In 1958, a team of crack food scientists, and probably a few posers, invented the miracle we know today as “Cocoa Krispies”. It remains the platonic ideal of cereals: It talks, doesn’t require added sugar, is made of rice and is low in fiber to facilitate gorging. And, best of all, it is infused with chocolate. Not to mention it is PART OF A NUTRITIOUS BREAKFAST. The Catholic church refuses to acknowledge that Cocoa Krispies are a miracle probably because it would mean sainthood for one or more of its inventors… and, I have it on good authority that at least one of them is a Methodist.
But, like icing on a cake that is made out of candy that also has icing on it, there is more! The cereal had far more mascots than most other cereals… mistakes were made, cartoon lions were rescued from the humiliation of poverty and we learned a little more about early humans, thanks to the ad-men who sold Cocoa Krispies to the public…
Jose the Monkey was their first mascot and a bigger disaster would have had to involve orphans and occur on Christmas day. Jose was considered racially offensive… IN THE FIFTIES. You know the fifties: That’s when Amos and Andy were a weekly television show along with the Lone Ranger which featured the dumbest most indecisive American Indian on the face of the Earth. For you to be branded a racist during this era, you would have to have been pushing groups of minority peoples directly into incinerators. The problem was not that the monkey was named “Jose”; monkeys are playful and fun, except when they are mutilating a child or defecating on your couch. The problem came when they dressed him like Harry Belafonte.
Coco the Elephant replaced Jose in 1960, after executives nixed the fat guy in black face and the Japanese guy with a huge overbite and wearing a coolie hat. Coco was a pink elephant, slyly hinting at Cocoa Krispies’ almost elixer-like ability to cure DTs in recovering alcoholics. Sadly, this was not to last. Rumor has it that Coco Chanel orchestrated the discontinuation of the pink elephant, because having an elephant named after her made her feel fat. Fortunately for Coco, a pink elephant can always find work somewhere.
They wisely decided to use an established face to sell their cereal. It turned out that Snagglepuss, a Hanna-Barbara produced mountain lion, needed money to pay off some gambling loans he’d been forced to take out. And, despite his vices, those involved said he was a real pro. He did have a tendency to disappear on long gambling binges… mostly when he would “exit, stage left”. He hawked cereal from 1963 to 1967.
At this point, with the movie One Million Years BC and the series It’s About Time, it was clear that the country was in the throes of “cavemania”. For the first time ever, paleoanthropologists did not have to lie about what they did for a living. No cereal can resist jumping on a band wagon like that. And, in this spirit “Ogg” was invented. He invented things like the wheel, fire and a cure for diabetes. In six years, no cave man sold more cereal than he did… but, Ogg also had to go, probably due to pressure from creationists…
…to be replaced by Tusk the Elephant. You’ve got to ask yourself, at this point, what do elephants have to do with chocolate? What do monkeys, for that matter? But, Tusk, the tiny elephant sang his way into our hearts and partway into our large intestines. What a turnaround from 1958! Tusk was voted “Least Racist Cereal Mascot” three non-consecutive years in a row.
In 1982, ironically, Tusk was replaced by Aryan activists Snap, Crackle and Pop (Foster Wells, Jeremy Wells and George Straub were their real names). They lasted for nine years… up until Pop tried to run for governor of Nevada, and, in his opening remarks, alienated even members of his own family. Because ad-men all about originality, they quickly created a new mascot called “Coco the Monkey”. Kind of makes me wonder if the monkeys aren’t the ones inventing these ad campaigns…
Coco spent ten years outsmarting his enemies to really bad calypso music. In 2001, Snap Crackle and Click became the spokes-things for the cereal while Pop was drying out on a Montana ranch. It’s a shame that, after sixty years, the best they can do is borrow two of the Rice Krispies mascots and a Pop look-alike. You’d think that, by now, they’d have it figured out: A mascot who is relevant to the image that Cocoa Krispies wants to associate itself with.
Might I recommend an elephant…?