Ad Rant: The new Sun-Maid Girl's raisins are growing

Goodness, the raisins are growing mighty big in the sunny fields of California these days!

The execs at Sun-Maid are proud that their raisins contain "nothing but grapes and sunshine." But the new animated version of the Sun-Maid Girl in the company's TV ads sports some decidedly unnatural (and perhaps surgically enhanced) additives as well.

Even though the picture on the Sun-Maid raisin snack box hasn't changed since 1970, the busty new animated version has undergone an extreme makeover. The grape-picking maiden now looks more like a Barbie Doll in Amish attire.

The Sun-Maid Girl with her raven-colored curls and red bonnet was based on Lorraine Collett Petersen, who was discovered, legend has it, drying her long curly locks in her backyard in Fresno. (How they discovered her in the backyard like that, fresh from washing her hair, we leave to your imagination.) Sun-Maid liked the image of Lorraine because it seemed to embody what their raisins were all about: simple and all-natural, a product of California's bounteous land and sunshine.

Looking at the bounteous new Sun-Maid Girl, "simple" and "all-natural" are not the first words that come to mind. Instead, I think "breast augmentation" and "fake." Nothing but grapes, sunshine ... and a surgeon's scalpel.

I also think "Julia Roberts." And when I look more closely at the bonnet, I start to think "Dr. Seuss." But I do not think that this creature sprang ready-made from the land and the sun.
This bosomy version of the Sun-Maid Girl first appeared in 2007, courtesy of the designers at Synthespian Studios, who in 1993 updated the Columbia Pictures torch lady to look something like Annette Bening. They are also the folks who brought us the animated Rocket the Wonder Dog and the possessed Sarah in Exorcist: The Beginning, to give you an idea of how comparatively tame their Sun-Maid Girl turned out.


Sun-Maid is notoriously protective of its old-fashioned image. Their message has stayed the same, and the image of the sweet, seemingly virginal Sun-Maid Girl has adorned their snack boxes consistently since 1915, with only three makeovers in nearly 100 years. (The last one was in 1970.) They keep "the treasured original watercolor painting" of the maid with the basket of grapes in a place that's safer than Fort Knox: "a concrete vault at Sun-Maid's headquarters in Kingsburg, California."

This new Amish Barbie is fun, but she's an inconsistent choice for the company. Sure, advertising has to keep up with the times. In her three makeovers, the Sun-Maid Girl has received gradual face lifts, so this is not her first bout with virtual cosmetic surgery. It just seems odd when the company insists that the Sun-Maid Girl "has always stayed true to the original image of Lorraine Collett that has been trusted and cherished by consumers around the world for generations."

Here's a picture of Lorraine, who died in 1983:



I wonder what she'd think today.

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