Saturday, September 15, 2012

Those Monster Cereals

I was in the cereal aisle at Walmart recently, when the shelf stocker asked if I needed help finding anything. I usually say, “No, thank you,” but this day, I had something in mind.
“Uhm, usually around Halloween, they stock Count Chocula.” I said, mildly embarrassed.
“Not yet, but people have been asking!” She replied.

People have been asking! I wonder how many people, and how old they are. I imagine they’re all Gen-Xers. Back in the day, which is the 1970’s for people my age, there was a large group of characters who chucked breakfast cereals at us between the Saturday morning cartoons we used to watch. The characters which were most appealing to me were monsters: Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and a little ghost named Boo Berry. They vied for my attention in comical cartoon skits trying to one up each other, only to be scared away by something or other in the end. The characters no longer appear on television, having gone the way of the Saturday morning cartoon, and they only appear on grocery shelves around Halloween time. The company that produces the cereals, General Mills, claims that they are available to retailers year round though, and that the retailers are the ones who make the decision to only carry them as a holiday item.

For as long as I can remember, there were always at least three members of the franchise available to choose from, but occasionally a fourth was tried out, with limited success each time. Frakenberry and the Count appeared first in 1971, and were joined by Boo Berry a year later. Sometime later in the decade, a werewolf named Fruit Brute came along to scare them by howling “Fruuuuuuuuit!” every time he got excited. I remember buying Fruit Brute, and not being very impressed with it, as it was just another basic fruit flavored cereal. I think that’s why it failed, because of the lack of a focused flavor. A few years after they discontinued Fruit Brute, they retried the same basic recipe with a new mascot called the Fruity Yummy Mummy, complete with a Jamaican musical beat, and he lasted for even less time then the werewolf did.
 
As far as flavor goes, Count Chocula was always my favorite, not just because it was chocolate, but it was a very rich chocolate. Boo Berry was appealing to me more because it was blue, which is a unique color for a cereal, than for the flavor. I’m not even sure what blueberries taste like, so have no idea if Boo Berry comes close. All I can say is that it was tart. I’ll have to do a comparison some day by putting blueberries in my Boo Berry.
 
Fortunately, I missed out on the legendary pink “Frankenberry stool” syndrome which was the result of an indigestible red dye they initially used. They had corrected that problem by the time I started paying attention to things like that. For curiosity’s sake, I did a comparison of the nutritional information between sugar-laden Frankenberry and my current favorite cereal, Grape-nuts. I’m a little surprised that one cup of Grape-nuts has 270 more calories, half of a gram of fat, and 390 mg of sodium more than the “junk food” cereal. What’s up with that? On the other side, Grape-nuts does have significantly more fiber.

The box covers used to be hand drawn illustrations, but now they are computer generated. I’m not a fan. The characters work better with a more classical ambiance, evoking the old Hollywood movie characters they were meant to impersonate. Modernizing characters that are based on old horror movies subverts the campy spookiness which makes it fun. Nonetheless, I expect to see my favorite cereals return to the store shelves soon, and I can’t wait to help myself. Even though Saturday morning cartoons are gone, I’m hoping to catch an old monster movie some Saturday afternoon, while I chomp away on a couple of bowls of Monster Cereal. I’m prepared to even sit on the floor while doing it, just like I used to.

What is your favorite Monster Cereal? 

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