Breakfast and Brunch

Milking It: Kung Fu Panda Crunchers

Kung Fu Panda Crunchers Kellogg's Rating: Two spoons out of four

Cereal description: The cereal's building blocks are actually building circles -- light tan orbs made of oat and corn flour. Think of them as Kix, or more accurately, fake Kix. These mounds are supplemented by four varieties of marshmallows: an orangey circle with a wedge sliced out of it that's supposed to be a fortune cookie but more closely resembles a gobbling Pac-Man; a green "training center" that lacks the peaked roof and delineated shape of the illustration on the box (looks like an error by the R&D department); a circular yin-yang symbol that's easily the most successful design (Eastern philosophy: an important part of a healthy breakfast!); and, disastrously, a white panda head that looks an awful lot like the crystal skull chunks in the recently reviewed Indiana Jones Chocolate Cereal with Marshmallows. Be sure to reassure the kids that these last marshmallows don't mean that Po is dead.

Box description: Kick-ass cover -- Po, voiced in the flick the cereal celebrates by Jack Black, wearing a comic yet somehow fierce expression, his leg thrust forward as if he's finally ready to teach that snippy Crane a lesson. Opposite the side panel sporting the nutrition information is more fun imagery: lessons about how to "Train Like the Kung Fu Panda Masters!" that also turn up on the side of another critique subject, Rice Krispies Treats. Kudos, also, to the back of the box, which is dominated by a game that will help breakfasters solve the "Mystery of the Missing Dumpling!" Under most circumstances, I wouldn't have the slightest interest in tracking down a missing dumpling, seeing how the first part of the word is "dump" -- not very appetizing. But the concept is clever, with the answer to the mystery printed inside the box instead of upside-down an inch from the instructions. Also excellent: twin mazes, with one showing what happens when folks "Power Up With Breakfast" (Po has plenty of energy to ride his bike) and the other revealing the horrors that come along with skipping the most important meal of the day. When Po doesn't eat, he gets tired easily, suffers hunger pangs and doesn't "feel like doing anything." I knew I loved cereal, but I had no idea it cured ennui.

Taste: Here, unfortunately, is where things go awry. Even if I hadn't noticed that Kung Fu Panda Crunchers appeared in stores at roughly the same time as the aforementioned Indiana Jones cereal, I would have figured it out simply by opening the box. The concepts are virtually identifical, except that the latter includes chocolate orbs (always a good decision) and the former is stuck with the sort of pieces that are commonly described as "lightly sweetened" -- which translates to "not nearly sugary enough." Worse, Kellogg's skimped on the marshmallow volume, at least in the box I purchased. What's the deal? Is there some kind of international marshmallow shortage? Are people in other continents hoarding them? And if so, why was the box of Count Chocula I opened this morning positively overflowing with them?

Conclusion: The Kung Fu Panda movie is a lot better than the cereal. Talk about the yin and the yang. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts