Lucky Charms Facebook
Lucky Charms Facebook

The 50-Year History of Lucky Charms, in 65 Marbits

Lucky Charms Facebook
Lucky Charms Facebook

It all began with a bowl of Cheerios and a couple of circus peanuts. Those were the base ingredients that John Holahan, vice president of General Mills, opted to experiment with when he and his team were given six months to create a new brand of cereal that would be a hit with kids.

Holahan’s research took him to the grocery store, which is where the oat cereal-plus-sugar combo occurred to him. It may not seem like a revolutionary recipe by today’s breakfast cereal standards, but it was back then: Lucky Charms became the first marshmallow cereal.

As the true breakfast of champions celebrates its 50th birthday, we’re looking back at all the marshmallow bits—“marbits” to the initiated—that have appeared in boxes of Lucky Charms over the years.

1. – 4. GREEN CLOVERS, PINK HEARTS, ORANGE STARS, AND YELLOW MOONS

Photo courtesy Lucky Charms / Facebook

Lucky Charms’ original lineup of four marbits didn’t change for more than a decade, though the cereal itself did. When the brand fell short of its original sales expectations, the solution seemed simple: more sugar. In 1967, the oat bits got a sugar coating, and sales quickly improved.

5. BLUE DIAMONDS

Photo courtesy FoodBeast.com

In 1975, General Mills decided to add a fifth marbit—a blue diamond—to the lineup. It was removed 20 years later.

6. PURPLE HORSESHOES

Photo courtesy Lucky Charms / Facebook

Many of Lucky Charms’ marbits are defined by the powers they offer to the brand’s mascot, Lucky the Leprechaun. The purple horseshoe, which was added in 1983, gives Lucky the power to speed things up.

7. – 8. SWIRLED CHARMS

Photo courtesy Mr. Breakfast

The colors got all mixed up—literally—in 1984, when a factory mishap led to several batches of swirled marbits. In 1986, they introduced a swirled whale, who turned out to be no heavyweight when it came to sales; he was quickly discontinued. The penchant for swirls continued into the new millennium when swirled marshmallow charms made a comeback in 2009.

9. RED BALLOONS

Photo courtesy Lucky Charms / Facebook

When Lucky the Leprechaun celebrated his 25th anniversary in 1989, he was feted with a red balloon marbit, which remains in the permanent lineup.

10. – 11. HOLIDAY CHARMS

Photo courtesy X-Entertainment.com

Lucky Charms’ 1989 holiday edition was simple enough: all red and green marbits in various holiday-themed shapes.

12. GREEN TREES

Photo courtesy FoodBeast.com

Lucky Charms took an eco-friendly approach to a limited-edition box in 1991: Eat enough of their new green tree marshmallows, mail in a couple of UPCs, and get your very own live tree.

13. RAINBOWS

Photo courtesy Lucky Charms / Facebook

The pink, yellow, and blue rainbow marbits that made their debut in 1992 supposedly gave Lucky the power of teleportation.

14. POTS OF GOLD

Photo courtesy Shifting Pixels

A pot of gold is the goal of every leprechaun, and Lucky finally got his—a yellow and orange combo piece—in 1994.

15. BLUE MOONS

Photo courtesy Lucky Charms / Facebook

We can’t say definitively whether blue moon marbits do indeed give Lucky the power of invisibility, but their arrival—in 1995—caused the yellow moon marbits to disappear.

16. GREEN HATS

Photo courtesy Lucky Charms / Facebook

In 1996, a light green hat emblazoned with a dark green clover replaced the plain old green clover (one of the brand’s original four marbits). The green clover was gone, but it wasn’t forgotten; it made a comeback in 2004.

17. – 22. OLYMPIC MARSHMALLOWS

Photo courtesy Mr. Breakfast

In conjunction with the 1996 Summer Games, Lucky Charms launched an Olympic Edition of the cereal, which featured six new marbits: red, white and blue stars; a gold medallion with a yellow star in the center; a red, white, and blue rainbow; and a yellow and green torch.

23. – 26. TWISTED MARBITS

In 1997, four classic shapes—moons, balloons, horseshoes, and hearts—got dual color makeovers.

27. PINK HOT AIR BALLOONS

Pink hot air balloons also made their first appearance in 1997.

28. SHOOTING STARS.

Photo courtesy Lucky Charms / Facebook

After more than 30 years of dutiful deliciousness, another Lucky Charms original—the orange star—was retired in 1998. It was replaced by a fancier orange shooting star, which is easy to distinguish because of the white trail it leaves behind. Double shooting stars made a brief appearance in 2005.

29. – 36. TRIP AROUND THE WORLD MARBITS

In 1998, Lucky Charms took a Trip Around the World with a special edition box that paid tribute to some of the world’s great landmarks with eight new shapes: Gold Pyramids, Blue Eiffel Towers, Orange Golden Gate Bridges, Purple Liberty Bells, Green and Yellow Torches, Pink and White Leaning Towers of Pisa, Red and White Big Ben Clocks, and Green and White Alps.

37. – 44. RUDOLPH AND FRIENDS.

Photo courtesy General Mills History

In 1999, another limited-edition box—Winter Lucky Charms—introduced eight new marbits to the world: Red and White Candy Canes; Blue Icicles; Purple Ice Skates; Green Trees; Brown and Red Rudolphs; Yellow Stockings; White and Gray Snowmen; and Orange Mittens.

45. MAN IN THE MOON

Photo courtesy Mr. Breakfast

In 1999, General Mills introduced a limited edition Man in the Moon marbit.

46. RACECARS

Marshmallow racecars zoomed onto the breakfast table in 1999.

47. SPARKLING RAINBOWS

Multi-colored sugar was the shimmery element in the Sparkling Rainbows cereal that was sold between 1999 and 2000.

48. – 54. WINTER LUCKY CHARMS

Photo courtesy Mr. Breakfast

In 2001, the cold weather brought seven more new holiday-themed marbits: Christmas trees; snowmen; ornaments; candy canes; wreaths; presents; and stockings.

55. CRYSTAL BALLS

Photo courtesy Lucky Charms / Facebook

Between 2001 and 2006, two different versions of a Crystal Ball marbit were introduced. In both cases, adding milk to the bowl revealed something about the future. In 2001, it was the whereabouts of Lucky’s hideout. In 2006, just ask your cereal a question and it would answer: ?, Y, or N.

56. – 57. MAGICAL STARS AND HIDDEN KEYS

Photo courtesy Behance.net

The Crystal Ball trick worked with Magical Stars, too: add milk to your bowl of cereal and a star would appear in the middle of the orange moon marbits. The same technique was used again in 2003 and 2005 for special Hidden Key marbits.

58. CHOCOLATE CHARMS

Photo courtesy Target.com

It took more than 40 years, but Lucky Charms changed its cereal recipe for the first time in 2005, when it introduced Chocolate Lucky Charms.

59. BERRY CHARMS

Photo courtesy Mr. Breakfast

Chocolate Lucky Charms proved so popular that the company tweaked the recipe yet again in 2006 when it introduced Berry Lucky Charms.

60. – 63. SPOOKY MARBITS

Photo courtesy Mr. Breakfast

Lucky Charms took a turn toward the macabre in 2006 when a Halloween-themed edition unveiled four new marbits: Brown Bats; Blue Ghosts; Green and Pink Cauldrons; and Yellow Spell Books.

64. YELLOW HOURGLASSES

Photo courtesy Modern Male Homemaker

In June 2008, a Yellow Hourglass—which helps Lucky control time—became General Mills’ first new permanent marbit to be added to the lineup in more than a decade.

65. 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Photo courtesy Lucky Charms / Facebook

Attention Target shoppers: In honor of Lucky Charms’ 50th anniversary, you can currently purchase a retro-inspired limited edition box, which is full of green clovers. We have it on good authority (if you consider mentalfloss.com Editor-in-Chief Jason English good authority) that “even the milk turns green. Like magic.”

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Warner Bros.
19 Shadowy Facts About Tim Burton's Batman
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Superhero movies are bigger than they’ve ever been before, but we arguably wouldn’t be here at all without 1989’s Batman. Produced at a time before comic book movies were considered big business, Tim Burton’s dark look at a superhero then best known for a goofy TV show is a pop culture landmark, and the story of how it was made is almost as interesting as the film itself. So, to celebrate Batman—which was released on this day in 1989—here are 19 facts about how it came to the screen.

1. AN EARLY MOVIE IDEA RELIED ON THE CAMPINESS OF THE CHARACTER.

As development of a Batman movie began, studio executives were still very tied to the campiness embodied by the Batman television series of the 1960s. According to executive producer Michael Uslan, when he first began attempting to get the rights to make a film, he was told that the only studio who’d expressed interest was CBS, and only if they could do a Batman In Outer Space film.

2. IT TOOK 10 YEARS TO MAKE.

Uslan lobbied hard for the rights to Batman, and finally landed them in 1979. At that point, the fight to convince a studio to make the film ensued, and everyone from Columbia Pictures to Universal Pictures turned it down. When Warner Bros. finally agreed to back the film, the issue of developing the right script had to be settled, and that took even more time. In 1989, after years of battling, Batman was finally released, and Uslan has been involved in some form in every Batman film since.

3. AN EARLY SCRIPT FEATURED BOTH THE PENGUIN AND ROBIN.

When Uslan finally got the chance to develop the film, he drafted legendary screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a consultant on Superman, to write the script. The Mankiewicz script included The Joker, corrupt politician Rupert Thorne, a much greater focus on Bruce Wayne’s origin story, The Penguin, and the arrival of Robin late in the film. The script was ultimately scrapped, but you can see certain elements of it in Batman Returns.

4. TIM BURTON WASN’T THE FIRST POTENTIAL DIRECTOR.

Though Warner Bros. ultimately chose Tim Burton to helm Batman, over the course of the film’s development a number of other choices emerged. At various points on the road to Batman, everyone from Gremlins director Joe Dante to Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was in line for the gig.

5. MANY STARS OF THE TIME WERE CONSIDERED FOR BATMAN.

The casting process for Batman was a long one, and involved a number of major stars of the day. Among the contenders for the title role were Mel Gibson, Bill Murray (yes, really), Kevin Costner, Willem Dafoe, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Charlie Sheen, Ray Liotta, and Pierce Brosnan, who later regretted turning down the role.

6. TIM BURTON HAD TO FIGHT TO CAST MICHAEL KEATON.

At the time, Michael Keaton was best known for his comedic roles in films like Mr. Mom and Night Shift, so the thought of casting him as a vigilante of the night seemed odd to many. Michael Uslan remembers thinking a prank was being played on him when he heard Keaton’s name pop up. Burton, who’d already worked with Keaton on Beetlejuice, was convinced that Keaton was right for the role, not just because he could portray the obsessive nature of the character, but because he also felt that Keaton was the kind of actor who would need to dress up as a bat in order to scare criminals, while a typical action star would just garner “unintentional laughs” in the suit. Burton ultimately won the argument, and Keaton got an iconic role for two films.

7. JACK NICHOLSON WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE JOKER, BUT HE WASN’T THE ONLY CHOICE.

From the beginning, Uslan concluded that Jack Nicholson was the perfect choice to play The Joker, and was “walking on air” when the production finally cast him. He certainly wasn’t the only actor considered, though. Among Burton’s considerations were Willem Dafoe, James Woods, Brad Dourif, David Bowie, and Robin Williams (who really wanted the part).

8. TIM BURTON WON JACK NICHOLSON OVER WITH HORSEBACK RIDING.

When Nicholson was asked to discuss playing The Joker, he invited Burton and producer Peter Guber to visit him in Aspen for some horseback riding. When Burton learned that was what they’d be doing, he told Guber “I don’t ride,” to which Guber replied “You do today!” So, a “terrified” Burton got on a horse and rode alongside Nicholson, and the star ultimately agreed to play the Clown Prince of Crime.

9. EDDIE MURPHY WAS ONCE CONSIDERED TO PLAY ROBIN.

Though the character of Robin was ultimately scrapped because it simply didn’t feel like there was room for him in the film, he did appear in early drafts of the script, and at one point producers considered casting Eddie Murphy—who, you must remember, was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s—for the role. 

10. SEAN YOUNG WAS THE ORIGINAL VICKI VALE.

Burton initially cast Blade Runner star Sean Young as acclaimed photographer Vicki Vale, who would become Bruce Wayne’s love interest. Young was part of the pre-production process on Batman for several weeks until, while practicing horseback riding for a scene that was ultimately cut, she fell from her horse and was seriously injured. With just a week to go until shooting, producers had to act fast to find a replacement, and decided on Kim Basinger, who essentially joined the production overnight.

11. TIM BURTON WASN’T OFFICIALLY HIRED UNTIL BEETLEJUICE BECAME A HIT.

Though he was basically already a part of the production, Burton wasn’t officially the director of Batman right away. Warner Bros. showed interest in him working on the film after the success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but according to Burton they only officially hired him after the first weekend grosses for Beetlejuice came in.

“They were just waiting to see how Beetlejuice did,” Burton said. “They didn’t want to give me that movie unless Beetlejuice was going to be okay. They wouldn’t say that, but that was really the way it was.”

12. DANNY ELFMAN THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO BE FIRED UNTIL HE PLAYED THE MAIN THEME.

Danny Elfman is now considered one of our great movie composers, but at the time Batman was released he didn’t have any blockbuster credits to his name. He recalls meeting with Burton (with whom he had worked on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) and producer Jon Peters to go over some of the music he’d already written for the film, and feeling “a lot of skepticism” over whether he should be the composer for Batman. It wasn’t until Burton said “Play the march,” and Elfman went into what would become the opening credits theme for the film, that he won Peters over.

“Jon jumped out of his chair, really just almost started dancing around the room,” Elfman said.

13. THE JOKER WASN’T ALWAYS GOING TO KILL BATMAN’S PARENTS.

In the final film, The Joker (then named Jack Napier) is revealed to be the gangster who guns down Bruce Wayne’s parents in the streets of Gotham City. It’s a twist that some comic book fans still dislike, and according to screenwriter Sam Hamm, it definitely wasn’t his fault.

“That was something that Tim had wanted from early on, and I had a bunch of arguments with him and wound up talking him out of it for as long as I was on the script. But, once the script went into production, there was a writer’s strike underway, and so I wasn’t able to be with the production as it was shooting over in London, and they brought in other people.”

Hamm also emphasizes that it was also not his idea to show Alfred letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

14. THE CLIMACTIC SCENE WAS WRITTEN MIDWAY THROUGH SHOOTING.

Though much of the film is still derived from Hamm’s script, rewrites continued to happen during shooting, and one of them involved the final confrontation between Batman and The Joker in a Gotham City clock tower. According to co-star Robert Wuhl, the climax was inspired by Jack Nicholson and Jon Peters, who went to see a production of The Phantom of the Opera midway through filming and watched as the Phantom made his final stand in a tower. Together, they somehow determined that a final fight in the tower was what Batman needed.

“The next day, they started writing that scene … the whole ending in the tower,” Wuhl said.

15. MICHAEL KEATON’S BATMAN MOVEMENTS WERE INSPIRED BY THE RESTRICTIONS OF THE COSTUME.

Batman fans still love to make jokes about the original costume, and Michael Keaton’s inability to turn his head (there’s even a dig at that in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), but the restrictions of the costume actually inspired how Keaton performed as the Dark Knight. In 2014, Keaton revealed that his performance as Batman was heavily influenced by a moment when, while trying to actually turn his head in the suit, he ended up ripping it.

“It really came out of the first time I had to react to something, and this thing was stuck to my face and somebody says something to Batman and I go like this [turning his head] and the whole thing goes, [rriipp]! There was a big f***ing hole over here,” he said. “So I go, well, I've got to get around that, because we've got to shoot this son of a bitch, so I go, 'You know what, Tim [Burton]? He moves like this [like a statue]!’”

“I'm feeling really scared, and then it hit me—I thought, 'Oh, this is perfect! This is perfect.' I mean, this is, like, designed for this kind of really unusual dude, the Bruce Wayne guy, the guy who has this other personality that's really dark and really alone, and really kind of depressed. This is it.”

16. GOTHAM CITY WAS REAL, AND IT WAS EXPENSIVE.

Production designer Anton Furst put a lot of work into the incredibly influential designs for the film’s version of Gotham City, and the production was committed to making them pay off. The production ultimately spent more than $5 million to transform the backlot of London’s Pinewood Studios into Gotham City, and you can see the dedication to practical effects work in the final film.

17. PRINCE WAS PART OF THE PRODUCTION EVEN BEFORE HE JOINED IT.

Batman famously features original songs by Prince, who wrote so much new material for the production that he basically produced a full album. Even before the Purple One was drafted to write for the film, though, he was influencing it. Burton played Prince songs on set during the parade sequence and the Joker’s rampage through the museum.

18. THE FILM’S MARKETING WAS SO EFFECTIVE THAT IT INSPIRED CRIMES.

By the time Batman was actually on its way to release, it was becoming a phenomenon, and the marketing for the film was inspiring a frenzy among fans. People were buying tickets to other films just to see the first trailer, and selling bootleg copies of the early footage. The poster, featuring the iconic logo, was so popular that, according to Uslan, people were breaking into bus stations just to steal it.

19. IT WAS A BOX OFFICE LANDMARK.

Though studio executives resisted the idea of a “dark” Batman movie for years, the film ultimately set a new standard for box office success. It was the first film to ever hit $100 million in 10 days, the biggest film in Warner Bros.’ history at the time, and the box office’s biggest earner of 1989—and that’s not even counting the massive toy and merchandising sales it generated.

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