Mike Greaney reveals his Top 10 Cereal Mascots of all time—with a twist, of course.
When J.K. Rowling was busy pondering fantastic beasts and where to find them, she need have looked no further than the cereal aisle of her local supermarket, where fantastic beasts—along with fairies and elves and anthropomorphic amphibians and insects—abound. It’s a truly vibrant, enchanting, often dangerous world, and although Mr. Neil Degrasse Tyson has yet to delve into its many mysteries, it’s about time, in my opinion, someone did. And if not me, who? If not now, when? So, without further ado, I give you my Top 10 Cereal Mascots of all time.
It is my belief that, in the Cereal Kingdom, mascots are motivated by one of three very specific breakfast-related goals: 1. Promote and encourage a particular cereal’s inclusion as a “healthy part of this nutritious breakfast”; 2. Serve as protector of the cereal and ensure safe passage to your breakfast table; 3. Greedily, and unrelentingly, attempt to steal and hoard all of a particular cereal for themselves. (This third bracket is perhaps the most sinister and can prove the most degenerate.) In rare cases, I have discovered mascots that exhibit more than one of these traits.
I’m not going to sugar-coat this. Let’s get started.
10. Mascot: The Breakfast Monsters
Cereal: Count Chocula, Frankenberry, BOOberry
Motivation: The long con
Based on the classic Universal Monsters, these guys might be higher on the list if they were easier to find. If they were, however, their mystery would surely be diminished.
All three characters are depicted as ambitious breakfast barkers exceedingly proud of their respective cereal’s flavor, so proud in fact that most ads depict the three feverishly debating the quality of their titular brands.
Mr. Chocula is clearly the best, but I only know this from playing right into their undead hands and purchasing boxes of all three for the sake of comparison. True genius is revealed. This is one of the greatest manipulations in the cereal world and it’s fitting that it should come from such legendary monsters. On the outside, they appear as competitors, but three boxes later, you realize there’s a twist worthy of M. Night Shyamalan: they were working together the whole time.
Notably excluded here are fringe flavors Fruity Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute, because… well… you have to draw the line somewhere!9. Mascot: Toucan Sam
Cereal: Fruit Loops
Motivation: Find those Loops
Near as I can tell, this bird is some sort of globetrotting flavor finder. There are three smaller birds in his charge and he is usually doing one of two things: 1. Preventing strange monsters from absconding with his fruit loops, or, 2. Guiding strange monsters to a place rich in Fruit Loops.
With a keen sense of smell he knows precisely where to find this precious breakfast treat. What is unclear, however, is why the Loops are always so remotely located in an ancient temple or a seemingly infinite cave. But his mantra of “follow my nose, it always knows” seems to satisfy all who’d question.
8. Mascots: Snap, Crackle, Pop
Cereal: Rice Krispies
Motivation: Stay “Krispie” in milk
These guys are named after the sound the cereal makes upon co-mingling with milk. Short on personality, the trio inspires little to say. If anything, they are overshadowed by their product’s versatility. Few cereals have exploded out of the box the way Rice Krispies products have. Frankly, the Rice Krispies are almost more prevalent as treats than as cereal. Such overexposure has left Snap, Crackle and Pop neutered and one dimensional, barely distinguishable as individuals. I couldn’t name any of them in a line up (unless they were wearing their hats). But they have a legacy and are included here as a sign of respect and to commend them for staying so Krispie all these years. 7. Mascot: Tony The Tiger
Cereal: Frosted Flakes
Motivation: Bring out the tiger in you!
Tony is a well-meaning if at times bumbling jungle cat, big on heart and bigger on gravitas. Ultimately, he just wants kids to be the best they can be, encouraging all to “Show ’em you’re a tiger!” While most tigers, given the opportunity, would surely maul children to certain death, Tony, on the other hand, seems strangely invested in their success at hockey, biking, football or skateboarding. Perhaps all tigers should look at Tony as a sterling example of how not to be murderous eating machines. Because, like the cereal he promotes, Tony is “grrreat!”
6. Mascot: Sonny the Cuckoo Bird
Cereal: Cocoa Puffs
Motivation: Stay clean
To me, Sonny is the most tragic case in the cereal-addict category. While most ravenous mascots show very little self-reflection or regret about their savage tendencies, Sonny is well aware of the degenerative nature of his disease and is constantly, yet unsuccessfully, working toward recovery.
His goal in almost every commercial is to occupy himself in a productive manner as a means to avoid going “cuckoo.” Unfortunately, the children with whom he chooses to share company are unrepentant enablers who seem to receive a sick sort of enjoyment from his inevitable relapse. It’s clear to anyone looking in from the outside that it is these relationships he must shed to exorcise this particular demon.
The finale of every chapter finds a rotating cast of children parading through the scene flaunting brimming bowls of the shake-inducing early-morning confection. This always leads to Sonny in a near catatonic stupor, once again giving in to his unsavory desires. A healthy part of a complete breakfast? Not like this, Sonny. Not like this.5. Mascot: Cap’n Crunch
Cereal: Cap’n Crunch
Motivation: Ensure safe passage of cereal
It’s never been explicitly stated which branch of the military Horatio Magellan Crunch serves, but what is unquestionable is his dedication to the protection of his namesake cereal.
With the help of the Cap’n’s ragtag crew and his loyal canine companion, Sea Dog, the world has been gifted with a cereal whose crunch is impervious to milk, a rare concept in the early days, and the Cap’n is arguably more reliable in this effort than the collective Snap, Crackle and Pop on their best day.
Steadfast in his command of the S.S. Guppy, the Cap’n is well aware that his cargo of Crunch is always in danger of the moustache-twirling scoundrel—and insensitive French stereotype—Jean La Foote, who will stop at nothing to grab the Cap’n’s booty (okay, that may have come out wrong).
At present, La Foote has never been successful, and it is for that reason the Cap’n line of cereals continues to blossom year after year. His record speaks for itself. Cap’n Crunch, I salute you. We all salute you.
Note: La Foote eventually created his own cereal, Cinnamon Crunch, which was undeniably delicious. Even Cap’n had to admit. This was surely a new, less criminal beginning for the lifelong pirate. Unfortunately, La Foote was rewarded with mutiny when his crew of salty dogs tossed him overboard. No good deed goes unpunished.
4. Mascot: Trix the Rabbit
Motivation: Chase the dragon
Trix the Rabbit is a known junkie who will stop at nothing to get his next Trix fix. Dignity went bye-bye a long time ago for this “silly rabbit” who continually finds new depths for rock bottom.
One assumes he was hooked at an early age, though I have never actually seen him consume a single Trix. But, again, I submit to you that it’s the children who are at fault here. Unlike Sonny, Trix the Rabbit is rarely given the sweet release of Trix (only twice, actually) and will continue his downward spiral as long as there are kids around to taunt him. But examination reveals something more fiendish.
Has anyone ever stopped to think about why Trix are exclusively for kids? I can’t for the life of me figure out why a rabbit (especially one who talks and has opposable thumbs) shouldn’t be afforded the same culinary rights as a human child. I mean… they named the cereal after Trix, yet they’ve hinged the entire marketing campaign on the wondrous joy children seem to get by refusing a down-on-his-luck and clearly addicted rabbit his own cereal. Yikes, right?
I think it’s time for Trix and Sonny to form some sort of support group. There is no doubt Trix must examine some of the life choices he’s made, but the more I look into malfeasance at the breakfast table, I can’t help noticing the common denominator… children. They have turned Trix into, well… an animal, and we’ve all been complicit for decades, merely going along with this strange “Trix is for kids” policy. Who is the “silly rabbit” now?
3. Mascot: Buzz Bee
Cereal: Honey Nut Cheerios
Motivation: Bee wicked obvious
Uniquely on the nose for a cereal mascot, Buzz is a rare example that seems appropriate for the cereal he promotes. Rabbits, decorated military officials, tigers, bears? It’s an endless parade of arbitrary characters surely conceived in conference rooms where towels had been rolled and stuffed at the base of the doors.
Buzz, on the other hand, is right at home, if a tad vanilla. But what he lacks in edge he makes up for in sense. A bee? Honey. Not too tough to do that math.
Honey Nut Cheerios walks in two worlds as a cereal marketed equally to young and old. For the grown ups, we may see Buzz talking to a hipster honey seller at a farmers market, but for the kiddies we marvel at the heroic animated adventures that find Buzz thwarting the efforts of “yellow jacket,” another in the long list of rabid and bumbling cereal thieves.
2. Mascot: Lucky the Leprechaun
Cereal: Lucky Charms
Motivation: Ask not of things you can’t understand
As anyone who has dabbled in the dark arts can attest, “magically delicious” has its price.
Part selfish little scamp, part mad scientist, Lucky toes a fine line between hoarder and necromancer. While on the surface he seems single-mindedly greedy in the preservation of his “charms,” one can also argue that his motivations are ultimately generous. In the wrong hands, the power of the lucky charms could end us all. But, in Lucky’s control, the power is benevolently used to create new and exciting marshmallows. A steady stream of continually changing and evolving freeze-dried sweetness is our reward for Lucky’s unwavering reclusiveness. Ironically, it is the charms themselves that give Lucky his power, yet he uses it to bring new charms to the people. Magically delicious doesn’t happen without dark sacrifice.
1. Mascot: Sugar Bear
Cereal: Sugar Crisp, Golden Crisp
Motivation: Chill, baby, chill
Paws down, Sugar Bear has the most diverse narrative of any cereal mascot. A charismatic bipedal bear, he has been cast as a hero, a villain, even a rapper. He’s coached kids the way Tony has, a cheerleader for breakfast.
Over the years, he has protected his cereal from less refined scavengers like Marvin the Mouth and Sugar Fox, thwarting them with Crisps the way Popeye uses spinach. An early forerunner in the fight against climate change, he spent a stint in the late ’70s (well ahead of the curve) taking the unenlightened “Blob” to task for littering, oceanic dumping and general disregard for his large carbon footprint. This was a task he took upon himself and took no reward beyond a balanced breakfast.
But his intentions may not have always been so noble. Most commonly, he is depicted as the aggressor, slyly aiming to liberate boxes of Crisp from an innocent elderly “Granny” or the bumbling Factory Security guard, “Stan.” This is no Robin Hood. Sugar Bear takes the Crisps simply because he wants to eat them himself. This villainy is questionable for sure, but still it remains hard not to root for the roguish rascal. In his own words, he “can’t get enough of that Golden Crisp.”
Sugar Bear is a rare cereal anti-hero. The form has a long history of rabid criminals, constantly scheming to pilfer the breakfast table. What sets Mr. Bear apart is that he is always successful. Unlike the downtrodden Sonny or Trix, his tales end with the upper hand and a full bowl.
Even more unique is his calm, cool demeanor. Cereal mascots are almost exclusively excitable and bumbling bozos who, in the face of stress, exhibit total loss of control and metal cognition.
Friend or foe, Sugar Bear remains consistent is his charming devil-may-care attitude. He would be as much at home in the cast of “Ocean’s 11,” as he is the cereal aisle. He is a cunning thief whose heart is in the right place, and is always one step ahead. Some may say he is the unsung hero of the cereal world, with a much lower profile than many on this list. But I have a feeling if you were to ask Mr. Bear about his under-the-radar place in the world of cereal marketing… he’d be totally cool with it.