If you grew up watching the G.I. Joe cartoons in the late 80’s, you’re most likely familiar with the PSA’s at the end that taught safety and life lessons. What you may or may not know is that way off in a small corner of the internet back in 2003, Eric Fensler and his company Fenslerfilms started making parodies of these PSA’s, and they’re still a HUGE hit over a decade later! The clips were re-workings of the original PSA’s, with new voice-overs and sometimes changes in the animation or some creative editing. They were just the normal safety hazard situations, with a new dialogue that changed the scenes’ dynamic – and often made them hilariously awkward and creepy.
In an interview with Joe DeMartino of WFMU.org, Fensler stated, “The idea to make the PSAs came from just revisiting the footage from my childhood via a DVD I found at Virgin Megastore in Chicago, IL on Michigan Ave. I went there on my lunch break a lot just to listen to music or just check out the sale cart bin of DVD’s, CD’s, records, and lotions. I found the GI Joe movie on DVD for 5 bucks and it had 25 of the PSAs as an extra supplement. I ripped the footage off and put it on my computer and started just messing around with it. Nothing much more to it.”
Fenslerfilms, out of Chicago, Ill. started creating these parodies before YouTube even existed – and even without the help of popular video-sharing services, they garnered enough hits that their website would shut down after going over their allotted bandwidth. It was viral video before there was such a thing. Fensler would email files, distribute them at his gallery and on his website or give out – gasp! – VHS copies of them to friends to broaden the audience for the comedic shorts. Once they had gained enough internet attention, they were picked up by sites like Ebaumsworld.com and Heavy.com – two staples in 2000’s internet awesomeness. This opened them up to a HUGE new audience, and from there, they caught fire.
This was great news for Fensler, as his creations – which he didn’t really intend to go viral – brought him a lot of new viewers. But this would all turn upside down when Hasbro – the creator of G.I. Joe – sent him a cease and desist order, telling him to take the PSA parodies off the internet, or there would be significant legal action. Without any significant amount of money, he had no choice but to comply, and they were taken down from his website as well as Ebaumsworld.com and the others.
After the inception of the video-sharing giant, Fensler’s PSA’s were re-uploaded by various users, and within a short time, became a hit once again. While there was still a significant case against him for copyright infringement, no further action was sought by Hasbro, keeping the videos alive and well for all of us to enjoy!
For the entire interview at WFMU.com, go here.
Check out the PSA’s below!