Friday, December 5, 2008

The Story of the Eat'n Park Christmas Star Commercial

It’s hard to believe that December is here and the holidays are already upon us. While there are busy schedules and stress that sometimes come along with this time of year, there are also long-beloved traditions that we look forward to all year long.

One long-running tradition here at Eat’n Park is our cherished Christmas Star commercial. Every year, we are moved by the comments we hear about this classic spot. Many of you have told us that it is what gets you in the holiday spirit, and that it reminds you of what the holidays are all about. We’ve even heard that the commercial has been referenced in Christmas Eve sermons!

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the commercial – and because it’s so timeless, it’s hard to believe that it has been around for so long. And just how did this classic come to be?

It all started in early 1982. Eat’n Park was just beginning to blossom into the family restaurant chain that you’re now familiar with, and the company was prospering. Our CEO at the time, Jim Broadhurst (who recently retired), wanted to create a holiday card on video to thank the city of Pittsburgh for their support of Eat’n Park.

So, Jim charged Ketchum, our ad agency at the time, with creating a message that would “last for 20 years.” Easy, right? Craig Otto, then a young Art Director, and Cathy Bowen, a fledgling Copy Writer at the time, lead the project. The pair worked for 3 weeks to generate over 30 ideas, none of which were met with approval. Eventually, they hit upon the idea of an animated commercial, but they still weren’t sure where they were going with it.

One Sunday shortly thereafter, Craig decided to come into the office. He sketched out a star, a traditional holiday image, and then stopped. “How does the star get to the top of the tree?” He played around with a few ideas until deciding that, of course, the star would need some help from the tree itself. In a fateful coincidence, Cathy had also decided to come in to the office that Sunday. So, while Craig worked out the illustrations, Cathy devised a simple, yet perfect sentiment to wrap up the commercial.

Jim immediately loved the spot, and an ageless favorite was born. Even better, the commercial has outlasted his original expectations. The idea of the relationship between the tree and the star illustrates a timeless holiday lesson – by helping another, you’re helping yourself, and you’re making the world a better place.

So, from everyone here at Eat’n Park, here’s hoping that the special lift you get this holiday season lasts all year long!



Click above to view the commercial. And please, feel free to share your thoughts and stories about it – we love hearing them!

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61 comments:

Jaemie said...

This was (and still is) one of my favorite holiday commercials. I wish I could find the flip book of the commercial that I had when I was little.

Thanks for posting the schedule of the commercial.

Norman Wright Jr. | President & Founder said...

Wonderful Post. It's nice to see companies maintaining traditions like you guys & gals do.

Merry Christmas & Take care,

-Norm

Thom S. said...

Didn't the GREAT Bob Trow voice the original commercial? I worked with Bob on various projects & was always impressed with his work. It's sad that he's no longer with us.
(All of us OLD people surely remember KDKA-radio's Pallon & Trow!)

Eat'n Park said...

Thom,
Though Bob Trow did not voice the commercial when it first aired, he did in fact voice it a few years later. Great memory!

Stephen Regis Ecsedy said...

Is that an evergreen tree I see or is it a Christmas Tree I see? I believe it is a Christmas tree.
MERRY CHRISTMAS,
Stephen R. Ecsedy

Anonymous said...

When this airs, I know that Christmas is around the corner!! This is as classic as A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph and others. In fact, it became an instant favorite of my 2-year old, three years ago, and he stops what he is doing when he sees it now to watch and comment. Thanks for giving me yet another "child" memory--both for me and my little boy. (OOPS, can't forget the wife...she loves it too!!)

stacy1955 said...

It is never the start of the Christmas season until I see this! Every time I watch this it brings a smile to my face. Thank you for still showing it after all these years and to many more in the future. A wonderful classic!

Anonymous said...

Ruth

I have enjoyed watching this commercial for many years. It has always been my favorite. There are currently five sweatshirts of this commercial in my closet. Hope to get the newest red one for Christmas. Please keep this commercial on the air for at least twenty more years.

Anonymous said...

The Christmas Tree/Star commercial is one of my absolute favorite things about Christmas. I wait every year for it to appear to make it feel like the season. Please never stop airing it!!

Ron said...

This is a wonderful commercial. It would not be Christmas without seeing it. Thank You

Anonymous said...

who were the musicians?

Anonymous said...

I moved to Virginia and so totally miss Eat n Park! I go when I get home but, I am so thrilled to have gotten to see the commercial! Thanks for the email! This is the best Christmas commercial!

Jenndiggy said...

I have a friend who is a missionary in Russia who asked me to record a few Christmas shows off TV onto DVD for him. I made sure this commericial was in there. When I told him about the Steelers cookies recently, he asked if there was any way I could mail him some. I'm planning on taking smiley cookies when I visit him next year. Some in his family HAVE mailed him smiley cookies, but I was out of room in my box. :)

Kathy V. said...

This is my absolute favorite Christmas commercial. Actually, it's probably my favorite commercial, period!

My hubby and I spent two years living in Virginia, and Christmas without my Eat n Park commercial was sad, indeed.

We've since come back home to Pittsburgh, and now my two year old runs to the TV to see "Mommy's favorite commercial" when she hears it come on.

I've sent the link to my sister who's now living in Scotland--she misses it, too!

Sister said...

After all these years, we LOVE to see this commercial! It touches us every time we see it! The message is timeless. Thank you, Eat and Park!!

Anonymous said...

This is THE BEST holiday commercial ever. It just doesn't seem like Christmas without it. Thanks Eat N Park!

Anonymous said...

I love this commercial! It is my all-time favorite. I also wish that I could find my flip book from when I was a kid. Can you bring those back?!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say that this has always and will always be my favorite commercial. Even though we don't live in Pittsburgh anymore, I'm thankful that you have it posted online so that I can watch it and also show it to my daughter (who is familiar with Eat-n-Park as we always stop by and purchase smiley cookies when we're in town visiting relatives). Thank you and Merry Christmas

Tillie Radvansky said...

My favorite Christmas commercial, my grandson was almost 2 when it came out in 1982, he loved it and stopped in front of the tv everytime it came on. Justin is now 27 yrs old and has three children of his own. Everytime i see the commercial I see my grandson and the wonder in his eyes, I am blessed as now I can see that same wonder in my great grandchildren as they watch the very same beautiful christmas spirit come alive in your commercial

Eat'n Park said...

In response to the question about who created the music...Walt Woodward at Perfect Pitch developed the musical score for the commercial.

Lauren said...

Thank you so much for having this online. I don't live in the Pittsburgh area anymore, but this was always my favorite thing to see on TV at the holidays. It makes me so happy.

Cindy, from West View said...

Always one of the best Christmas commercials. Look forward to it every year and inevitably I "puddle up" with sappiness the first time I see it. Please keep it running for another 26 years!!Your little star and tree and the Budwieser horses "jingling" through the snow are the best of the best. Thank you and Merry Christmas

Kim said...

This is my all time favorite commercial....it's not Christmas until I see it.

I just wish the rest of the world could be more like the little star and tree...if we all helped each other the world would be a better place.

PLEASE not ever stop air this commerical.....it just wouldn't be the same without it

Camlin said...

this is my all time favorite commercial in all the world. It's not just my favorite Christmas commercial, it's my all-time favorite commercial. My uncle's ex-wife and I would always call each other the first time we saw our favorite Christmas commercial. This one was always the one I looked forward to seeing. Seeing this now makes me cry with the memory of this Christmas tradition, since she is no longer in our lives. It is and always will be my favorite. Why do I never really see it anymore over the holidays?

Kristy said...

This is my all-time favorite commercial. It was also my mom's, and since she passed away recently, it means even more to me this year and gets me even more teary-eyed. I hope you never, ever stop running it. Merry Christmas.

Mandy said...

I adore this commercial, like all of us who are posting do! It always brings a tear to my eye and reminds me what the Christmas season is truly about - the gift of giving and helping one another out. Love the message, and I hope it keeps playing until my children are my age!

unsub said...

This commercial has literally been around all of my life - 26 yrs. I have grown up with it. It has been a beloved part of the holiday season for me, when I truly know that the Christmas season has arrived in Pittsburgh. Never change it and never stop running it - it is a tradition with a message about the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

kozlo said...

I really love that commercial. It reminds us of what christmas is really about. I also love your breakfast buffets. Keep up the great work.

Amy, BJ and Marjorie from Monongahela said...

Your wonderful commercial with the tree and the star is simply perfect and heralds the holiday season for everyone in our family. Each Thanksgiving, we wait for your Christmas ad and silently hope that you will "keep the tree ad", rather than succumbing to the "new means improved" clamor from professional marketing firms. You could retain this ad forever and it wouldn't disappoint us!!!! Thanks for "not fixing it if it ain't broken." Hope our thumbs up gives you a "special lift that will last" for at least another 26 years!

gwmbkm said...

Dear Eat'n Park,

This is a classic! One "gipe" though. You call it the Eat'n park "Christmas Star" Commercial but then wish us "Happy Holidays from Eat'n Park" - why not "Merry Christmas?" It's not a "Holiday" tree; it's a "Christmas" tree.

Sincerely,
Barbara

Anonymous said...

Dear Eat'n Park,

I'm glad to know my family isn't the only that drops everything we are doing and rushes to the TV when your commercial comes on. As others have said, it's not Christmas in Pittsburgh until we see the "Eat'n Park commercial." Please keep it running forever!

Steve

Anonymous said...

This will always be my favorite holiday commercial! I get so excited when I see it on TV every year. I'm 21 and I am not ashamed to admit that I bought the Christmas Tree magnet from Eat N Park last Christmas.

carolyn soyring said...

christmas would not be christmas without this christmas legend if you may. i was a senior in highschool when i first saw it and i wait for it every year. this commercial is in the ranks with the original christmas songs from bing crosby, perry como, frank senatra, and many more. thank you eat n park for the little star every year.

Anonymous said...

We don't live in Pittsburgh anymore (sad to say!) but we miss and love the city a great deal! And our favorite restaurant is still, and will always be, Eat'n Park! We love to come home and visit as many Eat'n Parks as we can!

As others have said, it isn't Christmas without this dear commercial! It evokes so many good memories!

Every once in a while, genius is created, and this commercial was and is a stroke of genius!

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1981 and remember this commercial from my childhood. We used to come running into the room when we heard the flute start playing. I have since moved away from the area and missed seeing this the last several years. I cry when I see it now. I am so thankful that you have posted it online for everyone to enjoy. Thank you.

Nancy said...

This is my favorite commercial!
When it came on, my family would call me and we would all watch "my" commercial(and they would watch me get all teary). Now I love having it available on the internet so I can watch it again and again! I've shared it with family who live far away.
I've also enjoyed buying magnets, sweatshirts, and flipbooks for family and friends.
Thanks for wonderful memories!

Marie said...

I have always loved this commercial. I'd call it "my commercial" and sometimes even fast forward through a show I'd taped just to see it.
I live in Florida now and haven't had a chance to see it in many years.
On a recent trip home to Pittsburgh to celebrate my parents' 40th anniversary, I got an unexpected gift. My mom told me that this commercial was one my grandfather also really liked.
Since we lost him several years ago on December 22nd, Christmas has been somehow "less than". Being able to see this commercial whenever I want to on this site, now knowing Grandpap & I shared a love of this commercial gives me a little "lift" for which I am very grateful.

Merry Christmas to all!

Ron C said...

It would not be Christmas without this wonderful commercial.

My two children have grown up with this and it never. ever fails to bring a smile to our faces. We have loved it forever.

This is the one and only commercial where the remote gets a rest.

Thank You and Merry Christmas

Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing to air this commercial. It was my grandmother's favorite. She has been gone for 10 years and yet, thanks to your commercial, she is with us in spirit each and every time the commercial runs. My mother's health is failing and despite the fact that she doesn't always appear to be in the moment, whenever your commercial comes on, she turns toward the TV, her face lights up and she remembers her mother and her mother's enjoyment of your ad. Thank you for that.

denise miller said...

Each year we look forward to this commercial! It wouldn't be a Merry Christmas without it.
Merry Christmas to all of our Eat n Park families.
The Miller's
Washington Pa

Anonymous said...

Ever since my grandaughter Brandy was old enough to know about your little Christmas tree she has looked forward to seeing it again and again. She called me to let me know she was waiting for it again and so was I. Please don't ever change. She is 38 now!
Thank you.

Mary Fletcher Jones said...

I loved that! It almost made me cry :) I didn't know Eat-n-Park was a big chain. I went to one in Pennsylvania once and it was great.

I am going to add it to my YouTube playlist of holiday video greetings -- it's a perfect example!

Audrey Faessel said...

Every year I wait to see the Christmas Tree non-commercial. It wouldn't be Christmas if I missed seeing it.
It can run forever as far as I'm concerned.

Anonymous said...

My mother was the flutist! Her name is Genie McAllister :)

Tabitha said...

This is the best commercial ever made!! I have watched it since I was a little kid. I was only 4 years old when it first aired, I cant say I remember it then but I can say it is something that I looked forward too every year since the first time I saw it (whenever that may have been) Now my kids have the pleasure of watching it every year. Thank you for continuing this wonderful Holiday tradition.

Anonymous said...

does anyone know who played the flute in the song during the commercial

Beth said...

I can't explain why this commercial always makes me misty. Even as a kid (I was 6 when it came out), I remember tears in my eyes when the big tree lifted the breathless little star higher than it ever could have gone by itself.

At a chaotic time of year, when the meaning of Christmas can get lost, I love to see this simple reminder. It illustrates the Christmas spirit in a way no gift can duplicate.

Thanks for continuing this tradition, Eat'n Park!

karen said...

Thirty years ago, I first saw this commercial as I rocked my six month old baby girl. Thank you, Eat and Park, for being a part of our family traditions :) Merry Christmas!

Jessica L. said...

My sister and I look forward to this commerical every Christmas season. Infact, it doesn't seem like the Christmas season even begins until we see this commercial. We have loved it ever since we were kids and it still amazingly brings back so many joyful, Christmas childhood memories to us each year. My sister or myself will call each other just to let the other one know that the commercial's on and to keep an eye out for it. We absolutely love it! I had my first child this year and will pass this wonderful tradition down to him each year when he get's a little older. Thanks for helping us keep the spirit of Christmas in our hearts for so many years.

JoAnn M. said...

From the first year this commercial began my husband and I would look forward to it each year. It seemed to start the Christmas Season for us and for many others. My husband passed away in 1989 at the age of 47. This little commercial always makes me feel closer to him again for a little while each Christmas. I had to move away from Pittsburgh in 2009 and was so happy to find the Little Tree on the internet. This has allowed me to see it year after year all the way on the other side of the Country and bring me home again for a little while with all the happy memories.

Anonymous said...

My oldest daughter was 9 years old when this commercial came out. We often took her to Eat N Park for our family outings. The childrens menu one year during the Holidays was in a flip book form. When you flipped the pages, the commercial would show. Very clever.

Anonymous said...

My kids grew up with this tree and star. They knew mom and dad loved this commercial and would always point it out and we had to stop what we were doing and everyone watched it together. They are grown but it always brings back great memories. I just saw it while watching the Thanksgiving Parade and I know Christmas is coming!

AJ

Karen Johnson said...

I agree - this is the best Christmas commercial, EVER! Please, keep it airing! I love it and my 3 year old daughter loves it, too. Thanks for a great commercial and sentiment!

Jean said...

I love this commercial. I have a sweatshirt I bought at Eat'n Park years ago. I wear it when we go there. How many times is it run and when? I've only seen it once so far. Hope you use it forever.e

Eat'n Park said...

Hi, Jean. You can view our list of air dates here: http://bit.ly/1k6YbbK

Julie said...

This is by far my favorite commercial. I look forward to seeing it every year. I was just asking my little girl if she had seen it on the television yet. Its so nice to see a commercial that has a wonderful message, makes you feel good and doesn't have anything in it that you don't want to explain to your kids. Thanks Eat 'n Park for such a classy, feel-good commercial! Hope it will ALWAYS be a Christmas tradition!

Linda S. said...

I absolutely love this commercial! I look forward to seeing it every year! I would like to put my request that since it is such an iconic commercial you should have more items to sell this little star and tree on such as earrings,necklaces, bracelets, ornaments etc. I would definitely purchase these and start my collection!

Barbara R. G. said...

I have a few favorite commercials but this one is my all time favorite. The first time I saw it, it brought tears to my eyes. I'm just a sentimental old fool but if you stop airing that special commercial it just wouldn't be Christmas

Jaye Graffius Cawkins said...

I still have the sweatshirt from it's original season. I worked for EatnPark then and bought them for my sons for Christmas.

Lisa Dunmyer said...

Even though I have moved away from the area, I still have this commercial link on my computer and I watch it as often as I can. Even when it is not Christmas. Next to Hard Rock, Cocco, and Joe, and Suzy Snowflake, this is my fonest memories of childhood.

Bonnie said...

I just don't feel like the holiday season has started until I have seen this commercial. It has been a part of my life for many years and I hope it will be here for my grandchildren too. Thank you for the memories.


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