Ah, cereal. If you’re going to forgo that glorious prospect of an extra 20 minutes in bed before work to spend it blearily munching your way through a bowlful of wheat and preservatives, you might as well have something interesting to gawp at. Nowadays, we have Adrian Chiles’ fleshy lava lamp of a face to peer at over our Health Flakes, but what of the people from History’s The Past? Why, they had little more interesting to stare at than the cereal packet they’d just poured from, and the cartoon animal mascots thereon. Sometimes, they were Grreat. Often, they were disarmingly stylised cockerels. Occasionally, they were a triumvirate of onomatopoeia. But, now and then, they would TEAR YOUR BARELY-AWAKE SOUL FROM YOUR TWITCHINGLY LIMP FRAME, or maybe just be a bit rubbish. Join us now, as we spend the boring bits of tonight’s 10 O’Clock Live typing about THE TEN MOST SINISTER CEREAL BOX MASCOTS… EVER.
10. CRAP BEAR POPS (Super Sugar Crisp)
Hello! I’m a cartoon bear. No, I’m not very interestingly drawn. I’m moderately unsettling, if anything. My name is Keith Jenkins, and I had dreams of stardom, man.
I admit, I failed the audition at Hanna-Barbara, but I’m happy with this gig I was given by the employment agency. “Just go along to Post Cereals Incorporated”, they said, “they’ll find something for you to do.” The first few days were a bit dull, it’s true. “Photocopy these.” “Pop down the Post Office with this.” “Put on this blue pullover.” You know the score. On my third day, though… there was a bit of a kerfuffle. “Oh shit! The William Of Tyre impersonator hasn’t turned up!”, they squawked, “You… newbie! Get in front of that camera!”
I did what I could, but, y’know, minimum wage isn’t that much of an incentive, quite frankly.
9. AYATOLLAHOOPS (Wheaties)
Of course! All American kids are just mad about Iran! Though to be fair, this was the last in a series of ill-considered Axis-Of-Evil-themed giveaways, and after Iranian licence plate giveaway didn’t prove any more popular than the earlier “Saddam Hussein Lookalike Disguise Kit” and “North Korean Movie Director Kidnap And Imprisonment Playset”, General & Mills cut their losses and returned to more traditional trinkets.
8. HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM, POPS (Crispy Numbers)
An old man lures children to his house with the promise of sugary cereal, and then he gets his organ out and ADD JIMMY CARR STYLE GENERIC MOLESTATION PUNCHLINE HERE.
7. WEARILY EXPRESSED DISDAIN CLUSTERS (Pep Wheat Flakes)
It’s a situation as old as time itself. Your father wants to sit across from you, shooting you a loving but quite frankly disappointed look that says “come on, you’re 24 years old and still sponging off me, using my electricity, borrowing my car, eating MY cereal when you should be out looking for a job”, but he needs to go to work, and can’t stick around until 11am when you finally get out of bed. Luckily, the marketing department of Kellogg’s Pep Wheat Flakes have anticipated this. Buy their brand, and their nominated spokesdad will shoot a warm glare with just that special tinge of disappointment at your offspring, on your behalf.
6. RACE KRISPIES (Sugar Coated Rice Krinkles)
Oh sweet jeepers. We should be thankful they haven’t called them “Lice Klinkres” or something.
5. ASPHIXI-BITS (Alpha-Bits)
Now, this is quite frankly terrifying. Sure, at first glimpse that stylised cartoon child seems happy enough, but just see how crammed his mouth is with Alpha-Bits. That cereal is so dangerously tasty, he’s gone and packed his maw with so many oaty letters he can’t even close his mouth. Forced petrifyingly into a pained grin, his skin grows ever paler, save for a strip of flushed flesh below his eyeline, presumably because his eyes are watering so much. He closes his eyes at the jawcracking agony, barely even able to contemplate that if it weren’t for the air squeezing through the gaps in the letters O and R, he’d already be dead. In one last desperate throw of the dice, he plunges his spoon into the bowl, hoping against hope that the four letters he’ll pluck out of the remaining Bits will be ‘H’, ‘E’, ‘L’ and ‘P’. In perhaps the cruellest twist of all, the letters he manages to fish out of the receptacle merely spell the word “OATS”, the very foodstuff that is rapidly hastening his demise.
A sugar-sprinkled tragedy.
4.THE FLESH OF THE CORN CHRIST (Post Sugar Coated Corn Flakes)
“Hi kids! Remember, when you’re eating Post Sugar Coated Corn Flakes, you’re eating flakes of my actual corpse, or the corpses of my family! Nom nom nom, eh?”
3. CRAZY OLD MAN FROM UP THE ROAD CRISPIES (King Vitaman)
“Hi! I used to be Crazy Pete, from Crazy Pete’s Crazy Cave O’ Carpets. You may remember my wacky TV spots on channel 17, where I’d wear my Crazy Crown and jape around with my wife Queen Quarpet. Then… things started to go a little fuzzy. I’m told I spent all thirty seconds of one live TV commercial shrieking that I’d give away a free Axminster to anyone bringing three dead wasps to the store. Then, the men came, and I had to go away for a while.”
“But now, I’m back! And I’m bored of carpets. I make breakfast cereal now. It’s nice. Would you like some? Go on, have some. Try some. Have some. HAVE SOME. A-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
2. AAAAAAAGHPLE JACKS, MORE LIKE (Apple Jacks)
“Come on, Billy. What’ll happen if you don’t get your math homework done before bedtime?” “You’re going to lock me in the closet with the scary man from the Apple Jacks box?” “That’s right, I’ll lock you in the closet with the scary man from the Apple Jacks box. For five whole minutes.” [SOUND OF FRANTIC LONG DIVISION BEING SCRIBBLED INTO A NOTEBOOK] “Good boy, Billy.”
1. I AM GOING TO KILL YOU IN YOUR SLEEP CRUNCH (Sugar Smacks)
Aaaargh! Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s a bloody true one. Clowns can be utterly terrifying.
AAAAAAAAARGH! Especially when they’re born with eminently prominent disfigurements that – while many people would seek to cover, draw attention away from or have reductive surgery to remove their abnormalities – they prefer to plaster garish make-up over it, so everyone can get a gooooood look at them. Come on, stare! Look at the freak! LOOK AT ME! You were laughing at me before! Why aren’t you laughing now? WHY AREN’T YOU LAUGHING NOW? THIS GUN IS LOADED!
AAAARGH! AAAARGH! AAAARGH! AAAARGH! AAAARGH! AAAARGH! Just… if you were an American kid growing up in the 1960s, and you had to get to sleep knowing you’d be spending part of the morning staring at this packaging, would you get ANY sleep at all? No. No, you bloody wouldn’t. No wonder so many of them turned to drugs when they became 1980s grown-ups.
Those three examples aren’t all there were. BrokenTV can exclusively reveal there was a fourth clown image piloted for Kellogg’s Sugar Smacks, only to be dropped before launch after focus groups deemed it ‘not as scary as the others’.
And here is that rejected box artwork:
(Cereal box images taken from the excellent The Imaginary World. Go there. Go there NOW.)