So in continuing my venture into the realm of pop culture, I’ve decided to talk about cereal. Why cereal? Why not? IT’S DELICIOUS! Some people like to eat it the old boring way… with milk. Not me! Although I occasionally get the urge to splurge with milk, any good cereal should be able to stand on its own as a dry snack. Kix, Cheerios, Crispix… These are the kings of cereal & serial snacking!
But I’m not here to talk about those classic breakfast cereals. No, today I will be showing you The Forgotten Ones. Those flash-in-the-pans, those licensed character driven cereals whose time was cut short due to the fact that they were based on a fad, those sweet crunchy gimmick cereals… Yes, these types can all be found to this very day, but being a child of the 1980s, I have a special spot in my heart for all those that came and went rather quickly nearly 20 years ago. This is their story.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal (Ralston, 1989)
Yes, THAT Ralston of Ralston/Purina fame. The makers of dog food. But don’t be persuaded by that alone, because I’ll say it until the day I die… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cereal is the greatest cereal ever made! Sweetened “Ninja Nets” (Chex) plus marshmallows! It’s a match made in heaven! Marshmallows are always good when it comes to cereal, but there’s just something about this that made me gobble a bowl every morning and have my momma go back to the store for more. Green turtles, pink throwing stars, and a blue pirate sword (masquerading as Leonardo’s katana blade) were the marshmallow shapes. The ONLY thing that I could think of that could be this good would be if Kellogg’s started throwing marshmallows in with their Crispix, because as we all know, Chex are the poor man’s Crispix. But beggars can’t be choosers. This came out during the Turtle craze and it even came with a plastic Ninja Turtle cereal bowl upon its initial release! How cool is that?! I wish I still had that bowl. Someday I am going to fullfil my dream of buying a box of Lucky Charms, take all the marshmallows out and throw’em into a box of Chex.
Batman Cereal (Ralston, 1989) & Batman Returns Cereal (Ralston, 1992)
Another fad induced cereal that Ralston (the kings of licensed cereals) released. Another cool freebie was offered here as well, shrink wrapped with the initial batch were plastic Batman piggy banks. Another piece of my childhood no doubt thrown away when I wasn’t looking! The cereal pieces here are shaped like bats and were definitely channeling the texture and flavor of Cap’n Crunch. The interesting thing about Ralston is that they tended to flood the cereal market with their licensed cereals. Ninja Turtles, Batman, WWF… They pumped out so much so quick that most grocery stores just didn’t have a place for it. So where did it go? Why, to the dollar stores! I remember going to the local Dollar Tree at the mall and there were shipping boxes stacked upon more shipping boxes filled with this cereal and other various Ralston cereals in the middle of the store. Some people just don’t like generic Cap’n Crunch. Go figure.
Ralston gave this cereal a sequel when ‘Batman Returns’ hit theaters, but I imagine it left a better taste in most peoples’ mouths than THAT Tim Burton atrocity did because they wised up and patterned Batman Returns cereal after TMNT cereal with what looks like to be Wheat Chex (“Bat Nets”?) and Batman-head and bat symbol shaped marshmallows!
Crispy Critters (Post, 1987)
What’s not to love about this cereal? It’s got an adorable Jimmy Durante-like mascot named, (what else?) Crispy. Heck it’s got a zoo full of mascots! I guess they were all just “critters”. I can see that commerical now of Crispy leading his band of animal cracker cereal misfits… And crispy they were, it’s pretty much like taking those hard animal crackers (the kind that come in the big bag, not the little box) and putting them in milk. They weren’t half bad, but not enough sugar for me at the time. Apparently they had been around in the 60s and 70s, but during their re-introduction of the late 80s a freebie book by Little Golden Books was inserted and that’s really my fondest memory of this cereal. Ah-cha-cha-cha! Crispy dat well-dressed man!
Pac-Man Cereal (General Mills, 1983)
I have vague recollections of seeing this cereal on the shelves, but I’m not sure if I actually ate it. Truth be told though, I just love this box art. A Pac-Man, a Super Pac-Man, and those four ghosts, what’s not to love? I just love the name Pac-Man as well. His eyes are the shape of his entire body, that’s kinda freaky. I was never a big fan of the traditional game though. It’s a bit of a bore to me, but Pac-Land… now THAT was a good Pac-Man game! They pretty much tried to rip off the side-scrolling style of Super Mario Bros. and succeeded. I remember playing that arcade game a lot at Putt-Putt Golf. But I digress, because we’re talking about cereal. Anyway, Pac-Man cereal featured “crunchy sweetened corn cereal” with “both regular and Super Pac-Man marshmallows”. Sounds to me like Kix with marshmallows… Hm. Now that could really give Crispix with marshmallows a run for its money. Pac-Man cereal could very well be the greatest cereal of all time! If only they still made the stuff so I could give it a final taste test to determine its status amongst the other cereal gods!
Dinky Donuts (Ralston, early 1980s)
I’m not familiar with this cereal, but what the heck, it’s from the 80s and it’s supposed to taste like donuts, so I included it. You see? This article isn’t just about enlightening YOU, it’s also about enlightening ME. These really don’t look at all that appeasing to me, even if I was a kid I don’t think I’d be inclined to touch it. That’s probably why no one remembers this. A less trained eye may assumed it’s a sweet version of Cheerios, but not so. I imagine it’s more along the lines of Froot Loops, without the froot. Dinky Loops.
Ghostbusters Cereal (Ralston, 1988), Ghostbusters II Cereal (Ralston, 1989), Slimer! And The Real Ghosterbusters Cereal (Ralston, 1990)
Geez, I didn’t realize Ralston put out so many different types of cereal in the 80s. N E WAYZ, so we’ve got Ghostbusters cereal here thanks to the popularity of the first movie. Then came along Ghostbusters II cereal to match that movie, and then finally thanks to his popularity and a name change of the cartoon, we ended up with ‘Slimer! And The Real Ghostbusters’. They’re all the same. Red and orange colored fruit flavored pieces of cereal with those “NO” circles with a strike type thingies with white ghost marshmallows. I remember eating these and not caring for them very much. Fruit flavored Ghostbusters cereal just doesn’t seem right somehow. Chocolate flavored cereal with white marshmallows seems a better fit, but I’m partial to Count Chocula anyway. I just don’t dig the fruity cereals too much. Froot Loops, Fruity Pebbles, Trix and the like are okay in very small doses, but I couldn’t eat a whole box of that stuff if you put a gun to my head.
Croonchy Stars (Post, 1988)
CROONCHY STARS! I did not even remember this cereal existed until doing some research for this little article. I remember eating these things and loving it. The Swedish Chef gets his own cereal. How weird is that? Oh well, he puts on a good food throwing 3D show at Disney World. Anyway, they were pretty close in flavor to Cinnamon Toast Crunch, except they were puffed and crunchy, instead of being flat and crunchy. Geez, why can’t they make good cereals anymore? Sure you’ve got your Lucky Charms, Cracklin’ Oat Bran, Count Chocula, etc. Those will always be there, but some of these licensed cereals were unjustly swept under the rug due to the fact that they featured licensed characters. Sure, it’s cool having a familiar face on the box, but does it really matter? NO. It’s all about the sugary cereal. So I say change the name and brings these back! Make’em ‘Sturry Crunches’ or something.
Nintendo Cereal System (Ralston, 1988)
Another Ralston $1 classic. Get it? Instead of “Nintendo Entertainment System” it’s the “Nintendo Cereal System”. A bit of an odd experiment though as the box is split right down the middle by a cardboard divider (just like those mix ‘n’ match Nerds boxes!) with two totally different cereals inside. So we’ve got ‘Super Mario Bros. Action Series’ cereal and ‘Zelda Adventure Series’ cereal, the two big Nintendo franchises. Now Mario’s no dummy, how do you think he got to the top and has stayed at the top? If it wasn’t for him, Luigi would be baking breadsticks at Fazoli’s for $5.25 an hour. Mario has carried Luigi his whole life, so there’s no doubt Mario pulled rank here because he realizes it’s better to be faux-Trix than faux-Crunch Berries. Neither Super Mario Bros. “Fruity” cereal nor Zelda “Berry” cereal was very good. But when Ralston cereals had such a quick turnaround from grocery store to dollar store, you can’t expect too much. Each box came with a Nintendo sticker, plus cut out collector cards on the back of the box.
For those of you with a thirst for knowledge, further research shows the Mario cereal featured: Mario, Super Mushrooms, Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and Bowser pieces of cereal. The Zelda brand carried Link, hearts, boomerangs, keys, and shields cereal bits. Just imagine if they took the NCS idea even further! We could’ve had Excitebike Racing Series cereal, Duck Hunt Shooting Series cereal, Balloon Fight Water Series cereal, and Kung Fu Fighting Series cereal!
Mr. T Cereal (Quaker, 1984)
Oh, Mr. T. You pity us, yet we still love you. We watched your live-action show, we watched your cartoon, we didn’t watch D.C. Cab, but we loved you in Rocky III. Yes, you took the low road by following in the steps of many other licensed character cereals by merely settling for a low-rent Cap’n Crunch facsimile, but oh well. We ate it anyway because you charmed us with your gruff exterior and heart of gold. You kept us off the streets and in our pjs at home on Saturday mornings with your “crispy sweet corn and oats cereal”.
OJ’s (Kellogg’s, 1985)
This cereal was pretty much orange Froot Loops, although I can’t recall ever eating it. The orange box is very appealing to me and if they made this today, I’d probably give it a try. By the way, that’s Joe, the OJ’s Orange Rancher. I do remember the cartoon commercial of him branding the oranges though. This box art also reminds me of Orange Julius.