Back in the mid-1970s, Lucky the Leprechaun's job was in peril
For generations, Lucky Charms has been synonymous with its mascot, a plucky leprechaun motivated only by a desire to protect the magical marshmallows in his breakfast cereal from sugar-crazed children at all costs. But for one brief, shining moment in 1975, Lucky almost got the boot in favor of a bumbling wizard named Waldo.
As legend has it, now-defunct Madison Avenue ad agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample felt that Lucky’s cereal-hoarding tendencies didn’t exactly endear the mascot to the audience of sugar-seeking children. General Mills consented to exploring a rebranding, and DFS copywriter Alan Snedeker was tasked with devising a new mascot who would more amicably share his Lucky Charms with children. Though a “Good Knight” character—who flipped the script by helping kids find Lucky Charms—tested well in early focus groups of five to eight-year-olds, Snedeker recalls General Mills wanted a more mystical mascot to sell the concept of their “magically delicious” cereal.
Enter Waldo, a wizard who Snedeker describes as “a little overweight, friendly character who didn’t run from the kids.” Despite that banal description, Waldo was good enough for General Mills to put him on cereal boxes and commission some commercials that aired in the New England area. Wearing a cloak adorned with the familiar marshmallow charm shapes, the hapless Waldo misplaces his Lucky Charms and only remembers he can summon some by using magic after some kids remind him. Harry Potter he was not, but his “ibble-debibble-delicious” catchphrase gave Waldo enough (ahem) charm to make it in the cutthroat world of cereal mascots in the mid-70s.
Sadly, Waldo’s worldwide takeover was not to be, as General Mills restored Lucky to nationwide nationwide mascot less than a year later. “It wasn’t that the Waldo failed in New England, but General Mills had millions of dollars invested in Lucky... it would be crazy to give that up,” Snedeker said. To his credit, Snedeker would go on to soften Lucky’s image, turning him from a gluttonous beast to the friendly-but-selfish cereal mascot kids today know and love.
For now, Waldo the Lucky Charm-summoning wizard is little more than a footnote in the history of food marketing, a sort of collective hallucination that only 50-year-olds raised in the greater Boston area can remember. It’s unlikely that Waldo will ever return, but he gives us a glimpse into a parallel universe, one chock-full of cereal mascots who seem generally unaware of their own powers. And for that, we should thank him.