CLOSE
Original image

The Stories Behind Your Favorite Cereal Mascots

Original image

The Stories Behind Your Favorite Cereal Mascots
By Nick Hansen

nick-hansen.jpg
Everyone remembers the wonderful Saturday morning ritual of diving into multiple bowls of sugared cereal while watching hours of cartoons. (Some of us haven't moved on yet.) Cereal cartoons are one of the largest and most successful advertising trends in history. I still sympathize with the Trix Rabbit for not being able to enjoy a bowl of his fruit-shaped cereal. Here are the stories behind the characters that successfully motivated us to beg our parents to purchase their sugary products.

Horatio Crunch -- Cap'n Crunch

capn-crunch.jpg

One of the grossest things about cold cereal is when it gets too soggy and turns mushy. Captain Horatio P. Crunch was born in response to a survey kids that said they hated soggy cereal. Jay Ward (above) drew the captain and, according to his daughter, based the cartoon on himself. The honorable captain was charged with guarding the Crunch from the evil barefoot pirate Jean Le-Foote. The Captain has protected his cereal from the menace of sogginess so well that there was a movement to promote him to the rank of Admiral. If you look closely at the early commercials, they look familiar to other cartoons of the day. That's because Jay Ward also animated other popular TV shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right and George of the Jungle.

Can you see the resemblance?

Snap, Crackle and Pop -- Rice Krispies

rice-krispies.jpg
Rice Krispies had the distinction of being a cereal you could hear. A jingle for the noisy cereal inspired illustrator Vernon Grant to create the characters Snap, Crackle, and Pop:

"Listen to the fairy song of health, the merry chorus sung by Kellogg's® Rice Krispies® as they merrily snap, crackle, and pop in a bowl of milk. If you've never heard food talking, now is your chance."

Grant's flair for fantasy caused him to draw the three characters as gnomes. Snap was the first gnome and appeared in a few solo ads before his brothers came along. When they first started appearing in 1939 they fought against their rivals Soggy, Mushy and Toughy for the hearts (and bowls) of the children. Once the television ads began to be seen by a larger and younger audience, Kellogg's decided to modernize the three and make them more human-like. Snap, Crackle and Pop are now the longest-running cereal advertising campaign in history.

The Rabbit -- Trix

trix-cereal.jpg
Before he was animated, the Trix rabbit was a hand puppet. The original tagline for the cereal was "I'm a rabbit and rabbits are supposed to like carrots. But I hate carrots. I like Trix." Catchy, isn't it? General Mills knew that television was the best way to advertise to kids and they decided to spend 97 percent of their advertising budget on commercials. It paid off: the "Silly Rabbit" campaign was a hit. By 1976, General Mills was worried it was sending the wrong message to kids by having the rabbit always fall short of his aspiration. They decided to do the American thing and let the kids vote whether the rabbit should get a bowl. The Rabbit's campaign was so successful that more than 99 percent kids voted to let the rabbit have a bowl. The Rabbit has succeed in grabbing bites here and there, but he hasn't had a full bowl since 1980. And as you can see, it is probably a good thing because it seems to have some sort of weirdly stimulating effect on him.


Tony the Tiger -- Frosted Flakes

frosted-flakes.jpg
Cartoon spokescharacters were all the rage in the 1950s. The Kellogg Company wanted an animal to advertise its new Sugar Frosted Flakes to appeal to the younger generation while reassuring mothers that it was OK to let their kids eat a sugared cereal for breakfast. The Leo Burnett advertising agency came up with four different choices: Tony the Tiger, Katy the Kangaroo, Elmo the Elephant and Newt the Gnu. The agency could not decide between a kangaroo or a tiger, but the marsupial was sacked when the feline outsold her by huge margins. The tiger concept was so successful that Kellogg's sued Exxon Mobile for their use of a tiger in their advertisements.

When Tony first appeared on cereal boxes, advertising critic James D. Wolf said, "I am very fond of breakfast cereals, but a tiger fails to give me a hankering." Evidently he didn't realize how "great" Tony would become. If Tony's singing voice sounds familiar it's because his voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft also sang "You're a mean one Mr. Grinch" for the Grinch cartoon. [Stacy's Note: He also sang one of the 'Grim Grinning Ghosts' parts in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyworld.] Tony's son also had a short lived spinoff cereal called Frosted Rice.

Lucky -- Lucky Charms

lucky-charms.jpg
The concept of marshmallows in a bowl (or "marbits," as General Mills called them) was easily appealing to kids, but a much harder sell for parents. Lucky was spawned from a concept to base the marshmallows around a charm bracelet. Lucky was replaced for a time in the 1970's by Waldo the Wizard, but the leprechaun came back within a year. The marbits continued to evolve due to increased product sales every time a new one was added. Lucky's original charm bracelet included yellow moons and stars, but now are blue moons and shooting stars. Kids could not resist trying to catch Lucky to get his marshmallow-filled cereal. Fortunately, Lucky provided the secret"¦ go to the store and buy a box. Arthur Anderson supplied Lucky's voice for 29 years, but surprisingly he's not Irish.

Original image
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images
arrow
Pop Culture
The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
Original image
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images

For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

Original image
© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox
arrow
entertainment
20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
Original image
© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

Getty Images

Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

Getty Images

Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

YouTube

Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

Getty Images

Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios