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10 Facts About America's Most Popular Breakfast Cereals

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Cereal companies may be turning to healthier formulas and trendy ingredients these days, but in terms of overall sales, it’s the sweet, sweet legacy brands that continue to dominate. Here are a few notable facts about America’s most beloved cereal brands.

1. HONEY NUT CHEERIOS

Introduced in 1979, this Cheerios offshoot soared in popularity thanks in part to its cartoon bee mascot. But for more than two decades, he didn’t have a name. In 2000, General Mills launched a national naming contest, eventually landing on the name "BuzzBee" or "Buzz" for short [PDF].

2. FROSTED FLAKES

Frosted Flakes were introduced in 1952, and its popular mascot, Tony the Tiger, was voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft for more than 50 years. A Nebraska native who left for Hollywood as a teenager, Ravenscroft provided voiceovers for many Disneyland rides, including the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. He also sang, uncredited, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" in the famed cartoon film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

3. HONEY BUNCHES OF OATS

Vernon J. Herzing, a manager at Post’s Battle Creek, Michigan cereal production facility, designed this kid and adult favorite using ingredients from the cereals already being manufactured at his facility—including Toasties, Sugar Sparkle Flakes, and Grape-Nuts Flakes. Working at home with his teenage daughter in the late 1980s, he finally hit on the winning combination of flakes, granola, and honey, which he originally called "Battle Creek Cereal."

4. CINNAMON TOAST CRUNCH

CTC, as it’s known by cereal aficionados, debuted in 1984 and gained widespread attention with three cartoon bakers that appeared in its ads, named Wendell, Bob, and Quello. In 1991, the company did away with Bob and Quello, leading to some wild speculation, though in truth, parent company General Mills pulled the two because they weren’t testing well with audiences. Wendell, the fan favorite, remained on CTC boxes until 2009, when the brand replaced him with the Crazy Squares.

5. CHEERIOS

Lester Borchardt, a physicist working for General Mills, spent many months and more than $150,000 trying to get a puffing machine to quickly turn out grain cereal. His bosses told him to pull the plug, but Borchardt pressed on, and finally got the machine to make tasty little "o"s. Cheerioats, as they were first known, hit shelves in 1941. After Quaker Oats claimed trademark infringement, General Mills changed the name to Cheerios.

6. FROOT LOOPS

Introduced in 1963, Froot Loops originally only came in three colors: red, orange, and yellow. The additions of green, purple, and blue didn't happen until the '90s, and sadly these various colors don’t indicate flavor variations: Kellogg recently admitted all Froot Loops are made from the same flavoring concoction, known as "Froot."

7. FROSTED MINI-WHEATS

When they were introduced in 1969, the original mini wheats were much larger than today’s version. In 1988, Kellogg came out with a bite-sized variety that was so popular, it became the de facto Frosted Mini-Wheats. Years later, Kellogg would introduce the original mini wheat size as "Big Bites."

8. LUCKY CHARMS

Charged with developing a one-of-a-kind cereal for General Mills, developer John Holahan came up with a prototype that combined Cheerios with circus peanuts. The circus peanuts became marshmallows—or "marbits"—and the cereal adopted a leprechaun mascot named Lucky, who has been the face of Lucky Charms for more than 50 years—with one exception. For a brief spell in 1975, Waldo the Wizard graced the boxes of Lucky Charms in the New England market.

9. RAISIN BRAN

This household favorite might have a different name but for a key legal ruling. In 1944, Skinner’s Raisin Bran, which came out 20 years earlier, sued Kellogg for trademark infringement. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, ruled that a company could not trademark a name that was essentially describing the product’s ingredients.

10. SPECIAL K

An ad from 1972. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The brand that began in 1955 as a humble rice and wheat cereal has become a dieting empire. Special K’s hot streak started when it introduced the Special K Challenge, a weight loss program Kellogg initially developed as a way for Kellogg to save money over broadcast advertising.

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13 Great Facts About Bad Lieutenant
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Bad Lieutenant can be accused of many things, but one charge you can't level against it is false advertising. Harvey Keitel's title character, whose name is never given, is indeed a bad, bad lieutenant: corrupt, sleazy, drug-addled, irresponsible, and lascivious, all while he's on the job. (Imagine what his weekends must be like!)

Abel Ferrara's nightmarish character study was controversial when it was released 25 years ago today, and rated NC-17 for its graphic nudity (including a famous glimpse at Lil’ Harvey), unsettling sexual violence, and frank depiction of drug use. The film packs a wallop, no doubt. Here's some behind-the-scenes info to help you cope with it.

1. THE PLACID WOMAN WHO HELPS THE LIEUTENANT FREEBASE HEROIN WROTE THE MOVIE.

That's Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who starred in Abel Ferrara's revenge-exploitation thriller Ms. 45 (1981) more than a decade earlier, when she was 17 years old. She and Ferrara are credited together for writing Bad Lieutenant, though she always insisted that wasn't the case. "I wrote this alone," she said. "Abel is a wonderful director, but he's not a screenwriter. She said elsewhere that she "wrote every word of that screenplay," though everyone agrees the finished movie included a lot of improvisation. Lund was a fascinating, tragic character herself—a musical prodigy who became an enthusiastic and unapologetic user of heroin before switching to cocaine in the mid-1990s. She died of heart failure in 1999 at age 37.

2. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN WAS SUPPOSED TO STAR IN IT.

Christopher Walken had starred in Ferrara's previous film, King of New York (1990), and was set to play the lead in Bad Lieutenant before pulling out at almost the last minute. Ferrara was shocked. "[Walken] says, 'You know, I don't think I'm right for it.' Which is, you know, a fine thing to say, unless it's three weeks from when you're supposed to start shooting," Ferrara said. "It definitely caught me by surprise. It put me in terminal shock, actually." Harvey Keitel replaced him (though not without difficulty; see below), and the film's editor, Anthony Redman, thought Keitel was a better choice anyway. "Chris is too elegant for the part," he said. "Harvey is not elegant." 

3. HARVEY KEITEL'S INITIAL REACTION TO THE SCRIPT WAS NOT PROMISING.

"When we gave [Keitel] the script the first time, he read about five pages and threw it in the garbage," Ferrara said. Keitel's recollection was a little more diplomatic. As he told Roger Ebert, "I read a certain amount of pages and I put it down. I said, 'There's no way I'm gonna make this movie.' And then I asked myself, 'How often am I a lead in a movie? Read it, maybe I can salvage something from it …' When I read the part about the nun, I understood why Abel wanted to make it."

4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY.


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

"It was always, in my mind, a comedy," Ferrara said. He cited the scene where the Lieutenant pulls the teenage girls over as a specific example of how Christopher Walken would have played it, and how Harvey Keitel changed it. "The lieutenant was going to end up dancing in the streets with the girls as the sun came up. They'd be wearing his gun belt and hat, and they'd have the radio on, you know what I mean? But oh my God, Harvey, he turned it into this whole other thing." Boy, did he. 

5. THAT SCENE WITH THE TEENAGE GIRLS HAD A REAL-LIFE ELEMENT THAT MADE IT EVEN CREEPIER.

One of the young women was Keitel's nanny. Ferrara: "I said, 'You sure you want to do this with your babysitter?' He says, 'Yeah, I want to try something.'"

6. MUCH OF IT WAS FILMED GUERRILLA-STYLE.

Like many indie-minded directors of low-budget films, Ferrara didn't bother with permits most of the time. "We weren't permitted on any of this stuff," editor Anthony Redman admitted. "We just walked on and started shooting." For the scene where a strung-out Lieutenant walks through a bumpin' nightclub, they sent Keitel through an actual, functioning club during peak operating hours.

7. A GREAT DEAL OF THE DIALOGUE AND ACTION WERE MADE UP ON THE FLY.

The script was only about 65 pages at first, which would have made for about a 65-minute movie. "It left a lot of room for improvisation," producer Randy Sabusawa said, "but the ideas were pretty distilled. They were there."

Script supervisor Karen Kelsall said supervising the script was a challenge. "Abel didn't stick to a script," she said. "Abel used a script as a way to get the money to make a movie, and then the script was kind of—we called it the daily news. It changed every day. It changed in the middle of scenes." Ferrara was unapologetic about the script's brevity. "The idea of wanting 90 pages ... is ridiculous."

8. AND THERE WERE EVEN MORE IDEAS THAT THEY DIDN'T USE.

Ferrara said a scene that epitomized the movie for him—even though he never got around to filming it—was one where the Lieutenant robs an electronics store, leaves, then gets a call about a robbery at the electronics store. He responds in an official capacity (they don't recognize him), takes a statement, walks out, and throws the statement in the garbage. "And that to me is the Bad Lieutenant, you know?" Ferrara said. 

9. THE BASEBALL PLAYOFF SERIES IS FICTIONAL.

The Mets have battled the Dodgers for the National League championship once, in 1988. (The Dodgers beat 'em and went on to win the World Series.) For the narrative Ferrara wanted—the Mets coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant—he had to make it up. He used footage from real Mets-Dodgers games (including Darryl Strawberry's three-run homer from a game in July 1991) and added fictional play-by-play. But the statistics were accurate: no team had ever been down by three in a best-of-seven series and then come back to win. (It's happened once since then, when the 2004 Red Sox did it.)

10. THEY HAD HELP FROM THE COP WHO SOLVED A SIMILAR CASE.

The disgusting crime at the center of the film (we won't dwell on it) was inspired by a real-life incident from 1981, which mayor Ed Koch called "the most heinous crime in the history of New York City." The street cop who solved it, Bo Dietl, advised Ferrara on the film and had an on-screen role as one of the detectives in our Lieutenant's circle of friends.

11. THEY DESECRATED THE CHURCH AS RESPECTFULLY AS THEY COULD.

Production designer Charles Lagola had his team cover the church’s altar and other surfaces with plastic wrap, then painted the graffiti and other defacements on the plastic.

12. IT WAS RATED NC-17 IN THEATERS, WITH AN R-RATED VERSION FOR HOME VIDEO.

Blockbuster and some of the other retail chains wouldn't carry NC-17 or unrated films, so sometimes studios would produce edited versions. (See also: Requiem for a Dream.) The tamer version of Bad Lieutenant was five minutes and 19 seconds shorter, with parts of the rape scene, the drug-injecting scene, and much of the car interrogation scene excised.

13. THE "SEQUEL" HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, NOR DID FERRARA APPROVE OF IT.


First Look International

Movie buffs were baffled in 2009, when Werner Herzog directed Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, starring Nicolas Cage. It sounds like a sequel (or a remake), but in fact had no connection at all to the earlier film except that both were produced by Edward R. Pressman. Herzog said he'd never seen Ferrara's movie and wanted to change the title (Pressman wouldn't let him); Ferrara, outspoken as always, initially wished fiery death on everyone involved. Ferrara and Herzog finally met at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, where Herzog initiated a conversation about the whole affair and Ferrara expressed his frustration cordially. 

Additional sources:
DVD interviews with Abel Ferrara, Anthony Redman, Randy Sabusawa, and Karen Kelsall.

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How Are Balloons Chosen for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
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Getty Images

The balloons for this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade range from the classics like Charlie Brown to more modern characters who have debuted in the past few years, including The Elf On The Shelf. New to the parade this year are Olaf from Disney's Frozen and Chase from Paw Patrol. does the retail giant choose which characters will appear in the lineup?

Balloon characters are chosen in different ways. For example, in 2011, Macy’s requested B. Boy after parade organizers saw the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (The company had been adding a series of art balloons to the parade lineup since 2005, which it called the Blue Sky Gallery.) When it comes to commercial balloons, though, it appears to be all about the Benjamins.

First-time balloons cost at least $190,000—this covers admission into the parade and the cost of balloon construction. After the initial year, companies can expect to pay Macy’s about $90,000 to get a character into the parade lineup. If you consider that the balloons are out for only an hour or so, that’s about $1500 a minute.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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