Today, I’ve chosen five old cereal boxes from my worryingly large collection for a closer inspection.
Far funnier than anything you’ll read below was the sight of me dragging ancient cereal boxes out into the December chill, and desperately trying to keep them upright against the near-winter winds. Let’s hope my neighbors were otherwise occupied, as there’s no good explanation for cursing a box of Corn Pops while sitting crisscross applesauce style out in the freezing cold.
#1: Fruity Marshmallow Krispies! (1987)
It may seem odd, but this is actually one of my all-time favorite cereal boxes. There’s a quietly tropical motif that’s only noticeable to those who remember Fruity Marshmallow Krispies’ balls-out amazing TV commercial, featuring a calypso-charged jingle that STILL has the power to make everything right with my world. Were I to ever learn the intricacies of pianos, it would specifically be so I could play that jingle.
The cereal mixed normal Rice Krispies with countless fruity marshmallows. The marshmallows came in an assortment of colors, and looked like bonus treasure jewels from a Nintendo game. I can barely remember the taste, but I definitely remember asking for it multiple times. The box’s leaf green background called to me in ways that colors rarely do. I look at this box, and suddenly it’s mid July. I’m on my own private island. I’m in a hammock, and there’s no one around to make fun of how I look when I try to climb out.
#2: Vanilla Wafer Cookie Crisp! (1987)
Since it came up in a recent article, I thought I’d show you a box of Cookie Crisp from before the hideous mascot switch. Debuting in the late ‘70s, Cookie Crisp’s first mascot was Cookie Jarvis, who was I guess a cross between a wizard and a bedtime elf. Later, the cereal would be fronted by Chip the Dog, and later, Chip the Wolf, who continues to preside over Everything Cookie Crisp today.
Between those extremes were the characters seen here. Arriving in the early ‘80s and lasting through the late ‘90s, Cookie Crook and Officer Crumb were apple-high enemies who made commercial breaks so much sweeter with their animated exploits.
During their adventures, Cookie Crook would always attempt to steal Cookie Crisp, leaving the flustered Officer Crumb to chase him with a billy club. Nearly every cereal mascot I grew up with was solely devoted to either stealing cereal or keeping everyone else from eating it. No wonder Count Chocula was so successful. He was the only one who just looked straight into the camera and said “EAT IT it tastes like candy.”
This box was for the much rarer Vanilla Wafer version of Cookie Crisp, which woefully lacked the tiny chocolate chips. The only plus was that chip-less Cookie Crisp doubled nicely as substitute shell pavement leading into an action figure crabhouse.
Don’t laugh. I liked to make Skeletor and Jabba go to restaurants.
#3: Gremlins Cereal! (1984)
This box is one of my prized possessions. I loved anything having to do with Gremlins, and this of course included its breakfast cereal. It was essentially Cap’n Crunch, but instead of the cereal having a boring barrel shape, they looked like little tiny corn Gizmos!
I didn’t need much encouragement to want those, but the Gremlins Cereal TV commercial could’ve sold me on even the plainest cereal. Between its catchy song and the shots of an ultra-cute Gizmo drowsily grinning, I can’t think of another commercial that made me so utterly fixated on eating a certain cereal.
When you’re a kid, picking a cereal is like picking a new toy. Whether I was at Kay Bee or the supermarket, it was hard to turn down the package with a big giant Mogwai on it.
(Speaking of toys, Gremlins Cereal is also remembered for its back-of-the-box offer for a squeaking plush Gizmo doll. Ten bucks plus two proofs-of-purchase! You won the battle by convincing Mom to get you Gremlins Cereal, but would you win the war?)
#4: Batman Forever Corn Pops! (1995)
Both Batman and Batman Returns had fully dedicated cereals. (You’ll remember Batman Cereal as the one that came packaged with plastic banks. Batman Returns Cereal didn’t have those, but it did have marshmallows shaped vaguely like the Penguin’s hat.)
Batman Forever, on the other hand, had to make do with renting real estate from Kellogg’s Corn Pops. There were four boxes available, each with a different featured character. (I love this Riddler box, but the Two-Face box was arguably better, if only for the idea that Kellogg’s would agree to put such an ugly monster on their packaging. Could anyone think of eating while looking at his lips?)
Fun fact: 1995 was when I started coloring my hair in stupid colors. I went to summer school that year, and spent a solid month being called “Riddler” by scary strangers. Admittedly, that was better than most of my other nicknames back then.
Batman Forever couldn’t compete with the first two movies on the cereal front, but did the first two movies get official McDonald’s mugs in their honor? Mugs that would somehow remain in our kitchen cabinets for subsequent decades? I think not!
#5: Dinersaurs! (1988)
Dinersaurs was awesome. Like Gremlins Cereal, it was texturally comparable to Cap’n Crunch, but this time, the cereal bits were fruit-flavored, neon-colored, and in the shapes of various dinosaurs! The Trifectasaurus!
Under normal circumstances, you’d be able to see the beautiful cereal right on the box. In this particular case, the bowlful of crunchy dinosaurs has been completely covered by an oversized advertisement for Ralston’s Nintendo giveaway. I think that’s a fair trade.
In specially marked boxes of Ralston cereal, kids had the chance to instantly win a Nintendo Entertainment System, complete with the Zapper and five different games. (SMB, SMB 2, Zelda II, Punch-Out and Metroid.) Nearly everyone in the country already had those things, but man, if you didn’t, just imagine what a thrill that would’ve been.
Furthering the Nintendo motif were the free prizes inside: “Magic-Motion” Nintendo cards! These were lenticular cards that flipped through “moving” images of our favorite Nintendo characters. (Even Little Mac!)
Like I mentioned in the recent Wish Book feature, everything Nintendo was cool at the time. It was smart of Ralston to pair Dinersaurs with Super Mario, because even in the late ‘80s, a cereal based on diner-operating dinosaurs may have been a little too cutesy. Nothing provided an edge faster than a redhaired boy in a Lacoste shirt haphazardly holding Nintendo junk.
Hey, did you know that A Charlie Brown Christmas is on tonight? WHERE DID THIS YEAR GO? I’ll kick the holiday coverage into high gear, starting tomorrow!