Geekade Top Ten: Breakfast Cereal Mascots

“And the Lord did grin. And the people did feast upon the lambs, and sloths, and carp, and anchovies, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats, and large chu… “

Ah cereal. You king of breakfast meals. You paragon of childhood joy. You bringer of Saturday morning sugar highs. You are without question one of the most fabulous creations of modern man. The history of breakfast cereal is long and strange and exactly the type of thing that makes for a fascinating documentary. Growing from porridge to grits to cooked oatmeal to the ready-to-eat (RTE) cold cereal developed by a Seventh Day Adventist nutritionist at a sanatorium, cereal has had an incredibly interesting journey. Along the way, a company putting out a cereal named FORCE (because fuck you breakfast! and vitamins and whatnot) created a character named Sunny Jim and sales shot through the roof. So, naturally, everyone else decided that mascots were the thing and they began paying cartoonists to develop new characters to shill their wares to children and parents alike. (One of these cartoonists was named Walt Disney, you may have heard of him, who took his cereal money and moved west to start a company about a mouse that now owns everything you love.) And you know what, thank goodness they did. We here at Geekade love cereal, a lot. Kris and I love them so much we decided that in the grand tradition of top tens past we would go head to head and put out the definitive list of cereal mascot characters. The rules were simple, no licensed endorsers other than the Flintstones, because let’s be honest, most people know the Flintstones from Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles and Mr. T cereal would take spots one through ten if given the opportunity. Other than that, if it was a character on a box, it was fair game. Who came out on top? How much did the cereal in the box influence our decisions? Read on my friends and get your comments ready.

 

Dan’s #10. Fred the Baker (the time to make the donuts guy) – For awhile in the 80’s/early 90’s, Dunkin’ Donuts tried to pretend that there stores were owned and staffed by regular old white guys named Fred. This lead to a hell of a marketing campaign based around Fred the Baker and his slogan, “Time to make the donuts.” In fact, the phrase became so ubiquitous that people still say it in reference to Dunkin’ even though Fred has been away from our screens for many, many years. So when the Ralston company introduced Dunkin’ Donuts cereal in 1988, available in both glazed and chocolate, Fred was the natural pitchman. Featuring in the commercials and on the cereal box itself, Fred brought a sense of familiarity with this new product. We all love Dunkin’ Donuts, but a cereal? Well, if Fred is making these as well as the regular donuts, they have to be good. And dammit, they were. I miss these cereals hard. They were delicious, especially when mixed together. Fred the Baker made me try something new way back when and I am thankful he did.


Kris’s #10. Cookie Crook & Officer Crumb – In all honesty, I’ve never been a fan of this cereal, but I did used to love the hi-jinks of this lovable rogue and the disgruntled cop who spent all his time trying to beat the ever-loving garbage out of him with a bat for the heinous crime of grand theft cookie. Seriously, Officer Crumb hated the crap out of that cookie crook, and he probably deserved it. At some point, the cookie crook got himself a dog named Chip, who clearly murdered and ate his master as well as the kind (and probably married with kids) Officer Crumb, since he became the soul proprietor of this cereal and General Mills hasn’t provided any other plausible explanation of Crook and Crumb’s absence. It’s a sad story, but Chip got his comeuppance when he was then savagely murdered by a cookie-loving ravenous wolf who has since supplanted even his dumb purple-sweater-wearing ass as the spokes-dog for Cookie Crisp. Boy, this cereal has a violent history…


Dan’s #9. O.J. Joe – So a big part of the fun in doing this top ten, for me at least, was going back and looking at some of the more ridiculous cereals and mascots that we have been so generously given by the fine marketing people at various manufacturers the world over. One of the most ridiculous had to be this guy here, O.J. Joe. Here was a guy who rustled up some oranges to put in your cereal. Because you know what goes awesome with milk? Oranges. Now, I’m being a bit of a dick here, but I did actually like this cereal. I was a little kid when this was around and I dug the creamsicle-like mush that this cereal turned into. Most people though, had little to no interest in an orange-flavored cereal. Which is a damn shame, because as a mascot, O.J. Joe was great. He was a serious orange man, kicking those wild bastards with his spurs, roping them, and branding them to let all of the other orange rustlers know that those oranges, those belonged to O.J. 


Kris’s #9. Count Alfred Chocula – Know why this guy’s here? Staying power. That’s pretty much it. What kind of vampire craves chocolate-flavored corn cereal bits? This guy, that’s who. And you know what? This shoddy Bela Lugosi wannabe vampire has been around since 19freaking71. Frankenberry is an idiot, and not worthy of the list, and Fruit Brute & Fruity Yummy Mummy deserve their forgotten fate. Of course, that still leaves one monster mascot unmentioned, but you’l hear from him soon. Much like Cookie Crisp, I’ve never been much of a fan of this cereal, but I respect Alfred for his staying power, especially since his act is so remarkably lame to begin with. Plus, you have to respect a man who’s willing to commit to an all-brown wardrobe for 45+ years. Good on ya, Count. 

 

Dan’s #8. The Flintstones – When Kris and I decided to write this article we had to come up with a few ground rules. One of them was to not include licensed characters. Other than the Flintstones of course. The Flintstones have been around since 1960 and have been the spokestoons for Pebbles since 1971. I think it safe to say that for many kids today, the Flintstones exist as cereal mascots first and cartoon characters a very distant second so, fair game. And while I have never been a huge fan of the cereal itself, (it’s just too damn small, honestly) I cannot deny the endearing nature of the characters on the box. Fred, Barney, and the rest of the gang are nostalgia soul food for me and for that I will always love this cereal just a little bit. As an aside, the New DCU version of the Flintstones published monthly by DC is a damn fine comic and one you should definitely check out.


Kris’s #8. Cap’n Crunch – I would argue that the Flintstones are just as well-known for their vitamins, but I agree that they belong on this list. Well, yours at least. Meanwhile, Cap’n Crunch cereal is an abomination. A delicious, mouth-roof-destroying abomination. Have you ever had breaded chicken with crushed Cap’n Crunch as the breading? If you haven’t, you haven’t lived. If you have, you’re one step closer to the grave, but tell me it wasn’t worth it. What I’m getting at is that the scientific community at large shouldn’t have let this exist for so long. This crap should have been shut down a long time ago. And it probably would have been if not for this crazy motherf%$&er right here. This guy isn’t a captain of anything. He’s a cap’n and he doesn’t give a solitary f%&k. He will sail his ship straight into your living room if he thinks it will get these yellow, sugary pillows into kids’ mouths a little sooner. He wears his uniform wherever he goes, too. Just try to tell him he’s not part of any military on the planet and enjoy having an entire battleship sailed straight into your car. I mean, this lunatic once tried to sell America on Sprinkled Donut Crunch as being a part of a balanced breakfast. This kind of crazy deserves your respect. Hence, my #8 spot.


Dan’s #7. Cap’n Crunch – And here we agree (almost, anyway). The good Cap’n is not only the purveyor of mouth shredding-deliciousness, he is the bringer of variety and experimentation. The number of variations on traditional Cap’n Crunch is staggering and seemingly endless, which is fitting, I think, for a man so clearly deranged. Look at the picture of the original Cap’n. A saltier sea-dog there never was, but nothing too over the top. The picture on the right, that is the look of pure, unbridled insanity. A man who will do whatever it takes to get his wares into your mouth. The evolution of this crazy old coot is one of the best things to happen to cereal mascots and puts him firmly in the number 7 spot. (Not to mention the fact that he is actually only a commander, check the stripes. And no, his twitter response was not good enough, even though his twitter is further proof of just how unhinged our dear Cap’n has become.)


Kris’s #7. Boo Berry – I wouldn’t pay too much attention to those stripes. I’m pretty sure he made this outfit himself. Anyway, I don’t know if Boo Berry is this guy’s name, or if it’s just the cereal, but I love this thing. First, promoting a blueberry cereal in a world of chocolate and other assorted treats is a bold play. Second, Boo here is chill AF. Just look at those eyes. He doesn’t even care that he’s dead. He just wants you to hang out with him and eat some blue cereal. And look at that hat. This ghost couldn’t care less. He may only be my #7, but of all the characters on my list, he’s probably the one I’d most like to hang out with. 


Dan’s #6. Smacks the Frog – Originally known as Sugar Smacks, this cereal takes wheat and covers up the nutrition provided therein with gobs of sugar. It’s delicious. And Smacks the Frog? Well, he’s just plain cool. His arch nemesis was a cat named Kitty who always tried to keep Smacks away from his…smacks. The commercials, which haven’t actually aired in quite some time, put the two against each other in various outlandish situations for a cat or frog to find themselves in. And what a strange rivalry, a cat and frog. Why those two? Anyway, Smacks is the only mascot on this list with a comeback story. He was the mascot in the 70s, replacing a couple of clowns, a bandit, and Spock, among others, but went away in favor of a bear. Because honey. However, the 90s saw the return of Smacks the Frog and the world is a better place for it. Dig ‘Em indeed, Mr. Frog.

 


Kris’s #6. Tony the Tiger – If this were a rank of the cereal these characters were promoting, Mr. Tiger here would be sitting pretty at the #1 spot. But if we’re going on character alone, Tony the Tiger is a nice guy, but he leaves me wanting more. He does everything right. He encourages kids to go outside and play while shoveling sugar down their throats, he’s got an excellent catchphrase, and he even rocks a monogramed neckerchief, but I don’t know, there’s just something about him that’s not very exciting to me. Obviously I think he’s Gr-r-reat enough to make #6 on my list, but there are more interesting cereal mascots out there. Regardless, Tony the Tiger is one cool cat. 


Dan’s #5. Sugar Bear – Sticking with the sweetened wheat cereal, Sugar Bear edges out his Kellogg’s analogue by a hair. Sugar Bear is just about the most laid back mascot to ever grace a box of cereal. His original design and persona was based on Dean Martin or Bing Crosby depending on who you ask and he has been around since. Sugar Bear never took a break, even after the cereal changed names to Golden Crisp in the 80s because some dentist found that the cereal contained more than 50% sugar by weight. (Stupid dentist) No, Sugar Bear continued to be laid back, singing his little jingle and giving any creature who dared try to take his cereal a super, vitamin- (read: sugar) packed punch of the bracket. Can’t fault a guy for defending what’s his. Even his modern incarnation is pretty cool, if a bit pandering. Can’t get enough Super Golden Crisp….

 


Kris’s #5. Sugar Bear – We are in complete agreement here. Sugar Bear is awesome. He’s remarkably chill for someone who eats that much sugar and he’s got the staying power to boot. I do wonder about his choice in wardrobe. A bear couldn’t possibly need a sweater/t-shirt, could it? Whatever. Blue looks good on him. Sugar Bear is chill AF and well deserving on my #5 spot. 


Dan’s #4. Toucan Sam – Ah Froot Loops. A cereal that says, “Proper spelling, fuck you” (or something to that effect). My favorite of the fruity cereals also features a toucan with an English accent. And an incredibly strong nose. With a dope catchphrase. That was used by seminal 90s alt. rock band Green Jelly in their “masterpiece” Cereal Killer. Come on, you know your are repeating it over and over in your head right now. (Follow your nose. It always knows. The flavor of fruit. Wherever it grows.) When the cereal was first introduced, Sam here represented the colors on his beak. As time has gone on however, and more flavors have been added, Sam has not kept up, which I respect, to be honest. Sam is a bird who knows who he is. He doesn’t need to change just because there are some more flavors in the box. He represents the OG toucans, the real toucans. The toucans who can’t spell.

 


Kris’s #4. Cornelius Rooster – I considered Sam for my list, but at the end of the day, him and his weirdo Huey, Dewey and Louie ripoff nephews just don’t do it for me. Meanwhile, this rooster right here comes in at #4 almost completely out of respect. I would argue that Cornelius Rooster has the toughest job of anyone on this list and he’s been at it since the 50s. Undaunted by the blandness of his cereal, Corny gets his ass up every day to convince kids and adults alike that they don’t need candy in a bowl for breakfast. I heartily disagree, since my favorite cereals are Frosted Flakes and Frosted Mini-Wheats, but damn if I don’t want to buy a box of Corn Flakes from time to time just because he’s there. His coloring is stark, clean, and brilliant, and he’s versatile enough to be drawn like a cartoon for kids or a classy logo aimed at adults. Keep up the good work, Cornelius. 


Dan’s #3. Lucky the Leprechaun – Just look at that maniac. That’s terrifying. That is the face of a man who will do some really bad things to you if you put your hands on his lucky charms. Pure, unbridled, madness personified. Which I don’t think is what they were going for but is what they ended up with. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, what with the goal of marketing to sell you a product after all. I always felt bad about eating Lucky Charms because Lucky just wanted to be left alone and here we all were, bothering him and keeping him from his one true passion. It basically makes us all assholes. Assholes that are trifling with a magical leprechaun. His tagline and jingle, they’re magically delicious, is one of the most well-known phrases in pop culture history. It has been parodied and celebrated in various media for years and will continue to be as long as we continue to chase nostalgia. For that alone, Lucky gets #3.

 


Kris’s #3. Chef Wendell – Lucky is nuts, but Chef Wendell is the craziest motherf%^&er to ever grace a cereal box. You’ll read about my #2 and #1 positions in a minute, and those characters are both defined by their insanity, but Chef Wendell here could easily out-crazy both of them. And not in the goofball, Daffy Duck-crazy way, more like the murderous, Joker kind of way. See, there used to be 3 chefs. Then one day, Wendell went missing and the other chefs were in the commercials wondering where Wendell went. Well, I’ll tell you where he went. He went insane. The other 2 chefs were never heard from again, and I’m fairly certain that’s because Wendell murdered them in cold blood and baked them into cereal bits. This mascot is dangerously unhinged, and while that doesn’t exactly make for a loveable mascot, it does make for an interesting one. And that factor is what puts him so high on my list. Any cereal mascot that can elicit genuine terror deserves to be in the top 3. 


Dan’s #2. Tony the Tiger – Look, Tony is a simple tiger. He likes his activities over the top and his cereal sugary. An Italian-American tiger, Tony has been around for a long, long time and has gone through a few mutations over the years. His current form, which may not be his final form, is his strongest yet. Much like Frieza, Tony keeps getting stronger and stronger. As his commercials show, there is not much that can stop him once he gets a bowl of Frosted Flakes in him. His family, once prominently featured in the marketing, all have disappeared. That’s because Tony doesn’t need a Ginyu force, he works better alone. They’rrrrrrrrre Great because Tony says so. Who are we to argue?

 


Kris’s #2. Sonny the Cuckoo Bird – Here we have a bird who’s crazier than a bag of cats. He used to wear red stripes, now I’m pretty sure he just parades around naked. But one thing is for certain, you would be hard-pressed to find a mascot more devoted to his product than Sonny. The mere mention of Cocoa Puffs in his presence is enough to send him into an ambulance-worthy freak out, and they’re usually pretty darn entertaining. Are Cocoa Puffs worth it? Not in my opinion, but then again, I religiously go to Red Lobster on my birthday every year regardless of the fact that there are literally dozens of superior seafood resturants within driving distance of my house. I respect that kind of devotion and, coupled with his entertaining personality, Sonny takes #2.


Dan’s #1: Count Chocula – Perhaps the biggest discrepancy in our respective lists, Kris’s number nine is my number one. Maybe it is the limited availability, maybe it’s the deliciousness of the cereal within. Or maybe it’s the fact that Count Chocula kills to eat this cereal. Regardless, I love this guy. I love the design, aped liberally from Bela Lugosi. I love the fact that this cereal has been turned into a beer (which I’ve never had, please send some). I love that, since 1971, the count has worn brown. Like a monk. He is dedicated, married to his pursuit. There is no bullshit with Count Chocula. He stomps all over Boo Berry and Franken-Berry. He does not suffer fools. While other cereals may dabble in Halloween themes, Count Chocula is all Halloween, all the time. He has earned his number one spot and continues to be my favorite mascot of all time.


Kris’s #1. Trix Rabbit – Me? I gotta go Trix Rabbit. He’s like Sonny, except with better taste in cereal. Not only that, he’s got the pity factor in his favor. All this guy wants is some freaking cereal, and kids are always taking his stuff, spouting “Trix are for Kids!” Yeah? Well, kids are assholes. I eat Trix for breakfast, are you gonna come after me next? And even still, after all these years, Trix Rabbit keeps on coming. He never gives up. He’s the Wile E. Coyote of cereal mascots. But unlike Sonny, Trix Rabbit knows how to keep his shit together. He makes plans. He thinks things through. He usually fails, but he’s trying, you know? I also really like how his current look is such a throwback to his original appearance. Crazy and classy is a very uncommon combination. That unbreakable spirit, that unwavering perseverance, and some simple-yet-effective character design put him on the top of my list. If he showed up at my door, you better believe I’d give him all the Trix he wanted. 

And there you have it. Are we insane? (Clearly we are. We just wrote a top ten breakfast cereal mascot list.) Did we leave anyone out? Let us know in the comments! 


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