Halloween merchandise continues to be seeing a fairly dry year; even the usually stellar selections at Fred Meyer and Target are a tad skimpy.
WINCO WEIRDOS 2020 (With a New Favorite!)
So, it was a nice surprise when some of my favorite items of 2020 and a new favorite of all time showed up at Northwest grocery chain Winco, a source that previously only ever made it into a couple of my "miscellany" posts. As usual, I'll save the best for last!
Why is this one of the very, very few times I've seen a simple witch hat with a face on it? We've seen lots of them with legs, but even those only rarely add any facial features. This is JUST a big, black witch hat with a scary green Jack O' Lantern face, and that's awesome. You would have at least expected it to become a broader cultural image because of that one in The Adventures of Wizard Schoolboy and the Spookedy Dinglehopper by J. Kricfalusi or whatever. Who cares. Living giant witch hats are better.
An alternative to the giant, inflatable, sentient hat is a giant, inflatable, purple cat, but with bat wings. It's a bat cat! Maybe the shape was intended as a bat but someone at the last minute put a cat face on it, who knows. I like it. It has no other appendages other than the bat wings, which is probably just stylization, but I'm going to pretend it really just has a body like a bowling pin that flies around.
This is the word "Halloween" cut out of chunky wooden shapes, each letter stylized differently. The first H isn't anything, it just has some stars on it, but the "A" is a piece of candy corn with a kind of worried smile. The L's are witch boots, the O is a pumpkin, the E's are spooky cats and the N is made of bone.
You'll notice I skipped describing the W, because we need to address that separately. It's purple, it has little yellow swirls all over it, and it has a little black smiley face in the middle, right under the central point. This turns the W into some completely unknown creature, or maybe it's supposed to be a ghost, but it's a purple ghost with a yellow swirl pattern, stumpy legs and really long arms. I don't know really, but I love it. LOVE it. I love this W. I love this W and all of the weird things it's hanging out with but especially the cats. Actually, let's address those too, because each cat forms a lowercase "e" by being JUST a screeching cat head with a curly tail. No limbs at all this time, and no body. That's two weird Winco cats, and only half of the weird Winco cats we're about to see!
But first, here's a couple of little wooden cut-out monsters, each holding the word "BOO" as a real burlap banner. I really like the ghost for its tattered details, its very large bulbous head and its big black eyeholes, a great, simple sheet ghost all around, but then you look down at its feet. WHAT is this ghost wearing?? Black shoes with bright green frills, orange pom-pomps on them, and purple socks??!
The accompanying witch character is also fantastic. She'd be almost ordinary if she wasn't wearing purple polka-dots on black, that her big Joker-esque smile has dark red teeth, and her perfectly circular eyes look quite mad indeed.
This is another two-dimensional wooden figure, but much taller than those other two we looked at, and this one is an exceptionally sinister, sharp-toothed, grinning black cat holding a "WELCOME MY PRETTIES" sign, standing atop a pair of extremely long, humanlike legs in stripey socks. There's also virtually no room for a body behind that sign, but we can see paws holding onto it, so this cat is either just a head with very long limbs or has a very stumpy little torso. In any case, another supremely weird feline monstrosity.
These little, ceramic Jack O' Lanterns light up with a standard color-shifting LED bulb, something we've all seen a million times, but these are strikingly rare instances of animal based pumpkin monsters! One gets black feet, black ears, fangs and wings indicating a pumpkin bat, while the other is an unusually tapered pumpkin lying horizontally, so its tapering point becomes the snout of a RAT! It's a RAT O' LANTERN! It even has soft faux-leather ears and a brown pipe cleaner tail. I like its goofy, close-set cartoon eyes, too, though I imagine other people might have wanted it to have slightly cooler eyes, like the bat's pale green ones. In any case, I almost never see pumpkin critters based around animals unless you count the odd spider-legged pumpkin. These are just...these are TOPS! I'm running out of positive adjectives lately, so I'm bringing back TOPS here, just this once.
Yeah this is "just" a ceramic bowl with stuff on it, but just look at that stuff! The back of its white interior has yellow, cartoon lightning bolts, while the front of its purple exterior has a gaggle of dancing skeletons! Let's get a better look!
DANCING SKELETON BOWL
Are you not DELIGHTED by these skeletons?! Their huge heads and huge black eye sockets are so adorably simple, as are the rest of their little body bodies, almost as simplistic as a cartoon fish-bone with long arms and legs on it. Just completely lovely in every way. It's so whimsical how as long as you view this bowl from the proper angle, the skeletons seem to be dancing under the lightning. Of course they would.
And speaking of bowls, we can at least revel in one of the greatest things ever:
Every year, there's some sort of Halloween item that makes me do a double-take. I'll see it, I'll think "aw, that's cute," and then my brain says "WAIT A MINUTE HERE. THAT'S ACTUALLY UNIQUE. WE NEED THAT."
BLACK CAT BOWL
I know you probably already processed what was weird here, but we're going to review it step by step, to give you a sense of what my mind went through processing this thing. At a glance, it's just a black bowl with a "cat face" on it. A black bowl with nubby, round little ears, cute little round yellow eyes, and a bunch of big white whiskers. Simple!
But the whiskers are already unusually prominent, right? They're big, thick, individually molded, they're painted stark white and they wrap around the entire front of the face, which has no other features whatsoever. There's no mouth or teeth, and there's not only no nose but there's no SPACE for a nose. The base of the whiskers all nearly meet at the same point.
And every whisker has a single "joint" on it, a little seam where the whisker's a bit fatter and knobbier before it tapers to a wickedly sharp, curving point. Like the joint in a bone. These are bone whiskers. These are phalanges. This is a "cat" with a bunch of skeleton fingers erupting from the middle of its face, and to top it all off, their curved ends even look wickedly sharp. Nobody designed it like this by mistake, you don't sculpt seven skeletal claws in the middle of a kitten head and then go "whoops, my bad, hope nobody notices."
Someone had a moment of incredibly creative, peculiar flair here, and the freaky creature they've concocted finds itself instantly up there with my most beloved Halloween finds of all time. The fact that the interior of the bowl is a beautiful red-orange is the one remaining detail that makes it as awesome looking as it possibly could have been, and the only other thing I could have asked for would have been more items with this exact critter on them. Figurines, mugs, plushes, plastic toys, this thing is MARKETABLE. This is the kind of single, simple design twist that even makes for a memorable Pokemon or franchise mascot.
I was already starting to love "monster" black cats more and more over the last few years, much like my growing appreciation of Halloween owls, and Winco this year has, for whatever reason, decided to be a paradise of misfit, spooky felidae.
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