworks or dinner plates. Action words inspire action, most hopefully the swiping of a credit card. But you still have to pay attention to what words you are using and in what context. At first blush, this seems like a perfectly reasonable name for a firework: "Forceful Movement." Suggests action, literally states "movement," it gets the point across. But as anyone who has eaten a passionate bowl of nacho cheese sauce will tell you, "forceful movement" has a whole other meaning.
Then again, the double meaning may be intentional if this firework is so incredibly exciting it causes you to fill your shorts...
I Don't Think It Means What You Think it Means...
The language barrier here is obvious. What I am curious to know, is how many of those who purchase this particular firework realize the mistake that is being made here. I am willing to bet that number is proportionate to the amount of Larry the Cable Guy DVDs the subject has in their "liberry." Those among us who graduated elementary school will probably steer clear of this stinky firework.
Sex Sells...Part II
I almost passed this one up. Dirty Dancing in the Sky isn't terribly curious as a name for a firework and considering the body of work above us, it almost works. But then something caught my eye: this explosive is rated X for "X-treme." It wasn't enough to leave the mildly clever name to its own. No we had to take it to the next level and give this bad boy a rating. And not just any rating, but rated X. What can that even mean for a box of gun powder, cupric sulfate and magnesium?
And yet, I still find myself impressed by this piece. Here in the age of excess, when XXX is the gold standard for just how "dirty" things can get, the designers for this firework show exceptional modesty in keeping their rating at the simple, understated X. Well done.
What. The. &$#@?!
If you can make heads or tails of this one, I'll give you the floor.
On our way out the door, we spotted The Godfather. $500 dollars worth of fireworks in one gigantic box that makes you an "offer you can't refuse." I'm not sure who has $500 dollars left to blow on fireworks after buying beer for their 4th of July celebration, but should that situation arise, The Godfather is the one-stop shop for fireworks.
For those with less deep pockets, or deeper beer stomachs perhaps, The Godfather is not out of reach. Boomland was generous enough to offer one lucky customer the opportunity to WIN The Godfather free and clear. All you have to do is figure out how to enter, then actually enter, and if your name is pulled on July 3, you win. Of course, step one is the toughest one. Go!
Aimee rose to the challenge, but alas, as I write this we have yet to hear from Boomland, so I am going to presume The Godfather will not be exploding in our backyard this year.
It's just as well. I have to work on the 4th and I'm not big on setting my neighborhood on fire. It would appear I have neighbors, however, that do not share that sentiment (he says as a roman candle emission lands on the hood of a car across the street).
Thanks for sharing our trip to Boomland and taking a look at the curious world of retail fireworks. For those of you who partake, hope you have a safe and relatively sober holiday. For the rest of you, as you were. As for me? I can think of no better way to celebrate my country's independence tomorrow than by going to the comic book store and then playing some Skyrim. Bon Chance!