The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS | EATING OUT - Aoife McEl­wain


I find it prob­lem­atic that an­i­mated char­ac­ters are used to tar­get chil­dren in the ad cam­paigns of sug­ary break­fast ce­re­als, es­pe­cially be­cause I know how deeply ef­fec­tive it was on me as a child.

I adored Tony the Tiger. I laughed, belly laughs, at the Sugar Puffs Honey Mon­ster ads, and I re­ally did put my ears next to Rice Krispies to lis­ten out for Snap, Crackle and Pop.

So who are the voices and minds be­hind these iconic break­fast char­ac­ters?

Snap, Crackle and Pop are the old­est and long­est-run­ning Kel­logg’s char­ac­ters. They popped onto the food mas­cot scene through ra­dio ad­verts in 1928, the same year that Rice Krispies were launched.

The story goes that il­lus­tra­tor Ver­non Grant heard the ra­dio ads and was in­spired to sketch a char­ac­ter to match the voices. He sent his work to the ad agency look­ing af­ter the Kel­logg’s ac­count at the time, and soon Snap, Crackle and Pop ap­peared in an­i­mated ads, sport­ing chef hats and rep­re­sent­ing the crisp­ness of Rice Krispies.

By 1955, only Snap re­tained the chef’s hat, while Crackle wore a knit beanie and Pop wore his march­ing band cap. The trio had a fourth brother (you did know they were broth­ers, right?) called Pow, who ap­peared in just two TV ads in the 1950s wear­ing spacegear – which was de rigueur for most mar­ket­ing car­toons of the day.

Tony the Tiger first ap­peared in 1951 and is a bona fide break­fast icon. For five decades, voice ac­tor Thurl Raven­scroft was the source of the “They’re Gr­rrrrreat!” catch­phrase in the US (the UK ads saw Tony be­ing revoiced lo­cally by an Amer­i­can ac­tor called Tom Clarke-Hill). Youmay also know Raven­scroft’s voice from his per­for­mance ofthe song You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch from How The Grinch Stole Christ­mas. He also voiced car­toon an­i­mals and sang songs in Mary Pop­pins, Bed­knobs and Broom­sticks and The Lit­tle Mermaid, among many, many others. His ca­reer as a voice ac­tor spanned from 1940 un­til 2005, when he died at 91.

Tony the Tiger was first an­i­mated in 1951 by Eu­gene Kolkey, an art di­rec­tor at the ad agency Leo Burnett Co. Kolkey en­tered Tony in a com­pe­ti­tion to win the pub­lic’s af­fec­tion. Tony beat Katy the Kan­ga­roo, Elmo the Ele­phant and Newt the Gnu to grace the boxes of Frosted Flakes – or Frosties. Quar­tet Films, a group of for­mer Dis­ney an­i­ma­tors, were given Kolkey’s early de­signs and came up with the fi­nal Tony that graced the box, launched in 1952.

Quar­tet Films were also re­spon­si­ble for the looks of Snap, Crackle and Pop, and the Jolly Green Gi­ant. In the US, Tony be­came in­creas­ingly an­thro­po­mor­phic when he was given an Ital­ian-Amer­i­can iden­tity in the 1970s, with a clas­sic Ital­ian Mama char­ac­ter ap­pear­ing in a se­ries of TV ads. In the UK and Ire­land, Survivor’s emo­tive Eye of the Tiger of­ten ac­com­pa­nied Tony’s ap­pear­ance here.

Coco Pops were launched in the UK in 1961, and Coco the Mon­key has been en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren in the UK and Ire­land to eat choco­late-coated ce­real since 1963.

In the late 1980s, Coco was joined by his pals Heapo the hippo and Croc the croc­o­dile. Coco had a brief hia­tus in the late noughties but seems to have been brought out of re­tire­ment in 2011 for TV ap­pear­ances.

Honey Mon­ster Puffs, for­merly known as Sugar Puffs, were launched in 1957. Their first mas­cot was called Jeremy the Bear, and the mon­ster didn’t ap­pear un­til 1976.

The mon­ster was cre­ated at ad agency BMP by cre­ative di­rec­tor John Web­ster, the ad man also be­hind the Smash Mar­tians cam­paigns in the 1970s and 1980s. Honey Mon­ster Puffs cam­paigns in­cluded You’ll Go Mon­ster-Mad For The Honey, which saw chil­dren los­ing their minds when re­fused the sug­ary puffed ce­real, growl­ing “I Want My Honey!!” be­fore com­bust­ing out of their clothes and turn­ing into mon­sters them­selves.

Our cul­ture’s ob­ses­sion with celebri­ties was re­flected by our old friend the Honey Mon­ster, when his 1990sads saw him cosy­ing up to fa­mous folk. He ap­peared on stage with Boy­zone in 1996 and rein­vented him­self as Puff Daddy in 1999. Ear­lier, in 1988, poet John Cooper Clarke ap­peared in two ads with the Honey Mon­ster and seemed to have a jolly good time do­ing so.

Our furry friend hasn’t been un­touched by con­tro­versy how­ever. In 2008, the Honey Mon­ster was ac­cused of rip­ping off The Mighty Boosh’s crimp­ing style of singing in the Feed The Fun ad.

Boosh fans went bal­lis­tic on­line. Though the ad agency re­spon­si­ble, Bray Leino, re­mained silent on the con­tro­versy, the Honey Mon­ster wrote on his of­fi­cial blog on the HM Foods web­site: My new ad has been get­ting loads of peo­ple talk­ing . . . some peo­ple like our song, but it hasn’t made ev­ery­body happy, so I’m a bit sad about that.”

The ad was even­tu­ally dis­con­tin­ued, and though The Mighty Boosh creators Noel Field­ing and Ju­lian Bar­ratt didn’t sue, they did re­port­edly blow the head off a Honey Mon­ster like­ness with a hairdryer on their Fu­ture Sailors tour. So, I guess that was clo­sure on the crimp­ing con­tro­versy.

Kel­logg’s char­ac­ters Tony the Tiger and a Kee­bler Elf

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