Cereal Monsters: An Extra Crispy Investigation
You’ve seen them in the supermarket aisle and in TV commercials. Maybe you’ve even enjoyed a bowl as the spooky part of your delicious breakfast. But what do you really know about the five mascots of General Mills’ Monster Cereals?
The public first became aware of ringleaders Count Chocula and Franken Berry in 1971. Soon after, a spectral accomplice, Boo Berry, was introduced, followed in later years by the lupine Fruit Brute and the bandage-clad Yummy Mummy.
The five are notoriously reclusive and have given no known interviews. Their few public appearances over the past four decades offer little more than an extended argument over whose naturally and artificially flavored cereal tastes the best. (Surprisingly, the correct answer is Yummy Mummy — unless you hate the taste of orange creamsicles, summertime, and freedom. God bless America.) Absent reliable biographic data, Extra Crispy has turned to a forensic cereal box detective (that would be me) to examine the evidence.
Appearance: Almost always seen in formal garb, Count Chocula accessorizes his Lugosi look with puffy sleeves and a high-collared cape. His wardrobe is uniformly brown, even when at the beach. It’s a style you might call “chocolate gothic.”
The Count is notable for his pointy hair and ears. He sports only two teeth that have changed over the years from sharp and slender to flat and buck-like.
Analysis: The most famous of the Cereal Monsters, Chocula claims the title of Count though has presented no evidence of a noble birth.
Though he bears a resemblance in name and appearance to Count Dracula, we are forced to conclude that Chocula is not a real vampire. For one, he prefers flavored milk to blood. For another, the Count has been observed cavorting outside during daylight hours. He has even been spotted wearing bat-shaped shades on his “sun deck.”
In conclusion: not a vampire, probably a goth, possibly a UPS worker.
Appearance: Pink from head to toe, Mr. Berry is a good-natured monster, often sporting a contented, single-toothed grin.
Industrial accessories provide a steampunk edge. He sports electrodes over (instead of?) his ears and riveted metal loops around his wide, round eyes. A pair of chain suspenders ties the look together.
Mr. Berry has a prominent cleft in his skull running front to back, which creates the unfortunate appearance of a butt-shaped head. His other most distinctive features are a pressure gauge that sticks out of one side of his misshapen skull, and a matching steam whistle that juts out the other.
Analysis: If Chocula is a man pretending to be a vampire, Franken Berry is almost certainly an actual monster. Likely a monster designed by a 10-year-old-girl, judging from his fuchsia skin and clothes, and from the strawberry decals affixed to the nails of his three-fingered hands.
His two-chambered head is a bit more perplexing. What’s going on up there? Is Franken Berry the steam-powered, reanimated corpse of some kind of fruit fetishist? Or is his head a giant still for brewing strawberry moonshine? Unclear.
Appearance: Simply put, Boo Berry is a blue-tinged ghost. His only garb is a yellow-and-red pork pie hat, and a natty red bow tie.
Analysis: Where Count Chocula and Franken Berry smile from their cereal boxes, Boo Berry’s original art depicts him with an expression that lies somewhere between neutral and negative. That “I’m over it” attitude, combined with his retro attire, suggest that “Boo” may in fact be the ghost of a dead hipster.
But let’s set that speculation aside to address the elephant-sized marshmallow in the room: Boo Berry and Franken Berry share the same last name. Is this significant? Are they, in fact, related? Is Boo the ghost of one of Franken’s ancestors? Or is Boo ACTUALLY THE GHOST OF FRANKEN BERRY before he died and was reanimated? What kind of nightmare afterlife is that – your ghost and your undead, possibly brain-damaged corpse forced to duel for cereal supremacy? WAKE UP, BREAKFAST SHEEPLE!
Redditors, we’re counting on you to get to the bottom of this.
Fruit (a.k.a. Frute) Bruit & Yummy Mummy
Appearances: A wolf in Technicolor overalls and a figure wrapped entirely in yellow-and-lavender bandages.
Analysis: One year after the debut of Boo Berry and almost four years after Count Chocula and Franken Berry, General Mills at long last came up with a werewolf-themed pun to name another cereal after. We can only wonder how many sleepless nights Steve in Marketing tossed and turned trying to crack that particular nut. (“Pear Wolf? Wolfmango? C’mon, you can DO this. Betty and the twins are counting on you!”)
Since werewolves only transform on nights with a full moon, it seems safe to conclude that during the rest of the month Mr. Brute is merely an ordinary man, albeit one who prefers to dress like a circus hillbilly. In truth, little is known about Canis Lupus Fructus, as his cereal was discontinued after a mere eight years. But don’t feel too bad for him. Fruit Brute has friends in Hollywood—Quentin Tarantino is on record as being a fan.
Yummy Mummy debuted in 1987, five years after Fruit Brute departed, and then was himself discontinued five years later. As one might expect, cereal watchers of a conspiratorial bent have speculated that Mr. Brute was killed, mummified, and reanimated as Mr. Mummy (the “FB=YM” hypothesis).
That theory was debunked in 2013 when both cereals were revived as part of a special Halloween promotion, marking the first time that FB and YM were seen in the same place at the same time.
Still, a few on the fringe hold fast to FB=YM, alleging that the original Fruit Brute was replaced by a lookalike (the “Fruit is dead” theory), which explains why his name was changed to “Frute” and his flavor to cherry.
Conspiracy theories aside, Yummy Mummy is himself a walking, multi-hued enigma. His name and garb suggest he hails from Egypt. Yet in his first appearance, Chocula and Franken Berry encounter Yummy Mummy in a distinctly Mayan pyramid. At the end of that ad, the three sing a Calypso-style jingle. Either Mr. Mummy is of mixed Egyptian, Mesoamerican, and Caribbean descent … or late-’80s admen were not good at keeping their cultural clichés straight.
The cereal aisle is dark and full of marshmallow terrors, but I hope we’ve managed to shed some light on five mysterious figures that have been haunting our bowls for nearly 45 years.