Jim Danforth And The Armor All Rot Monster

A stop-motion monster that proved to be too much for some TV viewers.

Back in 1977, the manufacturers of protectant spray Armor All – “make your world less rotten” – hired ad agency Chickering/Howell to produce a TV ad campaign. But how do you make an anti-rust spray seem sexy and dramatic? A certain amount of creativity was required and so was born one of the most impressive and controversial ad campaigns of the time.

Stop-motion animator Jim Danforth was a highly-talented creative who seemed to blow his chances to be seen as a rival of Ray Harryhausen thanks to numerous film projects that he left during production or which were never completed. His work was, some would say, better than Harryhausen’s – his animation for When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth is better than Harryhausen’s work on One Million Years B.C. and saw him nominated for an Oscar (ludicrously, he lost to Bedknobs and Broomsticks; a few years earlier, his work for The 7 Faces of Dr Lao was also nominated and beaten by another Disney film, Mary Poppins, which perhaps tells you something about the Academy Awards) and he did sterling work on Flesh Gordon amongst others. But while Harryhausen became a household name, Danforth is only really known within animation fan circles.

He was hired by Chickering/Howell to create a ‘rot monster’ for the Armor All campaign, which takes place in a microverse where the monster is battled and defeated by a Viking-like character. It’s a fantastically atmospheric ad and the monster is hugely impressive and creepy. Too creepy, as it turned out. While many people enjoyed the ad, a small but vocal group of ‘concerned parents’ complained that it was too scary – and then, as now, it only takes a small minority to ruin things for everyone else. The ad was pulled from the airwaves and subsequently re-edited to reduce the screen-time for the monster.

For the people who saw the ad originally though, it was never forgotten – and thankfully, you can still watch it thanks to diligent archivists.

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