The Stories Behind Your Favorite Cereal Mascots
By Nick Hansen
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
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 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'sÂ® Rice KrispiesÂ® 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
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
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
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.