| Lists |

From Charlie the Tuna to Frito Bandito, the ten worst food mascots ever

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

The pop-culture landscape is littered with the bleached bones of advertising mascots long passed: For every Kool-Aid Man that survives to break down new walls with his rotund fruit-drink excitement, there's a Hawaiian Punch dude who's drunk in the corner and a Spuds McKenzie buried out back.

Some make it, some don't -- and some get messed with along the way. The Pillsbury Dough Boy is a legend, but failed to lend his name to Ghostbusters for a shot to let his inner Godzilla loose. And it's hard to trust the Gorton's fisherman now that he knows what you did last summer. But some icons of advertising -- especially food advertising -- were just flawed from the start.

10. The Helping Hand Sure, he's been loitering on kitchen counters for decades now -- but that doesn't mean he makes much sense. What does a four-fingered glove have to do with cooking a quick dinner? I guess it's supposed to reference the fairly-thin idea that working moms need a "helping hand" once in a while ... which I believe was also the original marketing concept for both Valium and Hitachi Magic Wands. 9. Duke the Dog Bush's Baked Beans has two mascots, both equally annoying. Jay is an actual Bush family member (what in the world is wrong with the rest of the Bush family if Jay is their most telegenic guy?), and his dog Duke has a conniving voiceover that makes a person marvel at how much this ad campaign is willing to push the natural goodwill Americans have for golden retrievers. Together, their tired shtick doesn't make me hungry for beans so much as it makes me want to violate PETA standards for pet ownership on Jay's behalf.

8. Jovny the Vlasic Stork The once-popular myth that pregnant women have cravings for pickles is no reason for a stork to be selling pickles for nearly three decades. Especially when the stork is made to be inexplicably reminiscent of Groucho Marx, right down to using the pickle as a cigar. Someone needs to tell Jovny (seriously ... Jovny?) that sometimes a pickle is just a pickle.

7. Little Sprout Was it really necessary to Scrappy-Doo the Jolly Green Giant? Seriously, was there no character in the 1980s that was safe from being joined by some arrogant, diminutive, shithead version of itself? You have to believe that somehow this can all be blamed on Gary Coleman.

6. Twinkie the Kid/Fruit Pie the Magician This wasn't so much a bad idea as no idea whatsoever. Twinkie the Cowboy at least had a name -- unlike Fruit Pie the Magician, a character with no internal logic whatsoever. Still, they're crazy delicious, despite the cynical, hollow characters, the crappy animation with no storyline to speak of, and the general fog of indifference surrounding the whole thing. They knew kids were going to want this stuff no matter how bad the ads were. Oh Hostess ... I wish I knew how to quit you.

5. Aunt Jemima & Mrs. Butterworth The breakfast products that make you say, Am I eating pancakes or tripping on acid?, and bring up some sort of uncomfortable racial and gender stereotyping. Oh, and if you're wondering who wins in a fight, Aunt Jemima totally kicks Mrs. Butterworth's smoked-glass ass. But it needs be said: in such a bout, there truly are no winners.

4. The Frito Bandito Mel Blanc must have been confused when pressure from the Mexican-American Anti-Defamation League caused the early retirement of the terrible idea that was the Frito Bandito -- or at least wondered when Speedy Gonzales (and his lazy, gun-toting cousin Slowpoke Rodriguez) would get the same treatment. A poll -- sponsored by Frito's, naturally -- showed that 85 percent of Mexican-Americans weren't bothered by the Frito Bandito ethnic stereotype. Whether or not they minded that it was being used to sell crappy corn chips was a question that went unasked.

3. Charlie the Tuna Ah, Charlie: the tuna that looks (and sort of sounds) like Charles Nelson Reilly. This was back in the day when it seemed appropriate for animals to want to become food. Did it occur to no one that Charlie was clearly suicidal? That fish needed some help, and all he got was a sarcastic catch-phrase. "Sorry, Charlie ... you don't even taste good." That's cold.

2. Fred Flintstone/Barney Rubble Truly the whores -- or, as they say in Bedrock, rockstitutes -- of the advertising stone-age, this comedy duo started out selling Winston cigarettes, and then made their way into Alka-Seltzer, One-a-Day vitamins, Welch's Grape Jelly, sherbet push-up pops, Keebler (then called Kitchen-Rich) cookies, a drink called Yabba Dabba Dew, and eventually settled on kids' vitamins and pebble-based kids cereals. Soon: Flintstone's rock cocaine -- and you don't want to see the lengths to which Barney will go to his hands on Fred's stash.

1. Jell-o Chinese Baby Wow. Just ... wow.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.