originally published October 8, 2012

On this sacred holiday, we North Americans gather around a hearty feast of turkey, stuffing and gravy and either give thanks that Christopher Columbus set sail to bring an October long weekend to America, or that someone in Canadian history decided to rip off an American tradition and bring Thanksgiving north of the border. Whatever it is you’re planning on toasting tonight, why not start your day with a heaping bowl of cereal?

And while you’re at it, why not a little quiz to see how much you really know about those cartoonish faces that stare at you from your pantry shelf, promising pure nutrition beneath the sugary glaze that encompasses your morning repast?

(also with one vitamin!)

Correct answers can be found in the links at the end of the clues, and each one either is or at one time was the face that tried to market a brand of cereal.

1. Why not employ an insect to hawk your food? The storyline for many of this character’s commercials involved him showing up to tempt someone into eating the cereal. He’d point out the two key ingredients, which are in the cereal’s name. Somehow the potential consumer would not know this, and would repeat the ingredients with shock and amazement, then dive in ravenously. I guess this is a cereal intended for stupid people? Answer.

2. Other animals wanted to steal this creature’s cereal. Now that I think of it, food theft is a dominant motif of breakfast cereal commercials, so that might not be a great clue. This cool dude always wore a turtleneck, and his voice was originally modeled on Dean Martin’s. His primary nemesis was named Granny Goodwitch. Answer.

3. I have never heard of this mascot, nor have I heard of the cereal. But the inarguable internets are telling me that it’s been a Quaker Oats product since 1970, so who am I to argue? The original voice actor, who was also a star on McHale’s Navy, drowned in his swimming pool. The character was replaced by a live actor, George Mann, who died in 1977. Apparently this particular mascot kills people. Someone should write a horror movie about this. Answer.

4. Thurl Ravenscroft. Know the name? I know at least one of my readers does. He sang the delightfully catchy and you’ll-have-it-stuck-in-your-head-all-day tune “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” He also provided the voice for this boisterous feline cartoon cereal mascot, whose cartoon self always appears in commercials with real-life actors, Roger-Rabbit-style. After Ravenscroft passed away in 2005, he was voiced by Lee Marshall, a wrestling announcer. For some reason, Canadian commercials feature a different voice actor. Maybe the same guy can do the French commercials too, I don’t know. Answer.

5. This breakfast Captain (no, not Crunch) sells a Rice-Krispie-esque cereal in the UK, but with an added layer of sugar frosting to give kids the energy they need to get through the day, or at least through the next twenty or twenty-five minutes of it. I always liked how sugary breakfast cereal commercials would say “…a part of this nutritious breakfast”, then show a gigantic spread of food that no single human could hope to consume as a meal. It’s as though they felt moms across America would be happy to wake up at 3:30 every morning to prepare a multi-dish gluttony-fest for their families. Sorry, got side-tracked here. Answer.

6. Inspired by bracelets and containing little sugary chemical blobs known as ‘marbits’, this cereal aimed to set Irish stereotypes back by fifty years. In the commercials, children were encouraged to steal from this Irishman and leave him hungry, because General Mills wants the Irish to starve. It’s all very dark. Answer.

7. I didn’t even know that this mascot talked, let alone that his first name is Cornelius. He was originally voiced by this guy:

…which kind of scares me a little. That’s Dallas McKennon, and he had a bit part as a chef in Hitchcock’s The Birds. This kind of ties in darkly with the cereal mascot he voiced for a while. Is that enough clues? Answer.

8. Are they elves? I don’t know, but the first of these little guys started shilling their product back in 1933, so that’ll make them the elders of this quiz. One of the original voice actors was Paul Winchell, professional ventriloquist and inventor of the mechanical artificial heart. I can’t believe that’s true, but it totally is. He developed it along with Dr. Henry Heimlich, who later created his own maneuver. Seriously weird stuff. Answer.

9. In 2008, Consumer Reports magazine found that this cereal contained, along with Golden Crisp, more sugar per serving than any other cereal on the market. This could explain why the cereal has the same name as a common slang word for heroin. The mascot is a groovy amphibian who used to lure kids with a free sampling of the cereal, knowing they’d be hooked and would do just about anything for their next fix. If anything, Kellogg’s should be given some kind of award for truth in advertising here. Answer.

10. For just a few months around Halloween, you can still buy the three cereals associated with these three mascots. Two of them are clearly linked with the undead (always a delicious concept), and the third is oddly flavored like some distant over-sweet relative of the blueberry. One of these monster mascots’ cereals briefly included a dye that couldn’t be broken down by the human digestive system, temporarily turning children’s excrement a lovely shade of pink. Since Halloween is already in October anyway, General Mills should consider re-releasing this stuff as a promotional tie-in with the NFL’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign, in which many players wear pink on their uniforms. I’m just saying, nobody think of breast cancer while they’re pooping. Answer.

11. With comparisons to Sisyphus, in that he was tasked with a seemingly futile endeavor, this poor creature was never allowed to consume that which he helped to sell. In 1976 and 1980 General Mills held a box-top mail-in poll, asking kids if this creature should finally be allowed to sit and eat a bowl of his cereal. Both times, kids responded with a huge ‘yes’. I don’t think kids today are as kind as they used to be. They should run this again as a social experiment. Or maybe we just don’t want to know. Answer.

Okay, that was a little dark for a closing question. Sorry about that. But I’m low on energy right now, and I’ve heard that crushing up Frosted Flakes and snorting them provides a grrrrreat (and nutritious!) burst of adrenalin. Happy Thanksgiving/Columbus Day!

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