The Best Cartoon Mascots in Breakfast Cereal History
For anyone who’s been a kid in the past 40 years, breakfast cereals have played an integral role in the childhood experience. Cereals are one of only a few consumer products that are consistently marketed to children, resulting in a colorful cast of charmingly memorable cartoon mascot characters that quickly became pop icons. Here are the 10 best cartoon mascots in breakfast cereal history:
Tony the Tiger
Tony the Tiger has been a staple in the cereal mascot character world since 1952, when a graphic artist submitted Tony the Tiger to a Kellogg’s Cereal Mascot contest. During the contest, Tony had to compete against 3 other potential mascots: Katy the Kangaroo, Elmo the Elephant, and Newt the Gnu. Obviously, Tony the Tiger kicked their butts, and he was later given the prestigious title of official mascot of Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes (the name was shortened to just Frosted Flakes in the 1980’s, when cereal companies began frantically dropping the word “sugar” from their names) . For their Frosted Flakes commercials, Kellogg’s hired voiceover artist Thurl Ravenscroft, who spent the next five decades providing the voice for Tony The Tiger. Thurl passed away in 2005, and has since been replaced by play-by-play announcer Jim Van Horne. In the 1970’s, Kellogg’s attempted to humanize Tony the Tiger by giving him an Italian-American heritage and introducing viewers to his family, Mama Tony (his mother), Mrs. Tony (his wife), Tony Jr. (his son), and Antoinette (his daughter). Apparently viewers didn’t like this very much (most likely because it was a little bit racist), and eventually Kellogg’s reverted back to using Tony as a sole spokestiger for Frosted Flakes, although his son, Tony Jr., occasionally makes an appearance. Unlike many other cereal mascots, Tony’s life is not dedicated to an insurmountable quest to obtain the cereal he promotes. Instead, he just kind of hangs out with kids, watches them play sports, and reminds them that Frosted Flakes are “Grrrrrreat!”
Lucky the Leprechaun
Lucky Charms was created by General Mills in 1962 because the company wanted to create a cereal that was based on charm bracelets, which were popular at the time (it was the 60’s. People were easily amused). Lucky the Leprechaun was introduced as the cereal’s official mascot in 1963, and since then he’s become the most popular cereal spokes-character in the world. Since his first appearance, Lucky’s been portrayed as a stereotypical leprechaun who’s constantly battling the meddling children who are trying to steal his Lucky Charms, but in recent years General Mills has significantly downplayed the thieving aspects of Lucky’s storyline. Originally, the oat pieces in Lucky Charms were not frosted, but after a few years General Mills discovered that people hated them. Apparently dry, unfrosted oat bits taste disgusting. So, GM added some sugar coating to the batch, and they’ve been running with it ever since. Throughout its 49-year life span, Lucky Charms has seen a healthy variety of marshmallow shapes. The original marshmallow shapes were: pink hearts, yellow moons, green clovers, and orange stars, but since then the roster has changed repeatedly and consistently, featuring shapes like diamonds, horseshoes, balloons, pots of gold, shooting stars, leprechaun hats, hourglasses, and magic mirrors. Is there no end to your marshmallow shape-cutting capabilities, Lucky the Leprechaun?! IS THERE NO END?!!!
Toucan Sam is a cartoon bird with the ability to smell Froot Loops cereal from a great distance while chanting “follow my nose!”. Sam has been the Froot Loops mascot since the cereal’s introduction in 1963, and he’s been basically the same ever since. The first Toucan Sam was voiced by Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and a handful of the most famous cartoon characters in history. Originally, Sam’s beak only featured two pink stripes, but in the 1970’s the beak stripes were altered to more accurately reflect the “flavors” that were featured in Froot Loops cereal (red, orange, and yellow). Since then, a number of flavors have been added to Froot Loops, and the cereal now contains 7 different colored loops: red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, and gold. Toucan Sam’s beak now features pink, red, and orange stripes. Although these colors are described as “flavors”, every loop in Froot Loops tastes the same. In the early 1990’s, Kellogg’s introduced Toucan Sam’s nephews, Puey, Susey, and Louis, who traveled around with Sam saving the colors, aromas, and flavors from a variety of different commercial villains; a peacock mad scientist, an alien froot monster, an evil froot queen, a toucan pirate, a greedy froot pharaoh, a zany witch doctor, and a karate-fighting koi fish.
Cap’n Horatio Magellan Crunch is the Captain of the Good Ship Guppy and official spokesperson of Cap’n Crunch cereal. The cereal was created by flavorist Pamela Low, who based the flavor on a brown sugar and butter recipe her grandmother used to serve over rice. Cap’n Crunch is the sole spokesman for the cereal, and for 47 years, he’s either been sailing around with kids and fighting evil cereal-stealing pirates, or bursting through children’s bedroom walls on the Good Ship Guppy just in time to save them from a challenging scenario by “crunch-a-tizing” it, meaning that he provides Cap’n Crunch cereal to assist them in accomplishing a task. Over the last 47 years, Quaker Oats (which is actually owned by Pepsi) has introduced nearly 20 different varieties of Cap’n Crunch cereal, the most popular being original Cap’n Crunch, Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries, and Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch. In 1971, Captain Crunch cereal boxes contained a tiny plastic whistle intended as a toy for children. However, a Vietnam veteran named John Draper quickly discovered that the toy whistle could be easily modified to create a tone at 2600 hertz which, when blown into a payphone receiver, would trick the phone into going into “operator” mode, allowing the phone’s user to call anywhere in the world for free. In 2009, Cap’n Crunch was sued by a stupid lady who thought that Crunchberries were actual pieces of fruit. Obviously, she lost the case.
Snap, Crackle, and Pop
Rice Krispies spokes-elves Snap, Crackle, and Pop are the oldest cereal advertising characters in the industry. Introduced in 1933, the brotherly elves have hardly changed over the past 78 years of advertising. Snap has always worn a baker’s hat, Crackle always wears a military marching band leader’s cap, and Pop always wears an ambiguous red-and-white striped cap. According to Kellogg’s, the three elves are brothers. Snap is the oldest and most responsible, Crackle is the middle brother, and Pop is the young rebelious elf of the trio. The character’s names were originally inspired by an early Rice Krispies radio ad which bragged about the awesome sounds that kids would hear when they ate Rice Krispies. For a brief time, a fourth Rice Krispies elf, named Pow, was introduced. According to the commercials, Pow represented the explosive nutritional value of Rice Krispies cereal. However, the character was later abandoned because it’s much more profitably to advertise the sounds your cereal makes to kids, rather than advertising that your cereal is healthy for them. In the early 1990’s, Snap, Crackle, and Pop were re-imagined as superheroes, but Kellogg’s has since reverted to its classic representation of the cereal industry’s oldest spokes-characters.
The Trix Rabbit
Trix cereal came out in 1954, and in 1959 the Trix Rabbit was introduced as the cereal’s spokes-rabbit. For the past 52 years, the anthropomorphic cartoon rabbit has been trying to trick children into letting him eat Trix cereal. When it was first introduced in the 50’s, Trix cereal was 46% sugar and contained only three colors: red, orange, and yellow. Since then, much of the sugar content has been taken out, the cereal shapes have been altered to emulate fruit shapes (the originals were just spheres), and many new flavors have been added. A current Trix cereal box contains orange, lemon, cherry, grape, lime, blueberry, and watermelon cereal pieces. In the 1970’s through the 1990’s, most Trix commercials depicted the Trix rabbit attempting to wear a disguise in order to trick children into giving him Trix cereal. The rabbit always failed and was sometimes incredibly racist (see the Trix commercial where the rabbit dresses up like a Native American). Despite his ongoing quest, the Trix rabbit did get to eat Trix cereal on two occasions (in 1976 and 1990) as the result of a box top mail-in contest in which kids voted to decide whether the Trix rabbit should get to eat Trix or not. In both cases, kids overwhelmingly voted in support of the cartoon rabbit.
Buzz, The Honey Nut Cheerios Bee
Honey Nut Cheerios
The Honey Nut Cheerios Bee was introduced with the birth of Honey Nut Cheerios, a sweeter alernative to the traditional Cheerios cereal. Honey Nut Cheerios was manufactured with actual nuts until 2006, when a natural flavor alternative was adopted. The bee originally did not have a name, but in 2000, a Texas fifth grader won a national contest to name the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee. Her submission, “Buzzbee”, was later shortened to just “Buzz”. Throughout his advertising history, Buzz’s objective has frequently changed. Originally, Honey Nut Cheerios commercials featured adults talking about how delicious and healthy the cereal was. In the late 80’s and 90’s, the commercials featured Buzz trying to tempt someone to eat Honey Nut Cheerios. Usually, the person would refuse at first, but Buzz’s tenacity would eventually get the best of them, and when they finally gave in and tried Honey Nut Cheerios, they would be very satisfied. The original voice of Honey Nut Cheerios passed away in 1992, and Buzz’s voice has since been provided by Billy West, who did the voice of Stimpy on Ren & Stimpy and currently voices Fry on Futurama.
Dig’Em, The Honey Smacks Frog
Honey Smacks cereal was introduced in 1953, and since then it’s been represented by more cereal mascots than any other brand. The first mascot (in 1957) was Smaxey the Seal. Hanna Barbera’s cartoon horse sheriff Quick Draw McGraw took over in 1961. 1965 saw the introduction of The Smackin’ Bandit, a half-horse-half-kangaroo who kissed everybody. In the early 70’s, an Indian Chief mascot was introduced, but this character was quickly replaced by Dig’Em the Frog, who proved to be the most successful mascot to date. Dig’Em was temporarily replaced by a cartoon bear (which was more relatable to honey than a frog), Wally the Bear. Commercials featured Wally basically copying the Trix rabbit and trying to get a kid’s Honey Smacks. After a year, Dig’Em was brought back. In the 1990’s, Dig’Em was given a nemesis: a cartoon cat named Kitty. In 2007, Consumer Reports published a study of 27 cereals and found that Honey Smacks had the highest sugar content of any of them (over 50% sugar). Because of this, many countries stopped selling Honey Smacks cereal. While the cereal is still sold in the U.S., commercials for Honey Smacks do not appear on U.S. television. In other countries, where the cereal is still advertised on television, Dig’Em is portrayed as a Smacks addict who’s frantically obsessed with the cereal.
Sonny the Cuckoo Bird
General Mills introduced Cocoa Puffs in 1958 as the first chocolate-flavored cold cereal. Sonny the Cuckoo Bird is the original and only cartoon mascot for Cocoa Puffs cereal, and his catchphrase “I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!” has been used since his introduction 53 years ago. Sonny originally wore a signature pink and white striped shirt, but his trademark wardrobe was replaced in 1993 with a more modern wardrobe. Sonny has a history of being hip and cool, often skateboarding or participating in other youth-oriented activities while proclaiming his undying love (addiction to?) Cocoa Puffs cereal. On several occasions, Cocoa Puffs boxes have advertised that they contain real Nestle chocolate. Essentially, Cocoa Puffs are just chocolate-flavored Kix, much like the original Trix were fruit-flavored Kix. In fact, Kix are produced in the same factory as Cocoa Puffs, and in 2008 Cocoa Puffs Combos were introduced. The Combos variety contained both chocolate and “vanilla” spheres, and was essentially just Cocoa Puffs mixed with Kix.
Count Chocula is a lanky, well-dressed, buck-toothed vampire who’s replaced his traditionally insatiable appetite for blood with an incurable craving for chocolate. He was first introduced in 1971, when Count Chocula and Boo Berry cereal hit the store shelves. A few years later, Frankenberry was added to the General Mills Monster-Themed cereals family, and the three brands were usually advertised in commercials together. In the late 70’s, General Mills introduced the short lived Fruit Brute cereal/character, which was a Fruit-loving Werewolf. This brand was pulled after only a couple of years, and it was later replaced by Fruity Yummy Mummy. Despite popular belief, the monster-themed cereals are still being manufactured and distributed in the U.S., but consumers may find it difficult to track these cereals down, as they’re not sold in most retail grocery stores. Luckily, some stores ramp up their stocks during the Halloween season, when consumers are approximately 1 billion times more likely to buy vampire-themed cereals. If you’re really craving some Count Chocula cereal and find that it’s not available at your local grocery store, many people suggest simulating the flavor of the cereal by eating Froot Loops in Nesquik chocolate milk. In its commercials, General Mills went to painstaking lengths to ensure that its vampire, Frankenstein, and Ghost spokes-characters did not come across as frightening to children, and considering they were advertising monster-based foods to kids, I’d say they did a pretty good job.
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