Wisconsin. "Airplane!" Actor Robert Hays. NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Put them together and you have promos for Wisconsin that spoof the 1980 spoof comedy that gave new meaning to the phrase, "And don't call me Shirley."
"Airplane!" tells the story of Ted Striker (Hays), who has to pilot a plane when the crew (including Abdul-Jabbar as co-pilot Roger Murdock) gets food poisoning. Girl Scouts get into a brawl, an IV line for a critically ill girl is mistakenly disconnected, and Barbara "Leave It to Beaver" Billingsley talks jive as the backdrop to Striker's struggle to land safely, coached by a whacked-out air traffic supervisor.
In one of three Travel Wisconsin ads, the airport tower tells the pair they're too low to the ground (see video above).
"I know, but Wisconsin is so beautiful in summer, so much to do ... boating, fishing, hiking, I wish I were down there," Hays as pilot Ted Striker says.
"I can't believe I ever left this place," Abdul-Jabbar says later, a nod to his start as a pro player with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969.
And there's more nostalgia to go around too. The 30-second ads were created by the Wisconsin-born writers and directors of "Airplane!" — David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams. The ads will be shown at Milwaukee Bucks games and on TV and in movie theaters starting May 12 in areas that include Wisconsin, Chicago, Minnesota's Twin Cities and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
"I started my NBA career in Wisconsin and I still hold many fond memories of the state and its people," Abdul-Jabar said in a statement about the ads. "It's always fun to put on the pilot's uniform and reprise the Roger Murdock character."
Score one for the cheeseheads! Look for pop-up Otto Pilot now adorned with a cheesehead who'll be blogging for the tourism agency this summer.