Written by Jonathan Wojcik
THE MONSTER CEREALS!
This news has already been celebrated throughout the Nostalgiaverse, from candy blogs to our buddy Dinosaur Dracula, believed to have been the very first to officially review the re-releases online. Naturally, it didn't feel like I would have much to say that hasn't been said before, especially because I'm not even a cereal eater, but I am an avid fan of all Monsters, and it occurs to me that I've never really discussed the cereal monsters themselves on Bogleech. At the very least, I can give them the same treatment I give every other goofy, walking dead thing.
It's a Cereal Monster review!
Widely accepted as the "leader" of the bunch, Count Chocula's cereal has also remained the most widely available since its release, sometimes seasonally, sometimes year-round in certain stores. As a vampire, we can assume that Chocula was once a living person and now walks the Earth as a restless corpse. He never ages, he never dies, but he certainly hungers, and unfortunately, he's not content with the mere blood of mortal virgins; this cadaver is after our CHOCOLATE.
How Chocula consumes his own crunchy cereal with only a single tooth is anyone's guess. Perhaps he has pharyngeal jaws, or perhaps he lets it get soggy and just sucks it right down. It's hard to say what that single fang even does, really, unless he's capable of puncturing a human body and actually siphoning off the chocolate previously consumed by his helpless victim. Interestingly enough, the Count was known in his very first appearance as Doctor Count Chocula, which possibly gives us a little insight into his former life in the sunlit world of man. Perhaps he recognized diabetes several decades - or even centuries - before it caught on in our modern, mainstream medical world, and was testing a radical new cure when he became the sugar-craving ghoul he is today.
Frank debuted together with the Count in October of 1971, and has generally continued to be the second easiest to obtain. His design is also much more innovative than that of his counterpart, almost to such a degree that if you didn't know his name, you may be forgiven for not even realizing he's supposed to look like Frankenstein's monster at all. Not content with a couple of neck-bolts, Frank's blocky skull is embedded with electrodes, ventilation pipes, a pressure gauge, and my favorite detail, a set of submarine-style portholes over his eyes. This guy was rocking the steampunk nearly forty years before any of you wannabes were glueing clock parts to your ipads.
I daresay Frankenberry may even be my single favorite interpretation of the monster since Universal first established his popular "plodding corpse" look, and it's surprising that so few Frankenfolk bother to elaborate on that look to even the extremes taken by a children's cereal mascot. I also enjoy how eloquent and intelligent he sounds when he speaks, which is much more in line with the original novel than the usual grunting, violent, oafish interpretation. He's a gentle, intellectual soul in a giant, half-mechanical, half-corpse body...and he does his nails like little strawberries.
Only two years after the debut of his buddies, Boo Berry was introduced as the world's first-ever blueberry-flavored cereal, though this is a claim I hear is still disputed. While not as popular as Chocula or Frank, I'm inclined to like Boo the best out of the three mainstays, especially his 2010-2013 update, seen here. In googling around for the latest "Boo Berry" cereal box image, I was rather taken aback to discover just how poorly received it is by some, calling it "ugly" and "creepy" because they apparently have no idea what a "ghost" or "Halloween" is. I love how far apart, yellowed and baggy his eyes area, his pallid clammy feel and off-white teeth, but what I really love is that he looks more than ever like a Looney-Tunes era caricature of Peter Lorre, which is what he was always supposed to be. Just listen to his original voice, if you can stop staring at the kinky way his chains are embedded in his torso:
Lorre passed away only eight years before his soul apparently rose from the grave with an inexplicable blueberry obsession, and by then, whole generations had already grown up knowing his face and voice almost exclusively as a stock cartoon character, still just as common as ever and showing no signs of fading, because nobody, not nobody, has ever hated the Peter Lorre character. Let's be real, here: nobody anywhere has ever been watching a cartoon with a horror motif and thought to themselves "ugh, I sure hope nothing is going to talk in that damn Peter Lorre voice." The kind of person who would think that is simply not the kind of person who can get any enjoyment from a horror cartoon to begin with, and if that's the case, they might as well be dead.
LIKE A GHOST!!!!!!!!!
Foregoing any play on "werewolf" or "lycanthrope," General Mills opted to call their fourth monstrous mascot a "brute," which may have better suited some sort of King Kong parody, but whatever. A wolfman was a fairly predictable addition to the roster, and charming enough, but somehow failed to catch on even with rainbow-colored suspenders, which are automatically superior to both non-suspender and non-rainbow garments worn by any other werebeast. Discontinued in 1984 - a year after I was born - memory of the Brute faded rapidly, the cereal achieving an almost mythical status by the late 90's. In my early days on the internet, I can even recall some heated disputes over whether Fruit Brute even existed, and it was a long time before anybody uploaded any photographic proof that there was, indeed, a werewolf-themed cereal.
Fruit Brute's new 2013 design feels substantially different from his last appearance; he's the only monster with a noticeably new skin and hair coloration, which to me, implies that this may be a different, closely related werewolf, perhaps the original Brute's teenage son, carrying on dad's legacy. On the other hand, there was already some disparity between his small, laid-back looking commercial design and wilder, hairier box art. Maybe his level of bruteishness actually comes and goes gradually with the lunar cycle?
Searching for Yummy Mummy on google is surprisingly difficult, since most of what you get are topless moms and breast-feeding photos. Wait! You can look later! Don't you want to know how I feel about cereals I don't eat!? Fundamentally the same foodstuff as Fruit Brute, Yummy was a covert attempt to replace the canine in 1987, perhaps wagering that a new generation of children might prefer breakfast food with the desiccated remains of Egyptian royalty on the box. As you may be aware from my past Halloween antics, a mummy is my personal favorite of the five classic monsters we've seen here, though at least half of the appeal is their sheer cheesiness. They're dead people wrapped in gauze, and that somehow makes them a completely distinct category of monster from all the other dead people who get up and walk around. They're often assumed to have some sort of "magic," usually the ability to "curse" people, but that's basically also true of vampires, ghosts, witches, demons and sometimes even zombies, if we're talking Voodoo zombies.
I'm getting off track here, though. Yummy Mummy is an especially funny mummy, since this particular gauzey dead guy is all about fruity, sugary breakfast cereal. It's the same reason his four friends are adorable, but it seems even more charming coming from a guy whose brain was ripped out of his nose and thrown in the garbage. It's just too bad his cereal shapes are the same pac-man ghosts as the others, instead of scarab beetles or jackal heads. At least he has his own catchy little song and dance routine, and a pretty cool voice!
With all five cereals finally reunited, two pressing questions remain: will they come back again? And more importantly, will these forever remain the only five Cereal Monsters? Why stop here? Considering the fact that they're now marketed primarily as seasonal Halloween items, what's stopping them from testing out whole new flavors and mascots year after year? Why can't a scaly man-fish turn our milk all swampy green? Where's Banana Bones the potassium-rich Reaper? Is there perhaps a Countess Chocula, or bride of Franken Berry? Why not capitalize on today's zombie obsession? The sky's the limit, General Mills.