FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Feb 11, 2008

monsters in the morning

My mentioning monster cereals and Count Chocula over at AMC* (me me me! pay attention to me!) prompted a bit of a conversation with a MySpace (me me me! add me!) fake cyber-friend about the monster cereal mascots. He asked who I thought Boo Berry was before he died, which got me thinking...who created Frankenberry, and to what end? Who bit Count Chocula and Fruit Brute and turned them into monsters? Who was Fruity Yummy Mummy before he died and who mummified him? Were they all cereal fanatics before they turned and/or shuffled off this mortal coil? They're all just sad, lost souls, really, but that never seems to get them down. I'm totally going to remember that the next time I'm feeling sorry for myself because I hate all of my clothes.

I feel a bit like a hack stand-up comedian saying it ("Remember having toys? What was up with that?"), but come on...how fucking awesome were the monster cereals? They combine three of the greatest things in the world (monsters, sugar, and the 1970s), they leave you with flavored milk when you're done, and even if they made you poop red**, the monster cereals were completely essential breakfast time chow. Aaannnnnd they had the coolest toy prizes inside.


Would I like a free monster disguise kit? Umm...holy crap, YES. I don't know that giving yourself a fang moustache is going to fool anyone into thinking that you're actually a vampire, but it's worth a shot. Undoubtedly, the chances of successful deception would rise exponentially if the fang moustache were coupled with the glow-in-the-dark vampire t-shirt, don't you think?

I was always most partial to Boo Berry, that strange poltergeist who sounded an awful lot like Peter Lorre. Again, who was he before he died? My fake MySpace friend posited that he was a car salesman. The hat and tie really speak volumes, and I'm inclined to agree he was indeed a seller of something or other. He cuts quite a Willy Loman-esque figure, doesn't he? Looking at him with the eyes of an adult (as opposed to those of a kid all cracked out on sugar), it seems obvious to me that Mr Berry was simply overwhelmed by life: he was depressed, tired, done with it all, and most likely addicted to quaaludes.


In later years (the monster cereals all debuted in the early 1970s), parent company General Mills tried to revamp Boo Berry's sad sack image with disastrous results. The late '80s/early '90s incarnation, with the ridiculous Freddy Krueger-esque arms and decidedly "doy doy" expression, left Mr Berry looking a little...well, shall we say a little simple-minded?


And, quite frankly, the less said about the subsequent Casperization of Boo Berry, the better***.


Thankfully this wussy version of Boo Berry didn't last and General Mills issued an order to his troops to return the ghost to his former luuded-out glory, and once again he gazes at us from the box with that classic vacant stare we all love and remember so well.


Frankenberry, that monstrous creation (no, really, which mad scientist wanted to play Notorious G.O.D. and created Frankenberry? And why for the love of Charles Nelson Reilly give him strawberries for fingernails?), was my second love despite his foppish voice. Count Chocula, though undoubtedly the scariest-looking cereal mascot, never did it for me, pitch-perfect Transylvanian accent or no.



My memories of Fruit Brute are vague at best: the cereal was discontinued in 1983, only to be resurrected (HA HA HA) a few years later with the name Fruity Yummy Mummy.


Look at the Fruit Brute box: a coupon for 7 lousy cents off Lucky Charms! Why, 7 cents wouldn't buy you a single yellow moon with today's prices, never mind a blue diamond. Back in my day...gripe gripe gripe my back hurts and why is it so cold in here?

By the late '80s I think the monster cereal craze was pretty much over. F.Y. Mummy was pushing up daisies again by the early '90s, and today it's getting more and more difficult to find the remaining monster mascot triumvirate in stores. Just as TV stations trot out scary movies during October, though, Boo Berry, Frankenberry, and Count Chocula are easier to find come Halloween time.

What gives? Why are the monster cereals, in all their awesomeness, so scarce? Has it been decided that downing a giant heaping bowl of sugar and marshmallows maybe isn't the best way to start the day? I certainly hope the scarcity of monsters in the morning isn't because kids like monsters any less than they did back in my day. I'd like to think that the children are our future, not that they're a bunch of jerks.











* I would just like to point out that even though I said "...except Count Chocula" in the interview, I have nothing against the Count personally. He's rad. I'm simply not a fan of chocolate cereals: I have never, in fact, gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, Fruity trumps Cocoa in the Pebbles department, and Cap'n Crunch can take his Chocoberries or whatever they're called and shove 'em right back where they came from. Regular Crunchberries and the Cap'n's Peanut Butter varieties are, however, the shit.

** Yes, the dye originally used in Frankenberry made kids poop red. You didn't think Stephen King came up with that idea on his own, did you?

*** Everyone knows that Casper is better when Casper is a scary ghost, anyway. Friendly, shmendly.


In totally unrelated I'm feeling all nostalgic now and so I'm looking up stupid shit I remember on YouTube news, you don't even know how much I loved this song when I was a kid. Seriously, if it had ever come out on vinyl, I would have bought 9248675 copies and made it number one with 10 bullets.

31 comments:

MC said...

Late last year I heard rumor that Frankenberry at least would have better availability throughout the year. Until that time, I guess you could just order those cereals from Amazon, as it always seems to be available there.

Bill Walsh said...

You're killing me, Ponder. You know, I can sit back and coolly and collectedly deem the '70s the nadir of American history (and who knows, maybe Western Civilization), but there you go with the childhood nostalgia, and I'm powerless to resist!

God, awesome song. Meanwhile, this song just sounds freaking horrible. Who's that singing, a drunk guy with a fork in his trachea? Still, I probably sing parts of that to my kids every damn time we have cheese, so it's got that going for it.

And, alas, I'm unqualified to opine on the marshmallow cereals, as my mom didn't like 'em, so we never had 'em. I did like chocolate cereals, though, when we were at relatives' or friends' houses...

And big points for the Frankenberry-dye trivia. First I'd heard of that!. Eww squared.

Bill Walsh said...

Oh, but yeah, I've tried the Peanut Butter Crunch stuff. Righteous.

Joe said...

I love Boo. He always seemed very Paul Lynde-esque to me. Like he would have snappy retorts to people's various indiscretions. Then sip a martini afterward and bask in his superior, biting wit.

ladracul said...

I found Count Chocula scary when they had those commercials where he was live action, rubbery, and freakish. They totally got rid of those, thank God. But SNL tried to do it with Jimmy Fallon, and it was a smidge better. Not entirely better, though.

"Robot Chicken" did have the right idea where the Cereal Monsters played the "American Idol" judges on "Zombie Idol" with Boo as Paula Abdul, acting more like he was on tranquilizers. Classic.

Moviezzz said...

I would mention something about the monster cereals, how I loved Count Chocula, and how the 90's, when you couldn't find it on the shelf was a depressing time.

But then I clicked on your last YouTube link. And I can't get the Snoopy Sno Cone machine song out of my head!! It has been 30 years!! I thought it was forgotten!! Now, it is back in my head.

Great post.

Theron said...

I grew up in the 70s, when the monster cereals were first created, and I can state with absolute certainty that Count Chocula is the best of them all. Obviously, Miss Ponder, you don't know what you're talking about because you're a girl...

Anonymous said...

besides the fact that count chocula is the far superior monster cereal (in taste, at least), this is your best fg post. and i've read them all! : ) you had me laughing and really getting into it. i remember those cereals.

unclemike said...

Boo Berry was my fave, and Franken Berry a very close second. And, no theron, Count Chocula was most certainly not the best--it just tasted weird and chalky to my pudgy 10-year-old self.

Still tastes like ass to my current old, cranky self.

hypostylin said...

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Joseph Emmerth said...

Nice to see the cereals getting their props:) They had a good article about them in Rue Morgue a month or two ago...


OMG!!!! I had a snoopy snow cone machine! I loved it! I have to go call my mom RIGHT NOW. SHE MAY STILL HAVE IT!!!!

Stacie Ponder said...

"yum yum fun is what it's all about" has been my personal motto ever since I saw that commercial oh so many years ago.

And Bill, I knew every fucking word to that song!! I used to love it, though Timer (or whatever the hell his name is) used to weird me out. What IS he? A blob of fat with legs.

zomben said...

I was always sort of interested in how similar Boo Berry looked to Darrin McGavin in "Kolchak the Night Stalker". Same hat, same tie. But Boo Berry's expression was dopier. Like someone whacked Kolchak's brains out with a brick.

Maybe that's how he died.

Bill Walsh said...

Ooh, excellent point, Zomben. The Kolchak sartorial parallels are undeniable. (To compose a sentence never before used in the history of language.)

And, Stacie, I fear he's actually a wheel of cheese, encouraging the consumption of his fellows. Is he some sort of cheese zek or Kapo, like those pigs you see advertising barbecue joints...

KristaS said...

"What IS he? A blob of fat with legs."

For shame Stacie! Timer is a movie star! He was the lead in 1973's "The Incredible, Indelible, Magical Physical, Mystery Trip", An ABC AfterSchool Special movie where a couple of kids are whisked away from their drab live action life into a cartoon where Timer shrinks them down (ala 'Fantastic Voyage') and takes them for a tour of the the hideous things going on in their hard drinkin', hard smokin', over stressed and over eating Uncle's body. If memory serves, he was named Timer because he was counting down the time until Uncle Object Lesson's fatal heart attack. Fun!

There was a sequel "The Magical Mystery Trip Through Little Red's Head" which I haven't seen, but I think was remade last year as "Captivity"...

Timer's empire grew with a whole series of PSAs advocating healthy eating 1970's style, including the hunk of cheese spot. My favorite was "Quickie Breakfast", because it said the same thing my grandmother always said - you haven't eaten since last night, so you have to eat something now, . Boo-berries (as part of a balanced breakfast) would be nice, but a leftover chicken leg, or a cold piece of steak is an adequate substitute. Just choke some food down that gullet!

KS

frightnight said...

Well, I don't know, but I'd like to see some of the "normal" cereal mascots get a monster makeover. Who wouldn't want to see Tony the Tiger's kindly face changed into a fierce, savage one, complete with fangs dripping blood and matted, mange-like fur? I would. How about a possessed Toucan Sam on the Fruit Loops box? And how about Warwick Davis as the Leprechaun on the Lucky Charms box?????

Mark said...

Regarding your curiosity about the personal lives of the cereal monsters, there was an awesome wikipedia edit for Count Chocula a while back that delved into his personal history:

"Ernst Choukula was born the third child to Estonian landowers in the late autumn of 1873. His parents, Ivan and Brushken Choukula, were well-established traders of Baltic grain who-- by the early twentieth century--had established a monopolistic hold on the export markets of Lithuania, Latvia and southern Finland. A clever child, Ernst advanced quickly through secondary schooling and, at the age of nineteen, was managing one of six Talinn-area farms, along with his father, and older brother, Grinsh. By twenty-four, he appeared in his first "barrelled cereal" endorsement, as the Choukula family debuted "Ernst Choukula's Golden Wheat Muesli", a packaged mix that was intended for horses, mules, and the hospital ridden. Belarussian immigrant silo-tenders started cutting the product with vodka, creating a crude mush-paste they called "gruhll" or "gruell," and would eat the concoction each morning before work."

It goes on like that for a while:
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Count_Chocula&oldid=64491519

Of course, the edit was removed from the page, but the Talk page contains a funny debate about the worthiness of the "history" and someone apparently researched it and found that it was part of a book called "History of the American Association of Cereal Chemists." This book apparently exists, but I can't find much info on it.

Headquarters 10 said...

I hate to break it to you Stacie, but you can still find the monster cereals on the shelves of most supermarkets in the NY/NJ area. I'll send you a care package, if you like.

I loved these cereals as a kid, but I've come to dislike cereals with marshmellows in them, so it's been a while since I've sampled them. Still, they were the thing to eat when I was but a wee lad. But where's the love for Freakies cereal, huh? The Freakies were monsters, too, ya know.

Ryne said...

Yeah, headquarters is right. In NY it's really easy to find Frankenberry or Booberry.

I wasn't around for Fruity Yummy Mummy, but I really wish they would start making it again.

Stacie Ponder said...

KS, I had no idea that Timer had such an illustrious career. I was into the cheese PSA and the breakfast one sounds vaguely familiar, but the rest is new to me. What a hideous children's ambassador he made...though effective, I guess. That cheese song is frozen in my brain like a bug in amber.

I'm with you, frightnight. I'd like to see a "Night of the Lepus" style Trix rabbit!!

Thanks for the link, Mark!! I kind of want to be a cereal chemist now.

Matthew, a friend of mine mentioned the Freakies yesterday! For some reason they just don't ring any bells with me. Maybe that brand wasn't available in my area, or maybe my parents were far crueler than I ever could have imagined and never bought it.

repoman said...

I always thought Boo was a boxing manager. Watching various old movies with boxers, he seemed like the ultimate guy that loved the lug and was out to protect him as much as possible...


And for the record, Fruit Brute was the best of the bunch for taste. Sure, Boo and Fraken tasted fine but who wouldn't want the collection of tastes? Besides, I always knew he could kill all their asses easily. they were scared of their own shadows but Brute was a wild man...

Ed Hardy, Jr. said...

Boo Berry was the best because he was the only monster cereal mascot depicted with any sincerity. The others have that tinge of Abbot-and-Costelloizing. Frankenberry looks, like, totally happy to be a hideous monster, and Count Chocula looks more like a mannish witch than a vampire. Boo Berry, on the other hand, has "I'm dead but cursed to remain among the living" written all over him.

Anonymous said...

Guys, she's stealing ideas from Rue Morgue, it's easy to have a great blog if you subscribe to great magazines.

Stacie Ponder said...

Dear Anonymous,

I don't subscribe to Rue Morgue because it's way too fucking expensive.

And I don't steal ideas, whether you care to believe that or not. I've laid out where the idea for this post came from, plain and simple.

I bet Rue Morgue and I have even reviewed some of the same movies! Guess I stole those ideas, too.

Superheidi said...

Anonymous is an idiot. If she is stealing from Rue Morgue, when did Rue Morgue write about how cool she was?

I think Anonymous is stealing from "Jealous Retard Monthly" if my memory serves me correctly. Which is a fine publication.

Headquarters 10 said...

Beohold, dear Stacie, the wonders of Freakies cereal! - www.freakies.com

Bill Walsh said...

Krista S! You are TOO cool.

And, wow, hey, that guy with the a snarky, ill-founded insult forgot to sign his name! What are the odds?!

KristaS said...

bill walsh said...
Krista S! You are TOO cool.

I am? Clearly you have a unique definition of the term :)

Here's the breakfast video stacie:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=FjnKzIU-obI

Have you seen what Booberry looks like today?

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51kfisFLfHL._SS500_.jpg

At first glance he seems so much happier then before, but the more I look at it the more forced and tragic that expression seems to get. He's hiding it as best he can, and trying to convey the new image that the heartless bastards at General Mills have strong armed on him, but I just know that when he settles in for his morning bowl it's drowned in Wild Turkey rather than milk. Wild Turkey and fresh ectoplasmic tears...

Frankenberry looks much the same, although the extreme close up and tight framing edits out the bizarre steam whistle, pressure gauge attachments to the creatures temples, which always struck me as the most intriguing aspect of F'nB. What kinda circulatory system does this guy have? If that's what it takes to regulate the flow to the brain what the hell must be going on around the naughty bits?

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51J5MxsqqAL._SS500_.jpg

The less said about the modern incarnation of Count Chocula, the better;

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Oz4iuG3nL._SS500_.jpg

When the hell did the count become a GQ model?

- All of this post was stolen verbatim from Rue Morgue

Carlo said...

Good Job! :)

GalÄn y Giles said...

I know this post is a year old, but still very funny. We are a team trying to bring the monsters back, in a big way...check out this blog of pre-production art:
http://monsterscereal.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

The purpose of Casper was to help destroy Christianity.

He should get a medal.