The food industry has relied on colorful characters to sell their products for years. From Tony the Tiger to the Shoney Bear, pop culture is full of recognizable mascots for foods and restaurants alike. There are plenty of mascots that have been forgotten, or that are so obscure you’ve never even heard of, so let’s take a walk through history to learn who they were.
20. Mac Tonight
A lounge singer with a head shaped like a moon, Mac Tonight was used by McDonald’s in commercials and marketing in 1980’s. He would sing a jingle that was based on “Mack the Knife” by Bobby McDarin, but that all ended when McDarin’s family sued. The campaign was originally a region-specific one in California, but the McDonald’s corporation thought everyone in the U.S. should get to name the celestial crooner. He was known to “only come out at night” and helped Mickey D’s advertise their late night hours.
19. The Wizard of Fries
In the 1970’s, Burger King decided to make their own “Burger Kingdom,” and one of the residents was the advertising character known as the Wizard of Fries. The Wizard of Fries was a robot powered by fries. Pretty simple, and pretty weird.
Puffy was an advertising figure for Pop-Rite Popcorn. He was a friendly popcorn kernel that held a bowl of his popped kin. You could send away for this plush of him in the 1980’s. This mascot didn’t have legs and really failed to make a mark.
17. The Wizard of O’s
Campbell’s is known for its Campbell’s Kids, but in the 1970’s, it had the mascot The Wizard of O’s for its Franco-American SpaghettiOs. The mascot lasted until 1993, when it was phased out. Not to worry though, because thanks to many lucrative licensing deals with Disney, etc, SpaghettiOs continues to have characters today.
16. The Tastee-Freez Twins
The 1950’s brought a truly weird advertising choice as ice cream chain Tastee-Freez decided to take naked statues and ice cream, mix them together, and bam, they had their new mascot. The twins Tee and Eff were depicted wearing clothing and sometimes naked, and with a gob of ice cream on their heads. They’ll now haunt your nightmares.
15. Red Barn Hungries
The Red Barn was a restaurant chain founded in Ohio that operated 300 restaurants during its lifetime, with locations in 19 states, plus Australia and Canada. Three pieces of food known as “the Hungries” were the advertising characters, and they appeared on premiums such as records and more. They’re literally a piece of fish, a piece of chicken, and a burger. Nothing makes kids want to eat food more than seeing animated fun food.
14. Cecil, Grins, Smiles, Giggles, Laughs
The 1970’s were a weird time, as evidenced by the cereal “Grins and Smiles and Giggles and Laughs.” Yes, that was its real name. Cecil was a machine who made the cereal, and the Grins, Smiles and Giggles were the people who told jokes to Cecil.
13. Bixby Beaver
Bixby Beaver is, of a course, a beaver, but the cereal he accompanies is just a strange a marketing choice. Kellogg’s Crunchy Loggs came out in 1978 and is no longer available. I don’t know why, doesn’t eating “logs” that look like this sound great?
12. Waldo the Wizard
Lucky Charms’ Lucky the Leprechaun was almost unsurped by Waldo the Wizard in the 1970’s. Waldo the Wizard’s catch phrase was calling Lucky Charms “ibbledebibbledelicious.” The series of commercials featuring Waldo would include him losing his cereal, then finding it. He was used only in New England, while the rest of America enjoyed Lucky the Leprechaun selling their favorite cereal. He had actually been created for a cereal known as Amazin’ Raisins that never made it to shelves, and eventually, Waldo was shelved as well.
11. The Freakies
Ralston, who later became Purina (see the familiar Purina logo?), introduced this cereal in 1973. The cereal featured booger-like monsters named “the Freakies,” and their backstory was that they were “mutated.” Their names were Boss Moss, Grumble, Cowmumble, Hamhose, Snorkeldorf, Gargle, and Goody-Goody. Later the cereal was revived in the 1980’s, with the Freakies group consisting of Boss Moss, Grumble, Ace, Hot Dog, Hugger, Tooter, and Sweetie. All of this could not make the cereal last.
10. Burger Chef and Jeff.
Burger Chef, a real restaurant and not just from an episode of Mad Men, was a contender to the burger crown held by Burger King in the 1970’s, even partnering with Star Wars for marketing during the first movie releases. Their mascots included a series of wild and weird characters, including Where Wolf, Fanburger, Mrs. Fangburger, Burgerini, Crankenburger, and Burgerilla… then Burger Chef and Jeff. I’m not familiar with burger politics, but since Jeff cooks burgers, isn’t he also the Burger Chef? Anyhow, these two were featured on the restaurants’ packages with stories and images.
9. Big Mixx
Kellogg’s decided to make a weird hybrid cereal of all of their available cereals in 1990, and they called it Bigg Mixx. The concoction consisted of rolled oats, rice, toasted corn flakes and whole grain wheat. Bigg Mixx, described by Kellogg’s as “a chicken-wolf-moose-pig” from the Yakima Valley, a story the company printed on the cereal box. The cereal quickly went away within two years, and really, is it hard to guess why?
8. Big Yella
Kellogg’s Corn Pops once had a mascot named Big Yella who was into “all things big.” He was a cool cowboy who loved Corn Pops cereal, and in one commercial, he offered to trade a giant yellow bird for two kids’ delicious bowl of cereal. He still has a fan club today!
7. Pizza Hut Pete
Pizza Hut once offered families an Italian-American mascot known as Pizza Hut Pete. He was used by Pizza Hut as a mascot in the 1960’s and 1970’s, often depicted on giveaway items such as kid’s puppets, placemats and more. He also appeared on the physical stores.
6. The Duke of Doubt
The Burger King of Burger King (yes, he’s been around forever) had his nemesis The Duke of Doubt in commercials in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He was a man with a plastic face and Elizabethean collar who doubted the power of the King. Together, the two lived in the Burger Kingdom, Burger King’s rebuttal to McDonald’s “McDonaldland.”
5. Pizza Head
Pizza Hut went after the adult demographic with a series of commercials in the 1990’s featuring “Pizza Head.” Pizza Head was a talking pizza who was tortured repeatedly in each commercial by Steve, a pizza slicer. The commercials were in the style of Saturday Night Live’s Mr. Bill, and featured Pizza Head yelling throughout his ordeal.
4. Sir Grapefellow
Combining British World War I pilots with grape cereal, General Mills unveiled Sir Grapefellow in the 1970’s. Sir Grapefellow had a nemsis known as Baron Von Redberry (really), who was a German World War I pilot. Despite all of these fun elements, both of these cereals didn’t last long.
These horrifying creatures have been described as rats, rodents, or hybrids of hamsters, but everyone can agree they’re insane. The “Spongmonkeys,” as they’ve been dubbed by the advertising industry, were the mascots for a brief time for Quiznos in 2004. They originated on the Internet, however, as the creation of British animator Joel Veitch. If anything made me want to eat subs, it was rat creatures.
Post Cereal had a cereal called Crispy Critters in the 1960’s that was quite popular, and in the 1980’s, they tried to revive it with a weird character known as “Crispy.” The cereal was supposed to taste like animal crackers and looked like mini animal crackers. The mascot was an animal of unknown origin, and despite branding efforts like toys and books, the cereal disappeared.
Kellogg’s tried to find a fun and unusual character in the 1980’s for Corn Pops but Poppy the Porcupine is but a footnote in their history today. The friendly girl porcupine was used in TV ads and on the packaging, but she only lasted three years. She would carry around a yellow briefcase full of her breakfast.