New York, NY – Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I worked for Complex back when it was only a fledgling magazine side-venture for fashion designer Marc Ecko (I wrote and illustrated full page comics in issues 2-10), now the website Complex.com is an awesome art and pop-culture portal.
Yesterday they posted their definitive list of the The 25 Coolest Snack Mascots Of All Time (Quisp, seen above- did not make the cut).
Sadly, as cartoons and animated films are becoming more 3D based, and as “reading the funny pages ” isn’t as easy to do because dad can’t rip newspaper sections out of his iPad, most kids prime interaction with line art, illustration, and traditional cartooning comes from either the front & backs of their cereal boxes, or their drinks & snack packs. This prompted me to make an Artiholics list of The OTHER 25 Coolest Illustrated Snack Mascots Of All Time for those classic & cool mascots who didn’t make the Complex list. Let’s begin with:
- 25 Uncle Ben
If you’ve watched the documentary Pururambo (Netflix streaming) you will learn that there are some tribes in New Guinea where the people live high in trees and have never seen a white person before. I would imagine that back in the 1940s when Uncle Ben’s came into being, there were some parts of the United States where white people had never actually seen a black person before. Their only experience might have been the smiling face on the box of Uncle Ben’s in their local market. Is Uncle Ben the Jackie Robinson of food? He was making rice cool 40 years before Ally Sheedy was eating warm sushi in The Breakfast Club. I’d say yes, Uncle Ben is cool. Also, check out that bowtie, he was wearing one 65 years before Questlove brought it back, that’s an OG original pimp accessory.
- 24 Larry the Quaker Oats Mascot
After 135 years they gave old Larry some lipo, but didn’t change the powdered wig or garb. That’s fucking badass. This dude is so cool, he waits 135 years before hitting the gym. He hits the gym hard, comes out with a tan, and a six pack, but doesn’t change his style. This guy can raise the frame of a house before sundown, and still have time to microwave you up some instant oatmeal, all while getting his lats back.
- 23 Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo
Cracker Jack’s trusted mascots for 95 years, they have evolved only slightly with the times, becoming line drawings and getting more streamlined, but if you get taken out to the ballgame, these little fucks will show you the light at the end of a long boring tunnel. The model for the brand Robert Rueckheim, sadly died a few months after he posed for this mascot from pneumonia. Luckily for us his legacy lives in that shitty 1908 song, as well as in his shitty bottom-o-the-box prizes, and the tooth-ripping-corn-kernel-husk-stuck-in-the-back-of-your-throat goodness. Bingo we have a winner nearly 100 years later.
- 22 Land O’Lakes Maiden
Brown & Bigelow illustrator Arthur C. Hanson painted this illlustration for Land O’Lakes butter, which I learned in an old Beavis and Butthead comic book, and as you can see demonstrated in this video, has a (NSFW) secret behind the butter.
- 21 Aunt Jemima
Take it from your Aunt, Atkins and Gluten Free breakfasts are for pussies. You need some syrup, and pancakes. Yes she started out as a racist character in a minstrel show, but she evolved into the Rosie the motha fucken Revieter of pancake mix, syrup, and BACON (fuck you eggs). Look at that hipster bandanna, and that neckerchief. Both of those vintage duds in Brooklyn would set you back at least $200 a pop. She also looks like she’s been using some teeth whitening strips, R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
- 20 Wendell The Cinnamon Toast Crunch Baker
Ok, let’s step away from the Realism, which were what the last five Illustrations were done in, a Realist style. The next characters are more classic cartoon / animation styles. Wendell and the other Cinnamon Toast Crunch bakers (who were never given official names) are what would happen to the Rice Crispy elves if they got old and fat. I remember liking this character because he was like Santa but delivered me candy in a bowl every morning disguised as cereal. They along with loony toons, and Maurice Sendak (In The Night Kitchen)
etched into my brain “What a Cartoon Baker Looks Like” which is most likely what 19th century Bakers looked like, and were what artists drawing in the 1940’s remembered bakers looking like when they were children – so this odd – misshapen ideal is carried on to today via syndication and reruns because the cartoonists of tomorrow are still eating this cereal today. He also reminds me of the Old’ Timey Pepperidge Farm Guy mixed with a little Wilford Brimley.
- 19 Charlie The Tuna
A “hep-cat” without being a cat fish, Charlie was a beatnik from way back. He chills back in his Newsey hat, with thick framed glasses. He sometimes wears shades underwater because his eyes are a little “sensitive”, probably has something to do with all that seagrass he’s been buying from the puffer fish.. But don’t worry, he’s too cool to be eaten.
“Sorry Charlie, only the finest prime tuna is good enough for Star-Kist”. If he didn’t talk in a groovy bebop beat-poet slang, he would be named “Lunch.”
- 18 Mr. Pringles
This little barber shoppe quartet looking Smiley had the ironic moustashe before it was cool. You could call him a hipster, but he actually hates hipsters even though he lives in Williamsburg, wears skinny jeans, and carries his chips in a tennis ball container shaped tube instead of a shitty mylar bag. How do you stand out in a market full of bagged, oddly shaped chips? Create an entirely new and fun container that stacks chips like pogs, playing cards, or comic books. And the chips can even be turned into sculptures, if you are creative enough.
Reinventing the wheel.
- 17 Fun Dip
Fun Dip was the precursor to Crystal Meth (on left – blue Crystal Meth decades before Breaking Bad). If they look like three fingered Muppet Whatnot faces stuck on little piles of drugs, then they are doing their job. If you don’t remember these from your childhood, you are experiencing the same feeling as ex-hippies who don’t remember the 60s, you probably OD’d on them and have blacked out the memories.
They are little sticks made out of sugar that kids dipped into little pouches filled with flavored sugar. Your saliva became the adhesive for the next lick. When you were down to the last of what you could reach with the
crack spoon dipping stick, you could eat the stick. Then you would wet your finger and dab it in the bag for the last of the powder and rub it on your gums, they would feel good and numb, that’s how you’d know it was “good shit.” Ah, memories.
- 16 The Nerds
Nerds (relesased in 1983) have absolutely NOTHING to do with Revenge of The Nerds (released in 1984). It would be like a candy coming out in 2013 named EPIC (because everything in 2013 is EPIC) these little naked Fraggle Rock looking characters (they all look like a hairless and tail-less Wembley) just had to look somewhat like little jumbly colored rocks (which is what the candy looked like). The brilliance of this candy is that each box had separate compartments for each flavor, and allowed kids a CHOICE as to which flavor they wanted, and there was such a quantity of nerds in each box, that they could feel free to dole out palm-fulls of nerds to their friends in the flavors of their choosing. Played into some very deep psychological kid shit about sharing and power. Smart move nerds.
- 15 Sour Patch Kids
The sour patch kid is disgusting in a way. Most snack mascots are figureheads either enjoying the product, encouraging others to enjoy it, or trying to protect it from being stolen (usually by kids). This little sadomasichistic fuck “is” the product you will be consuming. He basically is encouraging you to eat him and all his sickeningly sweet and sour goodness.
- 14 The Noid
Made by the same clay animators who brought you the California Raisins, and the Cookie Guys, the noid was Domino’s original anthropomorphic representation of the little burnt bubbles you get from some bad take out pizza. By ordering Domino’s you would be avoiding the Noid, because the pizza was basically made from a frozen block of cardboard and didn’t have defects actual pizza sometimes would encur with actual cooking.
- 13 Buzz Bee
It takes balls for a mascot to try to sell “healthy-ish” slightly sweetened Cheerios to kids when there are cereals on the market with floating marshmallows, and cookies in them. But then again, he did fuck with Hulk Hogan, and live to tell about it. He’s also voiced by Billy West, the same guy who does the voice of Fry on Futurama, and both Ren & Stimpy.
- 12 Cookie Crook
The mascot for Cookie Crisp, along with his dog, were cereal
murders thieves. Much like the Hamburgler, Barney (Fruity Pebbles – see no.8), The Trix Rabbit, and anyone I have to stop from L’eggo’in my Eggo or laying a finger on my Butterfinger. But also like Disney’s Aladdin- he was just stealing to eat (and feed his dog).
It was an odd form of child psychology, which seemed to be a running theme in the 80s and 90s. The message they were conveying to kids on a subconscious level was that “this food is so tasty you would want to steal it”, so it is obviously something of value, and you as a kid should encourage your parents to
shoplift buy it for you. In a way you would be psychologically getting away with something by eating it. A simulation of the feeling con men must have when they pull off a successful con, or the rush a car thief might get from a successful heist.
- 11 The Jolly Green Giant
Who are we kidding, this is a mother fucking superhero. Watch, I will describe The Jolly Green Giant to you, and you will picture him perfectly. Imagine if The Incredible Hulk was an 100 feet tall Vegan, towering over fields of growing vegetables, a little slimmer but still muscular, and wore a green “André The Giant style” over one shoulder wrestling singlet made out of leaves (wait a minute… was André stealing his look from Jolly – another giant? hummmm).
- 10 Peter Pan
Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter. Apparently, when the “boy who would never grow up” actually left Never-Neverland , he was somehow transmogrified into a sex-oozing leggy, tiny waisted, redheaded peacenik bombshell (peace sign, or maybe she’s just gesturing “two”).
Peter Pan as a babe makes it a lot easier to think of happy thoughts. The ad copy is chock-full of sexual innuendo. She will “smooth” out your nuts, till they are “creamy-good.”
As they said in the original book: “One girl is worth more use than 20 boys.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
- 9 Crispy
I was a kid I had no fucking idea who Jimmy Durante was, but this Crispy Critters Cereal Mascot who was doing a dead on impression, not only allowed kids to eat what appeared to be Animal Crackers for breakfast, but could play piano, looked like a Muppet, and but also introduced us to a five syllable word “indubitably” which would indubitably cause kids to ask their parents what the word means. Parents in turn would ask the kids where they learned that word…one step closer to a purchase. Smart move Post!
- 8 Fred & Barney
Fred & Barney sold some weird shit in their day. From Winston Cigarettes, to cereal, to ice pops, to children’s vitamins. Let’s focus on the cereal, the Fruity Pebbles, and Cocoa Pebbles (Pebbles being the name of Fred and Wilma’s daughter btw). For some reason Fred has a stockpile of children’s cereal named after his daughter, and Barney (who works with Fred & we can assume makes a comparable salary) is intent on STEALING Fred’s children’s cereal.
Considering The Flintstones takes in place prehistoric times, Barney technically invents RAP to trick Fred into giving him some cereal. Fred is so excited by the Rap that he immediately starts scratching the record, thus inventing DJ’ing.
Barney had kids of all skin colors repeating his Fruity rhymes back in in 1989. That’s 7 years before Eminem was making records. Yabba Dabba Delicious… eh, it’s a living.
- 7 Count Chocula, Frankenberry, Boo Berry, Yummy Mummy, Fruit Bruit
The General Mills “Monster Cereals” were classics as well as conundrums. How to make silver age horror movie monster characters not only not give children nightmares, but also make them appealing, to, you know…eat. The fact that these characters had the balls to exist, is cool.
- 6 Ben & Jerry
In the 90’s Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s thought it was cool to have a logo designed for their ice cream business using not only both of their first names, but also line art illustrated portraits of themselves eating iced cream. That’s not only a egomaniacally meta logo design, but also a stroke of genius, as it caught on and they grew to the company they are today. Cool as fuck.
- 5 Duncan the Daredevil
From the box art it appears as the DunkAroos Aussie Kangaroo mascot Duncan The Daredevil got the Poochie update with the backwards hat, and cool lingo (and zero Australian accent). It also looks like they were confused as to what dunking was exactly. Was it spelunking, jumping off a high dive with a rope as a bungee cord, or dunking a basketball? Either way kids got to dip cinnamon cookies into icing. What’s not to like, he’s cool, like Poochie, or Fred Durst.
What’s really fucking weird is the box in the upper right is obviously drawn by an American Illustrator, because Duncan is drawn with a pouch. Male kangaroos don’t have pouches. Wasn’t there ONE Aussie involved in the making of this product?
- 4 Quisp
Quisp was the sister cereal to Quake, the Quaker Oats Company brand and existed from 1965-1970 and now is made in small quantities and available online to weirdos and hipsters who want to eat vintage cereal. This little propeller headed pink-faced douche is too cool to sit on other grocery store shelves like those other plebes. It’s only available to people in the know, who have access to this thing called the World Wide Web. You probably haven’t heard of it, you aren’t cool enough.
- 3 Sugar Bear
Sugar Bear was the sleepy-eyed, mellow-as-fuck, anthropomorphic Super Sugar Crisp Mascot, with the voice of a crooner, and a Vitamin Packed Punch (what, sugar is a vitamin right?). The only problem was that this smooth “Dean Martin-esque” voiced badass also had access to some fine ass cereal which contained 8 vitamins (8 is almost 10, which is more than most kids can count- that must be a lot of vitamins). The original bear was designed by Robert “Bob” Irwin, a graphic designer for Post Cereal.
If anyone fucked with the bear over his cereal (and really why would you fuck with a bear wearing a shirt and eating cereal?) he would pop one crisp in his mouth, and transform into “Super Bear”. The cereal had the same effect on Sugar Bear as a steroid shot to Lance Armstrong – or can of Spinach to Popeye. He would then not only proceed to brutally kick the shit out of you, he would do so while singing a catchy song about it. Observe:
Having the word “Sugar” in a cereal now is of course verboten, it’s currently called Golden Crisp, even though Consumer reports says that a small bowl of this cereal has as much sugar as a Dunkin Donut.
- 2 Mr.T.
Mr.T would pitty the fool who didn’t put him on the Complex list. His cereal is crispy sweet, and is shaped like the letter T. Pee Wee Herman eats it in that one movie, and fuck man, it’s Mr. T. You couldn’t find a more badass than Mr. T. He played a character on THE A TEAM called B.A. Baracus, what do you think the motha fucking B.A. stood for? (Guessed ‘Bad Attitude?’? guess again). He was the first mainstream actor to rock a Mohawk, and he pittied fools.
He beat the shit out of Rocky in Rocky III. He was Hulk Hogan’s partner in Wrestlemania 1. He also assures you about 10 times in 30 seconds that the cereal is cool. Trust Mr. T. “It’s Cool”. Is it tasty? Who the fuck cares, it’s cool. Is it good for you? “It’s Cool.” That’s all that really matters. Team up with Mr.T, fuck, Hulk Hogan did it, and that was cool. So the cereal must be cool, right?
Plus he is a big proponent of education, staying in school, and parent’s teaching their kids to not use drugs (ok, so he’s not totally cool).
- 1 Santa Clause
Have you ever heard of an artist named Haddon Sundblom? No? Well you’ve seen his work. You could say he’s one of the most famous character designers ever. He created the iconic Santa we know and love. He based him on Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 Poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Sundblom had his friend Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman who model for the initial painting. The illustration above was a commission from Coca-Cola for an ad that ran in a 1932 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, and later ran in Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorker and others. Sundblom continued painting Santa for Coke for the next 32 years.
According to Coca-Cola’s : 5 Things You Never Knew About Santa Claus and Coca-Cola:
The Santa Claus we all know and love — that big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard — didn’t always look that way. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf. He has donned a bishop’s robe and a Norse huntsman’s animal skin.
In fact, when Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly in 1862, Santa was a small elflike figure who supported the Union.
Haddon Sundbloom painted Santa from 1932 -1964. Coca-Cola advertising continues to feature images of Santa based on Sundblom’s original works. These paintings are some of the most prized pieces in the art collection in the company’s archives department and have been on exhibit around the world, in famous locales including the Louvre in Paris, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the Isetan Department Store in Tokyo, and the NK Department Store in Stockholm. Many of the original paintings can be seen on display at World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Ga.
Read the other 5 Facts on Coca-Cola’s Cokelore
So next holiday season, raise a glass of eggnog (or Coke), or eggnog with rum (or rum and coke) to Haddon Sundblom, the forgotten father of father Christmas (and a freelance illustrator), the OTHER Number 1 coolest illustrated snack mascot of all time.
If you are curious, Here is the Complex countdown list of all 25, and their links to their pages for each. This could be called the list of “Most Famous Snack Mascots” rather than coolest IMHO:
- 25. Frito Bandito
- 24 Cool Spot
- 23 Dig ‘Em Frog
- 22 Cheesasaurus Rex
- 21 Cookie Guys
- 20 Lucky The Leprechaun
- 19 Horatio Magellan Crunch
- 18 Chester Cheetah
- 17 Ernest J. Keebler
- 16 Vlasic Stork
- 15 Chef Boyardee
- 14 Miss Chiquita
- 13 The California Raisins
- 12 Quicky
- 11 Punchy
- 10 Mr. Owl
- 9 Helping Hand
- 8 Julius Pringles
- 7 Trix Rabbit
- 6 Tony The Tiger
- 5 Snap! Crackle! and Pop!
- 4 Mr.Peanut
- 3 Kool-Aid Man
- 2 Poppin’ Fresh
- 1 M&M’s Spokescandies