Marketing stuff to kids is pretty easy -- which is why the government prevented tobacco companies from doing it -- even subtly, supposedly accidentally -- a few years back. McDonald's Happy Meals are the latest to feel their knuckles rapped by this particular ruler -- the obesity epidemic among kids has caused San Francisco to consider banning them completely.
But weird salesmanship aimed at kids is nothing new -- and breakfast cereals have been among the most egregious since the dawn of the Television Age. Sometimes, these tactics make sense -- think sports figures on Wheaties boxes (sometimes, even that backfires.) And sometimes? Well, sometimes they make no sense at all.
10. C3P0s - 1984
Okay, I'm as big a Star Wars fan as the next guy, even if the next guy is standing in line to have his bootleg Star Wars Holiday Special videotape signed by Peter Mayhew at a Sci-Fi convention. But I can't imagine needing to include a fictional droid as part of my complete breakfast. And why C3P0s? Why not Han Sol-Os? Luke-y Charms? They're Yoda-licious! From Wikipedia: "Introduced in 1984 and inspired by the multi-lingual droid from Star Wars, the cereal called itself a "a New (crunchy) Force at Breakfast" and was composed of "twin rings phased together for two crunches in every double-O". In other words, they were shaped like the number 8." Even Wikipedia is a smart-ass about this cereal.
9.Mr. T - 1984 I'm going to pass on the obligatory "I pity the fool..." joke, and just say this: if this cereal included marshmallow bits shaped like Mohawks, fists, and A-Team vans? Totally would have bought it. And the prize inside the box? Feather earrings, naturally. (Listen to the guy singing the jingle in this commercial and tell me it doesn't sound like the MacGruber song. -ed.)
8. Donkey Kong - 1982 I'm sorry, Mr. Grocer, but does this cereal taste like gorillas, or Italian plumbers? And do I need to eat them with a stop sign?
7. Indiana Jones - 2007 Why is a picture from Raiders of the Lost Ark used instead of something from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which the cereal (sort of) depicts? I say sort of because Kelloggs can call that marshmallow bit "the Temple of Akator," but it's a triangle. And that piece that's supposed to be Indy's hat? Sort of a mangled triangle. And that piece that's supposed to be the Indiana Jones saga's dignity? Oh, right -- not an issue. 6. Mud and Bugs - 2003 The Lion King was a pretty good movie, Hamlet rip-off notwithstanding, and might have made a decent kids cereal. But to craft something out of the disgusting things eaten by ersatz Rosencrantz and Guildenstern scavengers Timon and Pumbaa eat? This seems like a joke that might have been made in Disney marketing, not something that would actually make it to market. 5. Nintendo Cereal System - 1988 It seems clear that part of the American obesity epidemic can be traced back to this cereal, which is the breakfast equivalent of complete surrender. Parents who bought this for their kid to eat were admitting that yes, their kids' lives were utterly centered on video games, and that they had no interest in even attempting to change that. 4. Star Trek Cereal - 2009 Well, if there's a Star Wars cereal, there had to be a Trek cereal too. Michael Roberts reviewed Star Trek cereal when it first came out last summer, and he liked it, but admitted that the cereal pieces look more like cinnamon rolls rather than the galaxies they're supposed to be. Do all cereal tie-ins have to be bastardized Lucky Charms?
3. Urkel-Os - 1991 ...Apparently, no. For example: Urkel-Os. There is nothing in this cereal that even remotely resembles Family Matters' Steve Urkel except his name and likeness on the box. They're strawberry and banana-flavored rings. That's it. Come on, that's not even trying.
2. Smurfberry Crunch - 1983 If you smurfed a bowl of this smurfing smurf, you might find yourself smurfing to the bathroom. And if you did, your smurf would be blue, and you'd find out later that you ripped the smurf out of the roof of your mouth, too. Smurf, dude. Not smurfing worth it.
1. Nerds Cereal - 1985 Come on, with all the cereals listed above? This is redundant. Embedding this video has been disabled by the request of the uploader, but if you do one thing today, watch it over at YouTube. You'll be saying "With a Nerd Gate!" to yourself all day. That's the power of marketing, friends.
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.