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The Late Movies: California Raisins

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Sure, we were all psyched about the commercials before last weekend's Super Bowl, but will any of them spawn Emmy Award-winning TV specials? The California Raisins, which began as a 1986 commercial on behalf of the California Raisin Advisory Board, did just that in the late 1980s. Here's a look back at their most memorable moments.

"I Heard it Through the Grapevine"

Done in the styling of Mr. Michael Jackson. This version of the song even made it onto Billboard's Hot 100 list, peaking at #84 in 1988.

Meet the Raisins!

On November 4, 1988, the Raisins made their primetime debut in this spoof on standard musical documentaries. The show follows the group's humble beginnings, rise to success, fall from stardom, and eventual comeback.

A Claymation Christmas Celebration

The Raisins appeared in this Emmy Award-winning special singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

Show Opener

In 1989, the Raisins got their own animated television show. It only lasted 13 episodes.


In 2002, the Food Network show Unwrapped featured a segment on the California Raisins. Watch this for a look back at how the advertising phenomenon grew to have a worldwide fan base.

Famous Fans

Even Ray Charles wanted a piece of the California Raisins in this memorable commercial.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

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Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.


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