Children of the Corn Flakes, Bonus!!

(This is the sixth part of a 5-part series on cereal box mascots and the kids—and adults—who love them. Part I can be found here.)

The Worst Cereal Mascots of All Time 
Bonus time—hey, if someone is the best, there must be a worst.

5. Krusty the Clown (Krusty-Os and others) 
Krusty has endorsed several cereals, including Krusty-Os, which come with a “free jagged metal Krusty-O” in every box, and Chocolate Frosted Frosty Krusty Flakes, a brand that prides itself in having almost as much sugar as sugar. Krusty is a bad, bad man. (Fictional, you say? Quiet you!)

4. Mr. Wonderful (Mr. Wonderful Cereal) 
Trust me, he’s not. 

Children of the Corn Flakes, Part V

(This is the fifth of a 5-part series on cereal box mascots and the kids—and adults—who love them. Part I can be found here.)

Top 10 Cereal Mascots of All Time
Who doesn't love a cartoon character selling ceral boxes? Enjoy!

10. Frankenberry (Frankenberry)
Frankenberry ranks behind only Boris Karloff’s original and Mel Brook’s all-singing, all dancing behemoth on the list of Best-Ever Mary Shelly Monsters (sorry, Bobby Dinero). Granted, he’s pink and frightened of children and small animals, but Franken-B makes it work. He’s also a team player when it counts. Despite numerous differences of opinion, he and Count Chocula agree that Booberry is a tool.

9. Sonny (Cocoa Puffs)
Unlike most classic cereal characters, which have received regular personality updates and computer-enhanced 3-D revisions since their debuts, Sonny has remained largely unchanged since 1963. He’s still drawn in two dimensions and is still “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,” surely the most accurate depiction of sugar-coated cereal side effects in commercial history. That’s truth in advertising, folks.

Children of the Corn Flakes, Part IV

(This is the fourth of a 5-part series on cereal box mascots and the kids—and adults—who love them. Part I can be found here.)

Cereal Aisle Reruns
Get up early on Saturday morning to watch your kid’s favorite cartoons and don’t be surprised if you’re blasted with an all-out assault of unrecognizable superheroes, redubbed Japanese animation, and the occasional Looney Tune with the good parts cut out (rabbit season or duck season, no one gets a shotgun blast to the face). But take a stroll down the cereal aisle at the local Super Big Mart, and you’ll find a dozen familiar faces smiling back at you.

Despite the allure of famous faces and box office totals, most of the top-selling children’s cereals are promoted by established cereal mascots, some more than forty years old. Tony, Cap’n Crunch, Sonny, Toucan Sam, the Trix Rabbit, L.C. Leprechaun, and others continue to dominate, proving that a good character (and, yes, a tasty cereal) will transfer from one generation to the next. The tiger may get a facelift and start competing at the X-Games, but it’s still the same personality beneath the new, more muscular frame.

Children of the Corn Flakes, Part III

(This is the third of a 5-part series on cereal box mascots and the kids—and adults—who love them. Part I can be found here.)

The New Nostalgia
Mel Nash rotates the piece of orange and black molded plastic in his hands. He rubs a spot where the paint has come off and frowns.

“You got this when you were a kid,” Mel says.

It’s a statement of fact, not a question.

“Yeah,” I say. “Beat my sister to the bottom of the box for that one.”

It’s true, I always got there first (hard not to when one opens the box on the ride home from the grocery store). In this particular case, the prize was a 2-inch tall Tony the Tiger preparing to throw a football. I had them all— Tony with a baseball bat, Tony with a basketball, Tony with a tennis racket—but I only brought Quarterback Tony to show Mel.

“It’d be worth more without the scuffs. And if it was still in the plastic wrapper,” he says.

I knew this. “Mint in package” is the phrase preferred by dealers and collectors, be it for a cheap cereal box prize in a plastic baggie or a Star Wars Jawa action figure with a vinyl cape in the original packaging. A “mint” Quarterback Tony might fetch $25 on eBay. A similarly pristine Jawa is a bargain at $3000. I’ve got both, neither mint, nor in package. I liked to play with my toys as a kid. I know better, now.

Children of the Corn Flakes, Part II

(This is the second of a 5-part series on cereal box mascots and the kids—and adults—who love them. Part I can be found here.)

Golden Age of Cereal Mascots
The revolution began with a wave of cereal box ’toon characters, first on the air and then on the packaging. During the ’60s and early ’70s, grocery store aisles were flooded with dozens of new breakfast cereals including such perennial favorites as Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Cap’n Crunch, Froot Loops, Lucky Charms, Life, Quisp, Sugar Crisp, Sugar Smacks, Count Chocula, and Frankenberry. With each new flavor a star was born (sometimes more than one) to pitch the brand to an ever-increasing Saturday morning audience.

Of course, the original breakfast icon arrived almost a century earlier and it wasn’t a lion, tiger, or sugar bear, but a pudgy, rosy-cheeked gentleman in a funny hat. Santa Claus? Nope. It was the Quaker Oats Man, who first graced oat boxes in 1877 (fifty years before Mr. Claus started shilling for Coke). The Quaker has since had a few facelifts, but the hat has never wavered. He’s not, however, a character most kids want to share a bowl of cereal (or oatmeal) with on a Saturday morning. Mr. Oats is an icon, but he’s more corporate logo than kid-friendly cartoon personality.

The first cereal box character to find shelf space in the popular culture was a tiny little gnome with big ears and an even bigger nose. Snap! first graced boxes of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies in 1933. Six years later he was joined by brothers Crackle! and Pop! In addition to the oversize facial features, the brothers had soulless black eyes that peered deep into the hearts of men, daring them to eat Rice Krispies. [1] Fortunately, someone in marketing decided it was better not to scare the customer and thus the little goblins became friendly elves with funny hats and big spoons. There were plans for a fourth brother named “Pow!” but the company thought better of it. Nobody wants to eat breakfast with a terrorist.

Children of the Corn Flakes, Part I

(This is the first of a 5-part series on cereal box mascots and the kids—and adults—who love them.)

I was branded at an early age.

I drank Pepsi with breakfast, ate Frosted Flakes for lunch, and would have, if I could, dined at Burger King every night of the week. Mom says I cried when my sister chose Ronald over the King. Mom says I was a handful. Not true.

I was being loyal to the brand.

I was brought up to believe in Truth in Advertising. Brand loyalty wasn’t a marketing tool, it was a family value. Mom might not understand, but I was part of something bigger, something important, and something that required that I remain true to my soda, my shoes, and my cereal.

You don’t mess with the brand.

I proudly wore my Chewbacca trucker cap to school on picture day. I ran around in Nikes, even in the snow, and this was before the company made a shoe for every sport, season, and special occasion. I wore Levis, not Wranglers, rode a Huffy, not a Schwinn, and preferred the Marvel universe to DC’s. I was swingin’ with Spider-Man comics while all the cool kids were reading “graphic novels” about some old Dark Knight. It’s true: I nerded up for the brand. [1]