Maximum Marathon Part 3: Original 1970’s TV Prop Marathon Bars Discovered!

CC_Maximum Marathon part 3 TITLE PLATE

At the end of yesterday’s post, we premiered a never-before-seen Marathon John television commercial.  Today we’re going to share how that spot came to be and how some of the props created for the original 1970’s Marathon TV commercials were discovered and put back into use for the production of’s “Marathon – Quick Calvin”.

Today’s post kicks off with a five minute video segment, which tells much of the story.  Check it out:

[For those curious about my wardrobe in today’s segment, I’m wearing an awesome Glorp Gum t-shirt by artist Brad McGinty.  I’ll be covering Glorp Gum in detail soon, but if you’d like to learn more now – check it out!]

Now that you’ve watched the video (you have, haven’t you?) you know that the initial inspiration to produce the Quick Calvin spot came from my acquisition of some of the cast resin bar props created for the original 1970’s Marathon television commercials.

Original 1970's Commercial Marathon bar resin prop bars.

Original 1970’s Commercial Marathon bar resin prop bars.

These bars were created by commercial producer and master prop-builder Bob Self of  APA Studios.  Notably, Self’s puppet creations have been featured in Washington, D.C.’s, Smithsonian Institution Museum.  His work was included in over 250 commercials for some of the world’s largest retailers such as Coca-Cola, AT&T, Seiko, Nabisco and Toyota, and Pepto-Bismol.  Though Mr. Self had a long career in television commercials, he’s also notable as the man who created the very first puppets for the Mister Rogers Neighborhood program.

After Bob Self passed away, the Marathon bar props from his files as well as a few other candy and product props were sold by his wife to a collector that later passed them on to me (thanks, Ron!).

[Note: After carefully comparing the props to the original three spots it was clear that these examples were not used for the very first Marathon John commercial, but they do match up with those utilized in the other Marathon John commercials that followed.]

Once I had them in-hand, I was struck by the idea that it would be fun to use them in the production of a new Marathon commercial spot.  And that is the beginning of how “Marathon – Quick Calvin” was conceived.   The rest of the story is covered in today’s video segment.


Here are a few behind-the-scenes shots from the production of Marathon – Quick Calvin.

Having the physical cast resin props meant that we’d need the wrappers to go with them, so I set about to create a set of them based on my 1970’s original:

Behind-the-Scenes - prop wrappers ready to go

Behind-the-Scenes – prop wrappers ready to go

With the prop bars and raw concept in hand, I enlisted a pair of filmmakers that I’d worked with before and been friends with for years to help me flesh it out and bring it to life; Michael Turney and Tony Wolf (creators of  Here’s a shot of myself with Tony – a wonderfully-inventive and fun actor, and a super Marathon John.

Marathon John and Quick Calvin

Marathon John and Quick Calvin

In this next shot you see me at pretend-work, our director’s hand and our awesome camera.

Behind-the-Scenes our camera

Behind-the-Scenes our camera

Here’s a snapshot of The Boss, played by Amy Monte, along with me in my Quick Calvin look and bite-out-of-it version of the prop bar.  Amy’s my real-life girlfriend (so she happens to be my real-life boss, too).

Behind-the-Scenes - The Boss and Quick Calvin

Behind-the-Scenes – The Boss and Quick Calvin

When I was figuring out how to create our final animated Marathon scene, I assumed I’d have to do it in post with some kind of digital magic.  But Mike and Tony both felt we could pull it off “old-school”, and they turned out to be correct.

Getting the Marathon wrapper to stick to side of the cubicle proved to be a challenge, but I finally took inspiration from Bill Murray’s Frank Cross character (of Scrooged fame) and just “tried staples”:

Behind-the-Scenes  Have you tried staples

Behind-the-Scenes Have you tried staples

I can’t tell you how satisfying it was that we were able to pull off the final Marathon bar animation using an old-school “by hand” method.

Behind the Scenes - Bar animation old-school

Behind the Scenes – Bar animation old-school

You may have noticed that in the opening moment of the “Marathon – Quick Calvin” spot, Patrick Wayne’s Marathon John oversees our effort from a golden frame.  I’d like to think he was our inspiration throughout.

Our Marathon John on-set inspiration

Our Marathon John on-set inspiration

And that’s everything for today’s post, as well as our three-day “Maximum Marathon” coverage.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this in-depth and varied look at one of my all-time favorite confectionery brands.

See you next time!

About Jason Liebig

A New York City based writer, editor and sometimes actor. After spending much of the 1990′s in the comic book business helping tell the stories of Marvel Comics’ X-Men as series editor, he has since split his time between developing his own entertainment properties while still consulting and working on others. Having been described as “the Indiana Jones of lost and forgotten candy”, Jason is one of the country’s premier candy collectors and historians with his discoveries appearing in countless blogs, magazines, newspaper articles, and books. Always happy to share his knowledge and unique perspectives on this colorful part of our popular culture, Jason has consulted with New York’s Museum of Food and Drink and has also been a featured guest on Food Network’s Heavyweights, France’s M6 Capital, and New York’s My Google Profile+
This entry was posted in 1970's, Chocolate, Mars and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Maximum Marathon Part 3: Original 1970’s TV Prop Marathon Bars Discovered!

  1. Todd says:

    This was so much fun and one of my new favorites from your site! Nice to see that the props were the inspiration for the Quick Calvin spot.

  2. Dave S. says:

    That was absolutely terrific…and so much fun! Congratulations getting those props, they are amazing. I bet you all had a lot of fun making the retro video. You were great in your part. I hope you do more of this kind of stuff. Great, great, great job, Jase!

  3. dig sandy says:

    Awesome–now all Mars has to do is make them again–the commercial is already done! Wow, it makes the heart leap to see what looks like a real Marathon bar coming out of a real wrapper…!

  4. Liz says:

    Pure awesome- love the “new” commercial, and it gave me real flashbacks about those bars!

  5. Brandon says:

    I hope that Mr. Wayne finds out about these posts and will enjoy seeing how fondly he is remembered in this role.

  6. Darryl Heine says:

    Now I know the truth.

    If someone can do a net petition to Mars, the Marathon candy bar might come back.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *