Here's a question for you - if you've got a product, how exactly do you get it "out there", so to speak? Answer: through marketing, of course! You make commercials, you make billboards, things like that. And with marketing a product, there's no better way to do it than with a mascot. A mascot helps put your product in the public eye.
|From left to right - A&W's Great Root Bear (get it?), the Kool-Aid Man, and Charlie the Tuna|
of Starkist fame.
For example, when you think of Energizer, what's the first image that pops into your mind? If I had to guess, I would say that it would be the pink rabbit banging a drum. When you think of Charmin, you likely think of the bears, not the toilet paper itself. When somebody mentions Pillsbury, you probably don't imagine the cookies they produce, you think of the Pillsbury Doughboy (or rather, Poppin' Fresh, which is his real name).
This is something that cereal companies like Kellogg's and General Mills know very, very well... or at least they did. For years, the rule was that if you had a new cereal that you were going to give the public, it needed to have a great mascot. Preferably an animated one. A mascot that kids would see, take a liking to, and be tempted to try the cereal. After all, if a cartoon toucan tells you that a fruit-flavored cereal is really good, who are you to argue?
And then at some point in the 2000s, some people - who specifically, I don't know, but apparently their opinions were considered very, very important - started whining that having cartoon characters sell fast food, cereal, basically any food that happened to have sugar in it was bad for kids. Characters like the Trix Rabbit, Ronald McDonald, and the Kool-Aid Man were blamed for the childhood obesity problem. Thus, companies starting getting rid of these mascots in order to appease these people who were getting bent out of shape over the fact that a cartoon rabbit craved a sugary cereal.
But apparently these people are perfectly fine with having animated mascots that are just knockoffs of the Minions from Despicable Me - small, hive-minded, babbling idiots who shout really loud and speak gibberish. Which is why Ronald McDonald got replaced by THIS hideous thing.
|I invite anyone who thinks Ronald McDonald is creepy to look at this guy.|
I'm going to quote the great Bob Bergen, who lent his voice to many a McDonald's commercial as a talking container of French Fries, on this matter: "Funny, these ads didn't seem to damage me and the generations before me for, oh, decades! But we can sleep well knowing that it was commercial mascots that was the catalyst for kid's eating habits, and not the responsibility of proper parenting." Thank you, Bob.
Still, over the years, before those uptight fellas decided to blame their children getting fat on cartoon characters, a lot of cereal mascots appeared on the screen. And the majority of them were animated. And for every cereal mascot that DID become a phenomenon, there was a cereal mascot that DIDN'T, instead winding up getting sent to the Island of Misfit Product Mascots and having to bunk with Sergeant Twistable and the sock puppet from Pets.com.
Today, we'll be shedding some light on animated character who appeared on cereal boxes all over the country and yet didn't become the next Cap'n Crunch. But first, let's set some ground rules...
RULE 1) No live action characters. Though I don't think there are all that many live action cereal mascots anyway.
RULE 2) No characters from pre-existing movies, TV shows, what have you. As in, I'm not going to put the Cat in the Hat on the list simply because there was a Cat in the Hat cereal with his likeness on the box at one point.
RULE 3) They have to be cereal mascots. No fast food restaurant mascots, no store mascots, no pharmaceutical mascots, etc.
Wally the Bear (Honey Smacks)
Honey Smacks, or Sugar Smacks as it was originally called, or just Smacks as it was apparently called in the 1990s, has actually gone through several different mascots. There was a seal at one point, then a mule/kangaroo hybrid called the "Smackin' Bandit", then two kids in boxer shorts and boxing gloves... at one point they even had Quick-Draw McGraw be the mascot. And then, in 1972, the world was introduced to Dig'Em the Frog, the cereal's current mascot... though I'm honestly not sure if he's appeared in a television commercial since the 1990s.
However, at some point in the 1980s, I guess somebody at Kellogg's said, "Hey, this is a cereal with 'HONEY' in the name. Bears are known for eating honey. Why the heck isn't the mascot of this cereal a bear?!" And thus, Dig'Em was briefly usurped by a cartoon bear by the name of Wally.
I like Wally - I like his design, he's animated very well, and I love the voice. He actually appeared in more commercials, I've read - his shtick was basically just badgering kids to let him have some Honey Smacks, but they won't let him because, as many other commercials for many other cereals show, kids in cereal commercials are jerks, especially towards cartoon animals. I have no idea who provided the voice of Wally or who animated him. Wikipedia claims that the ads were animated by Kurtz and Friends (I've talked about them before, you might recall), and I think it's a pretty good possibility as Wally DOES look like a character that Bob Kurtz would design, but you know how Wikipedia is...
So, why didn't Wally stick around? Well, for one thing, apparently people thought that his commercials were too similar to the Trix Rabbit's commercials. Of course, that didn't hurt Chip the Wolf and his pursuit of Cookie Crisp. On top of that, people just wanted Dig'Em back. Students on a college campus staged a day-long demonstration to get him back. Kellogg's even got a letter from some group called "Frog-Aid". Thus, Dig'Em took his rightful place as the Honey Smacks mascot.
Tusk the Elephant (Cocoa Krispies)
Elephants are actually a popular choice of animals to be made cereal mascots. Twinkles, another breakfast cereal, had an elephant for a mascot, and one of Cap'n Crunch's "co-stars" was an elephant named Smedley who shilled for Peanut Butter Crunch. And then there's one of my personal favorite animated cereal mascots that didn't catch on, Tusk the elephant of Cocoa Krispies fame.
Before Tusk, Cocoa Krispies had another elephant on the box - a pink one named (creatively enough) Coco.
In 1963, Coco was replaced by another pink cartoon animal, Snagglepuss.
Then for a while the mascot was a caveman named Ogg who looked like a really ugly Cabbage Patch Kid.
And before any of THEM, the mascot was a monkey named Jose, who apparently got the axe because Mexican-Americans thought he was an ethnic stereotype.
1973 saw the introduction of Tusk, a small brown elephant voiced in at least one commercial by the magnificent Paul Winchell. His shtick was singing, "It's time for Cocoa Krispies, they are so chocolatey... and when I get a taste of them, I trumpet happily!"
Alas, Tusk ended up getting replaced by Snap, Crackle and Pop because I guess Kellogg's decided it would be easier to just have the mascots of Rice Krispies also be the mascots of Cocoa Krispies. I understand it, but I would've liked to see Tusk stick around. Maybe they could bring him back at some point. They could get Jim Cummings to do his voice!
On a side note, some countries (where the cereal is called "Choco Krispis") still use an elephant as the mascot. He's a space-fighter elephant named Commando Melvin (and please do not make any "going commando" jokes. I want to keep this site PG).
Apple Jack (take a wild guess)
I'll be honest, for a while I thought that the only reason Apple Jacks were called that when they didn't taste like apples was so they could have commercials where some character complained that they didn't taste like apples only for the other characters to ignore that because of how good they were. Eventually, I found out that Apple Jacks do indeed have apple in 'em. Which begs the question as to why the ads spend so much time having characters complain that they don't taste like apples, but eh...
Anyhow, when you think of Apple Jacks mascots, you probably think of the Jamaican stereotype that is CinnaMon and the apple who was initially a bad guy but then became CinnaMon's buddy.
But before those guys, Apple Jacks was represented by this fella with an apple for a head and Apple Jacks for eyes, apparently named - wait for it - Apple Jack. In commercials, he was voiced by Paul Frees, no stranger to voicing cereal mascots as he also provided the voice of Toucan Sam. I'm honestly not sure why Mr. Apple-Headed Guy didn't stick around...
Maybe it's just me, but doesn't having a giant apple for a head sound like a pain in the derriere? How would you ever walk through a door? Wouldn't you hit your head on the door frame? How would you buy hats? How would you find a pillow big enough for you to put your head on when you sleep? Heck, how would you be able to hold your head up?
Come to think of it, maybe the reason Apple Jack didn't stick around is because he got tired of the inconvenience of having a giant apple for a head and got some plastic surgery?
The Triple Snack Giraffe (Kellogg's Triple Snack)
Why didn't the Triple Snack Giraffe catch on? Because Triple Snack ITSELF didn't catch on. I haven't even heard of this cereal until recently. Apparently, people didn't like Triple Snack as much as they liked Kellogg's other cereals like Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. It contained roasted peanuts, sugar puffed corn and sugar puffed wheat. I'm allergic to nuts, so I wouldn't be able to eat the cereal even if it was still around.
But I still love the Triple Snack Giraffe. I like how confused he is as the boy starts up the musical number. But is it just me, or does the song sound kind of threatening? "If you don't like the peanuts, watch out for the Triple Snack. Triple Snack will get you if you don't watch out..." I'm sorry, but what do they mean by "TRIPLE SNACK WILL GET YOU"? Do I have to worry about a cereal somehow coming after me simply because I don't like the peanuts? It's not MY fault I have allergies!
Side note, this is yet another cereal that had a Hanna-Barbera character for the mascot at one point. Apparently, before the Triple Snack Giraffe came along, the cereal featured an image of Yogi Bear's pal Boo-Boo on the box.
Waldo the Wizard (Lucky Charms)
Yes, believe it or not, at one point General Mills actually got rid of Lucky the leprechaun. Lucky actually got replaced as the mascot of the cereal that SHARED HIS NAME. Why? Well, apparently kids got tired of Lucky. For some reason.
So they decided to replace him with Waldo the Wizard, who proved less popular than Lucky. It wasn't his fault, poor guy, it's just that Lucky did not need to be replaced. Thus, Lucky regained his place on the box just a year later. The lesson here? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Fun fact: Waldo was designed by Disney animator Phil Mendez, who also worked on such cartoons as Kissyfur, Foofur, and The Lionhearts, as well as animated movies like FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Quest For Camelot, and the 1992 Tom and Jerry movie.
Sorry, no commercial this time - I couldn't find an ad featuring this guy.
The Sprinkle Spangles Genie (Sprinkle Spangles)
Speaking of cereal mascots with magic powers, 1993 saw the release of Sprinkle Spangles cereal from General Mills. It consisted of star-shaped sweetened corn puffs sprinkled with... well, sprinkles. It didn't last very long.
Regardless, the cereal also allowed the Genie from Aladdin to get some work in-between the first movie and the direct-to-video sequels... oh, wait, that's not the Genie from Aladdin. It's just a blatant knockoff of him. But he's purple instead of blue, so apparently Disney didn't care.
"You wish it, I dish it," he would say in the ads, and then grant children, according to the side of one box, "what they want most." Apparently what kids in these commercials wanted the most was a cereal with sprinkles on it. I guess cereal with CHOCOLATE wasn't enough for 'em, huh?
But on a positive note, the voice of the genie was provided by none other than Dom DeLuise. And a character being voiced by Dom DeLuise makes them impossible to truly dislike.
The Freakies (Freakies Cereal)
Why didn't these characters become as iconic as other cereal mascots like the Trix Rabbit and the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee? I'll tell you why - because they're HIDEOUS. I know, I know, they're called "The Freakies", so I guess that's to be expected, but still... UGH. Next mascot!
Simon the Quangaroo (Quaker Oats' Orange Quangaroos)
While I don't think Quisp and Quake have ever reached the same level of fame as, say, Toucan Sam, they seem juuuuuuuuuuuuuust famous enough to avoid getting a spot on the list. Alas, the same can't be said for the mascot of Quake's spin-off cereal, Orange Quangaroos.
What's a Quangaroo? Well, it's like a kangaroo... but it's orange. That's pretty much it, really. It's an orange kangaroo. So why don't they just call it an orange kangaroo? Probably because "Orange Kangaroos" isn't as catchy a name for a cereal. Simon is a Quangaroo, hailing from a land known as "Orangeania", a fitting mascot for an orange-flavored cereal.
Simon starred alongside Quake in ads, mainly because Quake's cereal had recently been discontinued before Orange Quangaroos came onto the scene. Why? Well, in commercials, Quake was pitted against Quisp over whose cereal was better. In 1972, Quaker Oats held a vote to see which cereal was better, and the public chose Quisp, so Quake got the axe. However, Quisp's being so popular let to Simon's downfall, as Quisp was selling better than Orange Quangaroos in stores, mainly because consumers couldn't agree on whether or not the cereal tasted good. So Orange Quangaroos became discontinued too. Orange you glad you know that now?
My apologies for that awful joke.
Waffleo Bill and His Horse (Ralston Waffleos)
A rule with cereal mascots seems to be that if they're from a cereal not from Kellogg's, General Mills, Quaker Oats, or Post, they're probably not gonna be the next Cap'n Crunch. Case in point, Waffleo Bill and his horse, who shilled for Ralston's Waffleos.
Waffleos made their debut in 1979, a sweetened cereal with artificial maple syrup flavor. I guess the cereal didn't catch on because kids didn't see a point in eating a cereal that tasted like waffles for breakfast when they could actually eat waffles for breakfast. Presumably, this is also why there aren't any pancake-flavored cereals.
As a result, this goofy cowboy with a mustache that gives even Yosemite Sam's a run for its money and his guitar-playing horse ended up on the Island of Misfit Product Mascots. Waffelo Bill and his horse were voiced by Bob Sarlatte (also the voice of Dirk the Daring in the Dragon's Lair Saturday Morning Cartoon show) and Rick Cimino respectively.
Bixby Beaver (Kellogg's Crunchy Loggs)
Bixby here was the mascot of a 1970s cereal known as Crunchy Loggs, a strawberry-flavored corn and oat cereal. I don't know why this cereal didn't catch on. Maybe because kids didn't think eating logs sounded particularly appetizing?
So that's ten animated cereal mascots that didn't catch on. For various reasons. For those that read this whole post and now have a craving for cereal, my apologies. Especially if the cereal that you're craving has been discontinued like at least half of the cereals on this list.
Hopefully, someday, animated cereal mascots will make a comeback. Every so often I do see the most iconic ones (Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, etc.) in new ads, so there's THAT, I suppose. Though hopefully they don't redesign them all for no reason. Y'know, like they did with Toucan Sam...